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 (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 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.

Belief in certain false doctrines keeps people out of the body of Christ

[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 which false doctrines will actually keep people — even Christians — from joining the body of Christ and enjoying everlasting life before everyone else also experiences salvation.]

In my last three posts (which you should definitely read before continuing with this post, if you haven’t already, starting with this one) I proved, using only the King James Version of the Bible (although one could use any Bible translation to come to the same conclusions), that everlasting torment (as well as Annihilationism, among those Christians who have enough of a conscience to reject the idea of never-ending torture but still can’t see the full truth) and human “free will” are not only false doctrines, but that the Bible clearly tells us nobody chooses whether they get saved or not because everyone eventually will experience salvation (although some people will get to experience it earlier than others, being brought into the body of Christ or the Israel of God based on God’s election, and getting to enjoy “everlasting life” before everyone else is eventually vivified [made immortal] as well). In addition to all that, though, it’s extremely important to also know that belief in certain teachings, including the doctrines of everlasting torment and human “free will,” actually keep people from joining from the body of Christ.

You see, those are two of the various “orthodox” traditions that Satan made sure were taught in the Christian religion to keep one from “everlasting life” under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision (if someone believes that anybody at all is still “dead” [be it actually dead or only figuratively dead] at the end of the ages, they don’t truly believe Jesus actually died for our sins [which is referring to the sins of everyone, not just the sins of Christians], taking care of them Himself some 2,000 years ago, but rather believe that we still have to do something about our sins ourselves today, and if we have to do something about our own sins, even something as supposedly simple as making the right decision, it was us who finally dealt with our sins at the end of it all rather than Christ taking care of it all through His death and resurrection. He only performed the first step; we had to complete the final step ourselves by making the right choice, making us our own saviours, or at least partial saviours), but they weren’t the only traditions he made sure were taught. He also tried his best to convince Christians of the immortality of the soul, which, as I explained, is also a false doctrine. But the truth is, if the soul is immortal then that means Jesus didn’t truly die, only His body did, which would mean we are still in our sins and have no hope since the Gospel of the Uncircumcision which tells us that Christ died for our sins would not actually be true (Paul didn’t say only His body died, he said “Christ died,” and as we’ve learned, dead means dead; it doesn’t mean alive).

Of course, coming to understand that Jesus actually fully died brings one to the realization that, in addition to misunderstanding the character of God, most Christians have also misunderstood “the nature of God” (for lack of a better term), thinking that Scripture teaches God to be three people rather than one. Within Christendom it’s incredibly common to assume that one can’t be a true Christian without believing in the “orthodox” tradition known as the trinity, which is ironic since, in addition to the fact that it’s a tradition that is completely contradicted by Scripture (the Bible teaches that, while there are many gods out there in the universe [it would be difficult for the Father to be the God of gods if there were no other gods out there to be the God of], there is only one Almighty God [who created all the other gods], who has no equals or co-equals [can Almighty God have a God above Him? Everyone I’ve asked this question to has immediately and rightfully answered “no,” but Scripture tells us in many places that Jesus has a God — His Father — which means that, while as God’s icon [or image] He can use any title His Father has when representing God to us or when speaking on His Father’s behalf, He can’t actually be the Almighty God like His Father is since the Father is above Him, and nobody is above — or even beside, meaning equal to — Almighty God], and while it’s technically accurate to call Jesus a god, or even for certain people to actually outright call Him God (at least from their relative perspective), as far as those in the body of Christ are concerned we have only one God, the Father [in the passage where he tells us this, Paul is careful to differentiate Jesus Christ from God by saying Jesus is Lord for us instead, and by telling us that only the Father is to be understood as God, at least by those of us in the body of Christ], but not in all men is there this knowledge — in fact, practically not in all of Christendom is there this knowledge), it seems one can’t even join the body of Christ while truly believing in this doctrine (since, again, it means they don’t believe Christ actually fully died for our sins, but that only His body did; God can’t die, so if one believes that Jesus is God, they can’t believe that Jesus truly and fully died), so I would posit that the reason it’s become one of the most important ideas in the Christian religion is because Satan wanted to make sure as few people as possible could become a part of the body of Christ and take his reign from him during the future ages. In addition, belief in the trinity might keep those under the Gospel of the Circumcision from “everlasting life“ as well, since belief that Jesus is the Son of God is required for salvation under that Gospel, and the trinity teaches that Jesus is “God the Son” (really nothing more than a title for a certain part of God) rather than the actual Son of God (Jesus can’t be both God and the Son of God at the same time since that would make Him the Son of Himself). Scripture speaks of the Son of God and the Spirit of God, but never “God the Son” or “God the Spirit.” Sadly, the true deity of God, and what this actually means, is a doctrine that has been lost to most of Christendom for centuries now. It’s important to remember that Scripture puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and on how one must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (particularly those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision), so much so that claiming He has an identity not found in Scripture — “God the Son” — is teaching another Jesus. Of course, some like to claim that the trinity is “a mystery” that isn’t meant for us to understand, but nowhere in Scripture do we find this teaching, so they have no foundation on which to lay this claim (before moving on, I should quickly say that the Oneness doctrine, also known as “modalism,” is equally incorrect for basically the same reasons listed above that trinitarianism is wrong).

Ultimately, belief in any of these traditional “orthodox” doctrines seems to mean one hasn’t fully believed Paul’s Gospel and has not joined the body of Christ. Basically, if something is an important teaching or practice (or is considered to be an “orthodox” tradition) among the majority of the followers of the Christian religion, it’s generally safe to assume it’s a doctrine of demons and that the opposite is true instead (particularly if it’s a major tradition, doctrine, or practice taught by Rome, for whom eternal punishment, human “free will,” the trinity, and the immortality of the soul are all extremely important doctrines, which makes them all extremely suspect even without the evidence against them all that I’ve provided). While Jesus’ statement that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” is likely referring specifically to the Gospel that Jesus was teaching to the Israel of God, it is still true that very few people, including Christians, ever join the body of Christ, so it likely still counts as a trans-administrational truth, which means that there’s no way the teachings believed by as many people as the those in the traditional Christian religion do  — about a third of the human population of the planet — can possibly be the “narrow way” that few find. Really, when it comes right down to it, there’s relatively little that the Institutional Church gets right about God or Scripture. Although some denominations do occasionally stumble upon parts of certain truths seemingly accidentally, it’s extremely rare, and no one denomination within the Institutional Church ever seems to get more than a few things at most somewhat right — and even then, they rarely understand even a small portion of the full implications of the parts they sort of appear to grasp. It seems (from a relative perspective, at least) that Satan works hard to keep people in these denominations from joining the body of Christ, and also to use these churches to keep the rest of the world from learning spiritual truth as well (Paul’s remonstration against Israel in his epistle to the Romans, that because of them “the name of God is being blasphemed among the nations,” is today almost better applied to those in the Christian religion who give the world contradictory messages about God that keep people who think about these things from believing in such an apparently confused deity, telling people that God loves everyone unconditionally, as long as they meet the condition of loving Him back; that you are saved by grace alone and not by any actions of your own, as long as you act now and choose to become a member of the Christian religion before you die; and that God is the Saviour of all humanity, yet will fail to save most of the humanity He’s supposedly the Saviour of, who will actually be tormented in hell forever [or will at least be burned up and cease to exist forever if the Annihilationists are correct] rather than be saved. Thanks to these false expressions, those who are able to recognize the hypocrisy of these lies hear these things and think, “the god of the Christian religion says one thing but apparently means something else altogether, so why would we want anything to do with this seemingly dishonest deity and contradictory religion?”).

That’s not to say that all Christians who believe in “free will” or everlasting punishment (or Annihilationism) will definitely miss out on “everlasting life,” however (although a pretty large number of people who call themselves Christians very likely will). Some Christians outside the body of Christ will quite possibly still experience the next age. It’s just that, due to their ignorance, those Christians are unknowingly under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead of the Uncircumcision. So, while most Christians aren’t a part of the body of Christ and will miss out on celestial blessings in the next age (and even in this age), some of them might still get to enjoy the impending age here on Earth if they follow the requirements of their particular Gospel (and don’t try to mix their Gospel with Paul’s Gospel; it’s either one or the other). However, they might not experience the full blessings that Israelites saved under it will, so if they are able to believe the Gospel given to us by Paul instead (although it’s true that they can only do so if God has elected them for membership in the body of Christ), they’ll be much better off (and can stop trying to base their theology and churches on the circumcision teachings). So if you are one of those believers who does know how to rightly divide the word of truth, and know what salvation actually is (both sorts of salvation), it means you’ll get to experience “everlasting life” in the heavens when Christ comes for His body, long before anyone else on Earth gets to experience their impending vivification.

However, as for those of you who have read all this but haven’t been convinced, I’m sorry to say that, unless you do understand at least the last three points in what Martin Zender refers to as “the Five Pillars of Truth” as listed below, it means you haven’t actually joined the body of Christ because you haven’t truly believed Paul’s Gospel yet. And while belief in these “Five Pillars” aren’t what saves you, these five points (which are:

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

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

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

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

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

are something that everyone who truly has been elected for the body of Christ will come to believe pretty quickly after they’ve joined.

As for those of you who still need more information about the two Gospels, and need more scriptural proof for their existence, I discussed it at length in my next post, so go read that now (because it is a very scriptural teaching, and without understanding it you’ll have a hard time understanding how to interpret the rest of Scripture as well).

Predestination is about WHEN someone gets saved, not IF they get saved

[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 Scripture says about predestination and election.]

In my last two posts here (this one first and then this one next, both of which you should definitely read first before continuing with this one, if you haven’t already), I demonstrated, using only the King James Version of the Bible, that even from a KJV-Onlyist perspective there’s no basis for believing that anyone will spend eternity in hell (or in the lake of fire either, which is a whole other thing or place), and also explained what the various passages about death, hell, and judgement in the Bible are actually talking about. If you’ve read them, you know that I hinted at the topic of election, although I didn’t go into any detail about the topic, but it is an important topic to understand because, in addition to everything I wrote in those two posts, understanding that only those few people God has elected/predestinated/chosen for “everlasting life“ (which generally simply means life in immortal bodies during the next two ages) will be given faith and be reconciled (from a relative perspective; again, everyone is reconciled, from an absolute perspective, by Christ’s death for our sins, burial, and resurrection — it’s important to always recognize the difference between the relative and the absolute if we don’t want to come to ridiculously confused conclusions) and saved in this lifetime (they will get to live through all of the ages to come in vivified [immortal] bodies, both those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision and those under the Gospel of the Circumcision, even though these two groups will experience the next age differently from one another, some in the heavens and some on Earth) also helps one realize that everybody has to be saved in order for anyone at all to be saved.

In order to understand this, one needs to first realize that faith is not something one can just decide to have. Peter told his written audience that it is “by Him” (Christ) that one believes in God and not “by ourselves,” which is something he’d been proclaiming (that faith was “by Him”) from the very beginning of his ministry, although this is no surprise since he’d been taught firsthand by Jesus Himself that one can’t choose to believe without God first choosing them, and that he himself (along with the rest of the disciples) indeed didn’t choose Jesus of his own “free will” at all, but rather Jesus chose him (and the rest of the disciples) instead (although it couldn’t be any other way, since becoming sons of God by believing on His name is not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God). And just like Jesus and Peter, Paul (who didn’t choose to become an apostle himself but, as he said in the beginning of five of his epistles, was an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God rather than by his own will) also taught that faith is not of oneself, but rather that both the grace and faith that lead to salvation are a gift of God (as is the salvation itself, from both an absolute and relative perspective) to certain chosen people who have been granted by God to be believing, and who are predestined for “everlasting life” for a specific purpose.

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

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

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

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

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

The complete sovereignty of God and His purposes for creation from before it all began is one of the most important factors in the Bible, and is taught throughout it (and while most Christians would claim to believe in His sovereignty, not very many actually do), yet very few people are aware that He has a reason for everything that has happened in creation, and has had very specific plans for the ages (and those in each age) from the beginning. In fact, thanks to poor interpretations of Scripture (and even just lack of study), most Christians aren’t aware of the concept of the ages at all (or they confuse the ages with dispensations, which are something else altogether; an age is a specific period of time that can contain multiple dispensations [or administrations], sometimes with more than one of these dispensations occurring at the exact same time as each other [and, just as a quick aside, for those who are wondering about why I’ve talked about five ages at various points in my recent posts, we know from Ephesians that there were at least two other ages before the one we’re in now, and also that there will be at least two after our current age, which adds up to at least five ages total — and while there could be more, a deeper study of the topic, which we don’t have room to get into here but which I do get into in other posts on this site, does make it seem like there will only be five]). Instead of knowing (and glorifying) God as God (the Hebrew word for “God” is El [{אֵל} meaning “Subjector”] and the Greek word is Theos [{θεός} meaning “Placer”], which means He is completely in control, placing everything where He intends it to be and subjecting all to His will), most religious Christians believe that God really hoped humanity wouldn’t sin, but is now on Plan B because we did. They just don’t believe Paul when he said that God works all things after the counsel of his own will and not just some things. But the fact is that He really does, which means that everything about creation, be it good and evil, righteousness and sin, pleasure and suffering, faith and unbelief, even the Devil and the crucifixion, was all intended by God from before the beginning of creation (God is not only able to see the future, He declares what is going to be done from the beginning, and what He desires to be done will be done).

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

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

Others dislike the idea that God might “coerce” people into salvation, claiming (without any scriptural justification, I might add) that God is a gentleman and that He would never force people to spend eternity with Him against their wishes, saying things like, “God won’t drag anyone kicking and screaming into heaven,” not seeming to realize that absolutely nobody actually believes this is something He’ll do anyway (and also seeming to ignore the fact that their so-called “gospel” is far more coercive than the straw man they’re arguing against, with its threat of never-ending torture if one doesn’t choose to be with God). These people seem to have forgotten the conversion experience of someone named Saul who was entirely opposed to the true God, and was in fact on the road to Damascus to kill those who did want to spend eternity with Him when God overwhelmed him with grace and showed him mercy so that he could become a pattern of those who believe on Him for “life everlasting” (this pattern including the fact that those who are saved, relatively speaking, are made to believe [or are given belief] rather than choosing to believe, even if it isn’t always as obvious in our cases as it was for the man who became our apostle). When God saves a person (relatively speaking) and gives them the faith necessary to believe the Good News, this isn’t forcing that person to be with Him against their will (especially since they’re still alive here on Earth when it happens; it isn’t like He suddenly drags them off to Heaven at that point) but is rather giving them the will to actually want to be with Him in the future. And nobody is going to complain at the end of the ages that God dragged them out of death kicking and screaming. By that point everyone will be happy to no longer be dead, and will be quite willing to enjoy their newly vivified bodies with Him on the new Earth.

But while predestination isn’t coercive, it is absolute, and is based entirely on God’s sovereign choice rather than on our own, and I truly don’t understand how anyone can read Romans 9 and come away thinking otherwise. The idea that either our decision to sin or our desire for salvation is based entirely on ourselves or on our supposed “free will” is completely contradicted by this chapter, despite the efforts of various Arminians to hand-wave away the actual meaning of the chapter by claiming that Paul is simply talking about Israel there. I mean, they are partly right; Paul does talk about Israel in that chapter (as well as in the next two chapters, where he’s pointing out that Israel hasn’t been replaced by the body of Christ), but he’s also talking specifically about Israelites as individuals in this chapter as well, discussing which ones will get to experience salvation (under the Gospel of the Circumcision, I should add) and which ones will miss out on the Millennial Kingdom. On top of that, he not only uses Gentiles as examples of God’s sovereignty and election in this chapter (and he doesn’t say that Pharaoh hardened his own heart there; his whole point here is that it’s God who is the one who hardens hearts — any hardening of the heart that Pharaoh himself did was from a relative perspective, with God being the absolute source of the hardening, as Paul points out here and as God Himself claims in Exodus; the idea that Pharaoh was ultimately responsible is just reading one’s own desire for human “free will” to be the reason for one’s damnation or salvation into the passages, and it means one is not paying attention to what these passages are actually teaching), he also discusses how Gentiles are called as well, so to insist that this chapter is just about Israel as a whole is to ignore large portions of the chapter. Really, a major point he’s making in this chapter is that salvation “is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy,” meaning that neither our own will nor our own efforts have anything to do with our salvation at all, but rather that it’s entirely based on God choosing to show mercy to whomever He decides to show mercy (from a relative perspective, of course; from an absolute perspective, He shows mercy to everyone, even if we don’t all experience it at the same time). In fact, when Paul’s hypothetical audience-member tries to ”argue” that Paul’s point about God being ultimately responsible for those whose hearts are hardened can’t be right because it would then make no sense for God to blame people for their sins if this were true, asking, “then why does he find fault? For who has resisted his will?”, Paul doesn’t then admit he was wrong and agree that his “opponent” must be right. If he had, the next line in the chapter would have been, “you know what, I was mistaken; it’s actually our own fault, because of the decisions we made with our own free will, so I guess God isn’t ultimately responsible after all.” But instead, Paul simply continued in the same vein by saying, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” Paul’s answer there tells us that he isn’t conceding the point at all, but is sticking to his belief that, while God does hold us accountable for our actions, He is still ultimately responsible for those actions. Now this admittedly might seem harsh, particularly to a traditionalist who believes this would mean that those whom God hardens and makes into vessels of dishonour will be punished for eternity in fire, but when we realize that even the vessels of dishonour will eventually realize it was all necessary for the fulfillment of God’s plans, and that even they will eventually experience salvation, it turns out to be a lot less harsh than one might originally think.

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

Unfortunately, for those of you who haven’t been predestined to believe the truths I’ve mentioned in these last few posts, it also means you haven’t joined the body of Christ (at least not yet), since it means you haven’t fully believed Paul’s Gospel, as I explain in my next post.

Death, hell, and judgement in the King James Version

[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 Scripture says about death, hell, and judgement.]

In my last post here (which you should definitely read before continuing with this one, if you haven’t already) I demonstrated, using only the King James Version of the Bible, that even from a KJV-Onlyist perspective there’s no basis for believing that anyone will spend eternity in hell (or in the lake of fire either, which is a whole other thing or place). What I didn’t do is get into the details of what death and hell, as well as the various judgements in the Bible, are actually referring to, so I’m going to do that today.

When discussing the topics of salvation and judgement, however,  it’s important to first understand why humans actually sin in the first place (other than Adam and Eve; they had a different reason that we don’t have time to get into here but which I might try to cover in a future post), what the actual consequences of sin are, and why Jesus Himself didn’t (and before getting into it, I should point out that people who claim the reason He didn’t sin is simply because He is God and that only God in the flesh could avoid sinning are also telling us [even if they don’t realize they’re basically claiming] that we humans can never be free of sin, not even after our resurrection, since we aren’t going to become God, so that wasn’t the reason). I hinted at this in my last post, but the reason humans sin is because we’re mortal/dying, and we’re dying because Adam sinned (“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” — missing a single word, such as the word “that” in this case, when reading a passage in Scripture can change everything and make you completely miss the point of the passage). Contrary to what most Christians have been taught, we ourselves don’t die because we sin. Only Adam and Eve died because they sinned — or, rather, began to die/became mortal because they sinned. The wages of sin is death, not everlasting torment, and “death” means physical death, not spiritual death as most Christians assume (yet which you won’t find taught anywhere in Scripture, probably because it’s actually a completely meaningless expression). To “surely die” means to surely eventually physically die. It wasn’t that Adam and Eve “died spiritually” or went to hell at that point; it was just that they were paid the wages of sin: to die they began dying (to get really literal with the original Hebrew text — at this point I should perhaps apologize to my KJV-Onlyist readers here; I will be digging just a little bit deeper into the original languages at times in this post, although not to “correct the English” so much as to clarify it, so you can rest easy), meaning they gained mortality eventually leading to physical death (even a KJV-Onlyist has to admit that this is the case if they compare God’s warning in the King James Version that, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” to what Paul said in the verse from Romans we’ve already covered; if they think about it they’ll realize that the warning wasn’t literal since Adam didn’t physically drop dead that day, which means they’re interpreting the passage figuratively, and since there are no passages in Scripture that talk about the so-called “spiritual death” they tend to believe in, yet there are verses where Paul tells us mortality leading to death was the consequence of Adam’s sin, what I’m explaining is really the only consistent interpretation of the warning in Genesis that I can think of). So, instead of dying because we sin (Paul didn’t simply say “for all have sinned” in this passage like he did in a previous one, which would mean “because all have sinned” if he had left out the word “that” here), we actually sin because we’re dying (“for that reason all have sinned,” or “because of that mortality all have sinned,” is what Paul was getting at in this passage in Romans 5; again, the word “that” is extremely important in this verse, making mortality the cause and sin the effect for humanity at large in this passage rather than the other way around) and don’t have abundant life in us (nor do we have the Spirit without measure) the way Jesus did (because of this, while He wasn’t yet immortal [meaning incapable of dying as He is now], Jesus wasn’t in a state of slowly dying like we are and couldn’t actually die until He willingly gave His life up and God took His Spirit from Jesus) to keep us from sinning the way He avoided it (although we also eventually will, at our resurrection and/or vivification [when we’re made immortal]), and we’re dying because we genetically inherited the wages of the first Adam’s sin: mortality. And, just as a quick but related aside, please don’t confuse “death” with “judgement.” Death (which, yes, can technically be a punishment for certain sins, such as in the instances of capital punishment in the Mosaic law) is really just a natural genetic effect of being born into the line of Adam; in general it isn’t actually a punishment (not outside of specific “legal” cases anyway) or judgement in and of itself (at least not for anyone who isn’t Adam or Eve), or else babies would never die. Judgement, on the other hand, will be experienced by those who are not saved (relatively speaking; from an absolute perspective, everyone has already been saved by Christ’s death for our sins, burial, and resurrection, whether they believe it or not — which is what Paul’s Gospel is actually proclaiming — but from a relative perspective, non-believers aren’t said to be saved yet) when they appear before the Great White Throne, and by members of the body of Christ at the judgement seat of Christ.

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

Others think it just means everlasting separation from God in a place called hell, although this spiritualization of “hell” is clearly impossible since in Him we live and move and have our being; we can’t even exist apart from God, and if anyone were separated from Him for even a moment (if that were even actually possible, which it isn’t) they’d then cease to exist. And anyway, even if hell was an actual place one could go to, God is said to be there, so this obviously isn’t what the judgement is.

But most people think it refers to “everlasting punishment” or “everlasting torment” in a conscious state in a place of fire. However, this is a doctrine that didn’t exist among the first believers in Christ (and you won’t find it in the Scriptures Israel accepted either, which is strange since you’d think God’s chosen people would have been warned about something so terrible).

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

First of all, He spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, which begins as an actual, physical 1,000-yearlong kingdom here on Earth (not in a supposed afterlife dimension), specifically in Israel (or at least with Israel at its centre), that is sometimes referred to as the Millennium or Millennial Kingdom, which comes into being after the tribulation period at the end of the third age ends and the fourth age begins (what the five ages or “worlds” are, and what the scriptural basis for them is, will have to be a topic for another blog post sometime, although I have written about it in passing elsewhere on this site).

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

As far as the negative future He talked about goes, it was in this universe as well. His primary threat of “hell” was translated from the word Gehenna (or Geenna [γέεννα] in Greek), also known as the Valley of Hinnom (or the Valley of the son of Hinnom), which was an actual, physical valley in Israel (again, not in another dimension one enters after death) — although it’s actually quite pleasant at the moment — in which it’s believed by many that garbage was burned in Jesus’ time, and which Jesus’ Jewish audience would have immediately recognized as a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy about the place the “carcases” (or corpses) of lawbreakers during the Millennial Kingdom here on Earth would be burned up and devoured by worms in (almost everybody has somehow failed to notice the word “carcases” in the passage in Isaiah that Jesus was referencing, missing the fact that he was writing about dead bodies that living people would be able to see during the Millennium here on Earth and not about conscious souls in some afterlife dimension, and that Jesus would have then been speaking about the same thing). The worst punishment a Jewish person could experience after death was to be denied a proper burial (there couldn’t be a worse consequence than that since most Jews believed that one ceased to exist consciously after death, as Scripture also teaches and as will be discussed shortly), which is why cremation is forbidden for Jews to this day for the most part. In fact, Jews are basically obligated to bury any and all corpses, even if it’s the body of a criminal who had been put to death, so to be told that they not only might be kept from living in the kingdom of Heaven when it begins on Earth but that they could potentially be left unburied and might instead have their cadaver unceremoniously cast into the most unholy place in all of Israel when the Millennium begins as well (the valley in which certain ancient Israelites burned their children to death as a sacrifice to the god Molech) would be the most humiliating indignity Jesus’ audience could have been threatened with. Jesus wasn’t threatening that anybody would be tortured in Gehenna; He was simply giving a warning that certain sins would result not only in death so one couldn’t enter the kingdom of Heaven when it begins on Earth (and that certain sins during the Millennium will have the same result as well), but also that they risked losing out on a proper burial so that their corpse would instead be seen burning up by everyone who looked upon it as well, which would be (and will be) a great source of shame before they die. Like Judas, it would have been far better for them to have died in the womb or in childbirth than to have been born at all, since babies who aren’t born never have to deal with such indignities (and are also far more likely get to live on the New Earth than Judas or any of those who will be cast into Gehenna are, at least during the fifth age or “world”). And the reference to the worm that “dieth not” there isn’t talking about human souls not dying, or to some sort of magical worms that never die either. The Greek word for worm there is skōlēx (σκώληξ), which refers to regular maggots, not to human souls or even to mystical, immortal worms that chomp on the souls of sinners for eternity. To put it simply, it’s talking about actual living creatures who consume actual dead (unconscious) bodies. Jesus and Isaiah were just saying that any dead body that will be thrown into the valley will be totally consumed, either by maggots or by fire. And while it is technically true that the “worms” won’t die, that’s just because maggots are simply larval flies which go through a process known as pupation and grow into adult flies, so they won’t die while still in their larval, “worm” form but will instead grow up and lay eggs so that there are then more “worms” to consume more of the bodies in the valley. That said, the idea that something or someone “would not die” is used in various other parts of Scripture as well, but they did still eventually die, so it’s important to realize that this phrase doesn’t mean the thing said to “not die” never will; it just won’t die before it’s supposed to. Likewise, the fire isn’t quenched either (meaning it’s not deliberately put out), but will instead burn for as long as there is fuel (dead bodies) to keep it burning. But, just like the fire on the altar in Leviticus, of which it was said that it would never go out yet is no longer burning today (a good reminder that “never” doesn’t always mean something won’t ever happen in the KJV), among other things the Bible says will not be quenched but eventually stop burning, it will also eventually go out once it’s done its job and there are no more corpses to consume. Thanks to horrible misinterpretations, this reference to “hell” in the Bible has been thought by most Christians to be referring to a place all non-Christians will go to suffer forever in after they die, when it really only applies to a very specific (and relatively small) set of people living in a very specific period of time that hasn’t even occurred yet (at least not as of the time this was written), and nobody will even be conscious in it, much less actually be suffering. It should probably also be pointed out that Gehenna isn’t a reference to the lake of fire. Dead bodies are burned in Gehenna during the Millennial Kingdom, whereas nobody is burned in the lake of fire until after the Millennium is over, after all the carcasses burned in Gehenna have been resurrected for the Great White Throne Judgement.

In addition, when talking about “hell,” He sometimes used the word hades ([ᾅδης], which literally means “the unseen” in Greek if you break the word down, and is the equivalent of the word sheol [שְׁאוֹל] used in the Hebrew Scriptures for “the grave” [although sheol doesn’t literally mean “grave” but rather likely means “ask,” being used in reference to something that is unseen]), which is just speaking of the state of no longer being conscious because one is dead (when it’s not being used figuratively in parable form). Unfortunately, most Christians are unaware of the fact that the immortality of the soul is not only an unscriptural concept, but that it’s an entirely pagan idea that was likely adopted by the Pharisees due to confusion about the state of the dead learned during the Babylonian captivity, and was later carried into much of Christendom as well due to misunderstandings of Scripture, such as Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross about being with Him in paradise (when Jesus promised the thief on the cross that he’d be with Him in paradise, He was referring to a future resurrection on Earth rather than to an afterlife state immediately after they both died; as we’ve already covered, paradise is a reference to a future [and physical] state of the Earth where the tree of life will be, and not to an ethereal afterlife realm. Now, with most Christians we’d normally get into the fact that there’s no punctuation in the Greek, and that Jesus might have been saying something more along the lines of, “Verily, to you am I saying today, with Me shall you be in paradise,” but obviously that won’t fly with KJV-Onlyists. However, one can still come to the correct conclusion even with the way the Authorized Version renders the verse; all you have to do is realize that, from the perspective of the thief, he would die that day and then wake up in paradise, being the exact same day for him as far as he’s concerned since no time would have seemed to have passed for him at all while he was dead), or the parable (and yes, it has to be a parable based on who Jesus was speaking to) of the rich man and Lazarus which can be interpreted in a number of possible different ways, but which almost nobody seems to understand is not describing an actual event or the geography of an afterlife dimension (unless one believes that Lazarus was literally sitting inside Abraham’s chest, that there’s actual physical water in the supposed spirit realm, or that someone who is on fire could actually participate in a coherent conversation [or even make any sounds at all other than screaming in pain], not to mention that if we took it literally we’d have to believe that the rich all go to “hell” while the poor all get saved. It’s funny how things pertaining to “hell” are literal until they’re not when it comes to defending one’s traditions; see also the lack of bodily mutilation and the general avoidance of helping the needy among Christians who don’t understand what it means to rightly divide the word of truth [and don’t know the true identity of the sheep and the goats of Matthew 25, or what their actual “outcomes” refer to; as I’ll explain shortly, nobody “goes to heaven” or “goes to hell” during this judgement — the rewards and punishments in this prophecy take place entirely on Earth among the still living] as similar examples).

“Ye shall not surely die” might be the first recorded lie the devil told, but today it’s being taught by many leaders in the Christian religion who are trying to convince us that death isn’t actually death at all, but is rather just a change in our state of consciousness (and, in fact, that death is really life), seemingly unaware that the Hebrew Scriptures tell us the dead know nothing (meaning they aren’t conscious at all). Even in the Greek Scriptures (meaning the books of the Bible that are generally referred to as the New Testament), death is compared to sleep (the book of Acts didn’t say Stephen died and went to heaven — while his spirit was returned to God [not as a conscious being, though, since our spirit is just the breath of life that generates a soul while in a body], Acts says that he himself went to sleep, not that he remained conscious); it isn’t compared to being awake in an afterlife existence at all, outside of that one parable which seems to confuse so many (although that was the purpose of parables — they weren’t told to make things obvious to the religious — so I suppose it’s doing its job there). Scripture says that David and others fell asleep — referring to their actual persons being asleep or unconscious in death — not that just their bodies, which are referred to separately as having decayed (“saw corruption”), fell asleep while they themselves remained conscious (when Scripture speaks of a person dying, it doesn’t just say their body died while they themselves continued to live. Instead, it says they themselves have died, and that the location of their person is now “in the grave” or “in the dust,” in the very same place that all animals end up as well, in fact, and not in another dimension called Heaven or hell). Similarly, bodily resurrection is likewise compared to waking up from sleep in Scripture, and not to a person being returned to their body. As E. W. Bullinger explained, “when the Holy Spirit uses one thing to describe or explain another, He does not choose the opposite word or expression. If He speaks of night, He does not use the word light. If He speaks of daylight, He does not use the word night. He does not put ‘sweet for bitter, and bitter for sweet’ (Isaiah 5:20). He uses adultery to illustrate idolatry; He does not use virtue. Thus, if He uses the word ‘sleep‘ of death, it is because sleep illustrates to us what the condition of death is like. If Tradition be the truth, He ought to have used the word ‘awake,’ or ‘wakefulness’ – but the Lord first uses a Figure, and says ‘Lazarus sleepeth,’ and afterwards, when He speaks ‘plainly‘ He says ‘Lazarus is dead.’ Why? Because, sleep expresses and describes the condition of the ‘unclothed‘ state. In normal sleep, there is no consciousness. For the Lord, therefore, to have used this word ‘sleep’ to represent the very opposite condition of conscious wakefulness would have been indeed to mislead us. Yet all of His words are perfect, and are used for the purpose of teaching us, not for leading us astray.”

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

Also, the first time those in the body of Christ will meet the Lord is in the air in our newly vivified bodies at the rapture (or at the resurrection of the just, 75 days after the the Second Coming, for those Christians in the Israel of God), which is the point from when we’re said to finally “always be together with the Lord” (and not from a previous point such as our physical death, which would be when we actually began to “always be together with the Lord” if the immortality of the soul were true). In fact, the blessed hope we’re told to comfort one another with is the expectation that the dead in Christ will eventually be resurrected and that all of us in the body of Christ (still living and newly resurrected) will then be vivified and snatched away by Christ to finally go live in the heavens, not that the dead are currently living happily with the Lord as ghosts in another dimension called Heaven.

Of course, Paul also makes it quite clear that the immortality of the soul can’t be true when he said, “and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,” as well as when he talked about all dangers he faced to spread his Gospel and pointed out that there would be no reason for him to do so if there were no resurrection from the dead since otherwise nobody could be saved, in which case he might as well just go live life without worrying about evangelizing. This wouldn’t be true if those who are saved go to another dimension called Heaven when they die. The fact that we don’t is why he could make that claim, because without the physical resurrection we would have no hope at all and would cease to exist forever (we wouldn’t even have the hope of existing in another dimension called Heaven with God since we would have “perished”), which was basically the entire reason Paul wrote that chapter in his first epistle to the Corinthians to begin with. This is also backed up a little further on in the chapter when he said that “this mortal must put on immortality,” which tells us that we don’t inherently have immortality (in fact, Paul is clear that Christ Jesus is the only human to currently have immortality), but only gain it when our bodies are vivified, which is not until after the resurrection of those in the body of Christ who have died, not from the time they died (or really from the time they were born if the “immortality of the soul” were true). In addition, we know that not only has David himself not gone to Heaven, at least not as of the time Peter made that speech recorded in the book of Acts (which was after Christ’s resurrection), but that nobody other than Christ Himself has either (at least as of the time John wrote that), according to John’s commentary in the book called the Gospel according to John (Jesus’ “red letters” quote should really end at verse 12 based on the fact that verse 13 says the Son of Mankind was in Heaven at that point, which we know Jesus wasn’t at the time He had that discussion with Nicodemus, so everything from verse 13 to 21 had to have been John’s personal commentary on the topic, written after Jesus had left the Earth — it’s important to remember that the book of John was a theology book rather than a history book and, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, only used historical quotes of Jesus to prove theological points instead of being a historical record in and of itself as the three other “Gospels” were), so it seems pretty obvious that Heaven is only for those who have been vivified (aside from people who fly in aircraft, and certain astronauts who visit it for a short period of time in their space shuttles — that passage was written before air and space flight — but they all return to Earth relatively quickly) and isn’t for those who are currently dead (for those who aren’t aware [thanks, again, to traditions we’ve been taught since childhood], the heavens, or “Heaven,” just refers to everything “above” [or around] the Earth, including our sky and atmosphere, where the birds and clouds are, but more importantly, to outer space where the sun and the moon and other heavenly bodies are — “in the beginning God created the heaven and the Earth” — [although, when it talks about where we’ll be in the heavens, it would be referring to deep space, likely beyond the reach of our current telescopes, but still in our physical universe], out among the stars and planets where most of the celestials reside [even if perhaps partially in higher dimensions if they’re not just somehow invisibly living on our plane of existence] and is actually a place you wouldn’t want to go without either a space suit or an immortal body that could survive and thrive out there; it isn’t the wonderful, perfect place most people think it is, at least not now [nor is it a place that anybody who is dead goes to; only the living can go to Heaven, at least in a conscious state], although it will be pretty great for the body of Christ when we have our new bodies that can enjoy it out there with our Lord as we fulfill our impending ministry to the celestials there).

In fact, if people were to remain conscious after death, God would cease to be their God while they waited for their physical resurrection, since He is not the God of the dead, but of the living (even though, to Him, all are considered alive from a proleptic perspective, which was the point of this statement), which would make things strange for Christians in the supposed afterlife if they no longer had a God (although, if the immortality of the soul were true, that would be a good explanation as to why the dead do not praise God, or even remember that He exists, since He’d no longer be their God while they were still dead — the real reason the dead don’t praise or thank or remember Him, though, of course, is simply that they’re unconscious and can’t do anything while dead), so it seems safe to say that nobody remains conscious while dead (believe it or not, some people actually try to use this passage to support their view that the dead remain conscious, misapprehending the statement to mean that the dead aren’t actually dead, but if they took the time to examine the context of the preceding verses they’d discover that it was really about the Sadducees [who didn’t believe in a physical resurrection in the future] trying to trip Jesus up with a question about whether the resurrected dead during the impending Millennial Kingdom in the next age here on Earth would still be married or not [and not about ghosts in an afterlife dimension and whether they’d still be married in that imaginary realm; it wasn’t the concept of an ethereal afterlife state that the Sadducees were trying to trip Jesus up on] in order to make the idea of a future physical resurrection seem ridiculous, but Jesus turned it around on them by using the fact that the Lord could not legitimately claim the title of “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” as Moses revealed Him to be, if the dead weren’t going to be physically resurrected someday because He’s not the God of the dead but of the living [which is where the figure of speech known as prolepsis comes in; prolepsis in Scripture is where God calls what is not yet as though it already were — when God makes a statement that tells us something is going to be, it’s already as good as done — so Jesus was using prolepsis there to tell us that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will definitely be resurrected someday since otherwise that statement about them would have been a lie because it would mean they would have ceased to exist forever when they died]).

That’s not the only passage they misuse, though, to try to prove the immortality of the soul. Many like to also claim that Paul said, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Aside from the fact that this isn’t actually what Paul said at all, if you look at the context of what he actually said in the previous verses, and also remember that a physical resurrection in a glorified, vivified body is what Paul and the body of Christ are looking forward to (and not to living as ghosts in an afterlife dimension), you can that see he’s comparing our current mortal bodies to earthly houses, and saying that he’s looking forward to no longer being “at home” in his mortal body, but instead wants to be at home in his vivified “house not made with hands” (meaning in his glorified body), where he’ll also finally be present with the Lord because he’ll be in his immortal body in heaven (which, as we’ve already learned, just refers to outer space) with Him.

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

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

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

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

So no, Jesus wasn’t promising an existence in a spiritual realm called Heaven for the supposed ghosts of the righteous when He spoke, nor was He warning about never-ending torture in a spiritual realm called hell for sinners (or even just nonexistence for sinners, if the Annihilationists are right). Instead, He was A) teaching the people of Israel how to be sure to enjoy “everlasting life” (which, as we learned in the last post, isn’t talking about living forever since “everlasting” has to be read as a qualitative word rather than a quantitative one in the KJV, although they will still live forever regardless because they’ve also been made immortal) on Earth (primarily in Israel, which is where the Kingdom of Heaven will be at that time) during the next age or two in the messages He gave while on Earth, and teaching those elected for the body of Christ about the fullness of salvation — including “everlasting life” in the heavens among the celestials during the next two ages — in the messages He gave Paul after He physically left the Earth (while everyone will eventually be given immortality, only a relatively small number of people will experience “everlasting life,” meaning enjoying immortal life during the next two ages), and B) warning the people of Israel how to avoid weeping and gnashing their teeth because they’ve been forced to live in the “outer darkness” (meaning they’re not allowed to live in Israel during the Millennium, possibly having to live as far away as the other side of the planet), or even how to avoid being killed and suffering the humiliating sentence of having their dead bodies displayed and destroyed in public in hell/Gehenna (also on Earth), not to mention missing out on the joys of the Millennial Kingdom (and quite possibly the next age after that as well) because they’d either be living outside of Israel or even be dead for the remaining ages.

And, again, since the Hebrew Scriptures never threatened never-ending torture while dead as a punishment for breaking the Mosaic law or even for sin in general — at most it threatened physical death for certain capital crimes (there is one passage in the book of Daniel that says some will be resurrected to “everlasting contempt” but, aside from the fact that contempt and torture are two very different things, A) “everlasting” here can’t mean “never ending,” as we already covered in the last post, and is actually a word that refers to a period of time with a temporary duration, B) as we’ve also already covered, there’d never been a threat of a never-ending conscious punishment before this passage so there’s no good reason to assume it’s suddenly being proclaimed here centuries after the giving of the Mosaic law when no Israelite had ever heard of it before [for that matter, nobody prior to Israel was warned about it either; not even Adam and Eve were warned about it, much less anyone who lived from their time to the time Daniel was supposedly warned about it] and it isn’t even explaining who would be experiencing such a thing or why [or how to avoid it], and C) the passage is talking about physical resurrection on Earth anyway, not to spiritual existence in an afterlife realm while dead; the negative part of this passage is referring to those resurrected to life at the Great White Throne judgement before they’re killed again [which is why it’s called the second death] when their bodies are tossed into the lake of fire to be burned up) — but did speak of the earthly hell/Gehenna as a place where the physical (not spiritual) bodies of the dead lawbreakers would be burned during the Millennial Kingdom (they couldn’t be spiritual bodies since “spiritual bodies” are only given to someone once they’ve been resurrected and/or vivified to live forever, and are, in fact, very physical), and since Jesus didn’t ever correct these beliefs Himself when He spoke of judgement and hell/Gehenna, there’s literally zero reason to interpret these things the way most Christians have. To put it simply, most Christians are assigning the earthly rewards and punishments that Jesus taught are meant for Israelites (and for those Gentiles who bless them or don’t bless them during the tribulation) to a supposed afterlife state meant for everyone, attempting to spiritualize physical and geographical places and events when there’s absolutely no good reason to do so (even the Great White Throne Judgement — which does apply to people other than Israel — and any of its resulting sufferings will likely happen on Earth [at the very least, it happens to those who are physically alive in this universe, having just been resurrected, and not to ghosts in an afterlife dimension] prior to the bodies of those who don’t enter the new Earth at its beginning being physically [not spiritually] cast into the lake of fire [likely an actual body of water on Earth, quite possibly referring to the Dead Sea] just like the dead bodies of previous sinners will have been physically cast into hell/Gehenna on Earth). These facts, combined with the fact that Scripture is quite clear that everyone will eventually experience reconciliation and immortality, makes it pretty obvious that the only reason for the morally and spiritually depraved followers of tradition over Scripture to continue believing in a demonic doctrine like everlasting torment (or even everlasting annihilation) after learning these truths is because they want to believe it (and continuing to believe and teach it tells the rest of us just how hardened their hearts and seared their consciences are, as well as just how little they understand about God’s character and His purpose for the ages and dispensations). Sadly, the religious only seem to want Good News as long it’s not too good (really, their basic doctrine is Bad News — which is why I like to call them malangelists rather than evangelists — since one could hardly call the teachings that “sin wasn’t actually completely taken care of by Christ some 2,000 years ago” and that “the majority of people throughout history [probably most of your family members and friends included] are almost certainly going to be tormented, or at least destroyed, for eternity” to be anything even remotely resembling Good News. Some malangelists like to say that it’s necessary to be taught the bad news first so that the good news has context, but everybody is already completely familiar with the actual bad news as Scripture defines it — that everyone is mortal and has failed to be perfect — so it’s really not something that anybody needs to be reminded of. And the so-called “good news” they’re teaching isn’t Good News at all either, since their supposed “gospel” is that your friends and family members can be saved, but only if they happen to be moral enough or wise enough or lucky enough to happen to believe and/or do the right things before they die [or if they happen to be among those whom God has elected to avoid eternal damnation if the Calvinists are correct], which really can’t be called Good News, either for those who weren’t born righteous enough or smart enough to make the right choices [or lucky enough to be elected for eternal salvation if Calvinism is correct], or for those of us who are going to miss them if they don’t).

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

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

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

And speaking of His sovereignty, now that you’ve finished reading part two of this study, please now read part three of this study where I explain that predestination is about when someone gets saved, not if they get saved, as well as the fact that if everyone doesn’t get saved then nobody can get saved.

Why the King James Version doesn’t teach Everlasting Torment

This is part 1 of a series I’m writing on understanding salvation and the body of Christ using only the King James Version of the Bible. Even if you’re not a KJV-Onlyist, however, I’d still recommend reading it since most of what I’ve written can be understood using any translation of Scripture.

Something most people don’t realize is that the KJV (the King James Version of the Bible), also known as the AV (the Authorized Version), doesn’t teach everlasting torment in hell for non-believers in Paul’s Gospel (which is the Good News that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day) as most people assume it does, and that it in fact actually teaches Universal Reconciliation (the doctrine that, because of what the Good News proclaimed in Paul’s Gospel means, everyone will eventually experience salvation).

Before I explain how this could possibly be the case, I should say that this post isn’t about whether KJV-Onlyism is a correct theological position to hold. Whether KJV-Onlyism is true or not is irrelevant to the point I’m making here, which is simply that every single consistent KJV-Onlyist out there is a Christian Universalist because the King James Version of the Bible clearly teaches Universal Reconciliation rather than everlasting torment in hell (although 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 continue reading). If you’re now thinking that all the KJV-Onlyists you know aren’t Universalists, that just means the ones you’ve met so far aren’t interpreting all of the Bible consistently yet. But send them a copy of this post and hopefully they will be by the time they’ve finished reading it.

Now, when discussing the topic with most Christians, one would normally get into the Hebrew and Greek behind the words that are translated as “hell” and “for ever” and other words that are normally used to defend the doctrine of everlasting torment in hell (and, for those who are interested, I have done so elsewhere on this site, using its original languages to prove that Scripture definitely does not teach everlasting torment, or even Annihilationism). In the case of KJV-Onlyists, however, they tend not to be swayed by these points because it’s generally believed (at least by all the KJV-Onlyists I’ve ever conversed with) that the English clarifies, if not outright corrects, the text in its original languages, and that what Scripture said in the original manuscripts isn’t all that relevant now that we have the perfect Word of God in English. So, while there are multiple Hebrew and Greek words that are rendered as “hell” in English (sheol [שְׁאוֹל], hades [ᾅδης], gehenna [γέεννα], and tartarus [τάρταρος]), most of the KJV-Onlyists I’ve spoken with believe they’re all referring to the same place since they’re all called “hell” in the KJV, which one should not fault them for believing since that is consistent with their general hermeneutic (although, even if they don’t believe that the different references to “hell” mentioned in the KJV are all talking about the same place, it won’t actually make a difference as far as any of the arguments I make in this post go). Likewise, there are technically three different Greek words (and one Hebrew word) that are translated as “for ever” or “everlasting” or other variations of words that most people assume mean “never ending” in the KJV (olam [עוֹלָם], aión [αἰών], “aiónas” [αἰῶνας], and aiónios [αἰώνιος]). And while these words don’t technically mean the exact same thing in Greek (since one is a singular noun, one is a plural version of that noun, and one is the adjective form of said noun), they are all connected to each other, and I want you to take the KJV-Onlyist mindset as you read this post and assume that they should all be translated as variants of words that would normally mean “never ending” in English (outside of the cases where they’re sometimes also translated in the KJV as words with finite meanings, such as “world” or “age” [or “worlds” or “ages”], rather than the words with apparently infinite meanings that they’re rendered as in the verses generally used to defend everlasting torment). But while I believe there is value in looking at these words in their original languages, it isn’t necessary to prove the point I’m making in this post, because even if there are passages which appear to say that some people will spend eternity in hell (presuming they’re translated correctly in the Authorized Version, which is what we’re going to presume here), one doesn’t have to resort to looking at Scripture in its original languages for this study. In fact, it’s extremely easy to prove, using nothing more than a copy of the King James Version of the Bible, that not only is everlasting torment in hell (as well as Annihilationism) not actually taught anywhere in the Bible, but that the Bible also tells us everyone will eventually experience salvation as well.

So how can passages that seem to tell us that people will be in hell forever not actually mean they’ll be in hell forever? Well, let’s start with the meaning of the words “for ever” and “everlasting” in the Bible, and determine whether we should be interpreting these words literally or figuratively when we read them in the Authorized Version, beginning with the Hebrew Scriptures (meaning the books of the Bible most people refer to as the Old Testament). When one looks at some of the passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that use these words, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that these words can’t always mean “never ending” as most people assume they must.

For example, in Exodus 21:6 we read about Hebrew servants who choose to remain as servants rather than going free on the seventh year, as was their right: “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” If we take “for ever” literally there, it would either mean that the servant (or slave) in question can never die, or that the servant will have to remain a slave to his master perpetually, even after both of their physical resurrections in the distant future (as well as in any afterlife, if one exists, in the meantime, even if they both end up in different places while dead). Since I doubt anyone believes either of these options to be the case, it seems that the “for ever” there actually means “for a specific time period, even if the end date (the time of the servant’s death) is currently unknown,” which means that “for ever” in the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean “without end.”

Similarly, in 1 Chronicles 16:17 we read: “And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant,” which seems to tell us that the Old Covenant can never come to an end and be replaced by a New Covenant since it’s everlasting, but we know from many Scriptures that there is a New Covenant, and that the Old Covenant in fact began to decay when Christ died (and will indeed eventually vanish away entirely if it hasn’t already). So this tells us that “everlasting” can’t always mean “never ending” when we read that word in the King James Bible any more than “for ever” does.

But does that mean that the translators of the King James Version were confused about the meaning of the words they rendered as “for ever” and “everlasting” in their translation? Based on this next passage, it seems to me that they were actually quite aware of the fact that these words didn’t necessarily mean “never ending” at all, and that passage is Isaiah 32:14-15, which says: “Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest.” Unless we’re meant to believe that Jerusalem will be left forsaken and desolate forever, as verse 14 seems to say, yet which we know won’t be the case, we have to interpret that “for ever” as meaning a specific period of time again, just as we had to do with the last two examples. And, indeed, verse 15 tells us when that “for ever” ends, stating that Jerusalem will be left deserted “for ever,” until the spirit be poured from on high. So unless the translators were having a very off day when they translated these various verses, they obviously never intended for their readers to believe that “for ever” or “everlasting” should always be taken to mean “never ending.” And if the Hebrew words translated as “everlasting” and “for ever” don’t actually mean “without end” or “never ending,” as we can see they clearly don’t, it stands to reason that the Greek words wouldn’t either, which means it’s now time to take a look at the only passages in the King James Bible that might imply the idea of everlasting torment in hell for those who don’t believe Paul’s Gospel:

Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. – Matthew 18:8-9

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. – Mark 9:43-48

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. – Luke 16-19-31

That’s it. Those are the only three passages which we can say for certain might imply everlasting torment in hell. I know, there are probably at least half a dozen other verses popping into your head right about now, but the fact of the matter is that none of the other verses you’re likely thinking about discuss the duration of one’s stay in hell (not that any of these three actually do either, but we’re purposely not reading them carefully here yet, and are assuming they must mean the duration is without end as most people also assume), and some are actually referring to something (or some place) other than hell altogether (it’s also important to note that nobody who was warned about hell in those three passages could have possibly believed Paul’s Gospel because not only hadn’t Christ died for our sins and been resurrected yet, no human other than Jesus Himself even understood that it was going to happen at all — even His disciples didn’t understand this fact when He told them that His death was impending — so we should remember that the only three passages in the Bible that might be said to warn about everlasting torment in hell weren’t even told to people who could believe Paul’s Gospel anyway, which also causes trouble for the traditional doctrine. However, we’re going to ignore that fact for now as well and move on). But, either way, don’t those passages say that the rich man will be stuck in hell forever, and that people who don’t mutilate their bodies will be also? Well, this is where a very important passage that begins to derail the whole traditional doctrine comes into play, and that verse is Revelation 20:14, which says: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

From that verse in Revelation we know that hell and the lake of fire are two different things (or places), since John tells us in this verse that hell itself is eventually going to be cast into the lake of fire, and something can’t be cast into itself. Before we continue with this train of thought, however, let’s look at the passages that are presumably referring to the lake of fire that also might suggest that certain people will spend eternity there (although the first one actually might not be, but I’m including it here anyway because most people assume it does, and also because it does take place during the same future time period when some people will be cast into the lake of fire):

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. – Daniel 12:1-3

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. – Revelation 20:7-10

These two passages are both referring to the general time period of the Great White Throne Judgement, at the end of the 1,000 year Millennial Kingdom on earth, at which point some people (and certain spiritual beings) will be cast into the lake of fire, but you’ll soon see that neither of them means what most people assume they do (and yes, I know you’ve still got other verses in mind, and I will get to them, but these two that I just listed are actually the only two passages that clearly refer to the time period when the Great White Throne Judgement occurs and that might also hint that some people will be in the lake of fire forever).

Now, as we’ve already covered, hell and the lake of fire are two different things or places, but this brings up a major problem because, if the first three passages I listed are to be taken literally (and as most KJV-Onlyists I’ve spoken to believe at first, at least before I make this next point), nobody can ever leave hell. And yet, Revelation 20:13 says: “the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

At this point it’s probably becoming clear to most of you what I’m getting at, but I’ll continue for the sake of everyone else. Remember, it’s hell, not the lake of fire, that most people assume (and which the first three verses we covered seem to say) that non-believers will not only spend eternity in but that in fact they can never possibly ever even leave, but we’ve just read that hell is going to be emptied (and then cast into the lake of fire itself), so it’s now clear that people not only can, but in fact will, leave hell after all, contrary to what most believe and those first three passages seem to imply.

So, not only does this completely destroy the concept of everlasting torment in hell, since we know for a fact that nobody actually stays in hell forever because everyone in there needs to be freed from it in order to be judged, it destroys the concept of everlasting torment in the lake of fire after the Great White Throne Judgement as well, since the same words which are used to say that the time spent in the lake of fire might be forever are the same words which were used to tell us that time spent in hell is also forever (and if the so-called “for ever” spent in hell isn’t actually without end, there’s no basis for claiming the “for ever” in the lake of fire is without end either; although, as we’ve already discovered, the Hebrew Scriptures made it clear that “for ever” and “everlasting” don’t necessarily mean “never ending” anyway, so this isn’t really a problem if we just interpret these words figuratively rather than literally).

Of course, if you were paying close attention, you probably also noticed that none of the “Great White Throne Judgement” passages actually outright said any humans would spend eternity in the lake of fire either. One just said certain people would be resurrected to shame and “everlasting” contempt, and shame and contempt aren’t even remotely the same thing as torture in fire. And the other passage only mentions two possible humans who might actually end up in there forever (the beast and the false prophet), and I personally believe that these are references to two evil spirits who will inhabit two humans rather than referring to the actual possessed humans themselves. Either way, though, the only thing we can say for sure from the “Great White Throne Judgement“ passages is that two particular humans might end up in the lake of fire for eternity (presuming that this “for ever” is any more literal than any other “for ever” we’ve already covered, which is seeming less and less likely, all things considered), but there are no other passages that tell us anyone else who ends up in it will be in it forever, so what I’ve now explained to you should make it clear that nobody will suffer in either hell or the lake of fire forever.

Now, some people will probably bring up the point that these passages also say “and ever” after the “for ever” part of the verses, but if “for ever” just means a long period of time with a definite end, as we’ve now learned it does, “and ever” in the English couldn’t be anything more than an emphasis on that “for ever,” just making that period of time mean a really long period of time, but still with a definite end (while the original Hebrew and Greek text actually adds a little more nuance to what it means [and also helps one learn about the doctrine of the ages, which few seem to know about], the end result is still the same in any of the languages, so it isn’t necessary to dig into the original languages here for this point).

It should also probably be pointed out that not once did the Hebrew Scriptures threaten never-ending torture while dead as a punishment for breaking the Mosaic law or even for sin in general — at most it threatened physical death for certain capital crimes (or, in the case of Adam, simply to “surely die,” which just meant to gain mortality leading to eventual physical death, although that’s a whole other topic for another post) — and even if this passage in the book of Daniel could somehow be interpreted as saying that certain people will tortured in fire forever, there’d never been a threat of a never-ending conscious punishment before this passage, so there’s no good reason to assume it’s suddenly being proclaimed here centuries after the giving of the Mosaic law when no Israelite had ever heard of it before, and you’d think that, at the very least, God’s chosen people would be given this warning (for that matter, nobody prior to Israel was warned about it either; not even Adam and Eve were warned about it, much less anyone who lived from their time to the time Daniel was supposedly warned about it), not to mention be told who would be experiencing such a thing or why (or how to avoid it). Besides, the passage is talking about physical resurrection on Earth anyway, not to a spiritual existence in an afterlife realm while dead — the negative part of this passage is referring to those resurrected to life at the Great White Throne judgement before they’re sent to their second death, when their bodies are tossed into the lake of fire — so it seems safe to say that this passage isn’t actually saying what most people have read into it.

Of course, there are those other passages you’re likely still thinking of, which most people believe should be included in the defence of everlasting punishment as well, but none of them are even talking about hell or the lake of fire, nor do any of them even remotely support the traditional doctrine at all when one studies them in any depth, but for the sake of completion, let’s discuss each of them as well anyway:

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. – Matthew 12:31-32

Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. – Mark 3:28-29

And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. – Luke 12:10

These are parallel passages that are all talking about the same thing, the so-called “unforgivable sin.” On first glance it might appear to imply that perhaps somebody might suffer forever somewhere if they blaspheme the Holy Spirit, but when we consider what we’ve already covered, that “for ever” and “eternal” don’t necessarily mean “never ending” in the Authorized Version, and the fact that we now know that none of the passages which we previously assumed told us people would spend eternity in hell or the lake of fire actually mean anyone is really going to spend eternity in either location anyway, it becomes clear that we have to consider the possibility that this passage probably doesn’t mean what most have always assumed it does either. It’s also important to note that the passage in Matthew tells us how long “hath never forgiveness” as mentioned in Mark will actually last, which is this “world” and the “world” to come. You see, the word “world” there doesn’t mean planet or earth. Instead, it just means “age” (or “a long period of time”), and there are at least two ages or “worlds” to come still. This means that, while someone who is guilty of this sin won’t be forgiven in this world/age (which began with the end of Noah’s flood and concludes at the end of the Tribulation), or even the next world/age (which refers to the 1,000 year kingdom), there’s no reason to believe they won’t be forgiven by the world/age after that (which will be when the New Earth begins). In addition, none of those passages actually mention what the sentence or punishment actually is (“damnation” only means “condemnation,” and is the judgment, not the sentence; neither eternity spent in hell or in the lake of fire is implicitly implied by the word “damnation”). Besides all that, even if one really does “hath never forgiveness” (presuming “never” is meant to be taken any more literally than “eternal” is in that verse, which is not a safe bet to make based on everything else we’ve already discussed), people don’t necessarily need forgiveness in order to be saved anyway. That might sound like a strange statement, but there’s something even better than forgiveness, and that’s justification. Forgiveness implies guilt, and just means that the forgiver is overlooking the sin of the one being forgiven, whereas justification means “not even guilty“ (it’s sometimes well explained as, “just as if I’d never sinned at all”), so even if somebody does miss out on forgiveness, justification is far superior to it anyway, and that passage doesn’t even hint at the idea that they won’t eventually be justified.

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. – Matthew 25:31-46

If you read that passage over without taking the time to break it down and think about three important factors one needs to consider when interpreting Scripture systematically (context, chronology, and consistency), it’s sort of easy to see why people might assume it’s talking about Christians going to heaven and non-Christians going to hell for eternity. But before jumping to the conclusion you’ve likely already jumped to, you should really be taking some time to ask yourself a few questions about it:

  1. Who are the sheep supposed to represent and who are the goats supposed to represent in that prophecy?

  2. When are the events in the prophecy supposed to take place in the future, and where?

  3. How is it the sheep gain eternal life according to that passage?

  4. Where is it the goats are apparently going to spend eternity according to that passage?

Now, most people will quickly say that the sheep represent true Christians and the goats are everyone else. As for when and where this takes place, very few people have ever even thought of that, but if people are being judged and going into fire for eternity then it’s obviously talking about the Great White Throne Judgement and the lake of fire, right? But wait… are there going to be any Christians at the Great White Throne Judgement? As most Christians are aware, but seem to forget when they read this passage for some reason, there won’t be any true believers being judged at that particular judgement (the body of Christ has already been judged over 1,000 years earlier — at the Judgement Seat of Christ — and have been living in the heavens for all that time), which means the sheep can’t actually represent Christians at all, can they? Instead, one needs to take a look at the verse which says it takes place “when the Son of man shall come in his glory,” and look at the context of the rest of the chapter, as well as the chapter before it, which makes it obvious that it’s talking about the time immediately after Christ returns to the earth, so this must be talking about a judgement that takes place on earth among the living (and not the dead) at the beginning of the Millennium, shortly after the Great Tribulation ends, rather than the Great White Throne Judgement which takes place 1,000 years later. But that just brings up other problems. If every single human living on earth is going to be judged and sent to heaven or hell for eternity immediately after the tribulation ends, who is going to live on earth for the next 1,000 years and reproduce, as many passages throughout Scripture say they will (not to mention live on the New Earth, after the Millennium ends and this planet is destroyed, and stay alive and healthy as mortals by partaking of the fruit and leaves of the tree of life on that new planet until the final end of the “ends of the world” finally occurs physically)? The Bible teaches that Christians are going to be made immortal like the angels so they’ll no longer reproduce when Christ returns, and if all the non-Christians are going to be killed and sent to hell at that point, that doesn’t leave anybody else to fulfill the prophecies about the New Covenant, not to mention the New Earth, that are supposed to take place after the tribulation ends.

Not only that, but hopefully you’re also now beginning to wonder why there’s nothing in there about the sheep “accepting Jesus as their Lord and Saviour” in the prophecy, or even about them believing that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised the third day (which is the Gospel that Paul taught), and also why it seems like everlasting life appears to be dependent on good works rather than on grace through faith (the same concern also applies to the first two passages we considered, which seem to tell us that we have to mutilate our bodies while we’re still alive if we want to avoid hell after we die, rather than accept Christ or His sacrifice in order to avoid it). Most people just brush those concerns aside because they “know” it has to be talking about what their preachers have always said it is and decide that, even though it doesn’t actually say so in the passage, the reason for salvation in this passage has to be figurative and be talking about works as the fruit of faith rather than good works being the actual cause of the sheep’s salvation as the passage says they are when taken literally (and then push the thought that “many non-believers do the very things Jesus seemed to say would result in everlasting life while many believers don’t” to the back of their minds and try to forget that fact as well), because if one were to read it literally it would become obvious pretty quickly that this passage can’t be talking about what one has always assumed it is at all (although one is then also forced to push the thought that, “if the cause of salvation and damnation is figurative, then there’s no reason to believe that the actual reward and punishment, or even their duration, aren’t also figurative,” and that “the reward and punishment could then really mean anything at all,” to the back of their mind as well, but most successfully do so). But even if this passage could somehow be twisted into meaning the sheep are Christians who will go to heaven for eternity and the goats are non-Christians who will go to hell for eternity (and if we ignore the fact that this passage takes place on earth among the living and not in some afterlife realm among the dead), we already know from what we’ve previously covered that nobody is going to stay in hell or the lake of fire forever, so mangling the passage in such a manner doesn’t actually help defend the traditional doctrine anyway.

As for what this actually is talking about (as well as what some of the other passages mentioned in this post actually mean), explaining that here would make this post far too long. For now, the most important thing to know is what they don’t mean; but don’t worry, I will explain what they do mean in my next post.

In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. – 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10

This passage could technically be referring to either hell or the lake of fire, and while I’d personally say it’s more likely hell if it is actually talking about one of the two, we can’t be 100% certain which it’s referring to (if it’s even referring to either one at all, and based on the fact that Matthew 25:31-46 can’t be referring to hell or the lake of fire, there’s good reason to believe this passage isn’t either), although I really don’t believe it even matters since we’ve already determined that “everlasting” doesn’t always mean “forever” and that nobody is going to spend eternity in either location anyway. Besides, almost nobody takes the word “destruction” in this verse literally, since otherwise they’d have to believe in Annihilationism (the doctrine that non-Christians will be completely destroyed in the lake of fire rather than suffer there forever in a conscious state) instead of Infernalism (the doctrine of everlasting torment), and if that word is figurative and not literal, there’s no good reason to believe that the word “everlasting” before it is any more literal than it is (especially since we already know that it often, if not always, isn’t anyway).

I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. – Jude 1:5-13

The everlasting chains in this passage don’t help defend the traditional doctrine, because this passage tells us they only lock up the fallen angels until (“unto”) their judgement. And the reference to Sodom and Gomorrha suffering the vengeance of eternal fire doesn’t help because neither of these cities are currently still burning, and we know that Sodom will also eventually be returned to her “former estate” anyway (and if it’s just referring to the citizens of the city, we’ve already learned that nobody will be burned in the fires of hell or in the lake of fire without end as well). And as far as the “wandering stars” go, hell and the lake of fire don’t seem like they could be described as places of “blackness of darkness” (the rich man couldn’t see Abraham in the darkness if it were referring to hell, and a lake of fire would be anything but dark unless we aren’t taking the “fire” part of its title literally), and I’m assuming I don’t have to recapitulate everything I’ve already said about “for ever” here again, so this very figurative passage doesn’t seem to help the traditional doctrine either.

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. – Revelation 14:9-11

This takes place long before the Great White Throne Judgement and before anyone is cast into the lake of fire, and it only applies to those who worship the beast during the tribulation anyway (and it also appears to apply to people who are still living, not to anyone who is dead), so it’s obviously representative of something else. And, again, we already know that “for ever” doesn’t mean “without end,” so I can’t see any way this obviously symbolic passage can be used to defend everlasting torment in hell (and it has to be hell since it begins long before the lake of fire becomes inhabited, and we already know that nobody stays in hell forever anyway).

And that’s it. No other passage I’m aware of (although please correct me if I’m wrong and missed one, but please also first consider whether anything I wrote above would apply to it as well) that one thinks might be talking about hell or the lake of fire refers to the duration of one’s time spent in either location, so they don’t actually help defend the doctrine. Which means it’s time to begin reading the words “for ever” and “everlasting” and “eternal” in the Bible qualitatively rather than quantitatively and give up on the idea that God is going to torture anyone (or allow anyone to be tortured) forever in fire as the tradition most of us have been brought up to believe teaches.

I should say, by this point, some people who really don’t want to accept what they’ve learned here because they really don’t want to lose their beloved doctrine of everlasting torment will start to look to the Hebrew and Greek (mostly the Greek) to see if it’s possible that the different words translated as “hell” in the Authorized Version might help defend the doctrinal bias they just don’t want to let go of, but since we know that “everlasting” and “for ever” don’t actually seem to mean “never ending” in the KJV anyway, it doesn’t matter whether it’s hades or gehenna or tartarus that’s being referred to, at least not from the KJV-Only perspective. Besides, ending up in either hades or gehenna or even tartarus can’t possibly refer to being cast into the lake of fire after the Great White Throne Judgement anyway, as becomes clear when one considers the context of the passages where these are the original Greek words, since hades is the Greek word used in the passage in Revelation that tells us hell will be emptied and then cast into the lake of fire, the passages where gehenna is used are references to a prophecy of Isaiah about a time during the Millennium that Jesus was pointing back to when He used the word (it also referred to carcases, or dead bodies, and not to anyone who is consciously suffering, if we’re taking the passage literally, which is fine to do but actually makes the traditional doctrine even less tenable), and tartarus is used only in reference to the place the fallen angels mentioned in Jude are being kept chained up in, but everyone in all three of these locations (if we’re not just taking the English word “hell” in the KJV at face value and assuming they’re all talking about the same place) will have to be freed from them at some point to be judged and then sent to the lake of fire.

Of course, in response to all this I’ve sometimes been asked, “but where does it say that people can ever leave the lake of fire?” Well, the better question is, where does it say anyone (other than, perhaps, the beast and the false prophet) can’t leave the lake of fire? If there aren’t any passages that say they’re stuck there forever, there’s no reason to assume they can’t leave it at some point any more than they couldn’t leave hell after being stuck in there “for ever.” But if you really want to know the answer to that question, the apostle Paul’s epistles are where it says that.

Now, before I get into these particular passages, I should say that most people read them with the assumption that the good parts of them (the “rewards,” so to speak) are only talking about people who have chosen (or, depending on one’s level of lapsarianism, have been chosen) to believe Paul’s Gospel, and that everyone else will suffer in hell for eternity. But, since we’ve already discovered that there are no verses to back up the idea that anybody will suffer in hell (or even in the lake of fire) for eternity, the only reason for making that assumption is preconceived doctrinal bias. So, with that in mind, let’s try to look at what these writings of Paul actually say without trying to force any preconceived doctrinal bias into them.

The first passage to consider is when Paul wrote, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” It’s important to note that this passage doesn’t say, “even so shall all in Christ be made alive.” If it had, one might be able to assume that it only applied to a specific group of people (only those “in Christ”). Thankfully, that’s not how it was worded. Instead, Paul was using a parallelism there to tell us that everyone affected by the action of the first Adam is also affected by the action of the last Adam, and completely outside of their own desire or will. Just as nobody had any say in experiencing the effects of the first Adam’s action (mortality and, in most cases, physical death [aside from the relative few who will experience the rapture or second coming without dying], as well as sinfulness because of that mortality — take note of the word “that” in the verse I linked to if you don’t know what I’m getting at there), they also have no say in experiencing the effects of the last Adam’s action (eventual immortality and sinlessness), and just as judgement to condemnation came upon all men because of the offence and disobedience of one, and not because of their own offences or disobedience, righteousness and justification of life will also come upon all men because of the obedience of one, and not because of their own obedience. This is another parallelism, something Paul seemed to love using to prove this particular point in various epistles, where the “all” and the “many” in the first part of a sentence have to be the same “all” and “many” in the second part or else the parallelism would fall apart. Most Christians mistakenly believe that only those “in Christ” will be made alive (completely missing the significance of the order of the wording in this verse), but the whole point of the parallelism in this passage is to make it clear that Christ has at least the exact same level of effect on humanity that Adam had, meaning Christ’s action changes the exact same people that fall into the categories of “all” or “many” that Adam’s action did. If you’re still finding this confusing, try thinking about it in mathematical terms: “For as in Adam x die, even so in Christ shall x be made alive.” The variable x remains the same in both parts of the sentence since it didn’t say, “For as in Adam x die, even so in Christ shall y be made alive,” where x equals all humanity and y would equal only a subset of that variable — specifically, believers — which could only be the meaning of the passage if Paul actually said, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall believers be made alive” (or if he wrote, “For as in Adam all die, even so shall all in Christ be made alive,” as already discussed), and the same applies to when Paul uses the word “many” instead of “all” in his parallelism (go ahead and put an x in place of the words “many” and “all” in the passages in Romans to see for yourself). With this in mind, the only way the passage could possibly mean that only some people (believers) will be made alive is if the verse said, “For as in Adam some die, even so in Christ shall some be made alive.” But if you still disagree, please think about how you believe Paul would have had to have worded this parallelism in order to make it mean what I’m saying it means, and let me know if it ends up being any different from how he did word it.

Likewise, Paul also told us that Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all, and when a ransom is fully paid, all those who are held captive are set free (unless the one paying the ransom has been lied to). So, if Christ gave Himself as a ransom for all humanity, as we know He did, and any humans at all are not released, we’d then have to conclude that God has deceived His Son (which I trust nobody reading this believes to be the case). In other words, since Christ gives Himself a ransom for all, all must be saved, or else God and the Bible stand discredited as dishonest.

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

The first order mentioned is “Christ the firstfruits,” which I believe refers to the body of Christ (meaning Jesus Himself, of course, but also His entire body) “made alive” (zōopoieō [ζῳοποιέω] in the Greek, meaning brought beyond the reach of death/made fully alive [simply put, made immortal] — not to be confused with resurrection [anastasis {ἀνάστασις} in the Greek], which only the dead experience; both the resurrected dead and the still living in the body of Christ will experience immortality [the dead first, then the remaining living], and will no longer sin because they’re no longer in the process of dying) at the rapture (which should also not be confused with the Second Coming), when God withdraws His ambassadors (as one does before declaring war), who then go on to fulfill their purpose in Christ in heavenly places (but that’s a whole other topic for another post).

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

Now, most people assume “they that are Christ’s at his coming” in verse 23 is the final group of resurrections and vivifications (vivification simply means the process of making one immortal) mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, but if Paul isn’t referring to the “telos” or end of humanity — meaning a final group of humans being resurrected and made immortal — when he says, “then cometh the end” (eita to telos [εἶτα τὸ τέλος] in the Greek) in the next verse when this final vivification occurs, it would have to mean “the end of the world” or “the end of the age (or ages)” or something similar instead. Okay, yes, this verse technically does have a double meaning, and it is also referring to a time known as the end of the ages or the end of the “worlds,” but it can’t only mean that since the verse would then make no sense considering Paul’s whole point in chapter 15 is resurrection and vivification; he didn’t just suddenly go from discussing the order of resurrections/vivifications among humanity to arbitrarily discussing a whole other topic (the triumph of Christ over His enemies at a time in the distant future with no connection to the topic he was already discussing), then suddenly go back to discussing resurrection and vivification again as he does a few verses later. And since he explains that this “end” (or final group) exists at the time when Christ has put down all rule and all authority and power (referring to rulership by spiritual, celestial beings in the heavens, including by evil ones) and gives up the kingdom to His God and Father, and that it occurs when all His enemies are finally put under His feet, and the final enemy — death — is finally destroyed altogether, it would make no sense to only be referring to the time of the last Christian being resurrected and vivified (which he’d have to be talking about if this wasn’t referring to a third group of people) since we know from the rest of Scripture that there will still be enemies of Christ, as well as much more death happening, after that (and that there is well over 1,000 years to go [a lot more, in fact] between the vivification of “they that are Christ’s at His coming” and “the end” at the time when Christ does defeat all enemies and turns over the kingdom to His Father since, at the very least, there is still a final [even if somewhat one-sided] battle between Him and those who consider Him to be their enemy [including both humans and Satan] a whole millennium after that). And it can’t be referring to the supposed “spiritual death” that most Christians mistakenly believe in (and which some of them also mistakenly assume the death in verse 22 is referring to, and which is also a whole other topic for a whole other post) either because verse 24 tells us that his enemies and death are defeated at a point in time after the last Christian has been vivified, not that they are defeated by the last Christian being vivified (and remember, death is the last enemy to be defeated, yet there will still be more death and enemies after the final Christian’s vivification), so if this part of the chapter is just talking about a so-called “spiritual death” (whatever that means; it’s certainly not a scriptural term) rather than physical death (I haven’t gotten into it in this post, and have really only hinted at it so far, but it’s physical death — more specifically, mortality — not spiritual death, that Paul is talking about in most of these passages), and it’s only talking about Christians being given some sort of “spiritual life” (or “going to heaven” after they die), the same problem applies since it tells us that the end of “death” doesn’t occur until after both the last Christian is given life and all the rest of Christ’s enemies have been defeated as well. So, unless someone has a better explanation of what these verses are referring to (and so far one hasn’t been forthcoming when I’ve brought it up), it would seem this would have to mean the final group, or the rest of humanity (including both those who are dead [meaning those whose bodies have been burned up in the lake of fire, which is the second death — it’s important to realize that, if the very final enemy that Christ defeats is death, and the lake of fire/second death is the only death that’s existed since the Great White Throne Judgement, the second death in the lake of fire can be the only possible death that’s being referred to there], as well as those who are still living [thanks to having partaken of the fruit and the leaves of the tree of life to keep from dying] but not yet vivified, referring to those whose names were written in the book of life at the Great White Throne Judgement after their resurrection for said judgement who hadn’t already been vivified previously, as well as those, and the descendants of those, still mortal humans who didn’t join Satan and die during his final rebellion at the end of the Millennium), fully vivified after the fifth and final age (known as the age of the ages, or the eon of the eons, but that’s also a topic for a whole other post) is completed and Jesus’ reign over the Kingdom comes to an end because He’s defeated all enemies (including death) and turns all rulership (including rulership over Himself) over to His Father, and God will finally be “All in all” (yes, in all; not just in a lucky few — If Paul had not pointed out that the “all” he was writing about doesn’t include God, people could then turn around and say that “all” doesn’t actually mean “all” because it obviously couldn’t include God so it could then also exclude people who die as non-believers as well if it doesn’t actually mean “all,” but because Paul does point out that God isn’t included in the “all” but doesn’t mention anyone else as being excluded from the group, we know that everyone other than God is included in the “all,” even those who die as non-believers).

This means, by the way, that people who use passages that seem to tell us Jesus will reign forever to prove that “everlasting torment” in hell (or, for Annihilationists, that destruction or annihilation) also lasts forever because those passages use the same words (in both the English and the Greek texts) are actually basing their argument on an obvious misunderstanding since Paul is clear that He won’t reign forever, but rather only until He’s defeated the final enemy, meaning He reigns for the final two, and greatest, ages — we’re currently living in the third, and perhaps most evil, “world” (meaning “age,“ but that’s also another topic) — but stops reigning after they’re over. This also demonstrates just how few people are aware that A) all of the passages that are translated as “everlasting” or “for ever” in the KJV have to be interpreted qualitatively rather than quantitatively based on this fact and the fact that Paul was clear everyone will eventually be vivified, as well as that B) Paul saw much farther into the future than John did in the book called Revelation (John only saw into the beginning of the fifth age, whereas Paul saw all the way to the end of the “ages” or “worlds”]).

And since many Christians often make a similar mistake when they try to insist that “if ‘eternal damnation’ isn’t actually forever then ‘eternal life’ wouldn’t be forever either,” I’m forced to point out that they really aren’t thinking things through when they make this assertion. While this can be explained in a much more clear way to someone who isn’t a KJV-Onlyist by using the literal meanings of the Greek words in question, even if we come at it from the perspective of KJV-Onlyism, that’s still faulty reasoning. Remember, we’ve determined that the “forever” words have to be interpreted qualitatively rather than quantitatively in the KJV, so we have to assume they aren’t talking about how long one lives (or how long one is punished) so much as the form or quality of their life and punishments. But just because one’s time experiencing “eternal damnation” will come to an end, it doesn’t stand to reason that anyone with “eternal life“ will eventually die because it isn’t verses about “eternal life” that promise us we’ll live forever anyway, but rather it’s verses about our impending immortality. So, when people eventually leave the lake of fire, believers will still be alive forever, although not because of any passage that speaks of “eternal life” but rather because of passages that tell us we’ll have already been made immortal. Basically, when someone reaches the end of “forever” or “everlasting life” (whatever “for ever” is meant to symbolize in the KJV), they’ll still remain alive because they’ll have bodies that can’t die. Similarly, the claim that “the everlasting God” would eventually die if “everlasting” doesn’t mean “never ending” is just as misguided. This verse isn’t trying to tell anyone that God lives forever. Everybody already knows that God will live forever. As Psalm 102:27 told us many millennia ago, His years shall have no end, and the idea that Paul would be trying to tell his readers something that everybody already took for granted would just be silly. So just because “everlasting” isn’t a quantitative word, it can certainly mean something very qualitative, even when it speaks of God (and I’ll leave it to you to see if you can figure out what it actually means for yourself).

But in case anybody is still skeptical, Paul later confirmed the salvation of all humanity beyond any shadow of a doubt when he outright wrote “the living God, who is the Saviour of all men” (it doesn’t get any clearer than this), even if those who believe this Good News have a special, earlier salvation than everybody else does. If a teacher were to say at the end of the school year, “I’ve given everyone a passing grade this year, especially Lisa who got an A+,” we’d know that while nobody else got an A+, they still all passed, since “especially” doesn’t mean “only” or “exclusively” (or “specifically,” as some claim; those who think so should look up each time the Greek word translated “specially” here — malista [μάλιστα] — is used in the Bible in a concordance to see for themselves). In fact, if the word did mean “exclusively” or “specifically,” the part of the verse that tells us God is the Saviour of all men would be a lie (since it didn’t say “God is the potential Saviour of all men, but really only of those who believe,” but instead plainly tells us that He actually is the Saviour of all men — and Calvinists who insist that Paul is only claiming “God is the Saviour of all kinds or sorts of men,” and that God only desires “all sorts of men” to be saved rather than that He actually “will have all men to be saved” [meaning He desires to have all men to be saved, although we all know that what God wills or desires, He gets, or else it couldn’t be said that He “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,” so anyone He wills or desires to be saved will be saved] are ignoring the second part of the verse where Paul says “specially of believers” rather than “specifically: believers” [if that’s what God really wanted Paul to get across, you’d think He would have just inspired Paul to simply write “the living God, who is the Saviour of believers” to avoid confusion], so they’re just reading their own preconceived doctrinal bias that not everyone will experience salvation into these passages because they have no other choice if they don’t want it to contradict their theological beliefs [seriously, if a Calvinist makes this claim, ask them to show you one single Bible translation that says anything even remotely close to the idea that God is just the Saviour of all kinds of men, or that He only desires all sorts of men to be saved, instead of saying than that He actually is the Saviour of all men and desires all men to be saved as every Bible version I’ve ever read plainly says. I’m highly doubtful that any of them can, which means they’re guilty of some serious eisegesis there], just as Arminians do in their own way), which means this passage once again verifies that the soteriology of Paul throughout his epistles is indeed that every human who is affected by the curse will also be equally (if not more so) affected by the cross, even if it doesn’t happen to everyone at the same time.

And in the interest of coming to a conclusion at some point, I’ll try to wrap up with one final passage where Paul also used a similar sort of parallelism, in the first chapter of his epistle to the Colossians, to tell his readers that all of the rest of creation will be reconciled as well (and not just humans, I should add). In fact, I don’t know how someone can read verses 15 through 20 of that chapter and not end up a believer in Universal Reconciliation, although it seems most people somehow miss the fact Paul is using a parallelism here (more specifically, an Extended Alternation) — likely because they probably weren’t familiar with Paul’s consistent use of parallelisms throughout his epistles to prove Universal Reconciliation until they read this post — to tell us that the same “all” created by Him are also the same “all” that are reconciled to Him by the blood of Christ’s cross, and that this passage tells us that not only are all humans (meaning all the things created in Earth, as mentioned in both verses 16 and 20) both created and reconciled by Him, but all the creatures in heaven (as also mentioned in both of the same two verses, referring to a list of celestial beings that overlaps with another list of celestial creatures who are described in Ephesians 6 as being the spiritual wickedness in high places) are also both created and reconciled by Him, and there would be no need to reconcile celestial beings in heaven who didn’t sin, so it can only be the “fallen” celestial beings in the heavens who are being reconciled, and if all of them are going to be reconciled as Paul says there, we know that all the creatures on the Earth will be as well, as he also says there (but, if you’re having trouble with this parallelism, replace the word “all” with the variable x again in both verses 16 and 20 — in fact, do it in all the verses from verse 16 to verse 20 — and it should become clear what it means).

Again, I know that it’s difficult to resist the temptation to try to insert words into these verses that aren’t there, such as the word “believers,” for example, into the second parts of the various parallelisms I’ve covered, but there’s no justification for doing so, particularly when we consider the facts from the beginning of this post, that there’s no basis for believing in actual never-ending punishment in the first place. Yes, there are passages that seem to tell us only believers will be “saved” or experience “everlasting life,” but when we consider the qualitative meaning of those words, we can come to understand that everyone who doesn’t get “everlasting life” (and who might even have to spend time in hell and/or the lake of fire) will still eventually be made immortal according to Paul, even if not for a very long time.

But why did God seem to hide this truth from so many? To that I simply repeat the proverb, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.

Of course, at this point you’re wondering, if none of those judgement verses are actually talking about never-ending punishment in hell (or is it the lake of fire?), then what in the world are they talking about? Well, to find that out, you’ll just have to read the next post on this site, since I do answer that question there. So go check that out now.

Considering context, chronology, and consistency when reading passages about “hell”

There’s an old saying: “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.”

When discussing the topic of the final fate of individual humans, many Christians will share various texts from the Bible which they assume — based on presuppositions they’ve been taught to believe by their religious leaders — are proof that non-Christians will be punished forever in a fiery place called “hell.” Something few people think to do, however, is consider the context of the passage to find out if it’s actually referring to what they assume it does, consider when the judgement or outcome in that particular passage is supposed to take place, and consider whether their interpretation of the passage is consistent with the rest of Scripture.

When read on their own without considering context, chronology, and consistency, passages about “everlasting fire,” outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, and “worms that die not and fire that is not quenched” sound scary, and if you’ve been taught all your life that there’s a fiery place called “hell” that people go to exist forever in when they die if they don’t become Christians first, it can be easy to assume that each of these judgement passages are all talking about the same thing. But are they really?

Well, let’s take a look at one of the most commonly used passages to “prove” that non-Christians are going to be burned in “hell” forever, the prophecy of the sheep and the goats, and then compare it to the rest of Scripture to see if this one actually means what most Christians use it to prove:

Matthew 25:31-46 King James Version (KJV)

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

If you read that over without taking the time to break it down and think about those three important factors one needs to consider when interpreting Scripture systematically (context, chronology, and consistency), it’s sort of easy to see why people might assume it’s talking about Christians going to heaven and non-Christians going to hell for eternity, and so when you read or hear a discussion where someone mentions the idea of Universal Reconciliation, meaning the idea that everybody will eventually be saved, you know exactly what to do: share that passage with the heretic who obviously hasn’t studied Scripture enough and somehow missed that this passage is in the Bible. But the truth is, before you do so, you should really be taking some time to ask yourself a few questions about it:

  1. Who are the sheep supposed to represent and who are the goats supposed to represent in that prophecy?

  2. When are the events in the prophecy supposed to take place in the future, and where?

  3. How is it the sheep gain eternal life according to that passage?

  4. Where is it the goats are apparently going to spend eternity according to that passage?

Now, most people will quickly say that the sheep represent true Christians and the goats are everyone else. As for when and where this takes place, very few people have ever thought of that, but if everybody is being judged and going to heaven and hell for eternity then you realize it’s obviously talking about the Great White Throne Judgement. But wait… you think to yourself, “are there going to be any Christians at the Great White Throne Judgement?” You suddenly remember that there won’t be any Christians being judged at that particular judgement (the body of Christ has already been judged over 1,000 years earlier, at the Dais of Christ — also commonly referred to as the Judgement Seat of Christ — and have been living in the heavens for all that time), which means the sheep can’t actually represent Christians at all, can they? And you also notice the verse that says it takes place “when the Son of man shall come in his glory,” and looking at the context of the rest of the chapter, as well as the chapter before it, you realize it must actually be talking about the time immediately after Christ returns to the earth, so this must be talking about a judgement that takes place on earth among the living at the beginning of the Millennium, shortly after the Great Tribulation ends, rather than the Great White Throne Judgement which takes place 1,000 years later. But that just brings up other problems, you realize. If every single human living on earth is going to be judged and sent to heaven or hell for eternity immediately after the tribulation ends, who is going to live on earth for the next 1,000 years and reproduce, as the many passages throughout Scripture say they will (not to mention live on the New Earth after the Millennium ends and this planet is destroyed and stay alive and healthy as mortals by partaking of the fruit and leaves of the tree of life on that new planet until the consummation of the eons occurs)? The Bible teaches that Christians are going to be made immortal so they’ll no longer reproduce when Christ returns, and if all the non-Christians are now in hell, that doesn’t leave anybody else to fulfill the prophecies about the New Covenant, not to mention the New Earth, that are supposed to take place after the tribulation ends.

Not only that, but you now begin to wonder why there’s nothing in there about the sheep “accepting Jesus as their Lord and Saviour” in the prophecy, or even about them believing that Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused the third day (which is the Gospel that Paul taught), and you’ll likely even stop to wonder why it seems like everlasting life appears to be dependent on good works rather than on grace through faith. However, you quickly brush those concerns aside because you know it has to be talking about what your preachers have always said it is and decide that, even though it doesn’t actually say so in the passage, the reason for salvation in this passage has to be figurative and be talking about works as the fruit of faith rather than good works being the actual cause of the sheep’s salvation as the passage says they are (and then push the thought that “many non-believers do the very things Jesus seemed to say would result in everlasting life while many believers don’t” to the back of your mind and try to forget that fact), because if you were to read it literally it would become obvious pretty quickly that this passage can’t be talking about what you’ve always assumed it is at all (although you’re then also forced to push the thought that, “if the cause of salvation and damnation is figurative, then there’s no reason to believe that the actual reward and punishment aren’t also figurative,” and that “the reward and punishment could then really mean anything at all,” to the back of your mind as well, but you successfully do so).

But then the question also pops into your head, are the goats going to hell or the lake of fire? You remember that, according to the book of Revelation, “hell” is not referring to the lake of fire since John told us there that “hell” would be cast into the lake of fire, and it would make no sense to say that “hell” is cast into itself, which it would have to mean if “hell” and the lake of fire were the same thing. But you also remember the verse in Revelation that immediately precedes that one, where we see John telling us that hell will be emptied of its inhabitants before it’s cast into the lake of fire, so its inhabitants can be judged at the Great White Throne Judgement, which would include the rich man in Luke 16 (presuming he actually existed and wasn’t just a fictional character in a parable), which means neither he nor anyone spends eternity in hell because they have to be set free from hell to be physically resurrected in a mortal human body again to be judged (the Great White Throne Judgement takes place at the end of the 1,000 year Kingdom of Heaven on earth among regular, mortal humans, not in the afterlife among the still dead). So if people aren’t cast into the lake of fire until the Great White Throne Judgement then it must be hell that the goats are being cast into.

But this only leads to more confusion. You think to yourself, if all of the verses in Scripture that have the word “hell” in them in our English Bibles are referring to the same place (as most Christians tend to believe they are), including the passages that seem to indicate that time spent in “hell” never ends, yet this verse in Revelation tells us that one’s time spent in “hell” does come to an end when everyone in it is set free from it and is physically resurrected for the Great White Throne Judgement, then are all the goats going to be resurrected to be judged a second time? And really, doesn’t this destroy the concepts of everlasting torment or destruction in “hell” altogether, since we know for a fact that nobody stays in there forever based on this verse? And doesn’t it also destroy the concept of everlasting torment or destruction in the lake of fire after the Great White Throne Judgement as well, since the Greek words that are used to imply that the time spent in the lake of fire is forever in the translations that say it is are the same Greek words used to say that time spent in “hell” is forever (and if the so-called “forever” spent in “hell” isn’t actually forever, what basis do we have for claiming the “forever” in the lake of fire is forever either)?

After going through this trail of thoughts, though, you almost certainly realize that you have to just ignore these points and continue holding to the doctrine you did previously since you need to believe that most people will be punished forever because otherwise all the sinners who don’t become Christians before they die might end up with the same reward you’re getting without first having to become Christians, and why should they get the same reward that you earned by being smart enough or wise enough or righteous enough or humble enough or obedient enough (whichever it is that you are and they aren’t) when they don’t deserve it like you do for making that good decision? However, there are a few of you (very few, probably) who might take the time to ponder these things and realize that studying Scripture consistently and in context (and considering the chronology of the passages) might mean the verses we’ve all been taught condemn all non-Christians to an eternity of suffering in hell might actually mean something else after all.

Now, I’m not going to say what the passage actually is talking about here (although Aaron Welch wrote an excellent seven-part series on the topic that I highly recommend if you really want to know). I just wanted to leave you with the above thought exercise to consider for yourself. I could easily run you through a similar series of points for basically any of the judgement passages in Scripture that people have generally assumed are talking about everlasting torment in “hell,” but I’m not going to at this point. For now, I just want you to think about how you explain the contradictions I pointed out above that arise when interpreting the passages the “traditional” way.