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

Previous chapter: Dividing

Judgement

When discussing the topics of salvation and judgement, it’s important to understand why humans actually sin in the first place (other than Adam and Eve; they had a different reason that we don’t have time to get into here but which is explained in at least one of the supporting links farther on in the book), and why Jesus didn’t (and before getting into it, I should point out that people who claim the reason He didn’t sin is simply because He is God and that only God in the flesh could avoid sinning are also telling us [even if they don’t realize they’re basically claiming] that we humans can never be free of sin, not even after our resurrection, since we aren’t going to become God, so that wasn’t the reason). The reason humans sin is because we’re mortal/dying, and we’re dying because Adam 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: “in the day you eat from it, to die shall you be dying” is a more literal translation of what God said in the Hebrew Scriptures about the “forbidden fruit” — it wasn’t that they “died spiritually,” as most Christians assume (yet which you won’t find taught in Scripture, probably because it’s actually a completely meaningless expression); it was just that they were paid the wages of sin: to die they began dying, meaning they gained mortality eventually leading to physical death. So, instead of dying because we sin (Paul didn’t simply say “for all have sinned” in this passage like he did in a previous one, which would mean “because all have sinned” if he had left out the word “that” here), we actually sin because we’re dying (“for that reason all have sinned,” or “because of that mortality all have sinned,” is what Paul meant in this passage in Romans 5; again, the word “that” is extremely important in this verse, making mortality the cause and sin the effect for humanity at large in this passage rather than the other way around) and don’t have abundant life in us (nor do we have the Spirit without measure) the way Jesus did (because of this, while He wasn’t yet immortal [meaning incapable of dying as He is now], Jesus wasn’t in a state of slowly dying like we are and couldn’t actually die until He willingly gave His life up and God took His Spirit from Jesus) to keep us from sinning the way He avoided it (although we also eventually will, at our resurrection and/or vivification), 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, is what we get because we sin and is experienced by those who are not saved (relatively speaking) when they appear before the Great White Throne.

However, “just as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (or, perhaps better put, since not everyone will actually die, “even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified“). It’s important to note that this passage doesn’t say, “so also shall all in Christ be made alive.” If it had, one might be able to assume that it only applied to a specific group of people (only those “in Christ”). Thankfully, that’s not how it was worded. Instead, Paul was using a parallelism there to tell us that everyone affected by the action of the first Adam is also affected by the action of the last Adam, and completely outside of their own desire or will. Just as nobody had any say in experiencing the effects (mortality and, in most cases, physical death, as well as sinfulness because of that mortality) of the first Adam’s action, they also have no say in experiencing the effects (eventual immortality and sinlessness) of the last Adam’s action, and just as condemnation came upon all men because of the offence and disobedience of one (and not because of their own offences or disobedience), justification will also come upon all men because of the obedience of one (and not because of their own obedience). Most of Churchianity mistakenly believes that only those “in Christ” will be made alive (completely missing the significance of the order of the wording in this verse), but the whole point of the parallelism in this passage is to make it clear that Christ has at least the exact same level of effect on humanity that Adam had, meaning Christ’s action changes the exact same “all” that Adam’s action did (a paraphrase of this verse that should make the meaning of the passage more clear would be, “just as because of what Adam did every human is mortal, because of what Christ did every human will also eventually be made immortal”).

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. Basically, there are three different orders, groups, or classes of humans to be made fully alive, and these three orders combined consist of all humanity (even though each order will be made alive in its own times). The first order mentioned is “Christ the firstfruits,” which I believe refers to the body of Christ (meaning Jesus Himself, of course, but also His entire body) vivified (zōopoieō [ζῳοποιέω] in the Greek, meaning brought beyond the reach of death/made fully alive [basically, made immortal] — not to be confused with resurrection, which only the dead experience; both the resurrected dead and the still living in the body of Christ will experience vivification [the dead first, then the remaining living], and will no longer sin because they’re no longer in the process of dying) at the snatching away (which is the actual version of the event often called the rapture that many religious Christians mistakenly believe will eventually happen to them, and which should also not be confused with the Second Coming), when God withdraws His ambassadors (as one does before declaring war), who then go on to fulfill their purpose in Christ among the celestials. The second is “they that are Christ’s at his coming,” referring, I believe, to those vivified at the time of the former resurrection (also known as the resurrection of the just) near the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, 75 days after Jesus returns to Earth and the Tribulation period has concluded (people such as “Old Testament” saints, for example, and those who are saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision [the resurrected dead saved under 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 vivified three-and-a-half or more [likely more; in fact, almost certainly more than seven] years apart from each other — and believe the first is just speaking of Christ Himself, I tend to think placing the body of Christ in the first order rather than the second makes the most sense, but since by the end of this second order everyone saved [relatively speaking] under both Gospels will have been vivified anyway it doesn’t really make a huge difference to the rest of my point so I won’t argue it any further here). And finally, “then cometh the end” or “thereafter the consummation” (eita to telos [εἶτα τὸ τέλος] in Greek), referring to the “telos” or consummation of humanity (since he’s still speaking of this order of vivification here, although this does have a double meaning, referring also to the consummation of the eons when this final vivification occurs), meaning the final group or the rest of humanity (including those who are dead, 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, and the descendants of those, still mortal humans who didn’t join Satan in his final rebellion at the end of the fourth eon), fully vivified after the fifth and final eon (known as the eon of the eons) is consummated or completed and Jesus’ reign over the Kingdom comes to an end because He’s defeated all enemies and turns all rulership (including rulership over Himself) over to His Father (which means that those who use passages that seem to tell us Jesus will reign forever to prove that “everlasting torment” in “hell” (or, for Annihilationists, that destruction or annihilation) also lasts forever because those passages use the same Greek words are actually basing their argument on an obvious mistranslation since Paul is clear that He won’t reign forever but rather for the eons or for the eons of the eons [meaning He reigns for the final two, and greatest, eons — we’re currently living in the third, and perhaps most wicked, eon — but stops reigning after they’re over]. It also demonstrates just how few are aware that A) all of the passages that are translated as “everlasting” or “forever” in the popular versions of the Bible must be mistranslations based on this fact and the fact that Paul was clear everyone will eventually be vivified, as well as that B) Paul saw much farther into the future than John did in the book of Revelation [John only saw into the beginning of the fifth eon, whereas Paul saw all the way to the end of the eons]. And since they often make a similar mistake when they try to insist that “if ‘eternal damnation’ [whether that damnation involves consciousness or not] isn’t actually forever then ‘eternal life’ wouldn’t be forever either,” I’m forced to point out that they really aren’t thinking things through when they make this assertion. Properly translated Scripture speaks of believers having eonian life rather than “eternal life” or “everlasting life,” but it also tells us we’ll be made immortal. So we know that when the eons come to an end we’ll still be alive forever, not because of any passage that speaks of “eternal life” but rather because of passages that speak about our impending immortality. Similarly, their claim that when Paul called God “the eonian God” in his epistle to the Romans he was actually calling God “the everlasting God” because otherwise God would die is just as confused. As Martin Zender explained, “This verse isn’t trying to tell anyone that God lives forever. Everyone already knows God lives forever. Psalm 102:27 testified long ago that ‘His years shall have no end.’ It’s old news. The vital question is: Does God sit on high, removed from our struggles in time, or does He care what happens during the eons? He cares. Thus, He is the eonian God. This does not limit Him to the eons any more than ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ limits Him to those patriarchs.”).

So, while every human who is affected by the curse will also be equally (if not more so) affected by the cross, it doesn’t happen to everyone at the same time. Only those predestined for eonian life, meaning those in the first two orders, will live through the eons to come while also experiencing vivification during those eons. That said, they aren’t the only people who will live through said eons (they’re just the only ones who will have vivified bodies during these eons). Those born during the next eon will also live through them as well (if they don’t die during the next eon, of course), as will the “sheep” of Matthew 25; everyone else will go through eonian judgement first (which doesn’t necessarily always involve death or “hell” for everyone; sometimes it just refers to a negative judgement while remaining alive on Earth, the “goats” of Matthew 25 being a good example of this, as will be touched on shortly, so, again, please don’t make the mistake of thinking that “death” and “judgement” refer to the same thing). But even among those who do die, by the end of it all, God justifies, vivifies, saves, and reconciles all, even if they have to go through judgement first (and when Scripture says “all” on this topic, it means “all,” and not just all humans but all spiritual beings as well; just as he used a parallelism in his epistle to the Romans and in his first epistle to the Corinthians to demonstrate that all humans will be reconciled, Paul also used a similar sort of parallelism in his epistle to the Colossians to tell his readers that all of the rest of creation will be reconciled as well, not just humans).

What this judgement actually is, however, is a point that few people today ever come to understand. Some (the Annihilationists) believe it refers to being completely burned up and destroyed in the lake of fire so that their consciousness completely ceases to exist forever. These people are closer to the truth about what the lake of fire is than most of those in Churchianity 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, as will be made clear throughout this chapter and the next. Others think it just means eternal separation from God in a place called “hell” (although this spiritualization of “hell” is clearly impossible since in him we live and move and are; we can’t even exist apart from God, and if anyone were separated from Him for even a moment they’d cease to exist. And even in mistranslations of Scripture where the word “hell” is mistakenly used, God is said to be there, so this obviously isn’t what the judgement is), but most think it refers to “everlasting punishment” or “everlasting torment” in a conscious state in a place of fire. However, this is a doctrine that didn’t exist among the first believers in Christ (and you won’t find it in the Scriptures Israel accepted either, which is strange since you’d think God’s chosen people would have been warned about something so terrible). Everlasting torment in “hell” is a great example of a pre-existing belief that caused many translators to mistranslate Scripture from its original languages, in this case causing them to translate the Hebrew word `owlam (or olam [עוֹלָם]) and Greek words such as aión (αἰών), “aiónas” (αἰῶνας),  and aiónios (αἰώνιος), all of which refer to a set period of time with a definite end, even if that end date is unknown (so aión should literally be transliterated as “eon,” which just means “a long period of time,” the word “aiónas” [or “aiónan” {αἰῶναν}] should be tranliterated as “eons,” which just means “more than one eon” since it’s the plural form of the noun “eon,” and the adjective aiónios [or aiónion {αἰώνιον}] should simply be transliterated as “eonian,” which just means “pertaining to an eon”), into words that mean “never ending” (or into redundant phrases like “forever and ever”). They also mistranslated the word aión as “world” in places as well — even though there was already a Greek word (kosmos [κόσμος]) for “world” — realizing that translating it as “everlasting” in those cases would literally make no sense at all and that they wouldn’t be able to get away with their usual mistranslation, they had to give it another meaning; so, because of their preconceived doctrinal biases against translating aión into the word it actually means, they were forced to come up with another word for it instead (at one point they even “translated” both aión and kosmos as “world” in the same verse, showing just how ridiculous this translation is). That said, even if we were to translate these words as “everlasting” or “forever” in some places, we’d still have to interpret the words based on the context of the rest of Scripture, and aside from the fact that Scripture tells us everyone eventually will be saved, there are also plenty of things in the Bible that seem to be said to be everlasting (if one translates it that way) that it also says will eventually end, and Scripture even talks about a past fire that was said to never be quenched or go out (just like the fires of “hell” are supposed to be, depending on your translation) but that is no longer burning today, so good exegesis is imperative here if you’re going to translate it that way for some reason (which means that if one did “translate” these Hebrew and Greek words into words that mean “everlasting” in English, the reader would then be required to interpret them figuratively so as to not end up making Scripture completely contradict itself, which also means a KJV-Onlyist could still technically [and, to be consistent with the rest of Scripture, would realistically have to] believe in Universal Reconciliation). That said, for those of us who haven’t been indoctrinated into KJV-Onlyism, translating these words concordantly does make a lot more sense, and means we can actually interpret the passages literally rather than being forced to interpret them figuratively just so we can remain consistent (not that theological consistency is something most religious Christians concern themselves with, but it is important). In addition to all this, while I don’t agree with all of his theology, the nineteenth century theologian J. W. Hanson also did a good job of demonstrating from extra-biblical writings that these words generally didn’t mean “everlasting” outside of Scripture back then, so there’s no reason to believe they do in Scripture either (outside of preconceived doctrinal bias, of course).

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

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

Aside from the fact that anybody who sat down to actually think about it would realize no sin or crime could ever warrant torture that lasted forever, however, the Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death (okay, “wages” is not necessarily the best translation of opsōnion [ὀψώνιον] here, but I’m using the common rendering of the passage here to demonstrate that even the traditional translation doesn’t work with the traditional doctrine), not never-ending torment (and that said wages come from the sin of Adam, not from our own sins, as has already been discussed). If the payment for sin was nonstop pain that never ends (which is taught nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures — the absolute worst penalty for breaking the Mosaic law was execution; no Israelite was ever threatened with perpetual torture after they died as a result of sinning in the law of Moses — and there’s nothing in the Greek text to suggest that this changed when Jesus or Paul talked about sin either), then Jesus would have to still be suffering for our sins and would need to continue doing so forever (okay, maybe only under the penal substitution model of salvation, which I don’t actually believe is Scriptural, but since most do, the point stands for those who believe it is).

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

What few religious Christians seem to understand is that, when Jesus spoke about the future and about judgement, He wasn’t talking about non-corporeal, spiritual, afterlife “states” in other dimensions called heaven and hell. Rather, everything He said in person when speaking about the future takes place on a planet called Earth in the physical universe (albeit on two different Earths; some taking place on our current planet, and some on the new Earth, or third Earth, after this one has been destroyed).

First of all, He spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, an actual, physical 1,000-yearlong kingdom here on Earth (not in a supposed afterlife dimension) that is sometimes referred to as the Millennium or Millennial Kingdom, which comes into being after the tribulation period at the end of the third eon ends and the fourth eon begins. He also spoke of paradise (paradeisos [παράδεισος] in Greek), which would be a reference to Earth as well since the tree of life is there and there would be no need to eat from the tree of life (which we know will be on Earth in the future anyway) in an ethereal afterlife dimension.

As far as the negative future He talked about goes, it was in this universe as well. His primary threat was Gehenna (Geenna [γέεννα] in Greek), which was an actual, physical garbage dump in Israel (again, not in another dimension one enters after death) — although it’s quite pleasant at the moment — that Jesus’ Jewish audience would have immediately recognized as a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy about the place the corpses of lawbreakers during the Millennial Kingdom would be burned up and devoured by worms in (the reference to the worm that “dieth not” 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 grubs or 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. Still, it is technically true that the “worms” won’t die, but that’s 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. Likewise, the fire isn’t quenched either [meaning it’s not deliberately put out], but will instead burn for as long as there is fuel [dead bodies] to keep it burning. But, just like the fire on the altar in Leviticus that was said to never be quenched but is no longer burning, it will also eventually go out once it’s done its job and there are no more carcasses to consume). Thanks to horrible Bible mistranslations, Gehenna has been thought by most Christians to be referring to a place all non-Christians will go to suffer forever in after they die, when it really only applies to a very specific (and relatively small) set of people living in a very specific period of time that hasn’t even occurred yet (at least not as of the time this was written), and nobody will even be conscious in it, much less actually suffering. It should probably also be pointed out that Gehenna isn’t a reference to the lake of fire. 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 bodies burned in Gehenna have been resurrected for the Great White Throne Judgement.

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

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

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 soil or earth, the soul returns to hades/the unseen (meaning back to non-existence/unconsciousness), and the spirit returns to God who created it (although not as a conscious entity, since our spirits aren’t conscious on their own without a body: soul [or feeling and consciousness] is an emergent property of combining a spirit with a body, just like combining the colours yellow and blue creates the colour green — the spirit is our “breath of life” as well as our “essense,” so to speak, which would include the memories that make us who we are, but it doesn’t experience consciousness until it’s 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, as Paul told us it is (although this doesn’t find its ultimate fulfilment until the end of the fifth eon), but is instead a friend finally bringing us to God, with our eventual resurrection just being icing on the cake rather than being the actual cake itself that it’s supposed to be (the resurrection and vivification of our human bodies has become nothing more than a small 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 [or the Unveiling of Jesus Christ, as it should actually be called] can be, it still has to be interpreted as literally as possible if we want to actually understand it). Luke 16 wasn’t a new revelation to replace the Scriptural doctrine of unconscious death until resurrection, so one has to figure out what it means without creating an entirely new theology that hadn’t ever even been hinted at prior to it (of course, even if we did ignore what the Hebrew Scriptures say about the state of the dead and pretend that Luke 16 isn’t a parable, John and Paul both tell us that the rich man wouldn’t have stayed in hades forever anyway — John in Revelation when he tells us hades is “emptied” so the dead can be judged at the Great White Throne Judgement before the fifth eon begins, and Paul in 1st Corinthians when he tells us how everyone will be vivified at the end of the fifth and final eon as previously discussed — so 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).

So no, Jesus wasn’t promising an existence in a spiritual realm called heaven for the righteous when He spoke (nor did He ever offer anybody everlasting or eternal life either, since eventual everlasting life for everyone is already a given thanks to His death for our sins and subsequent resurrection, which is actually what the Good News that is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision is proclaiming), nor was He warning about never-ending torture in a spiritual realm called hell for sinners (or even just nonexistence for sinners). Instead, He was A) teaching the people of Israel how to be sure to enjoy eonian life on Earth during the next eon or two in the messages He gave while on Earth, and teaching those elected for the body of Christ about the fullness of salvation, including eonian life in the heavens among the celestials during the next two eons (the heavens, or “Heaven,” just refers to everything “above” the Earth, including our sky and atmosphere, where the birds and clouds are, but more importantly, to outer space where the stars and the moon are— “in beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth” — and is actually a place you wouldn’t want to go without either a space suit or a vivified 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 the messages He gave Paul after He physically left the Earth (while everyone eventually gets everlasting life, only a relatively small number of people will experience eonian life), and B) warning the people of Israel how to avoid being killed and suffering the humiliating sentence of having your dead body displayed and destroyed in public in Gehenna (also on Earth), not to mention missing out on the joys of the Millennial Kingdom (and quite possibly the next eon after that as well) because they’d be dead for the remaining eons (which would be what eonian extermination refers to — and the fact that their extermination is only eonian tells us that, when the eons are concluded, so will their extermination be also, which reveals that the Annihilationists who believe that the extermination of the “unsaved” will last forever are just as wrong about judgement as the rest of Churchianity is). And, again, since the Hebrew Scriptures never threatened never-ending torture while dead as a punishment for breaking the Mosaic law or even for sin in general — at most it threatened physical death for certain capital crimes (there is one passage in the book of Daniel that certain Bibles mistranslate as saying some will be resurrected to “everlasting contempt” but, aside from the fact that contempt and torture are two very different things, A) the Hebrew word mistakenly rendered as “everlasting” here is “olam” which, as we’ve already discovered, is a word that refers to a period of time with a temporary duration, B) as we’ve also already covered, there’d never been a threat of a never-ending conscious punishment before this passage so there’s no good reason to assume it’s suddenly being proclaimed here some 600 years after the giving of the Mosaic law when no Israelite had ever heard of it before and it isn’t even explaining who would be experiencing such a thing or why [or how to avoid it], and C) the passage is talking about physical resurrection on Earth anyway, not to spiritual existence in an afterlife realm while dead; the negative part of this passage is referring to those resurrected to life at the Great White Throne judgement before they’re killed again [which is why it’s called the second death] when their bodies are tossed into the lake of fire to be burned up) — but did speak of the earthly Gehenna as a place where the physical (not spiritual) bodies of the dead lawbreakers would be burned during the Millennial Kingdom, and since Jesus didn’t ever correct these beliefs Himself when He spoke of judgement and Gehenna when read properly in the original Greek (when read without a preconceived bias, it’s completely clear that He was teaching the exact same thing the Hebrew Scriptures said about the topic), there’s literally zero reason to interpret (or translate) these things the way most Christians (and Bible versions) have. To put it simply, Churchianity is assigning the earthly rewards and punishments that Jesus taught are meant for Israelites (and to those who bless them or don’t bless them during the tribulation) to a supposed afterlife state meant for everyone, attempting to spiritualize physical and geographical places and events when there’s absolutely no good reason to do so (even the Great White Throne Judgement — which does apply to people other than Israel — and any of its resulting sufferings will likely happen on Earth [at the very least, it happens to those who are physically alive in this universe, having just been resurrected, and not to ghosts in an afterlife dimension] prior to the bodies of those who don’t enter the new Earth at its beginning being physically [not spiritually] cast into the lake of fire [likely an actual body of water on Earth, quite possibly referring to the Dead Sea] just like the dead bodies of previous sinners were physically cast into Gehenna on Earth). These facts, combined with the fact that Scripture (although it should be stated that really only Paul) is quite clear that everyone eventually will experience reconciliation and immortality (yes, even those who commit the supposedly “unforgivable” or “unpardonable sin“), makes it pretty obvious that the only reason for the morally and spiritually depraved followers of religion 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 cauterized their consciences are, as well as just how little they understand about God’s character and His purpose for the eons and dispensations). Sadly, the religious only seem to want Good News as long it’s not too good.

So, while everyone will eventually enjoy immortality (giving them everlasting life), those who aren’t predestined for eonian life will first go through judgement (not to be confused with punishment or with death), and some will even experience the second death. However, at the consummation of the eons (after the final eon is over), “the grave” or “the unseen” (which is all that “hell” really refers to as far as anyone in the dispensation of Grace is concerned) will have no victory and death (all death) will have no sting because it will have been destroyed (and anyone still dead will have to be made alive for death to be truly destroyed), and God will be “All in all” (yes, in all; not just in a lucky few). This truth is lost on those who are lost thanks to their slavery to the demonic teachings of the Christian religion, but if this weren’t the case (if most of humanity were to suffer consciously in the lake of fire forever), all this judgement would do is torture the majority of people who ever existed nonstop, which would serve no purpose at all other than to stand as an everlasting reminder that Satan, death, and “the grave” won the ultimate victory after all (a Pyrrhic victory though it might be for Satan, a defeat of God in the battle over souls it would remain nonetheless — and the same goes for if Annihilationism or Conditional Immortality is true as well, by the way; it would mean God still lost to Satan, death, and “the grave” in the struggle for souls), and that God was a failure in ridding 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] if He didn’t eventually resurrect them again and make things right for all of them, not to mention for those of us who would be missing them for all of eternity), and B) the biggest sinners of all for “missing the mark” (which is the definition of “sin”) by failing to accomplish their goals. Thankfully, that’s not the case. The religious 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 (God actually does lock His creation up, just not the way most Christians think He does; the Divine Lockup is something few Christians ever truly understand [at least not in this lifetime]), 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. Rather than failing, as Churchianity 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 eons (a missing of the mark on God’s part that Annihilationism also teaches).

God has many attributes, but perhaps the most important way to understand God is to remember that while the Bible tells us that God has wrath, it also tells us that God is love (and not the other way around). Religious Christians will claim to agree with this statement, of course, but they completely fail to understand what love is (among all the other things that Paul tells us love is, he tells us that love always perseveres and never fails), and will insist that the God who is love Himself will fail to save the majority of His earthly creation. Paul also tells us that love is kind in the same passage, but while few people (perhaps with the exception of 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 within Churchianity 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).

Of course, what the religious always forget is that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, so if one wants to truly understand the character of God, all one has to do is look at what we’re told about His Son. For instance, Jesus often kept His teachings a secret from those who weren’t meant to understand them at that time (those who were not 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.

For those who are still skeptical of the idea that God truly is the Saviour of everyone (even if those who believe this Good News have a special, earlier [eonian] salvation than everybody else does — if a teacher were to say at the end of the school year, “I’ve given everyone a passing grade this year, especially Lisa who got an A+,” we’d know that while nobody else got an A+, they still all passed, since “especially” doesn’t mean “only” (or “specifically,” as some claim; those who think so should look up each time this Greek word — malista [μάλιστα] — is used in Scripture in a concordance to see for themselves), so this passage makes it very clear that everyone will be saved), in spite of all the evidence I’ve presented you with, I have one last thought for you to consider. I once asked a scholar of Koine Greek (one who knows far more about the language than I can claim to) who did not believe in Universal Reconciliation, but rather believed that most of humanity would be tormented forever in the lake of fire, to tell me what he thought the writers of Scripture would (or, really, what God would have inspired said writers to) have written differently than they actually did if my conclusions about Universal Reconciliation (from eonian salvation and judgement, to avoiding having one’s dead body burned in Gehenna and/or the lake of fire, to everything else about the topic) were correct, and his response was that it wouldn’t have been recorded any differently at all, which tells me that belief in everlasting torment for non-Christians really is just a matter of wanting it to be true.

Next chapter: Predestination

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

Previous chapter: Introduction

Part 1: Doctrine

Dividing

In order to truly dig deeper into Scripture and learn the doctrines that most of us were never taught by our pastors, one needs to first know how 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 and follow. It’s extremely common for those within the Institutional Church 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 practice 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 refers to the Evangel or Gospel rather than the Bible itself. When one comes to this understanding, it becomes clear that the Good News (which is what Gospel means; the Greek word euaggelion [εὐαγγέλιον], which we translate as Evangel or Gospel in English, literally means “Well Message,” “Glad Tidings,” or “Good News”) has to be properly divided, and the Apostle Paul tells us exactly what it means to rightly divide the Good News.

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

Basically, the terrestrial Jesus and His disciples taught the first Gospel specifically to Israel. While heralding the Good News of the impending arrival of the New Covenant, Jesus had an earthly ministry that was still pretty much entirely under the Old Covenant and was only a minister of the circumcision (meaning He was sent only unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel) while He walked the Earth. Despite making a couple exceptions and helping a couple of them (where the Bible makes clear how unusual this was, just as it does on the one occasion Peter spoke with Gentiles in the book of Acts), 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 (or the Kingdom from the heavens) coming to Earth rather than the body of Christ going to the heavens (as the later teachings of the celestial Jesus through the apostle Paul were).

Paul, on the other hand, became the dispenser of the second Gospel when he was singled out by the glorified Christ 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). As useful as the rest of the Bible is, anything other than the 13 epistles signed by Paul was primarily intended for Israelites (Hebrews, regardless of who wrote it, was meant for them too, which should come as no surprise to anyone who happens to notice the title of the book), and we can’t forget that fact when studying Scripture if we want to come to the correct conclusions.

So what is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, also known as the Gospel of the grace of God (a title that is often shortened by believers and simply called the Gospel of Grace; and while this label isn’t actually used in Scripture, it’s a shorthand that does still seem accurate enough), the Gospel of Christ (it’s important to note that Paul doesn’t call it the Gospel of Jesus Christ but instead he called it the Gospel of Christ, which is because it wasn’t the Gospel the terrestrial Jesus was teaching when He walked the Earth but was rather the Gospel the glorified Christ later entrusted to Paul), as well as the glorious Gospel of the blessed God which was committed to Paul’s trust (or, perhaps better put, the Evangel of the glory of the happy God with which Paul was entrusted), 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 are we saved under it? 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 us trying to stop sinning that saves us), by asking God to forgive them for their sins, by “following Jesus,” by trying to have “a personal relationship with Jesus,” by “accepting Jesus as their personal saviour,” by making Jesus “the Lord of their life,” by “asking Jesus into their heart” or “into their life,” by being a good person (or by “doing good works”), and/or by being baptized in water, as are common ways many religious leaders mistakenly share the 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 people who call themselves 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 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 that Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead after three days. Very few Christians actually do, but if you truly believe in Christ’s death for our sins (those three little words make all the difference, and, as will become clear as you read on, differentiates this Gospel from the one most preach, and likely even from the one you currently believe), His entombment, and His resurrection, you’ve already been saved (again, relatively speaking; everyone is reconciled, from an absolute perspective, by Christ’s death and resurrection). Nothing else is required for salvation under this Gospel other than that faith; no confessing or repenting of/turning from sin (repentance for those in the body of Christ means to change our mind about what Christ did for us, meaning we come to realize our sinfulness and that we can’t save ourselves at all, but rather we realize that only what Christ did can save us), doing good works, “following Jesus” (as if that was even possible today), or “asking Jesus into your heart” (which is a completely meaningless, not to mention unscriptural, expression) is needed, nor is asking God to forgive you for your sins required, and water baptism is definitely not something you have to do to be saved under this Gospel. And on that note, while most people assume that after you believe the Gospel you should be baptized with water, although those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision do need to be baptized in water, this isn’t actually the case for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. Yes, Paul did baptize a few people in water early on, but he stopped pretty quickly. That said, the body of Christ does still get baptized. 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,” and, in fact, Jesus told us that He didn’t come to abolish the law at all), or a part of either of God’s covenants with Israel (and, as with their two covenants, only Israelites were ever under the Mosaic law anyway; Gentiles never were to begin with). Instead of being baptized in water, we are baptized into the body of Christ, and since there’s only one baptism for us, it can only be that baptism into the body (and what Christ experienced in His body for us, including His death) rather than baptism in water or in the Holy Spirit.

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

As should be obvious at this point, these Gospels aren’t even remotely similar to each other, so how anybody ever concludes that they’re one and the same is quite perplexing (if someone thinks the message that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” and “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” is the exact same message as “Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead on the third day,” just worded differently, or that Jesus and His disciples were teaching the latter, they really need to explain how these very different sounding messages are actually saying the same thing, as well as how the disciples could have possibly been preaching Christ’s death for our sins when they didn’t even understand that He was going to die), but somehow the vast majority of people have confused them for each other and assumed there’s only one Gospel recorded in Scripture, a mistake that even some in the body of Christ have made recently. The fact that if one were to remove the epistles of Paul from the Bible they’d completely lose the doctrines of salvation by grace through faith apart from any works and justification apart from the law, however, should really make it clear that Paul was teaching something different, and that it’s his teachings the body of Christ should be following.

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, in the messages Paul is recorded as having preached in the book of Acts, they 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 them during the time he went by the name Saul. And yet, based on what he told the Galatians, he didn’t hear the Gospel he preached to the Gentiles from any mortal humans, but rather learned it directly from Christ. It’s extremely difficult to believe that he somehow wasn’t aware of the most important teaching of those he was persecuting — one would be hard-pressed to answer the question of why he was persecuting them in the first place if he didn’t know what they believed — and we know that he wasn’t told it by Jesus on the road to Damascus, yet he immediately preached the Gospel that Peter and the rest of the apostles were preaching after being healed by Ananias, so the obvious conclusion is that the Good News he later preached to the Gentiles — the Gospel of the glory of the happy God, which, as Paul wrote, was entrusted specifically to him (and not entrusted to anyone who came before him) — wasn’t the same Good News that Peter preached to Israel and the proselytes (and that Paul himself preached at the beginning of his ministry, and not only in Damascus but also in Jerusalem three years later as well, where the apostles and Jesus’ brother James became acquainted with him for a couple weeks and would have also gotten to known the Gospel he was preaching while there, which means that he wouldn’t have had to return a decade or so later to explain what the Gospel he was later heralding among the nations was if it was the same one he’d preached there before since they’d already have been familiar with it from his previous visit), but was rather given to him later by revelation, perhaps while in Arabia, after he’d already preached Peter’s Gospel in Damascus.

One possible reason so many Christians insist that there’s only one Gospel in Scripture is that Paul tells us there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, and they then go on to make a major assumption: that every Jew who believes in Christ is brought into the body of Christ (and that every first-century Jew who believed in Christ became a member of His body prior to Paul’s revealing of the body to the world). But if that were the case, this would mean they would all lose the standing above the Gentile nations that Israel was promised to be given by God one day (they don’t have it now, but they certainly will in the future, despite what some believe), and that they’re no longer under either the Old or the New Covenant, both of which were only ever given to Israel (this is also a result of confusing the new birth, which Paul never wrote about, with the new creature or creation, which only Paul ever wrote about). This assumption reveals first and foremost that they don’t understand God’s purpose for creating “the body of Christ, the ecclesia” any more than they understand God’s prophetic purpose for Israel (or understand the difference between the “mysteries” [or “secrets,” which is a better translation] of the dispensation (or administration) of Grace and Conciliation and of the prophecies that don’t apply to this dispensation at all), and that being a part of said ecclesia was never meant for every believer in Christ throughout history. The body of Christ has a future job to do in the heavens (among the celestials), and our true citizenship is in those heavens rather than here on Earth (in fact, another translation of that verse is that our realm is inherent in the heavens, as opposed to our realm being inherent down here on Earth). That can’t be said about Israel however, at least not the faithful Israel known as the Israel of God. Unlike the body of Christ, who will be out there working in the heavens (referring to outer space [albeit in deep space, likely beyond the reach of our current telescopes, but still in our physical universe], out among the stars and planets where most of the celestials reside [even if perhaps partially in higher dimensions if they’re not just somehow invisibly living on our plane of existence]), 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. 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) 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 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. 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). So while the body of Christ is indeed one body, it can be said that the Israel of God, too, is one body.

Another possible reason for the lack of realization of the existence of two Gospels in Scripture is confusion about the warning Paul gave in his epistle to the Galatians about preaching any other Gospel to the body of Christ than the one they’d already received. But Paul wasn’t saying there is only one true Gospel there, or that nobody could ever preach a Gospel to someone other than the one he taught the body of Christ. What most people who base their assumption on this passage aren’t aware of (likely because they’ve only read translations of Scripture that mistakenly say meaningless things like “another gospel which is not another” [which is it? Is it another Gospel or is it not another Gospel? It can’t be both] in the verses before his warning) is that he actually used two distinct Greek words rather than one (which means the passage should be rendered more along the lines of “a different gospel which is not another”) in order to differentiate between a legitimate Gospel that wasn’t his but was still perfectly okay to be taught to certain people and an illegitimate “gospel” that shouldn’t be taught by anyone at all, speaking of both a “different” (heteros [ἕτερος]) gospel and “another” (allos [ἄλλος]) Gospel. “Heteros” basically means “other of a differing sort” while “allos” means “other of the same sort,” so one was “another/allos” (fully legitimate, just like Paul’s) Gospel being preached by Peter, and one was a “different/heteros” gospel, that wasn’t even “another/allos” actual Gospel at all like Peter’s was, but was rather a bastardized mix of Peter’s Gospel and Paul’s Gospel that couldn’t save anyone. Likewise, Paul wasn’t saying people who taught that there were other Gospels were under a curse, since he did so himself just 24 verses later; he was only teaching that those who would preach any other Gospel to the body of Christ than the one they had already received as something they should follow were, but Peter and the rest of the apostles could preach their particular Gospel as something to be followed to anyone that they wanted to without fear as long as it wasn’t to members of the body of Christ. Unfortunately, the evangelists and teachers of the Christian religion 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.

So, while Abraham is the father of us all (the fact that Paul often quoted the law and prophets does not mean said law and prophets as a whole apply to everyone, nor does it detract from his unique Gospel), and both groups can be said to be “in Christ” (which is one of those trans-administrational terms [such as “baptism” or “light” or “mystery” or “Gospel” or “kingdom,” to name just a few of many examples] that is used by both but can mean something slightly different to each; as A. E. Knoch put it, “Israel came first in time, and the divine vocabulary is based largely on God’s dealings with them. Even if our blessing does not now come through them, it can often be best expressed by borrowing their terms”), those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision are promised the earthly blessings of the New Testament (or New Covenant) during the period of time known as the renascence (or the regeneration), the times of refreshing, or the restitution of all things (as you can see, this period of time goes by many different names, including other names that don’t start with the letter “R” as well, such as the Kingdom of Heaven [or the Kingdom of the Heavens, which is a subset of the much larger Kingdom of God], the Lord’s Day [or the Day of the Lord, although perhaps better put as the Day of Yahweh], the 1,000 years, the Millennium, or the Millennial Kingdom, and is something that has not happened or even really begun yet) that was promised to Israel long ago (it should probably also be clarified that while the Day of the Lord includes both the 7 year period commonly known as the tribulation as well as the Millennium, the time on Earth known as the Kingdom of Heaven includes both the period known as the Millennium as well as the later new heaven and new Earth), while those saved under Paul’s Gospel are promised spiritual blessings and are destined for far greater things (at least at first) out there in the heavens, and are no more under the New Testament (or any covenants for that matter, nor would they want to be if they truly understood what that would mean for them) than they are able to be born again like Israel needs to be, and they’re definitely not a replacement for, or a spiritual Israel, or even the kingdom of priests that Israel as a whole will finally be one day (and, just as a quick warning, one should be cautious about claiming this title since appropriating the role of a priest without actually being anointed and appointed as one by God can be somewhat dangerous, although perhaps less risky under the current administration of the Conciliation, but wisdom is still called for), because the body of Christ has been circumcised of the body of the sins of the flesh rather than circumcised of the foreskin of the heart (the latter being a spiritual circumcision which, like the physical circumcision of the male genitals, is only meant for Israel). Basically, Churchianity needs to stop stealing the covenants, commandments, prophecies, and promises (not to mention punishments) that were meant only for Israel 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. 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 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 true Christianity [the body of Christ and the Israel of God]; the other so-called “denominations” [such as Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, Plymouth Brethren, Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterians, Seventh Day Adventists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.] are members of the Christian religion rather than followers of scriptural Christianity), whereas right dividing resolves a lot of the confusion and apparent contradictions that seem to be prevalent in the Bible, especially between Paul’s epistles and the rest of the Greek Scriptures, particularly the book of Revelation and the letter that James wrote (which, despite the efforts of many well meaning but confused theologians to fit a square peg into a round hole — not to mention their adamant and repeated denials of this fact — does not line up with the teachings of Paul), but really all of the rest of them (although using a better translation also helps in other cases). 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 with this idea when I was first introduced to it), but if one is able to consider the possibility that the tradition they’ve been taught might not be scriptural and that it might not all be applicable to everyone throughout history, they can then notice some of the significant differences between the teachings and exhortations of Paul and the teachings and commandments found within the Circumcision writings (referring to the Hebrew Scriptures — which Christians normally, and mistakenly, call the Old Testament — as well as the rest of the Greek Scriptures that weren’t signed by Paul). 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 [or, more accurately, will only enjoy an allotment of the land]), while those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision will reign among the celestials in the heavens (the former will have a terrestrial glory while the latter will have a celestial glory in the eons to come). Or the fact that those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision were only said to be known from the disruption of the world (the disruption of the world being the event that made the Earth become a chaos and vacant in Genesis), and were in fact first called and then chosen, while those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision were said to be known before the disruption of the world, and were instead first chosen and then called. Likewise, the former will keep the law (and, indeed, must perform works or their faith will prove to be dead and useless and they won’t be said to be justified when Christ returns), while the latter aren’t under the law at all (and will still be justified even if all they have is faith without works). As an example, the former must forgive others or they won’t be forgiven themselves, while the latter deals graciously with others simply because God has already dealt graciously with them, which is why the former is currently only expecting 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; instead, rather than discipling all nations to be observing what Jesus commanded His disciples and baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit as the Israel of God will be called to do in the future [when the dispensation of Grace ends and Israel is saved and finally begins their ministry to be a light to the nations and salvation unto the ends of the earth as they were long ago prophesied to one day be, and when Gentiles will in fact only come to know God by following the Jews], we have a greater “commission” and “one baptism” in spirit into the body of Christ, and are called to be stewards of the mysteries that were kept secret since the world began [including the Mystery of the Gospel, which is a secret almost nobody knows anymore] just as Paul was, and can in fact currently help other Gentiles come to God even if we’re not Jews), which is why it’s imperative to truly understand this important topic.

Next chapter: Judgement

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

[I’ve made many updates to this book since I originally wrote it, so if you notice that the dates in some of the supporting links postdate the time it was written, that’s why. If you see any broken links or mistakes, please let me know so I can look into getting them fixed.]

Introduction

Every weekend (mostly on Sundays, although some prefer Saturdays), billions of followers of the Christian religion all around the world head over to a building to sing some songs, donate some money, and listen to a speech (and, in some cases, have a bite of bread and perhaps a sip of a grape-based beverage). What almost none of them are aware of is that the reason they do these things is not because Scripture tells them to, but rather because of tradition. In fact, nearly every doctrine and practice taught within Churchianity (as some of us call the Institutional Church and the religious/”orthodox” version of Christianity that most people are familiar with [as opposed to the religionless/”heretical” Christianity that I now believe the Scriptures teach is meant for the body of Christ]) is based on the traditions and creeds of man rather than the teachings of Scripture. Members of the body of Christ in the first century gathered as the ecclesia (or church) very differently from the way those in the Christian religion have been taught to, and their beliefs were quite different as well.

I’d always been taught by my religious leaders to interpret Scripture pretty literally (aside from the parts that were obviously figurative, such as the parables, of course), but I came to see that they weren’t really interpreting it quite as literally as they claimed to be themselves, at least not when it contradicted their traditions, and they certainly weren’t interpreting it particularly consistently. In fact, as I dug deeper and searched for an ecclesia that did, I learned that almost no pastor has taught the members of their congregations very much about what Scripture actually says at all. Instead, they were (even if unintentionally) preaching false doctrines based on pre-existing assumptions about what Scripture says thanks to traditions they themselves had been taught by their denominations and leaders. Because of this, the members of these assemblies are missing out on some extremely important truths, and are instead taught ideas that are directly contrary to what Scripture really says. Thankfully, I was able to find teachers outside of the Institutional Church who did teach properly translated and interpreted Scripture (you’ll find some of them in the many supporting links, which I use in place of footnotes, that I include throughout this book). As you read on, you’ll discover many of these truths for yourself that I and many others like me learned when we began to interpret Scripture a lot more literally and consistently than those of the denominations we left behind ever did.

My challenge to you, particularly if you’re a Christian who claims to hold to Sola scriptura over tradition, is to read this book with a mind open to the possibility that some of the things you currently believe Scripture teaches could actually be based simply on traditions you’ve been taught rather than on what Scripture really says (particularly in its original languages). After reading some of the responses from people who have attempted to critique what I’ve written here, it’s become very obvious that most of them either weren’t able to maintain this mindset while reading it, or they just didn’t bother to read it very closely in the first place, likely just skimming through it quickly (and entirely ignoring the supporting links). Because of this, they sometimes tried to respond to my points by making arguments I’d already completely refuted, somehow missing those sections of the book altogether. So if you are going to read it, please do so carefully and prayerfully (and perhaps hold off on writing your refutations until you’ve read the whole thing, since the odds are high that I [or one of the articles or videos in the supporting links] have already responded to your point a little further on in the book), as well as with the humility to acknowledge that you could be wrong about something you currently believe. And if you find yourself immediately disagreeing with a point I make, thinking to yourself, “this can’t possibly be right because we know x is true instead,” stop to ask yourself why you’re so sure that x is the case, and then consider whether the reasons given in this book might actually prove that x isn’t really true after all.

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

Part 1: Doctrine

Chapter 1 – Dividing

Chapter 2 – Judgement

Chapter 3 – Predestination

Chapter 4 – Deception

Part 2: Practice

Chapter 5 – Morality

Chapter 6 – Politics

Chapter 7 – Church

Conclusion

 

Next chapter: Dividing

Profane Hypocricy

“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

It’s said that Tony Campolo would often begin speeches with the previous quote, and it’s a great example of how certain people get offended by the wrong things.

People all over the world, even the western world, are being persecuted solely on the basis of who they happen to be sexually attracted to. Much of the time this persecution is perpetuated by those claiming to follow Christ. People in the US are going into debt because they had the gall to get sick or be injured and require medical care, and many of the people insisting this debt should continue to be forced upon them are also Christians. Children and adults alike are going hungry all over the world, even in America, while there’s more than enough food in the world to feed every single one of them. Many women, often while they’re still just children, are forced to be sex slaves, even here in the west. People are arrested and thrown into prison every day for the crime of ingesting (or even simply possessing) a plant that God created, while actually harmful drugs are allowed to be created by greedy companies and sold to us in order to make these rich men even richer. And politicians continue to create unjust and harmful laws all over the world, again, even here in the west; and what’s worse, a large majority of people often actually support these laws because they think their deity will bless them if these rules are created and obeyed.

Most of us have become desensitized to these tragic everyday realities. Honestly, most of us really just don’t care (if we cared we’d do something about it). Yet, while these horrible things don’t phase most Christians anymore, some still get terribly offended when they hear certain sounds or read specific combinations of letters. And, let’s be honest, that’s all swearing or profanity really is.

I’m not going to exegete all the passages in the Bible about language, though I will quickly point out that saying “oh my God” isn’t taking the Lord’s name in vain since “God” isn’t even close to being the Lord’s name in Scripture (and the commandment isn’t talking about profanity either anyway; it’s basically referring to perjury after swearing not to while using the Lord’s name in your oath). Instead I’ll point out the hypocrisy, not to mention haughtiness, of having trouble with profanity.

All profanity means is “outside the temple,” ie., anything that isn’t sacred. I won’t get into the problems with the secular/sacred dualism most Christians hold to, but technically anything non-religious is “profane,” not just certain words. However, pretending for a moment that certain words are more profane than others, the idea that words can be bad in the first place quickly becomes comical when you begin to deconstruct the idea.

Let’s break it down. Is it the particular combination of letters, or the specific sound the word makes when spoken, that makes a word wrong to use? It’s obviously ridiculous to think so, otherwise the words “damn,” “hell,” and “ass” shouldn’t be read in the KJV Bible, or said in a homily, as they’d be just as inherently bad in Scripture or sermon as when spoken in everyday parlance.

Is it the meaning behind the word? If so, simply saying “sexual intercourse” (or “rats” or “ouch” any other number of euphemisms) would be just as bad as saying “fuck;” and “crap” or “faeces” would be just as bad as saying “shit.”

Is it the intent behind the words? For instance, is it okay to say fuck if you’re referring to sex, or just using it as a playful adjective, but wrong to use in anger against another person? I’m okay with this, but only as much as I am with the idea that we shouldn’t be saying anything with the intention of hurting another person (whether in anger or not), regardless of what words we’re using.

When it comes right down to it, getting offended by these “vulgar” words implies that you think you’re too good to hear everyday, common language, and that you probably need to be brought down a peg or two.

Honestly, the old childhood saying about sticks and stones is true, and words can only hurt you if you let them. But, if you really insist on being offended by certain words, how about choosing to be offended by those words intended to hurt people who don’t happen to share your particular values or preferences instead of words that simply add a bit of colour to everyday speech.

But I’ll make a compromise. Get offended by the many injustices and atrocities being committed not only around the world but even in your own backyard, and I mean offended enough to actually do something about it, and I’ll try to pretend you’re not a snob when you turn up your nose at everyday language. And I won’t even say the word uterus around you if that helps.

Bible Verses to Help in Your Fight Against Abortion

Have you ever wanted to come up with a good 1-2 punch from the Bible to help you win arguments about why God hates abortion? Well, now you can. Here are the only passages you need to know to turn your abortion loving friends against killing babies:

  • Exodus 20:13 – “Thou shalt not kill.”

Well, that isn’t going to work if we’re going to support the death penalty and war and cops carrying guns in the line of duty. Let’s see… Oh, I know. Other translations put it as, “You shall not murder.” That’s better. Hmm… Except that murder technically means “illegal killing,” and if abortion is legal then it can’t actually be labelled murder. Well, let’s find a better passage then.

  • Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

Great! No, wait, all that really tells us is that God knew Jeremiah before he was born. Hmm… does this mean that we exist as spirit babies before we’re born? This is going to help Mormons defend some of their theology, but all it does for the rest of us is explain that God foreknew Jeremiah’s existence and planned for him to become a prophet beforehand, so we’d better keep this one under wraps if we don’t want to have to wear special undergarments. Anyway, it doesn’t tell us that God hates abortion like we know He does from the Bible, so we’d better find those passages telling us that He does.

  • Psalm 139:13-16 “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”

I’m not sure what that says, let’s check the NIV. Oh, that’s just more of Jeremiah 1:5, explaining God’s foreknowledge and predestination. Since most of us want to keep believing in free will, it wouldn’t be a good idea to take that passage too literally anyway. Moving on…

  • Luke 1:39-42 “And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”

Yes! Babies in the womb can leap when the Holy Spirit inspires them to do so. Although, on second thought, what does that have to do with abortion? Drat, I thought I was onto something there. Well, let’s see what else I can find. Hmm… I’m out of passages. Well, at least we know that God loves children and would never do anything to harm them:

  • 2 Kings 2:22-24 “So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake. And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.”

Whoa, God sent bears to kill children for making fun of someone’s baldness? That’s scary. Maybe He only loves children while they’re still in the womb. It’s a good thing we’ve got all those passages explaining that He does, isn’t it?

Disclaimer: This post isn’t meant to support either the pro-abortion or anti-abortion positions. The only point is that the Bible can’t be used to defend the idea that God hates abortion or is pro-life. God does LOTS of killing and sanctioning of killing, even of children, according to the Bible, so it isn’t in your best interest to try to use it to fight abortion.

Also, if you believe in everlasting torment in hell and the age of accountability, you should be hoping that every pregnancy ends in abortion.

All Things Are Permitted

There’s a very simple bit of theology that the church in general doesn’t seem to have caught onto yet: According to the Bible, we can do whatever we want to do (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Does the Bible really tell us we’re free to sin? Yes, technically it does. We can do pretty much anything and we’re still covered by grace. In fact, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

However… just because we CAN do whatever we want doesn’t mean we SHOULD do whatever we want. While 1 Corinthians 6:12 does tell us that everything is permitted (or lawful, depending on your translation), it goes on to remind us that not everything is expedient or profitable. Remember, your actions are going to have consequences, both to you and to others.

And not only do we have to consider the possible negative consequences, there’s the fact that the more we give in to harmful desires, the more we can become enslaved to harmful habits. Since the whole point of Christianity is supposed to be freedom (it’s for freedom you’ve been set free, Paul says in his letter to the Galatians), being enslaved by harmful desires is no better than being enslaved to religion.

The bottom line is, don’t let any religious leader tell you you’re not allowed to do something, but it’s also a bad idea to let any habit or desire rule your life. And always consider what the consequences of your actions might be, not only to yourself, but to others as well.

That being said, not everything that we’ve been taught to believe is sinful or harmful by our religious leaders actually is sinful or harmful. I brought up one of these “sins” in my recent post on premarital sex. The problem is, there’s a lot of confusion, and even outright misinformation, about some of the things that we’ve been taught are wrong to do. This means we should each reevaluate our ideas of what some of the things we might personally need to avoid are, but we also need to keep in mind that some of the things which might be harmful or habit forming for me might not be the same for you, and vice versa.

However, there’s still one more factor to consider. Even if we know that an activity is completely harmless to us, some of our brothers and sisters won’t have the same understanding we do, which can lead them into harmful habits themselves if they don’t understand proper balance. Similarly, many of them (most of them, in all honestly) don’t have very strong faith in God’s grace, and publicly practicing certain activities they consider to be sinful can cause some of them to stumble at times, so abstinence, at least publicly, might be the advisable course of action in some situations (though less often than you might think. Helping someone remain “weak” in their faith isn’t necessarily doing either of you any favours). This, of course, brings up all sorts of other questions, but those will have to wait for another post.

Disclaimer: Just because something is covered by grace or is not against God’s law doesn’t mean it isn’t against one of man’s laws. This post is not meant to encourage anyone to break any of the laws of the land where they live, as unjust as certain laws may be.

Dialogue With an Evangelical: The Movie

Three years ago, I shared a little dialogue between myself and a random evangelical on the subjects of hell and Christian Universalism.

For the fun of it, I decided to make up a short video of that discussion using those talking bears I’ve been seeing around the web over the last few months.

It seems to have a couple unusual pauses in the dialogue for reasons I haven’t determined yet, but otherwise it seems to have come out well for my first attempt at a video.

Avoid Sexual Immorality

A few months ago I pointed out that not only can lust be a good thing according to the Bible, but that even Jesus lusted. I also claimed that the Bible actually says a lot less about premarital sex than we’ve been told it does. Here’s a quick explanation of why I said that.

If you grew up human, you probably know that those in the Christian religion normally condemn premarital sex (along with various other sexual practices that seem to make them squirm). They’ll usually tell you that this is because God also condemns it in the Bible. Of course, like nearly everything else, they generally haven’t actually studied whether or not Scripture really says what they think it says.

The primary reason that most Christians are so against premarital sex is one little word: fornication. Depending on your English translation, in the New Testament you’ll find fornication criticized as a very bad thing that one should flee, and if you look fornication up in an English dictionary you will indeed find that it means sexual intercourse between unmarried partners. The problem is, the Bible wasn’t originally written in English.

The word translated as “fornication” in the Bible is the Greek word porneia (πορνεία). The thing is, this word does not literally translate as “premarital sex” the way the religious would like you to believe it does. In fact, it’s generally agreed that the most accurate translation of porneia is “illicit sexual activity” (or “illegal sexual activity”).

The most obvious question, of course, is what exactly constitutes “illicit sexual activity.” Of course, if one has been brought up with the presupposition that premarital sex is wrong then one will naturally assume that it falls into this category (hence the “fornication” translation in many Bibles). But one should never make assumptions when it comes to theology, even if it is the easiest route to take.

If we take the term “illicit sexual activity” literally, it means sexual activity that breaks the law. Generally, here in the western world, premarital sex doesn’t break the law, and it certainly wasn’t against the law among the gentiles Paul wrote to when he told believers to avoid porneia either.

The truth is, the word porneia actually had multiple meanings, depending on how the word was being used. It spoke of sexual idolatry in some cases, referring to sleeping with temple prostitutes who did so as a part of worshiping other gods. It could also be used in reference to sexual practices that actually were considered illicit by the culture in question, practices such as incest, for example. There was also a spiritual meaning to the word, having nothing to do with physical sex at all. The thing to take away from all this is that we can’t simply take the word and force the meaning of premarital sex onto it, despite the fact that your pastor would probably prefer you did.

Now, I could go over each occurrence of the word porneia in the New Testament with you, but it would be better for you go over them for yourself. Here’s every occurrence of the word in the KJV where it’s translated “fornication.” What I want you to do is read each passage and replace the word “fornication” with the word porneia in your mind, and then think about whether premarital sex is what the passage is definitely talking about. I think you’ll find that, at least in most (if not all) cases, there’s little to no justification for making that assumption.

The Problem With the Origin of Evil

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been listening to an excellent series on the topic of questioning God over the existence of suffering and evil. It’s been an interesting look at the question of why God allows evil and suffering in the world, as well as asking whether it’s okay to be upset with God over it.

The reason for this post isn’t to get into whether it’s okay, however, but rather it’s because I became very uncomfortable while listening to today’s sermon on the topic of the origin of evil. He asked all the right questions, and brought up the logical argument that if God is all powerful and all knowing then He must ultimately be responsible for its existence. He then decided that, since God couldn’t have created evil, it must originate in man’s free will. I had a couple problems with this, the first being the sudden assumption, seemingly out of nowhere, that God couldn’t possibly have been responsible for evil’s existence.

I know that it seems like a noble thing to try to take the blame away from God, but doing so also takes away from the godness of God (or perhaps we should say the sovereignty of God, to use a more theological term).

Trying to blame humanity’s free will also causes problems. I’ve written about this before, but human “free will” is a complete logical impossibility. We can make choices, but those choices are predetermined by our nurture and nature (both physical and spiritual). Sure, we have a will, but it’s anything but free. There’s no way around this that I’m aware of, and to simply wave our hands and say free will exists because we want it to doesn’t actually give us any answers or help us in any way.

Despite what I’m assuming is his desire to keep the blame for evil from falling on God, both logic and the Bible tell us that God is responsible. If God knew that Adam and Eve were going to sin (presuming the story in Genesis 3 actually literally happened) and still created them anyway, then He has to take the responsibility; there’s just no way around it. Considering the fact that free will doesn’t exist, there was no way that they weren’t going to eat the fruit. If God didn’t want evil to exist He never would have created the fruit or the talking snake.

In the end, though, God ultimately takes responsibility for evil anyway (at least He does if you believe the Bible). In Isaiah 45:7, God says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (for those who aren’t using a Bible with Strongs numbers, the word for “evil” there is the Hebrew word ra`, the same word used in the name of the tree Adam and Eve ate from, “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”).

We also read, in Amos 3:6, “shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?”

And finally, simply put, “all things are of God” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

It might seem honourable to try to blame humanity for evil, but God Himself takes the credit so we might as well let Him have it.

Having said all that, I also want to point out that using the word “evil” can completely distract us from the real problem, which is suffering. As I’ve previously written about, evil doesn’t actually exist as an ontological “thing” (which, thankfully, the preacher does briefly acknowledge). Suffering, however, is very real, and most of it originates in what we call “acts of God” (the figure of speech we use just goes to show that we recognize, even if only on a subconscious level, that God is ultimately responsible for the suffering we experience in this life).

There’s more I could say on all that, but I’ll end off by pointing out one more common evangelical assumption he made in the sermon, the idea that Satan was once good but fell from grace at some point in the past due to pride. The truth is, there’s nothing in the Bible that actually comes out and says this. In fact the Bible actually says that the devil was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44), which indicates he was probably never actually good. There are a couple passages that evangelicals tend to read into when trying to back up this Christian urban legend, but it’s not good exegesis in my humble opinion.

All that being said, nobody is perfect, and I still think this preacher is pretty good on a lot of other topics as well.

The Lusts of the Flesh

Is it wrong to lust after an attractive girl? Did Jesus ever lust? I’ve been meaning to write about the topics of lust and sex for a little while now, but a friend of mine beat me to it. So, before I get into the subject myself, I want you to first watch Martin Zender talk about it in his biweekly Crack O’Dawn Report:

It’s not just Jesus who lusted (seriously, watch the video), the Old Testament prophets did too (“desire” in that passage is the same Greek word translated “lust” in Matthew 5:28). Not only that, the Apostle Paul tells us that lust can even be a good thing at times (again, same Greek word being used for “desire”).

It all comes down to context. When Jesus compared lust to adultery, He was most likely referring to coveting a woman who already belonged to another man, not to simply finding a single girl sexually appealing (the same Greek word is also translated as “covet” in at least one passage).

The Christian religion might be primarily about sexual repression (okay, it is; there’s no “might be” about it, despite what people might say), but the Bible isn’t as against sexual desire as most Christians believe it is. It even says less about premarital sex than most people may think, but I’ll get into that in a future post.