God’s Perfect Judgment
by Ken Eckerty
“God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.” We’ve heard this statement made numerous times by the evangelical church—perhaps we’ve even said it ourselves. While the Bible doesn’t make this exact statement, I believe it to be absolutely true. Scripture tells us that “…God so loved the world…” and Jesus told us to “love our enemies.” God’s love for mankind is one of the major themes in the entire Bible, and can anyone doubt that “love” is the greatest of all attributes. While the Bible is clear about God’s love for His creation, it is just as clear in declaring His hatred for sin. God, through the prophets and apostles, pronounces awful doom and judgment on sin and wickedness. We have example after example of God dealing harshly with those who took lightly His law and commandments. Even in the New Testament, God brought fear to the newly born Church by slaying Ananias and Sapphira for their sin of lying to the Holy Spirit. (Acts 5) We have also seen the consequences of sin in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Paul is very clear that as believers, we should judge ourselves so that we should not be condemned with the world. (1 Cor. 11:31, 32)
So the question I would like to address in this essay is how do we reconcile these two opposite forces (love and hate; good and evil). How, on the one hand, can we say that God loves all men, yet on the other hand declare certain “doom” on those who do not repent of their sin? Let me be very clear that there is no doubt in my mind that God will indeed put an end to every wicked thought, motive, and deed, but this begs the question “Will God also put an end to the poor wretched soul who is guilty of such atrocities?” If God “damns” the sinner forever, how can we really say that He loves all men? Does He love “sinners” now, but hate them after He pronounces His judgment? If our premise is true that “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin,” is it possible for Him to accomplish the destruction of sin without the element of eternal torture? Is the “orthodox” church right when it says that most men will be “damned” forever with absolutely no hope for salvation?
My strong contention is that the Church misunderstands the purpose of God’s judgments, and consequently, misrepresents His character to the world. Rather than viewing all of God’s judgments and punishments from the perspective of the “spiritual man,” Christians have instead interpreted them out of the “natural man”—a man desiring retribution against his enemies. Most of us have been taught that the “natural man” spoken of by Paul in 1 Cor. 2:14 applies only to unredeemed man, however, Christians are just as capable of thinking and walking in the natural (carnal) realm. One needs only to look at the current state of the church with all of its division and strife to see that this is true. This is why Paul exhorts us to “renew our minds” and to “walk in the Spirit.” It is for this very reason why I believe the Church has embraced the false doctrine of never-ending punishment. The “natural man” simply cannot understand the things of the Spirit, and so it is this same natural man who has ruled over the “new man” and prevented us from seeing the true purpose for God’s judgments.
There is a very simple and scriptural explanation to what appears to be an irreconcilable dilemma, which “if we have ears to hear,” will explain how God’s love and His judgments perfectly compliment each other.
Does God Contradict?
The Bible is filled with metaphors, parables, and symbolism, which if not properly interpreted in the Spirit, can lead us away from the truth instead of toward it. I have dealt with this subject in a previous article so I will not dwell at length on it, but I will give a few examples for our purposes here. In Luke 14, Jesus told the multitudes,
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
Does anyone reading these words of Jesus really believe He was literally telling us to hate our loved ones? Doesn’t God command us to “honor our father and mother” and “love our neighbor as ourselves?” By reading this passage in the “letter” (literally), it seems to contradict all the “love” passages in the Bible. This is the way the natural man would see it. Most Christians, thankfully, understand that Jesus wasn’t teaching us to hate, but rather to love God supremely, far above all other earthly loves. To properly understand this passage (and all others), we cannot look at it by itself, but must read it in balance with the rest of the Scriptures. Another good example is when Jesus said, unless you eat My body and drink My blood, you do not have My life in you. (Jn. 6:53) If we take these words by themselves, it could seem like Jesus was teaching cannibalism, and in fact, Roman Catholicism actually teaches that during the Mass the bread and wine are literally turned into the body and blood of Christ. We see, however, that by comparing Scripture with Scripture, Jesus was not talking about a physical communion, but a spiritual one, that is, Christ in us, and we in Christ.
This is the same mistake people make when trying to reconcile God’s love with the pronouncement of His judgments. Many read the Bible and see two contradictory views of God: first, the fiery God of judgment as described in the Old Testament, and second, the Christ of love as demonstrated in the New Testament. Some, confused by this apparent contradiction, reject the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. However, when we study the subject of God’s judgments, we must not take the “hard” passages by themselves, but instead, must study them in the light of God’s enduring love and mercy. Take them alone, and we have a god whose forgiveness and mercy is limited; but take them in light of God’s everlasting love and compassion and we see that there is no contradiction at all—the glove of God’s judgment fits perfectly over His hand of love.
The Bible declares “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, THE LORD IS ONE.” This statement not only forms the basis of our monotheistic belief, but it also clearly declares that, in God, there is no variation or division. The number “one” is scripture means unity, united, undivided, or unfragmented. So when the Bible says, “God is one,” it is another way of saying that GOD CANNOT CONTRADICT HIMSELF. In Him there is no division, and since the Scriptures are the very Words of God, it also cannot contradict itself. For God to contradict Himself would mean that He is divided within Himself; for the Scriptures to contradict itself would bring discredit upon its inerrancy—both of which would be a fatal blow to the Christian faith. However, James says that in Him there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (Ja. 1:17) Praise His blessed name that there is no division found either in God or His life-breathed Word!
Let’s take one example—2 Thes. 1:8-9. Paul here tells us that God will punish those who obey not the gospel of Christ with everlasting destruction. Does he mean that these men will remain as sinners forever, to be tormented with never-ending punishments, OR could it be that, just like when Jesus did not mean we are to literally hate our loved ones, this passage does not speak of the eternal torture of men, but the everlasting destruction of the old nature and its evil deeds? (See note below) The Church would have us believe the former, but I contend that their interpretation of this and many like passages contradicts the myriad of passages that speak of God’s love and mercy. By no means do we intend to make light of God’s judgment or in any way lessen the need for it. We do not object to God’s judgment as it is taught in the Holy Scriptures. However, we do object (and reject) the “orthodox” teaching that does not take God’s love into consideration when discussing His judgments, but instead puts Him in the unscriptural position of forever turning His back on billions and billions of people never again to show them love or mercy. This is just as wrong as believing that we are to literally “hate” our parents, or that we are to literally eat the body of Christ. By the end of this article, I hope to show you that by interpreting the Scriptures in the “usual” way, our premise, “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin,” would be invalid.
Let there be no doubt that God will destroy the wicked and all his evil works (Ps. 145:20; Ps. 7:9), but how can God judge the sinner yet not contradict His love for all men? The answer to this question is so very simple, and yet has been grasped by so few: God will destroy all sinners by making them friends! Paul tells us that this is exactly what happened to us.
For if while being enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life; (Rom. 5:10)
We were once by nature, children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and the sons of disobedience, (Eph. 2:2), and in fact, in our flesh, we are still yet enemies of the Cross. (Phil. 3:18) But just as God brought us from the depths of our despair and is in the process of changing us from an enemy to a friend, think it not a strange thing for God, who is rich in mercy and partial to none, to do this same work in other men in the ages to come. Col. 1:20 says that Christ will reconcile all things (lit. remove all enmity between two parties) to the Father by the blood of His Cross. God’s purpose for judgment is not to torment eternally, but to destroy all the evil works of the flesh, and when this great work of judgment is completed, all sinners along with their wickedness will have been totally destroyed—forever! In this essay, we will see that this process is not a pleasant one, nor will God spare any torment needed to accomplish His goal. The self-will and stubbornness of man will be completely broken by God’s righteous judgment, and what will come forth will be the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21) as every created thing will be brought to a full knowledge of God through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Phil. 2:10-11 says “that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” 1 Cor. 15:28 says that when this happens God will be “all in all.” There will not be a trace of sin or death in the entirety of God’s universe. What a day of rejoicing that will be!!
NOTE: A careful study of the Greek word “aionios” (translated as “eternal,” “everlasting,” and “forever and ever” in our English translations) shows that it comes from the Greek noun “aion” which always means “an indeterminate period of time.” It is a most unfortunate thing that the translators of old chose to translate “aionios” from the Latin language rather than the Greek from which the word is derived. God’s punishment will not last forever as is commonly taught, but will only last for the ages and only UNTIL God’s purpose for it is complete. For more information go to: http://www.savior-of-all.com/aionian.html
Contrary to popular belief, it was never God’s purpose to keep mankind in the original state in which he was created, but to bring him to a higher level of spirituality—one beginning in the earthly (or soulish) realm, and progressing to a heavenly (or spiritual) one. Adam was a “man of the earth,” but God’s ultimate purpose for man is not earthly, but heavenly. God’s purpose for which Christ came was not only to set us free from the bondage of sin, but to bring us from an immature, earthly condition to the maturity of sonship. (See http://www.savior-of-all.com/freewill.html)
God gave to us the perfect example of how this process will be worked out in all sons of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ left His previous position of glory and stooped Himself to walk this earth in our body of humiliation. This body was just like ours in that it was susceptible to the same weaknesses as our own. It could feel pain, weariness, hunger, emotions, and could be tempted in all points just like ours. Christ was just like Adam, but unlike his predecessor, He was able to transcend the fleshly realm by overcoming the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” This is why Paul declares that the name of Christ is above every name, and that He has secured for us a heavenly inheritance that will never see corruption. (Heb. 1:2-4)
As the sons of God, we are destined to share in this same inheritance—in fact, the Scriptures declare that we are “joint-heirs” with Christ. The Father’s will for every living soul is to follow the example of His Son who is our forerunner showing us the way to life. However, the path to sonship is not as easy as the modern prosperity teaching would lead us to believe. There is a process to maturity that must take place in order to ready us for the great task that goes with this inheritance. We need to look no further than the example of our Lord and Savior. Christ “learned obedience by the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8) and so, like Him, we MUST trod the same path that He trod. (See http://www.savior-of-all.com/presson.html)
So what is this path that Christ trod? The common misconception among Christians today is that Christ came to save us “FROM” death, but the biblical truth is that Christ came to save us “THROUGH” death—and there is a great difference between the two. Hebrews 5:7 in the King James Version says,
Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death....
The English word “from” in the above verse is the Greek word “ek,” and it is unfortunate that the King James Version translates this word incorrectly. The force of this word should always be translated “by” or “out of” death. This point is absolutely critical if we are ever to understand the true purpose for God’s judgment. God’s purpose for Christ, as well as for us, is to save us “out of” or “by” death, not “from” death. This is how Christ was saved, and so it is how we are to be saved. How often have we all heard evangelists tell us that Christ saves us “from” death, but when was the last time you heard someone say that we are saved “by” death? Beloved, if you don’t get this, you will fall into the same trap that almost every Christian has been caught in, and that is what I like to call “escapism theology.” The “name it and claim it” teaching is obviously an extreme example of this. No suffering, no trials, and no denial of self is necessary in order to be a son of God. The modern pre-tribulational rapture theory is another example of this—the idea that Christians will be whisked away to safety before the real “hell” on earth takes place. Even in what I will call “fundamentalism,” those who claim to be members of a “Bible-believing Church” do not understand that without the process of death, there can be no life. Dear saints, I cannot stress this point enough. If you believe that Jesus came to save us so we wouldn’t have to die, then you have wrong theology! It is no wonder that the vast majority of all Christians do not understand what the “second death” represents. It is no wonder that as Christians we are surprised at the “fiery trials” that come upon us, and more times than not seek God to keep us FROM those things instead of praying that God would save us THROUGH them.
This principle of life “out of” death is not limited to man, for we see that even nature manifests this very same principle. Andrew Jukes from his books “Types in Genesis” and “The Second Death and the Restitution of All Things” says,
And indeed we shall find this law throughout, that the failure of one thing through grace brings in a better thing. Where sin abounds, grace yet more abounds. Thus the short-sighted wisdom which would prevent falling, would by so doing prevent all progress to higher things; for each advancing form of life, which God takes up, springs out of the failure of that which has proceeded it. The seed falls into the ground, and dies, and becomes rotten; but the result is the resurrection of many seeds. So the juice of grapes or corn is put into the still; and thence, by decomposition and fermentation, (both forms of corruption,) is evolved a higher purity and spirituality.
Nature everywhere reveals this law, though the divine chemistry is often too subtle to allow us to see all the stages of the transformations and the passages or “pass-overs” from life to death and death to life, which are going on around us everywhere. But the great instance cited by our Lord, that “except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it brings forth much fruit,” forces the blindest to confess that all advance of life is through change, and death, and dissolution.
If the creation itself reveals this “strange” work of God, why would it come as a surprise to anyone to see God working this same process in us who are the crowning glory of His creation? Death for us does not begin with our physical death, but from the very moment we are born into this world. When we think of the death of Christ, we think of His death on the Cross, however, Christ’s actual death began with His birth, not His crucifixion. From the moment of Christ’s birth, He took upon Himself a “body of death” and subjected Himself to this earthly realm of death and corruption. This death was culminated, of course, when Christ breathed His last breath on the Cross. So we too, just like our forerunner, must overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil through this same process of death. Each person born into this world inherits a “body of sin and death” in opposition to the nature of God. We must overcome this “opposition” by dying to it, not escaping it. The process of maturity that brings us to higher levels of glory is death—death to self-righteousness, death to self-ambition, death to self-promotion, and death to the beast nature—that “man of sin” who seeks to exalt himself over Christ and desires to take His place in the temple of our hearts. Every tear, every travail, every hurt, every disappointment, every pain, every loss, and every betrayal is all a part of this process of death that takes us from being an immature babe to a mature son or daughter of God. If one desires the maturity of sonship, there is no other way to escape this path. There are many voices today that are telling us that we do not need to suffer pain or experience any discomfort in this life in order to have God’s best. God, they say, has set us free from the hardships and trials of life, and that we can walk in the blessing of material prosperity. My dear friends, don’t believe this lie for one minute! If Christ, who is our Savior, was saved through death, and had to learn obedience by the things He suffered, what makes us think that we are free to escape these things? The apostle Peter couldn’t be clearer:
For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. (1 Pet. 2:21)
No, Christ did not save us “from” death, He saves us “by” death. We are certainly saved from the FEAR of death (Heb. 2:14), and the PERMANENCE of death (1 Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:18), but NOT from death itself. It is a portion that none of us can cheat, and for the overcomers in this age, it is a portion that they must willingly choose if they are to be all that God intends for them to be.
While the testimony of Scripture is that life can only come forth through means of death and dissolution, God’s end is not death, but life. (We will look more fully at this later in the next section) This is the very reason we are called to die, for “unless a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die, it abides alone; but if it dies it brings forth much fruit.” (Jn. 12:24) Christ’s end was not the crucifixion, but resurrection life. So too, our ultimate end is not death, but life. Again, the words of Andrew Jukes,
Pressing this point however, that death is needful for the sinner’s deliverance, I need scarcely add, that death, alone, and without another life, is not and cannot of itself be enough to bring us back to God's world. We need death to get out of this world and out of the power of darkness; but we also need and must have the life of God, which is only perfected in resurrection, to live in God’s world. (John 3: 3, 5)
We will see that this same principle—life from death—that is “being worked out” in the overcomer, must take place in all of God’s creation, not just a chosen few. Most men will die without experiencing the victory that only the Cross can bring, but God’s purposes are not thwarted by the grave, and in the “ages to come” all of God’s creation will be delivered from the bondage of corruption. (Eph. 2:7; Rom. 8:21) Space will not allow us to go into great detail on God’s plan for the ages for both the elect (Church) and the non-elect (world). Suffice to say though, that both the elect and non-elect must go through this process of death, whether it in this age (designated for the elect) or in the ages to come (designated for the non-elect).
One of the greatest errors taught in the Church today is the belief that God’s judgment is an end in and of itself. In other words, most Christians believe that “eternal death” (separation from God) will be the ultimate and final end for all those who reject Christ in their lifetime. This erroneous view is primarily based on a failure to understand the true purpose of death and judgment. We’ve already briefly looked at this, but it is important for us to further see how the relationship between law and grace supports the idea that judgment cannot be God’s end.
God has two primary means of teaching man—law and grace. These two seem to have opposing purposes—the law condemns, while grace justifies; however, as we have previously seen, life can only come forth by means of death and judgment, therefore, the law’s purpose must be to inevitably lead men to the gospel. Putting it another way—the law is NOT the end, but simply the means to the end.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Gal. 3:24)
The law, which Paul calls a “ministration of condemnation,” is done away with; While the gospel, “the ministration of righteousness and life,” is God’s final and ultimate work and therefore must remain. (2 Cor. 3:11) Paul says over and over again in the New Testament that the Old Covenant given through Moses is no longer in effect, and that Christ has put an end to the ordinances written in stone. Paul, in Gal. 3:17 says,
And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
This is an extremely important passage and a critical point with Paul as he had the difficult task of trying to convince Jews that the Law of Moses was no longer valid. A common mistake among Christians is to assume that the Law of Moses came before the gospel of grace. However, this is the exact opposite of the truth, and Paul is trying to refute that very thing. He is saying that the promise (of God in Christ) was given four hundred and thirty years before Moses to Abraham. Paul tells us of this gospel that was first preached to Abraham:
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. (Gal. 3:8)
Paul is using the “law of primacy” to show that the promise, because it came first, has the greater preeminence than the Mosaic covenant. Therefore, he says, the law CANNOT disannul (make void) the promise of God in Christ. As a result of the gospel being given the greater glory because it came first, the law cannot and will not be God’s end—that privilege belongs to the gospel. Paul addresses this same idea in the 5th chapter of Romans.
But Law came in besides, that the deviation might abound. But where sin abounded, grace much more abounded, (Rom. 5:20)
“Where sin abounded, grace did MUCH MORE abound.” What a glorious promise!! Paul is saying the very same thing only using different terminology. According to Paul here, the law has the power to condemn, but grace has much more power to save. Paul has already told us the reason for this—it is because the gospel was first given to Abraham over four centuries before Moses. The gospel is MUCH MORE glorious than the law—period! However, the orthodox church would have us believe just the opposite because, according to their theology, THE LAW is much more glorious than the gospel because more men will be lost than saved. How can this be? How can grace be MUCH MORE than the law IF the law condemns “MUCH MORE” than grace can save?? This is the fatal flaw in the theology of never-ending punishment. It is impossible for the gospel to be more grand and glorious than the law if the gospel is so limited in its extent as is commonly taught. Where the gospel should have the glory and preeminence, the carnal man has instead exalted the law with its corresponding condemnation and judgment OVER grace.
Again, Andrew Jukes in his book “The Second Death and the Restitution of All Things,”
The law, which is and must be judgment to men, is needed to slay and overthrow them in their own eyes. But this killing is to make alive. The judgment or condemnation cannot in any case disannul the previous covenant. “Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth or addeth thereto.” Judgment therefore must issue in blessing, not blessing in judgment. But for most the veil is yet on Moses’ face, so that in looking at the “ministry of condemnation” men cannot see “the end of the Lord,” and that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy. (2 Cor. 3:13; Ja. 5:11)
The “natural man” cannot see the Lord’s end, but only sees the glory of the “letter.” However, the spiritual man sees that the end of all things is faith, hope, and love—faith in that he believes nothing can thwart the purposes of God; hope in that he has an expectation of only good from God; and love in that he knows that “all things” will be conquered through its power.
Judgment is Good
Now that we have seen that the Lord’s end is not judgment, but grace, let us look in more detail at the purpose of judgment as it applies to both the elect and the non-elect, in this age, and in the ages to come.
A common misconception believed by the Church is the idea that judgment is always a bad thing. A thorough study of the scriptures not only proves this to be erroneous, but also contrary to the love and purposes of God. As we have seen, judgment is not an end, but simply a means to bring about a greater purpose, that being, the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21; Col. 1:20). Indeed, it is a “fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” and yes, “God is a consuming fire;” however, we must understand that the object of God’s fire, wrath, and vengeance is not directed towards the poor, pitiful creature born into this world lost and dead. No, it is not directed against the spirit of man, but the flesh (or self-will) of man! Remember, “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.” We know that God punishes, but WHAT does He punish, and more importantly, WHY does He punish?
God’s judgment must come to all men, whether in this age or the ages to come—none of us are exempt.
For everyone will be salted with fire, and every sacrifice will be salted with salt. (Mark 9:49)
We’ve all inherited corruptible bodies that produce sin and death, and so we must, through the judgment of the Cross, be separated from our self-will—just as wheat is separated from chaff. Any thought, motive, or deed that seeks to exalt itself above the knowledge of God (and keeps us from knowing the fullness of Christ) must be destroyed. Dear reader, God is not angry with us (2 Cor. 5:19)—His anger is against the works of the flesh. He will punish and take vengeance on the flesh until all sin is eventually done away with. As previously discussed, God uses the process of death in our lives to break us of any area that seeks to compete with God for glory. Trials, tribulations, suffering, sickness, and even sin (Jer. 2:19) are all used by God to break stubborn man of the pride of self. If we truly understood the purpose for judgment in our own life, perhaps we would be more willing to embrace the afflictions and trials that God brings to us in order to save us. Judgment is God’s method of killing the flesh, and Jesus tells us that we must “take up our own cross.”
What about the unbeliever? Does God have in mind for him a different judgment? The answer is “No.” The purpose of God’s judgments is always the same—to destroy the flesh. (“Jesus Christ—the same yesterday, and today, and forever;” “For I am the Lord, I change not”—Heb. 13:5; Mal. 3:6). The main difference between believers and unbelievers is not in the type of judgment, but in its timing and severity. The elect in this age have the great privilege and joy (Heb. 12:2b) of experiencing God’s judgment now (it is not the judgment that is our joy but rather, the result that it brings). God brings us through “fiery trials” and tribulations--and as we submit to God’s work of judgment in our lives, we become more and more like Christ. Chastisement, a milder form of God’s judgment, must come to all of God’s elect. “For whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges (whips) every son whom He receives.” (Heb. 12:6)
The world, on the other hand, has rejected the Cross, so God’s judgment will come to them also—only it will come more severely in the NEXT age. But while the Church currently teaches the world to fear and even run from God’s judgment, it is the very thing that God has chosen to bring us to an end of ourselves, destroy our flesh, and prepare us to submit to the Cross, which brings about our salvation and the salvation of the world. Future judgment for unbelievers is only to be feared insomuch as it is a judgment that will be more severe, brought upon them by their Creator who hates their evil deeds, but loves them. It will be harsh (even violent) toward the deeds of the flesh, but the breaking away from the flesh is never an easy process, even for those of us who are named as believers. If God is ever to become “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28), then the flesh, and all of its fruit, must be destroyed.
While God’s judgment is described in very strong terms, it is, in fact, a demonstration of His love and mercy. God loves man so much that He will not allow him to continue in sin forever, but will do whatever it takes to bring him to an end of himself. The flesh is the very thing that keeps man from enjoying God’s life and fullness, and so God will destroy all the works of the flesh in order to “head up all things in Christ.” (Eph. 1:10) Psalm 99:8 says:
God forgives, yet takes vengeance on the works of men.
Hallelujah! Herein is the perfect balance of God. He loves, yet at the same time He hates; He forgives, and yet He judges.
See now that I, I am He, and there is no other God with Me. I kill, and I keep alive. I wound and I heal…. (Deut. 32:39)
Jehovah kills and keeps alive; He brings down and causes to go to Sheol. Jehovah brings down, and He gives riches; He brings low; yea, He lifts up high. (1 Sam. 2:6-7)
The Lord does not punish sin just for the sake of vengeance, but He punishes to purge and wash.
When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion…BY A SPIRIT OF JUDGMENT, AND BY A SPIRIT OF BURNING. (Is. 4:4)
But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appears? For He is like A REFINER'S FIRE, AND LIKE FULLER'S SOAP. (Mal. 3:2)
Fire burns away impurities (dross) and soap cleanses from filthiness. This is the true purpose of God’s judgment.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 gives us another glimpse into the balance and unity of God’s workings:
all there is an appointed time, even a time for every purpose under the
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pull up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew together; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
And in verse 11, Solomon sums up very nicely the reason for God’s opposites:
He has made EVERYTHING beautiful in its time. (Ecc. 3:11)
This is the purpose of God’s judgment...to “make everything beautiful in its time.” This certainly fits perfectly with Rev. 21:5 when the Lord Jesus tells us, “Behold, I make ALL things new.” At the consummation of the ages, when God has performed His perfect and righteous judgments, all of creation will have been transformed and will be a sweet fragrance to its Creator.
What kind of god says that “he is love,” and yet punishes without any intent to improve the person who receives the punishment? (http://www.savior-of-all.com/schitz.html) Certainly not our God! The world is ignorant (and so is most of the church) as to the glorious purpose of God’s judgment wrought in the Cross. It is the very thing this world needs, and the very means that God will use to bring about the salvation of all. (1 Tim. 2:4; Is. 46:10; 1 Tim. 4:10) It’s unfortunate that the Church has perverted the judgments of God into some sadistic eternal torture chamber instead of the very tool God will use to bring all men into submission to the Cross of Jesus Christ.
All of God’s creation longs for its redemption, which will finally be realized when the Lord judges this world.
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice. Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth. (Ps. 96:11-13)
But why will creation rejoice at the coming of God’s judgment? Hear the words of Isaiah:
With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for WHEN THY JUDGMENTS ARE IN THE EARTH, THE INHABITANTS OF THE WORLD WILL LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Is. 26:9)
My dear friends, when God judges, the result will always be righteousness. “He kills, and then He makes alive, He wounds, yet He heals.” And so our dilemma of whether “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin” is answered. We do not have to fear that God will judge and cast men into eternal flames never to have any hope…for this is not love. Neither can He allow the deeds of the flesh to go unchecked and unpunished…for this is not righteousness. Man is incapable of judging righteously (Rom. 2:1-3) for our judgment comes from our carnal, fleshly nature. Men have a difficult time separating the sin from the sinner, but rest assured, God has no problem separating the chaff from the wheat. His judgment always has a GOOD purpose, for He is a GOOD God. (Mt. 19:17) Judgment is never good news for the self-will of man (that comes forth from the carnality of the old nature), but it is great news for the poor soul who is in bondage to “the law of sin and death” who will one day be set free from its terrible grip. (Rom. 8:21) Let all men rejoice and hope for the great Day of the Lord when He will come to judge the whole earth in righteousness and truth (and I will also add, love).
There has been much confusion in the Church concerning the “place” of future punishment called the “lake of fire,” and I must confess, since this term is only used in the book of Revelation, I hesitate to be dogmatic as to its exact nature. However, I do believe that the lake of fire is mentioned by the prophet Daniel (7:9, 10), as well as being inferred in Numbers 19 in the “type” of the red heifer that is burned outside the city. Space will not allow us to look at these Old Testament passages and delve into their meaning. I will leave it to the reader to do a more in-depth study on the subject.
As we’ve seen in a previous essay, evangelicals like to interpret the lake of fire to be a literal lake burning literal flesh, but as I've stated numerous times, the Bible is a spiritual book filled with metaphors, types, and symbols. John received the words of the Revelation from God, “and He gave the Revelation by SIGNS....” (Rev. 1:1) It is NOT to be read and interpreted literally. If a seven-headed, ten-horned beast is not to be taken literally, why do we think the lake of fire to be a literal place? Do any of us interpret the Lamb of God to be a wooly little animal with four legs? (See the article titled, “Faith is the Key”) As we have seen many times before, this is the literal mindset that comes forth from the “natural man.” The book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is a spiritual book and therefore MUST be understood in that light.
The lake of fire is not a literal place of burning fire, but a symbol to describe the fire of God’s judgment. According to Daniel 7:9, 10, this judgment of God, represented by fire, proceeds directly from His throne, and so it is my contention that the lake of fire is nothing more than the very holiness of God Himself. (Heb. 12:29) Understanding how the ancient Greeks would view this term “lake of fire” would be quite helpful. I’d like to quote Ray Prinzing:
The Lake of Fire and Brimstone signifies a fire burning with brimstone; the word 'brimstone' or sulphur defines the character of the fire. The Greek word THEION translated 'brimstone' is exactly the same word THEION which means ‘divine.’ Sulphur was sacred to the deity among the ancient Greeks; and was used to fumigate, to purify, and to cleanse and consecrate to the deity; for this purpose they burned it in their incense. In Homer’s Iliad (16:228), one is spoken of as purifying a goblet with fire and brimstone. The verb derived from THEION is THEIOO, which means to hallow, to make divine, or to dedicate to a god (See Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon, 1897 Edition). To any Greek, or any trained in the Greek language, a ‘lake of fire and brimstone’ would mean a ‘lake of divine purification.’ The idea of judgment need not be excluded. Divine purification and divine consecration are the plain meaning in ancient Greek. In the ordinary explanation, this fundamental meaning of the word is entirely left out, and nothing but eternal torment is associated with it.
The lake of fire is not an “eternal” torture chamber as believed by most of the Church, but is nothing more than a metaphor used to describe a DIVINE process of refining and purification. Additionally, most Christians have been taught that the lake of fire is some isolated place in a corner of God’s universe forever separated from His presence. However, the Psalmist clearly contradicts this by declaring that there is no place where God’s presence is not felt.
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into
heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. (Psalm 139:7-8, KJV)
I also find it interesting that this process will take place in the presence of Christ. Rev. 14:10 says, “he shall be tormented in the PRESENCE of the Lamb.” Theologians would simply say that Christ is acting as a hard taskmaster, supervising the torture of those who have rejected Him. However, in the light of all the things we have discussed in this paper, it is clear that “torment in the presence of the Lamb” is a description of the compassion of Christ, who is continually seeking and saving until every lost sheep is found. The Cross is always ready to save, and the “mystery” of salvation in the “ages to come” is understood by few. Space will not allow a thorough discussion of this, but a principle taught all throughout the Bible is that the first-born elect are chosen in order to be a blessing to the later-born. God is marking out an elect in this age for a reason—not as the majority of the church teaches, as some sort of exclusive Christian country club, happily worshipping God while billions upon billions of people are tortured in the lake of fire—but the first-born elect (Heb. 12:23) will have the glorious privilege of “snatching men out of the fire” (Jude 23) and bringing them into the presence of “the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.”
In the book of the Revelation, the lake of fire is called the “second death.” Evangelicals teach that the second death is like the first death only it will be far worse. They say that the first death was the state of sin and death which was wrought about by Adam’s sin, and that if men do not repent in this life, they will be consigned to the “second death” never to find life again. Again, Ray Prinzing:
The offence of the first Adam brought all men under the sentence of death for sin. Hence presently our mortal bodies are in a state of dying, while our minds need to be freed from minding the things of the flesh, to mind the things of the Spirit. The act of disobedience of Adam brought forth death. Now, the obedience and work of righteousness of the last Adam also brings forth a death for every man. The question arises, ‘Is the SECOND DEATH the same kind of death as the first?’ Many people think that it is a repetition of the first, and that the results are the same, while its action is more severe and cruel, and destructive, being by fire. And some Christians add very sorrowfully, ‘and from this second death there is no resurrection, it is an endless torment in agony,’ BUT NOT SO! For God’s seconds are never duplicates of the first, they are always better, higher, and more powerful than the firsts, and used to counter-balance all the action of the firsts, and MUCH MORE - He always saves the best until last.
All Bible statements prove that the two deaths are absolutely UNLIKE, and that the two are opposite and antagonistic. The second death undoes all the work of the first death in the same manner that the last Adam undid all the work of the first Adam. Not to nullify the purpose being wrought out by the plan of God in the firsts, but to bring a release from the firsts in a MUCH MORE manner of majesty and glory and power and scope of coverage, into the greater and glorious things of God. Creation was made subject to vanity for a purpose! Sin was allowed for wise ends, but when those ends have been secured it will have to cease to exist. The purpose is not nullified, but the means whereby the purpose has been executed shall be done away. Discipline is a means to an end, but not an end in itself, it leads up to the ‘AFTERWARDS YIELDING THE PEACEABLE FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.’
Isn’t this exactly what has happened in our lives? We entered into this world in a state of death because of what the first Adam had done, but because of the obedience of Christ, we have therefore DIED TO SIN through the working of the Cross both in body and soul. This is why “he that overcomes will not be hurt by the Second Death.” (Rev. 2:11) Notice it doesn’t say that we won’t go through the Second Death only that we will not be hurt by it. Just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego who were not hurt by the furnace of the fire, those who have overcome the beast nature and not taken his mark will also come forth shining the gold of the “fourth man”—our Lord Jesus Christ. If Christians are not exempt from the fire of judgment (1 Cor. 3:13), what makes us think that God will change this pattern for the rest of the world? Does it not say, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever?” This is exactly the work that God will do in the “ages to come” with the rest of the world—hallelujah! The Church at large would have us believe that the purpose of the “Second Death” is to torture sinners forever, but as I've tried to express throughout this article, God’s judgments have a much greater purpose. God must judge sin because He is holy, but God must have the best interest of the sinner at heart because He is also love. He hates sin, but He loves the sinner. All judgment must end after its purpose has been achieved. Death will be no more (Rev. 21:4), all things will be made new (Rev. 21:5), and God will be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
NOTE: For a more detailed discussion of "fire and brimstone, the lake of fire, and the second death," click here
Without a doubt, one of the most common passages used to “prove” that God’s judgment is final and irrevocable is Hebrews 9:27:
It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment. (KJV)
It is almost universally taught that this verse refers to mankind in general, and speaks of their inevitable death and subsequent judgment. However, the problem with the traditions of men is that one man offers his interpretation of a certain passage, it is accepted by another, then another, and before you know it, over a long period of time it becomes universal “truth” that is accepted without question. This verse has become sort of the “John 3:16” for the support of the doctrine of never-ending punishments. Before we get into the text itself, I want to make it clear that I wholeheartedly believe that all men must die and submit to the judgment of God. However, this is not the passage that teaches this truth. If you are careful about reading the context surrounding this verse, you will see that it is not the physical death of men that is being spoken about here, but the symbolic death of the high priests who year after year went into the holy of holies to make (temporary) atonement for the people and take upon themselves the judgment of the people. In fact, I would suggest you try something. Before you finish this paper, read the entire 9th chapter of Hebrews for yourself and when you come to verse 27, see if I’m not right in saying that it seems to be totally out of place with the rest of the chapter and makes no sense if you interpret it the way “theologians” tell us we should. Our English translations have certainly added to the confusion and do not convey the most accurate meaning of this verse. There is a tiny definite article that most translations leave out—it is the Greek word tois, which could mean either “the” or “those.” The Concordant Version translates the verse as follows:
And, in as much as it is reserved to the men to be dying once, yet after this a judging,
Who are “the” or “those” men? I quote J. W. Hanson:
The plain statement is: As the high priests, the antitypes, died a figurative death, annually, (see Ex. 28:29, 30), so Christ was offered once for all in the sinner's behalf. The ordinary reference to the dying of all men leaves the “as” and “so” (verse 28) without meaning or application. But when we see that the apostle was showing the superiority of the mission of Christ over the annual sacrifices of the Jewish high priest, the meaning becomes plain. He employed “the men” as types of the superior sacrifice of Christ.
The reader cannot fail to see that it is not mankind, but certain men, “the men” who all the way through this chapter and the next are compared to Christ, who are said once to die. These men are the priests, or the successors of the high priests under the law. They died, figuratively, once a year, on the great Day of Atonement in the offering of sacrifices.
Having performed this rite, having died by proxy, the high priest entered the holy of holies, and pronounced the sentence of absolution from the mercy seat. Ex. xxv:22: Numb vii:89. “And there will I meet with thee, and will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with him then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims; and he spake unto him.”
The priests represent Christ, and their death illustrates and prefigures the death of Christ; but man’s death, and an after death judgment bears no relation to the death of Christ. The common use of this text is but little less than an outrage on the sense of the apostle. No one can carefully read this and the following chapter, and fail to see that the language is exclusively applicable to the Jewish high priests and the death of Christ, and has no reference to an after-death judgment.
“The men,” in verse 27, is not referring to men in general as is commonly taught, but the context shows that it refers to “the men” who have been compared to Christ the entire chapter. It is none other than the high priests of the Old Covenant who represented Christ “in type.” The writer is trying to make the comparison between the Old Testament type and the New Testament reality. Verse 27 gives us the type, and verse 28 gives us the reality.
Verse 27: It is appointed to the (“those”) men once (a year) to die, but after this, judgment. (TYPE)
Verse 28: So Christ having been once (and for all) offered to bear the sins of many, Christ shall appear a second time without sin to those expecting Him for salvation. (REALITY)
The phrase “to bear the sins of many” in verse 28 implies that Christ both died and bore our judgment. This is exactly what the writer is saying in verse 27 concerning “the men” of the Old Testament. Notice also in verse 28 the little article “so.” This is a transitional word, which means that in order for us to ascertain the meaning of verse 28, we must see what the preceding verses say. Again, the whole 9th chapter of Hebrews is comparing the earthly tabernacle with its imperfect priests to the Heavenly tabernacle with its perfect High Priest. Just as the earthly priest (TYPE) went into the holy of holies once a year to represent a sacrificial death and judgment, so Christ (REALITY) died this same death and judgment once and for all, and by doing so, secured an “eternal” inheritance for those who are called. (9:15) The comparison made in verses 27 and 28 is not mankind to Christ as most teach, but the earthly priests (“those” men) to Christ. This certainly makes more exegetical sense and maintains the contextual consistency that I believe the writer originally intended.
I firmly contend that the common teaching concerning Hebrews 9:27 has been taken out of context and misapplied. As I mentioned earlier, I do believe the Bible teaches the inevitability of God’s judgment for all men. My purpose, however, in refuting the common interpretation of this verse is to point out that theologians and scholars can be wrong, and if passages such as this one can be taken out of context, what else might they misapply especially as it relates to the true purpose of God’s judgments? Just because the majority holds a certain view, this doesn’t mean it is the correct one. Traditions are very deceptive. They often start out as one man’s opinion, and usually end up as irrefuted truth. The dangerous thing is that, just as in Jesus’ day, traditions can make the Word of God of none effect. (Mark 7:13) We must be very careful that we do not put too much trust in our “leaders” and let them do our thinking for us.
However, even if you disagree with my conclusion of the meaning of verse 27, nowhere in the Bible does it state that judgment is the end for man; neither does it state that salvation isn’t possible after the judgment. Both of these conclusions are not based on this text but on other passages which seem to speak of “eternal” punishment. However, a detailed study of the Greek words aion and aionios will help us understand that God's punishments do not last for “eternity” but simply last for the ages. For a much more detailed study on God’s purpose and plan for the ages, Click here.
As already stated numerous times in this paper, God’s punishments are not directed toward the SPIRIT of man but towards his FLESH and the deeds of the flesh. “God forgives, yet takes vengeance on the works of men.” Let there be no doubt that God will forever wipe out sin, wickedness, and the corresponding death that follows, but if God is to be “all in all” and if He is to “make ALL things new,” then sin and death cannot be allowed to exist ANYWHERE in God’s universe. Once again, the sinner will be destroyed by making him God’s friend!
Note: There are only two theological views which takes the truth of God being “all in all” into consideration: the doctrine of annihilation and the doctrine of the “universal salvation.” The common view of “eternal” torment keeps death and “hell” alive forever, and cannot reconcile itself with the glorious truth of God “filling all things” and being “all in all;” therefore it is to be rejected. The doctrine of annihilationism, on the other hand, does not teach that God will torture men forever, but that the fires of the Second Death will literally burn up sinners permanently so that they have no conscious existence whatsoever. Taken in the “letter,” this view does seem to have some credibility and at the very least denies the sadistic judgments as taught by the majority of Christendom. However, this view falls short of what Christ came to do on the Cross. Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw ALL men unto me.” Annihilation simply snuffs out the spirit of man, and, in essence, believes that these sinners were too stubborn for the Cross to reach. However, the Scriptures teach that God’s plan is bigger and Jesus did a better job than this. God is not going to overcome the world by force, but by love. Retribution and vengeance is only against the works of the flesh and God will prevail ONLY on the basis of what Christ has done! (See article titled “The Work of the Cross” )
Those who disagree with this view of God’s judgment will say that I teach that there will be no penalty for those who reject Christ in this life who choose to instead live a life of sin. This couldn’t be further from the truth. First of all, someone who chooses to live a life of sin, even though they may appear to be having the “time of their lives,” is, in reality, living a life most miserable because they do not have true life. All of us before we were brought to the Cross, were “dead in our trespasses and sins” and did not know the true joy and forgiveness that only life in Christ could give. The longer we remain in that state, the greater the disappointment will be when we realize what we could have had “in Christ.” Those who have wasted their lives on this earth by living selfishly have lost much in the way of the great reward of knowing Christ. This is a great, great penalty—a penalty of living a life on earth without knowing the true source of life, without knowing the love of God in Christ, and without knowing the reason for their existence. When each of us stand before our Creator, we will all feel ashamed for the amount of time and energy that we wasted on self, and the glory that we stole from God.
Secondly, each man will be rewarded according to the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10) Remember, God’s judgment will be in “righteousness and truth.” Not everyone will be granted the great reward of ruling with Christ in the next age. (Rev. 3:21) Not all will be a participant of the first resurrection (Rev. 20:5). And even though we may not think much of these now, they will be considered great losses when all of us stand before the Lord on that Day.
Additionally, there will be many who will be hurt by the “second death.” (Rev. 2:11) There will be great pain for those to whom this judgment comes. All men must give up their stubborn will, and the “second death” is the process that God uses to do this. Christians “mortify the deeds of the body” through the Cross now—this is, in a sense, our “second death” (death to self). Unbelievers will experience this “death” in the ages to come, and because the language of the scriptures would seem to indicate that this future judgment is much more severe, we must warn men of it. “God is calling all men everywhere to repent,” (Acts 17:30) and we should exhort men that “…now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2). I would much rather submit to God’s chastisement in this “age of grace”, rather than experience it in a future “age of judgment.” I do not claim to know exactly how long this judgment will last for each man, but the language of the scriptures is such that we should not be willing that any man go through it.
So as you can see, there will be great losses for those who either reject Christ in this present age or for Christians who live a selfish, carnal life—for those who reject the Cross in this life, there awaits for them a more severe judgment; for those Christians who live carnally, they will lose their soul and loss of rewards (See the article titled “Press on to Maturity”) However, that having been said, why must we “force the scriptures” to say something it does not—to say that God’s judgment is never-ending designed to torture men, women, and children for all eternity? Is this the only thing that will satisfy our carnal, fleshly desire for vengeance? Thank goodness God is not like us. Eternal punishment is not eternal in the sense that it punishes the offender forever, but it is eternal in the sense that the old person will be totally abolished—forever. “Behold, I make all things new.” The same Person who is destroying the old in us (2 Cor. 5:17), will be the same One who will continue this destroying work until every last created thing is in complete harmony with the purpose and will of God; and this will be accomplished “every man in his own order” (1 Cor. 15:23), and “to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:6).
The fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring forever. The judgments of Jehovah are true, they are righteous altogether. (Ps. 19:9)
The concept of eternal punishment as taught in the church today, is neither true nor just. It is a perversion of the judgments of God, and a mischaracterization of the nature and character of God. The modern teaching says that “eternal hell” is fair, just, and right. It says that God is a good God and therefore cannot allow sin in His universe. While we wholeheartedly agree that God is good and cannot allow sin to continue, the doctrine of “eternal torment” allows sin, death, and “hell” to exist forever in some literal, burning lake of fire. Will there be some dark cesspool of sin and death that will continually exist as a constant reminder to God’s creation on how the Cross of Christ could not save a great portion of God’s creatures? Will the saints continually cast their eyes on that “eternal black mark” called the lake of fire, and be content to worship God merrily without any desire to reach out with the good news that scarcely saved them? (1 Pet. 4:18) How arrogant and pompous we are to think that God is only concerned about the “elect” while myriads of His precious creation get thrown into some supposed eternal dumpster to suffer the horrors of unspeakable torture. May God have mercy on us for thinking that God could act so carelessly toward the creatures He created!
No, my dear brothers and sisters, God is not going to do any such thing. He is marking out an “elect” people (the true ekklesia) in this age to demonstrate His grace to all nations and peoples in the ages to come. (Eph. 2:7) All of God’s creation is waiting and groaning for the manifestation of the Sons of God so that it might be set free from its bondage (Rom. 8:19-23). Anything less than this would make God partial and exclusive—both of which should be reprehensible to any believer. God’s purpose for the Church is a glorious and grand calling (Eph. 1:18) that, up until now, remains hidden to the “orthodox” church, but is being revealed by the Father to those overcomers who have “ears to hear.”
Shall not the judge of all the earth do right? (Gen. 18:25)
This author does not claim to know all things, but every ounce of my being tells me that what the modern church teaches concerning the judgments of God cannot be true. It goes against the scriptures, God’s justness, and His everlasting love—a love that cost God His dear Son. God did not send His Son to save the world only to have Him lose most of it forever.
May the Lord anoint our eyes with “eye salve” that we may see His truth. (Rev. 3:18)