The Mystery of His Will

Ephesians 1:9–11 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. In fact, I favor it so much that I wrote an entire book around this passage. 

In my book, I explain how this mystery is no longer hidden from the world. Until Christ came to show us what God was really like, man and angel alike have long attempted to decipher this mystery. Praise be to God that he has finally lifted the veil from our eyes!

In my book, Hell in a Nutshell: The Mystery of His Will, I usually quote Scripture from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. Consider the wording of the New Living Translation (NLT):

“God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” —Ephesians‬ ‭1:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Let’s carefully consider the NLT’s wording of this passage. 

“God has now (finally, after hundreds of years of us attempting to work it out in our heads) revealed to us his mysterious will (the mystery of his will) regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. (The mystery of his will was primarily to fulfill his good plan for all of creation through Christ, but how?) And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—(to clarify “everything” for those who may try to limit that word:) everything in heaven and on earth. (Again, his good plan was to unite everything in Christ; not just some, but all.) 

”Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” (Everything works our according to his plan. It was his plan for some Jews to believe first and for some gentiles to follow in the faith. Furthermore, it is his plan to unite everyone and everything else in the fullness of times.) —Ephesians‬ ‭1:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God has chosen us: the human race. For far too long, we have been told that God has chosen some and abandoned the rest. Does that sound like a good plan? His plans are much better than that.

If you would like to look deeper into this mystery, which has been revealed through Christ, this is a good place to start!

If you would like to read more, check out my previous blog posts. Feel free to subscribe if you would like to be notified of future articles. 

Shalom.

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The Faith OF Christ

For the vast majority of my Christian life, I attended a devout southern baptist church that taught strictly from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Although I never heard anyone say that it was the only preserved translation of the Scriptures, I can now see that, although that was not stated and likely not even realized as such, we lived as though the KJV was just that. It took me more than ten years to realize this. Needless to say, I have been set free from this shackled way of thinking.

Today, I tend to shy away from reading the KJV. However, I am, by no means, anti-KJV; my tastes have simply shifted over the years around gradual realizations. I admire its poetic nature today just as much as I ever have. 

Recently, I was perusing the KJV when something pretty interesting caught my eye and, perhaps, tugged on my heartstrings. 

Ever since I can remember, there has always seemed to have been some theological notion missing from what is taught by most churches, regarding the Atonement. There has always been some dot that just did not seem to connect—one thing or another that just did not click. Could it lie here?

For one reason or another, most modern translations of the Bible (even the NKJV) do not mention the faith of Jesus Christ. Why is that? Has no one thought it strange that no one mentions that Jesus epitomized a life of faith? 

Since most churches read from modern translations of the Bible, this may partially account for why many pastors never preach on the faith of Jesus and why it is virtually unspoken of in Christian circles. I have yet to account for why it is not spoken of in KJV-only churches, though.

Although our faith is vital to the reconciliation of all things—which has also been infrequently spoken of in the church—Jesus should always be the epicenter of every doctrine that is good and true. Many attempt to claim that he is the center of our faith since we are saved via our faith in him, but, at the end of the day, according tomodern-day  orthodoxy, our faith is ultimately what saves any of us—our faith takes center stage; it has become the epicenter of our religion. 

As you consider the following passages, keep in mind that modern translations use “of” rather than “in” as noted. I would first like to consider each verse from a philosophical standpoint and to finally wrap things up by examining the Greek from which the New Testament is translated. I am no scholar, but I like to think I specialize in the small portion of Greek that is critical to my theological niche. You could call me a generalist, if you must call me anything at all.

Christians, for the most part, tend to appeal to the masses in defense of modern translations of the following passages by stating that most translators have chosen one word over another. In other words, they are suggesting that we should blindly trust their authority. Although I do not deny the authority of scholars, we must acknowledge that even translators have presuppositions, which affect how they translate certain terms. Scholars disagree with each other all the time. Why should we blindly follow the masses opinions, when other scholars, at times, disagree with them?

Scripture instructs Christians to “test all things and to hold onto what is good and true.” I am attempting to do just that; nothing more and nothing less. Never let anyone discourage you from questioning what doesn’t sit right with you. We have a God-given conscience. Unfortunately, many chalk their conscious up to human reasoning; as though there is godly reasoning that is beyond our reach. If that were true, why would God instruct us to test all things and to come and reason with him?

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” —Galatians‬ ‭2:16‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” —Galatians‬ ‭2:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The first rendition states that we believe in Christ so that we may be justified, primarily, by his faith, rather than by the faith of another. The second suggests, of course, that we are justified by our own faith. However, if we are justified by our faith, it follows that we justify ourselves when we decide to place our faith in Jesus. It seems to me that Calvinists have long seen this dilemma and have therefore clung to determinism in order to sidestep it. 

Calvinists believe that if our faith has been given to us, by God, apart from our individual will, faith would then not be a work on our part, but a work of God—which is true enough. Yet, if anyone is to be held responsible for a lack of faith, then it only follows that we must have something to do with acquiring it. Otherwise, the uncommitted are damned for not possessing something that God has chosen not to give them. This is, primarily, why I reject hard-determinism. Yet, this whole way of thinking assumes that justification comes primarily through our faith and fails to consider the faith of Christ.

If our faith in Christ is only a means to be justified in and by Jesus’ faith, rather than it being treated as the mode of justification, perhaps Calvinism and Arminianism would never have formed. 

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” —Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭KJV

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” —Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The first rendition states that the life we live in the flesh is lived through the faith of Christ, rather than through primarily our faith. In the second, there is no mention of Jesus’ faith. Therefore, it suggests that the life we live in the flesh is lived through our faith. How feeble and unreliable is one’s life if it relies on the waning and flowing of one’s own faith? Jesus and his faith should be our cournerstone, but we have become self-dependent beings to our demise.

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” —Galatians‬ ‭3:22‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” —Galatians‬ ‭3:22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The first rendition states that the promise is a bedrock because its reality hinges on an unshakable foundation—the faith of the Only Begotten. Could it be that we share in Jesus faith when we place our faith in him, just as we share in his death and resurrection? Just think about that for a moment!

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” —Romans‬ ‭3:22‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:” —‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The first rendition states that the righteousness of God is unto and upon all that believe. Moreover, it, once again, acknowledges that it is by the faith of Christ rather than by, primarily, the faith of man that we share in his righteousness. 

The second rendition omits a few details in order to place emphasis on our faith. Righteousness is then attained through our faith, rather than through Jesus’. Does belief produces faith, or is that a bit redundant?

And finally:

“and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” —Philippians‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith:” ‭‭—Philippians‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The first rendition seems much clearer than the first. Both admit that our righteousness is not of ourselves, but of Christ. Yet the first states explicitly that it is imparted through Jesus’ faith, rather than through our own. It states “not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law . . .” 

Granted, it was speaking of a righteousness that supposedly came through keeping the law, but is a righteousness that comes through our own faith amy better than a righteousness that comes through the faith of Christ?

Jesus’ faith is of utmost importance because without his faith, ours is without worth.

Seeing the end from the beginning, Jesus will be satisfied. Could he be satisfied with saving fewer than was lost through Adam? Will the sacrifice of the second Adam’s life be less effective than a single sinful/selfish act of the first’s?

We can rest assured in the following:

“He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” —‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:11‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Is it by his knowledge or by ours that we shall be justified? Our faith plays an important role in salvific process, but our faith cannot justify us from our sins. Only Jesus’ faith can do that. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith, after all.

~

*Now I would like to remark on a grammatical aspect of the matter.

The Greek word for “in” is “eis”. 

According to the Englishman’s Concordance, the KJV, NAS, and INT translate the passages above correctly as “of Christ” rather than “in Christ”.

If you look closely at the Greek phraseology, whenever those passages use the phrase “in Christ”, “eis” always precedes the noun that is translated “Christ”. 

Whenever they have chosen to use “of Christ” rather than “in Christ”, “eis” does not precede the noun (Christ). In fact, nothing does. When Christou stands alone, “of” is used to precede the noun. “Of Jesus Christ” (]Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ without εἰς) is the genitive (i.e., possessive) case. It is therefore the more accurate translation.

“Christou”, without the term “eis”, is also the word that is used in the gospels when it speaks of the works and resurrection of Christ. Why shouldn’t the same standard follow with it speaks of faith? 

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Test all things; hold onto what is good and true. 

How to Receive God’s Love?

I was recently listening to a Christian music station on the radio when I heard the testimony of some famous Christian musician that pertained to us asking more of God than we generally ask. This particular Christian musician mentioned how she had asked God to show himself in such a way that would open the heart of a particular friend of hers. 

This all sounded great until I heard the following: 

Three months later, my friend gave me a call and asked, “What do I have to do to receive God’s love?”.

For many Christians, this testimony may open the floodgates and cause them to admire God all the more. Yet, for me, this made my heart cringe.

“What do I have to do to receive God’s love?”

Really? 

Must we discover some secret act that prerequisites our receiving of God’s love? Does he refuse to love us until we do this or that? Or is he unable to love us until we choose to do something in particular? 

I certainly hope not!

A good father does not withhold his love until his child, whether prodigal or not, does this or that. Praise be to God that he loves us in spite of our works or lack thereof; anticipating our eventual return. 

Some may claim that we are not his children until we possess faith in Christ. What a cop out! Many may be known as children of the devil, but that is by their choice; not by his. Many may be children of the devil through their actions, but all of creation is the child of its Maker.

God loves us throughout our rebellion. He loves us in spite of our hostility toward him. This is precisely what draws us to the cross. Such a love will never end until all, in heaven and on earth, are reconciled by the blood of the cross. 

What must we do to receive God’s love?

Nothing.

You are loved.

His love has always been there and it always will be there; it will always be here. Whether you choose to come home now or not, you are loved. Yet, until you come home, you will not feel that love; neither will you thrive because of it until then.

You should not return so that you may receive his love. Rather, you should return because you are loved. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise . . . regardless of where you may be on you way to him.

If you are interested in learning more about how God’s love will not fail for the least of us, my book is available here. Feel free to comment below and share this blog and others with those who need to hear it.

Thank You For Listening.

What follows is in response to a lengthy comment I received on a previous blog post from someone who goes by the alias of Chuck. I will respond briefly to certain portions of his comment which, I believe, deserve the most attention.

Thanks for your comments. I believe you make a common error here, a category error or mistake. Analogies can be helpful in illustrating truth, but we go too far when we assume an earthly father-son relationship can accurately and fully explain the heavenly Father-Son relationship. That God would need psychological help is obviously neither true nor possible, thus your conclusion is rendered nonsensical. It begs for a better analogy or perhaps even better, none at all.

Firstly, it is untrue that God actually needs psychological “help”. That is precisely the point we are trying to make. Doctrines like ECT naturally follow faulty presuppositions about God. If he either cannot reconcile all things or has chosen not to do so, we cannot sensibly claim that his love is unfailing; neither can we claim that his grace and mercy is ever new.

Secondly, why shouldn’t we correlate the Heavenly Father-Son relationship with what we know through life experiences? He created the world and all that is in it to parallel spiritual truths, so that we could, on some level, grasp/identify heavenly truths. 

Since God has invited us to come and reason with him, I doubt he expects us to throw our hands up when manmade theology conflicts with what is true about his nature; only to chalk up our theological inconsistencies up to mystery. If Christians continue elevating their presuppositions up to divinely inspired levels, they will make it that much more difficult to mature in their faith and to develop spiritually.

Again I see the myopic focus on God’s love, as if this one quality, if you will, must predominate any and all others. We are also told that God is Spirit. Should we then insist that this quality must predominate all others? There is no scriptural reason for this insistence that “love” must rule. We are told that God is many things…love, Spirit, righteous, wrathful….etc. Who decides which, if any, predominate. Love, I fear, only does so because we humans find it “attractive, comforting, etc.”, or perhaps we focus on it because we fear it not being predominate.

 I would not say that love predominates all of God’s attributes, although Scripture clearly labels it as “the greatest of these”; neither would I say that God’s attributes are equal. Rather, I prefer to say that they are so perfectly intertwined that any expression of one of his attributes can be seen as an expression of any of the others. 

Consider a word from A.W. Tozer: “Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us . . . If we would find God amid all the religious externals, we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity.”

There will be no way, in this life, that we will be able to comprehend the fullness of God. Anyone who isolates an individual quality or essence of God for the purpose of dominance over all others is illustrating little more than personal preference.

No one is saying that we can fully comprehend the fullness of God, but it would be naive to say that we can make no sense, whatsoever, of his nature. We are not isolating love over the rest of his attributes, but allowing each of them to reveal themselves as coequal. “Without love to the full, there can be no justice; without justice to the full, there can be no love.” —George MacDonald

Certainly we see God “being” many different qualities at many different times. This does not necessarily indicate that any of those qualities are dominant over all the others. It merely points out our inability to comprehend God in all His fullness. The schizophrenia is in our understanding, NOT God’s behavior. Trying to restrain God from being more than we can understand, or approve of, is indicative of our pride, our unwillingness to accept the inevitable; we do not and cannot understand God in His fullness.

Indeed! God’s behavior is definitely not indicative of schizophrenia on his part, but on the part of man made doctrine; namely, the doctrine of ECT. ECT misrepresents his nature and, therefore, chases a great many reasonable skeptic away from God and his kingdom. 

I must say that we do not restrain God from being more than we can understand. We embrace his grandeur, while admiring that we were created to know him. To truly know him necessitates an ability to understand what he has chosen to reveal about himself.

In my book, I mention how Scripture teaches that no mystery is designed to remain hidden; that all mysteries will eventually ascend out of the shadows and bloom in the light of Christ. The only thing that is concretely mysterious is what we are absolutely unaware of. Those are the only things we cannot hope to understand, because we currently cannot even fathom their being . . . much less their mysteriousness. 

To state that something is true, but simply beyond our ability to comprehend defies sound logical processes; it is the lazy way out of fulfilling the Scriptural command to test all things and to hold onto what is good and true. We are never told to hold onto the irrational as absolute truth because the illogical is, by default, not good — it is false. 

What seems contradictory to us is often spoken of God, sometimes within the same verse or passage, i.e. love, compassion, mercy, etc. contrasted with wrath, judgment. Obviously the inspired writers saw no inherent problem with this, or if they did, they didn’t write about it.

Yes, they did! Have you ever heard of progressive revelation? I don’t blame godly men and women of old for not being able to connect certain dots before Jesus came to reveal the mystery of his will. The very passage which uses this terminology mentions, quite literally, that it is his will to reconcile all things through Christ. 

Jesus and his Apostles taught that there is essentially little contrast between any of God’s attributes. Our fallen nature is guilty of falsely constraining God’s nature with itself. There is no black and white with God; there are no fifty shades of grey; in him is life, and this life is the light of men.

One thing Jesus spoke of more than any other person in the Bible story was hell. If one will just allow the words to speak for themselves, it becomes, however painful or hard to accept, that hell is real, and it is eternal. All the hand wringing and textual gymnastics in the world do not change this fact. And those words are coming from the ONE who embodies God’s love in the flesh, among other qualities.

No. Just . . . no. Jesus did not speak of hell more than anything else. The number that preachers have come up with comes from duplicate passages throughout the gospels, which speak of the same event. Moreover, most of its usages spoke of Gehenna, which was an actual burning dump outside of Jerusalem’s walls. 

If Jesus place so much emphasis on the hell that you speak of, why didn’t his Apostles follow his lead? Why did no one in the old or New Testament evangelistically “warn” anyone about ECT? Come on, now. UR is naturally derived from a proper understanding of God’s attributes and an honest exegesis of Scripture. 

Personally, the only reason I believe hell is eternal is because the Word says so. However much I may wish it were different, it isn’t.

 The Bible does not say so. Your presuppositions dictate your interpretation of scripture. Challenge them! If you were to challenge them, you would not be challenging God; regardless of how much you are told otherwise by church authorities. 

On a side note, there is something within each of us that longs for ECT to be untrue. Let’s think about that for a moment.

There is absolutely something deep within our souls that cringes at the thought of ECT. Have you ever considered that we were designed to cringe at such a thing because it does not coincide with the Lover of our souls? 

Moreover, by saying you wish that it was untrue, you are actually saying that you wish God was not like you believe him to be . . . that he could be much better than he actually is. Does this tell you nothing?!

Now if it turns out God actually does annihilate those who reject Him, fine. Hopefully, I have no dog in that hunt. It’s not like I look forward to sitting in a viewing booth, watching people suffer. I wonder, however, if those who virtually “demand” that God do so, or perhaps save everyone eventually, have given serious thought to what sin is, what it infects, and it’s consequences throughout history.

We have given it much thought. That is precisely why we have come to believe that God will actually defeat sin in its entirety through UR. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make friends of them?” What better way is there to destroy evil? Is God so weak that he has to quarantine the sick rather than heal them? 

Even more so, have they given any thought, any prolonged meditation on what the quality of “holiness” is, and God’s refusal to “look upon sin”? As mysterious as that may seem (I mean, doesn’t God “see” everything?), it’s just one of so many things about God beyond our ability to understand. And the main reason for that is that we are not God. Not even remotely close. Not even an “atom” in the universe of His being, so to speak.

Can God not look upon sin? Jesus certainly did. Is he not God? Is Jesus incarnate some lesser form of his heavenly self? You have to get out of the habit of appealing to mystery when your theology breaks God ordained logical laws.

If however, God does save everyone eventually (after, as some suggest, torturing unbelievers with His love until they “give up” and accept it), then why did Christ die? And who for? Not everyone, despite the attempts to isolate words such as “all” or “the world” while ignoring both context and the full teaching of biblical atonement.

What do you mean by asking: “Why did Jesus die?” Jesus died because he loves us, because he desired achieve his decree of reconciling all things, of course. 

By the way, “all” always means all unless context demands otherwise. Your presuppositions cannot demand it to do otherwise. 

As I have stated before, if the “eternal” in eternal torment doesn’t really mean eternal (as in for all time), then perhaps the “eternal” in eternal life doesn’t mean forever either. Right? On what basis you would reject the one and accept the other? Certainly not according to the definition of the word. Certainly not scripture, for achieving correct biblical understanding is not a mathematical formula, as in 5 “loves” are more than 2 “wraths”.

The eternality of life is not dependent on a few passages that use “aionion” to describe life. There are many other passages that guarantee the eternality of life that don’t even use that word. Have you ever read a literal translation of the Bible? Literal translations never translate aionion or olam as “forever”.

Scripture does not contradict itself (our understanding certainly does), when properly understood. Nor does God. May I suggest to you and others reading this that your focus be more on understanding, or accepting that you can’t understand, God in His fullness, and less on finding a God that you, intellectually and emotionally, can “live with”, a god that tickles the ears and eases the conscience.

 Exactly! 

Our presuppositions are not necessarily perfect. That goes for prevalent presuppositions about postmortem judgement as well! 

UR does tickle our ears and there is nothing wrong with that. It also caresses our hearts because it represents the character of God more fully than ECT or CI. What many mistake as fallacious appeal to the emotions may very well be a valid appeal to the conscience. Apart from our conscience, our decisions and beliefs are arbitrary; nothing more.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. May I suggest that where there is no fear (awe, humility), there is either no wisdom, real wisdom, or that whatever wisdom one might think they have is built on a false foundation, cracking bricks mortared with pride. Thanks for sharing.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but love is undoubtedly its end. We are to fear the Lord with reverence, not with a kind of fear that one would expresses toward a tyrant. Jesus is a friend of sinners. He is the only true foundation. Let us be the mortar that is not weakened with presuppositions that contradict the God we love.

No . . . thank you for listening!

ALL I Have Is Yours!

Among Christians, this phrase is pretty well-known because it is one of the key phrases in the parable of the prodigal son. Although the larger portion of this parable has to do with the prodigal son, this phrase was actually spoken to the older brother; the one who remained at home with his father. 

As we read this parable, it is easy to shake our head at the older brother. How could he not have known that everything the father possessed was also a possession of his? Given his mindset, some Christians believe that the older brother was no more of a “believer” than was his brother. 

This parable is often interpreted in only a handful of ways. I have occasionally ran into a Christian who admitted that the prodigal son represented unbelievers, while the older brother represented Christians. Most Christians, however, dislike that analogy because that would suggest that unbelievers are children of God. Therefore, the prodigal son is most often portrayed as a Christian who has strayed from the narrow path. What a shame! 

Although that is a legitimate application of this parable, its scope should not be limited to a single application. There is so much truth to be discovered in the former analogy. Granted, unbelievers are often called sons of the devil or simply: unknown, but does that strip them of their paternity? Is God not the potter of every man and woman who has ever walked the face of the earth?

The prodigal son disowned his heritage when he left, but he was never anything less than a son of his father. When he returned repentant, his father acknowledged just that as he ran out to his son while he was still far off. The father’s love did not wavered; neither would it ever have if the son had taken a much longer way home. 

When the son returned, the father clothed his son in royal garments because, although he chose to become unknown/a child of the devil, he was always his son and was never discouraged from coming home. The only thing that was required of him was this: he had to acknowledge his royalty in order for him to come to his senses . . . for him to realize the eternal truth of the matter, that he was loved and that he could come home.

The older brother had all that he desired within his grasp. Yet, he did not acknowledge his royalty; he did not know the heart of his father. The prodigal son gave everything up to be his “own man”, only to squander his supposed share of “his father’s possession”. 

These two brothers had something in common. They were both spiritually immature. Therefore, they thought of themselves rather than of their father’s legacy — their true legacy. In their minds, he and they were not one.

The truth of the matter was they were always co-heirs. They reigned along side if their father rather than under him. His blood coursed through their veins, regardless of their spiritual immaturity. Therefore, they did not have to wait until their father died to possess what was his because all that he had was already theirs. 

So too is it with us, Jew and gentile, slave and free. 

We who trust in Christ are residing with our father, although some of us live as though we are his slaves rather than his sons and daughters. 

You who have not placed your faith in Christ are like the prodigal son. You are if a royal bloodline, but your spirit has been given over to the devil. Therefore, your soul wallows amongst the swine, even if you have not squandered what you have been physically given. You do not reside with your Father and you are suffering, in one way or another, for it.

Your father is ever waiting for you to come home, to bathe and to clothe your soul in royal vestments. You may feel like you’re doing just fine without him, but your spirit thirsts for water that only he can give. All that is asks of you is to come and you will never thirst again.

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Until next time . . .

Shalom.

Watering Down Hell

When most people think of hell, they picture unrelenting flames of wrath in some extra-dimensional realm on the outskirts of creation . . . totally without the presence of the Lord.

When it comes to hell, many Christians, including myself, have been accused of watering down the gospel simply because we question the doctrine of Endless Conscious Torment (ECT). Does this make us guilty of watering down the gospel? 

Many Christians believe there is only one Christian dictrine of hell. Oh, how many have been deceived! Historically, there has been three accepted doctrines of postmortem judgment. Today, many are ignorant of early church history and prone to accept whatever that are told from the pulpit. This is precisely why another great awakening is on the horizon.

Although I would deny that we who reject ECT water down the gospel, I would not deny that hell needs to be watered down . . . in one sense. 

Generally, the phrase “water down” has negative connotations, but, in certain contexts, it is absolutely a positive concept. The question is: Is it wise to water down the prevalent notion of hell? 

Honestly, I think this notion of hell needs to be eradicated, rather than watered down, but baby steps are often necessary when it comes to theology. Regardless, some sort of polemic is necessary because most Christians cannot separate their idea of hell from the gospel message.

It is widely known that “gospel” literally means “good news” and that it is for all people. However, according to most Christians, this “good news” is only actually good for a select few: either those God “predestined” to salvation or those who are fortunate enough to “believe in Jesus” before they die. 

Tell me, how good is this sort of news for the all people? Could God not have done any better than that? Will Adam and Satan turn out to have been far more destructive than Christ could have been restorative? Although most Christians scoff at that notion, ECT and Conditional Immortality (CI) logically leads to that conclusion. I would even go so far as to assert that those who would support that either of those doctrines are actually the ones who are watering down the gospel because they are fanning a doctrine of fear.

Ironically, the moment anyone asks these sorts of questions or entertains these concepts, they are accused of watering down the gospel. Is there no limit to the depths of absurdity?

We who trust in the absolute love, grace, and justice of God are the ones who are accused of assisting in the damnation of those who hear the really good news of Universal Reconciliation (UR) and, for one reason or another, decide to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait to come to Jesus until, one day, they die before actually getting around to it. If we are wrong about UR, the damnation of those poor souls is somehow on our shoulders. Of course, this is all speculative and dependent on the factuality of a dark theological concept.

Should we cease preaching the unfailing love of God simply because scare tactics are believed to be more persuasive? Are they? They may have been in the past, but threats of ECT run more people away from God, today, more than they ever have before. 

The pendulum swings both ways. If we are guilty of the damnation of the lost for giving them a “reason” to wait until it is too late, so too are others guilty of the damnation of the lost for running them away from God by portraying him as someone that they could not have honestly revered and loved.

The prevalent notion of hell doesn’t only need to be watered down; it needs to be extinguished, but that won’t happen without the assistance of we who have actually experienced and felt the beat of our heavenly Father’s heart. It is the love of God that draws us to the cross, rather than selfish fear. The church has to stop using the cross as a whip, because we are not God’s cattle, but his children; either prodigal or at home.

It is only when we see the fire of God in its proper context that the church will begin to multiply daily, as it once did. God is fire, but living water also flows freely from his fiery throne. Encourage others to swim freely in it; take down the signs that keep people away. The gates are open; they always will be.

If you are not yet free from such a fear, I must first ask: Do you want to be free from it? The first hurdle I had to overcome was to realize that I was enslaved to a mindset that impeded a proper understanding of God’s character. This hurdle was the most difficult because it was the first step in the process. 

Have you have rigorously studied UR and its scriptural roots or do you believe as you do because that is what your church condones? Are you willing to follow the scriptural command to test all things and to hold onto what is good and true? If so, I challenge you to play devil’s advocate and secretly “become” a believer in UR for a few months just to see whether or not it “fits” with your perception of God and your worship experience. 

If it’s not a fit for you, you can always come back to your prior beliefs . . . that is, if you believe that God’s grace is great enough to allow you to do some sincere research and experiments. Take your time and do this right. You may discover far more than you could have ever hoped, but nothing is possible until you take that first step.

God is Love and Love never fails. 

If God’s love isn’t unfailing for all, then it isn’t unfailing at all. If God’s love fails for just one person, then he is not Love because Love never fails.

Tell me, how does God express his unfailing love to those in hell?

In my book, I propose that the only means through which unfailing Love could be expressed, by God to humanity, is through the perpetual availability of his grace. Moreover, if grace ever becomes unavailable for anyone, at that moment, God’s grace is no longer unfailing and justice can no longer be brought to victory.

Unfortunately, when it comes to justice, most Christian’s think about what we deserve for our actions. We make it all about us rather than about Jesus. The more important question pertains to Jesus, not us: What does Jesus deserve?

When someone dies in their sins, they do Jesus more of an injustice than they do themselves. They owe Jesus a debt that cannot be rectified by Endless Conscious Torment or annihilation. Jesus deserves everybody’s faith and love. He died for it, after all. Until all are finally drawn to the cross, until all, in the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father, declare that Jesus is LORD, justice will not have been brought to victory. Until everything in heaven and on earth (above and below) are reconciled by the blood of the cross, all things will not have been set right and the cross has suffered defeat.

Unforsaken (An Agape Letter From Abba)

To whom it may concern,

You are mine, although I may not yet be yours. Whether you believe it or not, every soul is mine and I love each of them to the full. You are loved to the full. 

I have never, nor ever will I, forsake you. You may feel forsaken, but you are not alone. You may feel lost, but you are not lost to me. I know exactly where you are and I am coming to you to guide you home. 

I understand what it feels like to believe you are forsaken. My Son once felt similiarly. He could endure the physical pain of the cross, but the spiritual anguish was nearly more than he could bear. The sins of the world were, indeed, placed on his shoulders, but I did not forsake him because of it. Why would I?! He was within my will, after all. 

Nevertheless, as he became sin for you, he, for the first time, experienced its condemnation. It blurred his vision and he could no longer sense my presence, but I was there! I would never turn from him . . . he knew that! So, although he could not sense my presence, he released himself into my hands, in faith, with his final earthly breath. 

All this to say, Jesus was not forsaken so that you could be forgiven. No! He felt forsaken so that he could break the binds of sins deception for you. He defeated sin and, three days later, death. All that remains is for you to come home. I am always here, but you must forgive yourself and turn back home in order to see that this is true. I will never give up on you. You mean far too much to me to settle for anything less than restoration.

With a love that cannot fail,

Abba.

In Response to “The Case for Annihilation” from Renew.org

See the article to which I am responding here.

Annihilationism is the view that whoever and whatever cannot be redeemed by God is ultimately put out of existence.

In the very first sentence of this article, there are already philosophical issues. This statement presupposes that certain individuals cannot be redeemed by God. Many Christians will not see anything wrong with such a statement because that very thing must be presupposed in order to arrive at the prevalent doctrine of hell (ECT) or Annihilationism. This is precisely why many have not tested this presupposition.

Granted, it is not unthinkable to state that God cannot do some things because it is unanimously accepted by Christians that God does no wrong. However, it may be more appropriate to state that God will not do some things because they are against his nature. God will do no wrong.

So, lets put the premise stated above in this context. Can some people not be redeemed by God? Is he simply unable to redeem some people? Is it beyond his ability? If so, why is that? Is it against his nature to redeem some people? “Oh, but we have free will!” is the usual reaction to questions which point out the weak points of others’ presuppositions. Is God’s greater will for our lives limited by our will? To some extent, perhaps. But, since he sees the end from the beginning, would he will that which he knew he could not achieve?

Scripture assures us that he cares for our ultimate good. Perhaps this is why Scripture states that he works out evil for good. Seeing the end from the beginning, “In the beginning…” he declared creation good. No, he declared it “very good” with a full knowledge of what was to come. If he foreknew that a single person would be in torments forever and ever, could he truly state that Creation was “very good”? Annihilation may be one step up from the pits of hell, but it is not “very good.” Jesus is the Lamb of God who was slain from the foundation of the world so that it could be stated that he would reconcile all things in heaven and below.

If a Christian starts off with a faulty premise, the point of view which follows is bound to be faulty as well. ECT and CI both assume that there is some point in time that a person is deemed nonredeemable. (Seeing the end from the beginning, God knew who would be unredeemable long before the first beat of their hearts. Is it “very good” to will a single unredeemable soul into existence?) From the point of view of many Christians, it is the physical death of a person that deems them unredeemable. If this is true, what is it about the death that makes someone unredeemable? Has Jesus not defeated death? In one sense he has… Will he never defeat it to the full? If so, how is it that many believe so strongly that death will hold eternal power over the uncommitted? God either cannot save our souls after the death of our bodies or he will not save us hereafter. There is an all-too-obvious better option before us- God desires to save all; he is able to do so; therefore he will not fail in with this endeavor.

Throughout the Old Testament the Lord threatens the wicked with annihilation. To all who refused to comply with the covenant God had established, for example, the Lord vowed to “blot out their names from under heaven.”

Again, much is assumed. The natural reading of this passage suggests that this passage is referring to physical death. “The dead know nothing” passage is best interpreted likewise. The dead know nothing of earthly events. The only way we can honestly assume they were talking about annihilation is to assume they had a developed understanding of the concept. If I remember correctly, some idea of an underworld was much more prevalent during this age… Not to mention that CI fails to ask much about God’s nature beyond some end to suffering.

If I know anything about Christ, it is that he desires much more than an end to suffering for those who did not know God. Rather, he desires for humanity to have life and to have it abundantly. (Eternal life is to know God through Christ.) Divine Love wishes the best for the objects of his love; not the second best; with God, there is no “this is the best that you can get.” Is he who fathered creation unable to reconcile and restore his handiwork in accordance with God-given free will? If this is truly the desire of his heart, why would he limit his love, grace, and mercy to the span of our physical life?

At the end of the day, I reject CI for the same reason I reject ECT; it is not consistent with God’s grace, mercy, love, and justice to the full. In one way or another, each view places a bit more emphasis on at least one of those attributes.

Since CI admits that heaven could not be heaven when there is a torture pit in its basement, in closing, I would like to say that heaven could not be heaven without universal reconciliation. While I agree with its statement about ECT, it does not offer much of a solution. To annihilate someone I know and love would be to annihilate a part of myself… a part of my memory and maybe even a part of my very being. We are who we are because of the effect others have had on us. To truly annihilate someone would require God to wipe them out of our memories as well… and to do that would be to alter the very fiber of our being.

I can only hope that God is victorious to the full. Otherwise, we are in for a world of contradictions.

If you’d like to read more about the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, I have written a book on this topic. Click here!

The “Test All Things” Podcast & Book Interview

I will be launching a podcast in the near future. It will be entitled the Test All Things podcast. Between each episode, there will be a Q&A session for the previous episode. I am looking for cohosts for each Q&A session. If you are interested, please contact me.

I will release one episode for each chapter of my book, beginning with chapter 3. If you’d like to cohost a particular chapter’s Q&A session, I will reserve it for you.

The first episode is an introductory episode and will not have a Q&A session. I am currently working on the content for Episode 2 (Chapter 3: Heretically Orthodox Faith). I will publish 2 episode per week. The first week will be three: introductory episode, main episode, and Q&A episode. If you reserve a latter chapter, it may be a while before we do it.

I will be seeking cohosts continuously. If you prefer a particular chapter, reserve it ASAP. Note: You will have an opportunity to mention any of your writings or projects. 

“Until next time . . . Shalom be unto you.” {closing phrase :)}

Also, I will be having a book interview with the Wandering Pilgrim’s broadcast on YouTube at 9pm EST. I have created an event in my author page where you can say that you will be attending so that you will be notified beforehand. To do so click here!