"For the Lord will not cast off forever..."

...Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion. According to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men.
                                                                                 Lamentations 3:31-33

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Does Eternal Damnation Glorify God?

Will you work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise you? Selah. Shall your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Shall your wonders be known in the dark? And your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?  (Psalms 88:10-12)  

What is it that convinces us that God's plan is to punish those who do not come to Christ in faith by consigning them to endless torment in a lake of fire? Why do you believe it right now? Can you defend the concept from the scriptures? Perhaps you can offer a few scriptures containing words such as "forever and ever" and "unquenchable fire."  This article will deal with Scriptures containing these words.

But are you so comfortable with the concept that you haven't thoroughly investigated this belief yourself in the Bible? How strongly do you believe in eternal damnation? Would you feel uncomfortable having fellowship with someone who does not believe in it? Would you feel compelled to defend it? Would you expel those who oppose this doctrine from your church?  Does your church's doctrinal statement require a belief in eternal damnation as a prerequisite for membership?

Think for a moment about the very real implications of your belief! If you saw your child running toward the road pell-mell into traffic, would you stand idly by, shaking your head in sadness about the certainty of his impending doom, or would you immediately dash to his rescue and do everything in your power to save him? Indeed, if he began to fight against your attempts to rescue him, even when he's denying that there is any impending danger, you would constrain him by any means available, perhaps even at the risk of your own safety and life.  

In the previous scenario, the consequences of the child's actions are fleeting, having nothing to do with eternal consequences, but what about those whom you know to be destined for eternal agonizing torment without ever hope of light? How much do you believe in eternal damnation now? Enough to do everything in your power to constrain him? When you are in a public place, has it occurred to you that these many individuals on their daily errands, the ones pushing carts, waiting at the traffic light, sitting on the park bench reading the paper, are individuals whose now calm features will shortly be distorted into agonizing grimaces of incomprehensible suffering?

What of your own unsaved family members? Do you ever picture them enduring the reality of their destination, forever damned, their mouths twisted in a rictus of pain, fear and hopeless despondency? What is your response? Do you cry out a warning, grab them by the lapels and confront them with the seriousness of their plight -- the only rational response of one who believes faithfully in eternal damnation as much as you do?  

How much do you really believe in eternal damnation?  

Think of all of the seeming contradictions you have dealt with in coming to terms with this belief. We all believe that God wants to save all men, that His arm is not shortened that it cannot save, that He does all things after the counsel of His own will and yet -- we believe that there are many, perhaps even the vast majority of mankind, who will not be saved!  

God Does All Things after the Counsel of His Own Will

What is God's will for those for those who are unsaved? Is the will of God frustrated by the lack of cooperation by man? We know He wills that all should be saved as is testified in the following verses:

"the lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."  (2 Peter 3:9)

"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."  (1Ti 2:4)

God's desire is to gather together ALL things in Christ. Is His will guaranteed to come to pass or is His desire a hopeless wish?

"having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth——in him. in him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,   (Ephesians 1:9-11) 

"For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I SHOULD LOSE NOTHING OF ALL THAT HE HAS GIVEN ME,  but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:38-40)

What is the will of God? Does He really work ALL things after the counsel of His own will? Aren't there some things that He allows which are contrary to His will? What happens when the will of man and the will of God are in conflict as is the case of one rejecting the Gospel. Whose will prevails? We know that it is the will of God that "...all men should be saved..." and that "...none should perish...", but what happens when this will of God is pitted against the will of man. According to conventional belief, man's will overrules the will of God. How can it be that God, the Creator of man acquiesces to the will of His creation; especially when the consequences are infinitely dire? 

Every Knee Will Bend, Every Tongue Confess

"therefore god also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is lord, to the glory of god the father."  (Philippians 2:9-11) 

Whose knee is "every"? Surely it cannot include those destined for eternal destruction! Will these whose hearts were so hardened they could not be brought into conformity with the will of God actually thank Him for the mind-numbing judgment into which they are about to be delivered? No, some will say. This knee-bending, this confession; it's not a willing confession, it's a forced confession. There will be no freedom of the will. The pharisees were scandalized when Christ presumed upon the power of God to forgive the sins of one He had just healed. His question to them was to the point "Tell me, which is the easier; to heal or to forgive sins?" I might pose the same question to one who is convinced of the "free moral agency" of man, yet who is convinced that this final act of man is without freedom of the will. "Which is easier my friend, God forcing the will of man to temporarily acquiesce to His in bending the knee for a moment, or God tearing out the heart of stone and putting a new heart of flesh into the man, willing Him to be saved?" If God could do either, and one is in concert with His will, will He not choose the latter? 

"therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the spirit of god calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is lord except by the holy spirit."  (1 Corinthians 12:3)  

The confession in Philippians 2 is done to the glory of God the father! Some have tried to remove the force of this verse by saying that the disobedient will confess not that Jesus Christ is their Lord, but Lord of others! Ridiculous! What purpose would this serve? A grudging confession is meaningless and would not be "to the glory of God the Father." The same writer who penned the letter to Philippi -- Paul -- is the same writer, who in his letter to Corinth wrote "no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Spirit of God." Of course men can utter the phrase "Jesus is Lord", but only by the Spirit of God can it be uttered in truth and to His Glory.  

What Does Every Tongue Confess?

In Phillipians 2:9-11, Paul was paraphrasing a verse found in Isaiah chapter 45 in which he elaborates on the confession:  

"I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed." (Isaiah 45:23-24)  

The oath every tongue will take is that

"surely in the Lord have I righteousness and strength."

Paul described our plight before we came to Christ in Romans 5:6 thus:  

First, we had no righteousness of our own before the intervention of Christ:

 "as it is written: "there is none righteous, no, not one;"  (Romans  3:10,  Romans 3:12, Psalms 14:3, 53:3 )

Neither did we have any strength without Christ as the following Scripture testifies:

"when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6)  

As early as the book of Isaiah, we find the Lord declaring that, at some future time, on the tongue of every creature would be the swearing of an oath that in the Lord he had found both righteousness and strength! When every tongue confesses, it will be telling the truth! He will certainly have subdued all things to Himself! For most people who will never come to Christ during their lifetimes, the only time this could happen is after their physical death! This is not some "second chance" as the opposition to this truth often say. This is plainly and truthfully God's plan for man from the foundation of time.

Christ's Final Conquest: DEATH!

"then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to god the father, when he puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. for he must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. for 'he has put all things under his feet.' but when he says 'all things are put under him,' it is evident that he who put all things under him is excepted. now when all things are made subject to him, then the son himself will also be subject to him who put all things under him, that god may be all in all."   (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)  

This verse reveals to us that even death itself will be destroyed! All death will be destroyed, no matter the kind; carnal, spiritual, first, second. We are told that the lake of fire is the second death. (Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8) Death is destroyed to end all tears, all suffering. Jesus death was to baptize us all into His resurrection. He was ransomed for us all. (1 Timothy 2:6, Romans 6:10, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, )

Death is separation. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body. (James 2:26) The second death is the separation of the creature from God. Christ will finally destroy the separation of God from His people!  

The Rich Man Learned in the Flames!

"There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. but there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. the rich man also died and was buried.

And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

But Abraham said, ‘son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.

Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’

Abraham said to him, ‘they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ and he said, ‘no, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ but he said to him, ‘if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’"  (Luke 16:19-31)  

There has been a dramatic change in the rich man's character from the time before he died to now that he is suffering in the flames. It seems that his whole attitude about Lazarus together with his values have changed. The requests he makes to Abraham are made in an attitude of obsequious humility. Abraham, for his part takes great patience in educating the rich man about his circumstances and the power of the Word of God.

The first question we would ask has to be: Why would the rich man learn anything at all? Why is Abraham available to answer him and why does he answer him? Is Abraham treating the rich man with kindness in making reply to him? What good can learning do the rich man now if he is eternally damned to these flames? But Abraham patiently instructs the rich man in areas in which he lacks knowledge. Of what use are the knowledge, lessons and humility which the flames have apparently wrought, only too late to do him any good, if indeed his damnation is eternal.

No flames on Earth EVER annihilate or destroy. They change things chemically by oxidizing them. The heat can be used to purify gold, iron, or other molten metals or to sterilize and make clean among other things.

Both the Hebrew word (Ruach) for 'spirit' and the Greek word (pneuma) mean 'breath' or 'wind' Fire takes that breath or wind and combines it with the substance which is burning. This is what is known chemically as 'oxidation'. Oxidation is the 'enspiriting' of a substance.

John the Baptist said of Christ, "He will baptize you with the holy spirit and FIRE". There is a baptism of fire, a cleansing, enspiriting baptism which accompanies regeneration. The flames which the rich man inhabited were not just flames of torment, they were flames of chastening, correction, cleansing, regeneration and purification. These flames which were 'enspiriting' or 'spiritually oxidizing' with the 'pneuma' the breath of God.

Observe the following contrasts in the rich man's behavior before and after his experience in the flames:  

Before: The rich man would not accept the invitation to come to Christ to drink of the living waters, to be baptized by the Spirit. He never experienced a spiritual "thirst."  

After: He asks Abraham to send Lazarus, of all people for water to alleviate his thirst.  

Before: He felt entitled to "sumptuous" living while ignoring the needs of others. He had no empathy.

After: He doesn't ask for any significant quantity of water -- only what would adhere to the tip of Lazarus' finger. He feels entitled to nothing.  He's acquainted with the results of his life and has come to terms with them.

Before: He cared nothing for others. Lazarus had an unfulfilled desire to be fed only the crumbs from his table, but was ignored and left at the gate, full of sores. He had no sympathy.

After: After the terrible blow of learning he would not receive so much as a drop of water, not only does he not become indignant, he begins immediately to show concern for those left behind who might also come into this place. He displays both empathy and sympathy.

Before: Lazarus. worth to him was such that he was not found worthy even of the crumbs from his table.  

After: Lazarus is now a fitting intercessor for the rich man. He now had need of Lazarus to assist in the redemption of his brothers and to meet his need for the droplet of the water of life. He acknowledges Lazarus' worth and his impact on his own needs and life. He now expresses his need for Lazarus' help. 

Before: He had no care nor hope in a resurrection after which he might be judged guilty of the sinful choices he made in his life..

After: He overestimates the power of a resurrection to change men's hearts.  He now believes and hopes for a resurrection, perhaps not for himself, but for his brothers.

Before: Perhaps enjoyed the company of his brothers, maybe like so many do today, said, "I want to go to hell -- all my friends will be there!"  

After: Begged Abraham for a way to warn his brothers that they not come to this horrible place. Knowing that he might never see them again Why now, when the rich man gives every evidence of a good inner nature, is he eternally damned, to take the knowledge he has only too lately gained into the darkness of night forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever?

Before: It seems that he did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, because he doesn't fear judgment for his sins.

After: He exaggerates the power of the resurrection of Lazarus to convince his brothers to repent of their sins and avoid the fate of the rich man. He learns then the power of the Word of God: Moses and the Prophets, which were the entirety of the Word at that time. Abraham informs him that the Word of God is a more powerful inducement to salvation than the witness of a man being raised from the dead.

"For the word of god is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12a)

Question: Has the rich man become good? Paul said there is none good, no, not even one! What did Paul say was the only way one can become good? By being buried with Christ by baptism into His death and being raised in "newness of life" -- the new birth! (Romans 6:4)Peter said that baptism is the answer of a GOOD conscience toward God. (1 Peter 3:21) The flames have certainly had some good effect on him as indicated above. He seems to be experiencing a newness of life in his apparent death. He has apparently repented of his former ways.

The parables of the kingdom teach that there are those who enter early by reason of others who failed to receive the kingdom's invitation to a supper. (Luke 14:16-24) There are also those in the parables who recoiled in anger and shock to find that there were those who had not "borne the heat of the day" who were now receiving the full day's wages! (Matthew 20:1-16) Jesus said "The first shall be last and the last shall be first" There is the parable of the prodigal son in which the older brother resents that his prodigal brother has received an even greater reward than he, who was good from the beginning. In all these accounts there is surprise at the outcomes in which those who were not expected to receive a reward because of their failures. These DO in the end receive sometimes a greater reward than those who were supposed to be the firstfruits. Many upon hearing this truth recoil from it asking, "Are you telling me that they who have sinned and never come to the Lord as I have, will receive the same reward as me?" They feel they have something of which to boast over those who come afterward. Why wouldn't they rejoice as the prodigal's father that these who were lost and dead in sin are no made alive by the blood of Jesus Christ, having now believed?

There are, no doubt, those who oppose these views who are very surprised that I am using the account of Lazarus and the rich man to assist in making my case for the salvation of all men. This is because they suppose that this account is one of the greatest weapons in their arsenal in the war on this doctrine. This supposition is based upon the following fragment of the account:

"And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us."

This passage in their view precludes any hope for the rich man to reach the other side. Indeed, at the time Abraham said this, it is true. But Paul teaches us in his letter to the Romans that while we are estranged from God so that He is actively at war with us on account of our sin, those of us who have placed our faith in the Son of God have peace with God, having been justified by our faith. (Romans 5:1) So this great gulf presents no obstacle to the one who has placed his faith in the Gospel of Christ. When Christ breathed His last upon the cross, the Temple Veil to the Holy of Holies was torn in half. This signified that there was now peace with God and the way into the fellowship of God had been made. All that keeps the rich man confined to the flames is the absence of someone to teach him the Gospel once his heart has been prepared by the flames. But as we shall see, it was Christ Himself who would preach to these imprisoned sinners!

When Christ Died, the Rich Man Was Freed!

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; (Isaiah 61:1)  

Both Isaiah and  Jesus (Luke 4:18-19) spoke these verses. Jesus came to a town and visited the synagogue. When He was given the opportunity to speak, He first stood up and read from the Scriptures (this was their custom for new arrivals), and these were the verses He spoke of. He chose these verses from Isaiah out of all the others of Scripture about Himself. He then sat down to give His interpretation of the Scripture that He'd read. He said, "today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
 

Of what "prison" are the LORD (and Isaiah) speaking?  Could the prison be one like the one Peter spoke about in his letter?

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of god waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)  

What!? Did Christ really preach to those who ignored the preaching of Noah who now having died in the flood are kept imprisoned? What did he preach? Victory? A spiritual "Nyaah nyaah nyaaah nyaaah nyaah" as so many interpret this verse? Look at the text only a few verses further as Peter refers back to this verse, thus giving the proper understanding of what Christ preached to these long dead souls in prison and its effect on them.  

For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but **live according to god in the spirit.** (1 Peter 4:6)  

Why be surprised that Christ preached the Gospel to those who are dead? Do we not preach to those who are spiritually dead in sin? What does it matter "when" we respond to the Gospel? Are you offended by this since you came to Christ early and they came late? Is this not the bad attitude of the Prodigal's brother (Luke 15:25-32) or those who'd borne the heat of the whole day in the fields only to be paid the same wage as those who came in at the end of the day? (Matthew 20:1-16) Did not Christ several times say "The first will be last and the last will be first. Who suffered more, those who worked in the fields all day knowing they would be able to go home and feed their families, or those who spent the day wringing their hands with worry that it would be another hungry night? Who led the happier life, the one who during his life knew he was saved and lived a better, hopeful life, or the one who was without hope and did not share in the benefits of the Gospel during his life, dying without hope in a future after death? Is the Christian life so miserable or the mission field so horrible that you consider your Christianity a burden?

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:8-10)  

As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee; (Zechariah 9:11-12)  

Can you see from these verses of Scripture that prisoners are freed after their deaths? Do you think He preached the Gospel only to those from Noah's day? 1 Peter 4:6 seems to allow for more inclusion. And so it is with the Rich Man. The flames from the Lake of Fire did not annihilate him. They changed him for the better and prepared his heart to hear from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Gospel of his salvation from prison.

The Church is a Kingdom of Priests, a Tithe or Firstfruits of Mankind Whose Purpose is to reconcile the Whole

The Old Testament abounds with references to the concept of firstfruits. Under the Law, the firstfruits of the harvest, of the trees, of the flocks and even men were to be given to God. It was always the best of the firstfruits which were offered. The offering of these firstfruits indicated that the ownership of  the entire harvest belonged to the Lord. Once given, the firstfruits became a guarantee of the harvests which would follow the current one.

Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase;
so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.  (Proverbs 3:9-10)

In the following verse "the firstfruits of the Spirit" hints at the redemption of the entire harvest of all.  Remember, God's receiving of the firstfruits is indicative of His ownership of all.

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

These verses reveal that with Christ, the firstfruits of the Spirit will sit in judgment of the all of the fruit belonging to the Spirit. They will even judge angels! Their judgment will simulate the judgment of the father of the Prodigal. The firstfruits will be like the nation of Israel was intended to be, a kingdom of priests who would redeem the whole.

Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)  

In this verse God's plan is summarized: God being in Christ, Whose death brought about the reconciling of the whole world to Himself, through the firstfruits of this age mediating this final reconciliation!

To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the World unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)  

Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and mankind, Jesus becoming the propitiation, the payment, the ransom for all our sins, not yet accomplished but to be accomplished in a time yet future, at a time when it is expedient, a time that is concordant with the counsel of His will, a time which remains a mystery not revealed to all believers.

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Timothy 2:5-6)  

Christ is the Savior of ALL men, but He is savior ESPECIALLY of those that believe. What does it mean to be one of those special persons who now believe? Does this mean that those who now do not believe are excluded. ESPECIALLY indicates a subset of ALL, a special case of ALL who are to be saved. That special group is that kingdom of priests, the firstfruit, the loving judges who will accomplish the final reconciliation between God and mankind.

For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the savior of all men, especially of those that believe. (1 Timothy 4:10)  

Another Scripture tells us of the special case who are being saved in this age with the words, "and not for ours (sins) only" We, in this age, are being prepared through suffering and tribulation, chastening and correction to be sympathetic and empathetic judges, reconciling priests of God, the firstfruits of the Spirit, the guarantee of the purchased possession!

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not For ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)  

So, this special age in which we live is the time when God is taking out  His firstfruits. Israel, which was in the past to be destined to be the firstfruits of mankind, has been set aside for a time until the fullness of the Gentiles has been harvested. (Romans 11:25). When this has taken place, the special firstfruits having been fully harvested and given to the Lord (the Church), the "due time" shall have arrived when Christ and His Bride, His priests and judges will begin to complete God's plan to reconcile all the world by application of the blood of Christ to every man, woman and child, every offspring of Adam. The filthy who are in the outer darkness outside the New Jerusalem will enter, bending their knee, confessing that in the Lord they shall have both righteousness and strength. They will then have access to God their Savior and to the River of Life, the Tree of Life, and its leaves for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2)

Saving All Men Is the Will of God!

Compare the following two verses with the third:  

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who *will* have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)  

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us- ward, Not *willing* that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)  

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh *all* things after the counsel of *his own will*: (Ephesians 1:11)  

Knowledge of God = Eternal Life -- All will Have the Knowledge of God!

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the Earth shall be full of the knowledge of the lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)  

For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)  

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)  

And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true god, and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)  

Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the LORD dwelleth in Zion. (Joel 3:19-21)  

Paul's Discourse on God's Plan to Save All ...OR "What in Heaven Is Romans 11 All about?"

Paul uses chapter 11 to indicate that All Israel is to be saved through God's sovereign choosing of a remnant, a firstfruits of Israel which sanctifies or "sets apart" the whole of the nation. The greater part of the nation has had its eyes blinded so that it cannot respond to the Gospel so that the fullness of the Gentiles can come in. The Gentiles' fullness drives Israel to jealousy

I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?  

What!? Those who are fallen have a "fullness". Here is the reason for the falling of some: to provoke the others to jealousy. It is through the nation of Israel that God has purposed to save all mankind!  

For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.  

Paul hopes that by adhering to this principle of provoking to jealousy that some of his kinsmen might enter the kingdom even in this age.  

For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?  

Those who are cast away now will be received! They died in unbelief, they are dead and gone, so their receiving is indeed "life from the dead"! Why should we be surprised when we believe that God is a God who redeems those who "were dead in trespasses and sins" when we also find that those who are unbelieving dead in their graves also have hope of being raised. We who are now saved were also the "unbelieving dead", "without hope in the world", but are now "raised in newness of life", "born again to a living hope".  

Just as the worst act mankind has ever committed, namely that of nailing the Son of God to a cross and killing him, resulted in the greatest gift of grace ever to accrue to mankind -- this "casting away" of some was never designed to be the losing of them forever, but was a horrible event turned around by God to be a display of His glory, mercy and grace to an even greater degree than might be anticipated!  

For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.  

We find the principle, ubiquitous in the Scriptures, that in His good pleasure, God takes the firstfruits of creation in order to indicate his possession of the whole! God is taking the firstfruits during this age, the beginning of the harvest, to be a holy priesthood which will accomplish the final reconciling of the world in the future kingdom with the water of life, the tree of life, the leaves of healing etc. God's acceptance of the firstfruits is His guarantee that he has accepted the entire harvest.  

And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.  

Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.  

This olive tree is not salvation. This is not teaching that one can lose his salvation. Salvation is the state of one having been raised from the dead, resurrected into newness of life. The old man is dead and the new man has been created in righteousness and true holiness. Peter called him (the new man) an "incorruptible seed". Death is corruption. To lose one's salvation would mean being raised to "newness of death", to be corrupted. (See Romans 6, Ephesians, Hebrews 6.)  

No, the olive tree does not represent the domain of those who are saved. If that were true, it would imply that all Jews were saved by their Jewishness and subsequently lost it. They have been removed from the olive tree! They weren't removed from salvation, but from the kingdom under the old covenant. The old covenant was a covenant of two, meaning if and only if you abide by the terms of the covenant, you will continue under the covenant. If you fail to keep the terms of it, you will be cursed.  

The New Covenant is a covenant of one, given to Abraham, confirmed by the prince (Christ) in the middle of the week (see Daniel), who was then cut off (his crucifixion) and will be completed in the next age. When God gave the promise to Abraham, Abraham became paralyzed and was unable to fulfill his part in walking between the pieces! Only God walked between the pieces. The writer of Hebrews confirmed this when He showed that God swore by his own name to keep this covenant. This covenant did not depend on any act of capricious man, but on God giving to man the gift of faith (Eph. 2:8-9) by terms of His grace. Man never comes to God of His own will ("there is none who seeks after God....None good, no not one") but even when one places his faith in Christ, it is only after God has performed the miraculous work of resurrection (Romans 6) in the heart of the man. Peter even said that baptism is not the act whereby we are saved, but "the answer of a *good* conscience toward God". There is no good conscience before God does his wonderful creative work in the heart of man.  

In short, the olive tree represents that not only are the saved given the promise of the New Covenant, but the kingdom and blessings of the Old Covenant as well, because whereas before, man was unable to keep the law, now, through the new creation which is incorruptible, we keep the law by faith in Christ. We now partake of the olive tree, its root, and fatness! What does it mean to boast then, with its resultant loss of the blessings of the old covenant? To boast against the lost branches is to believe that you deserve the gift of salvation while the others did not. One who believes he came to God of his own volition or will, must believe that there is merit in that choice which makes him more acceptable than the branches which were cast off.  

When this measure is used to judge between oneself and the other branches, one has resurrected the principle of law under which one may be judged and held in contempt by the old covenant. If you place confidence in your own will to have come to God, you call Him a liar ("There is none good, No not one!", "There is none who seeks after God", "They have turned, every one, to his own way"). Paul showed this error in Galatians when he challenged Peter. He accused Peter of resurrecting the principle of Law, when he esteemed Jews to be greater than gentiles by his preferring to sit at their tables. Paul said that Peter's actions went so far as to indicate that Christ was the minister of sin! Continuing in Romans 11:  

Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.  

Salvation consists of two stages of redemption, the redemption of the spirit (described in Romans 6) and the redemption of the body (described in 1 Corinthians 15). The spirit is sinless and incorruptible when re-created by God. That is why in 1 John, John can say, "he that is born of God cannot sin"! The body is not born of god! Romans 7 describes the fact that sin never occurs in the new man (the heart, the inner man, the spirit, etc.) but in the flesh, which Paul calls "this body of sin". The body will be born of God. Just as Paul said in Romans 6 that the old man has been crucified with Christ, buried and raised again in newness of life, he also said in 1 Corinthians 15 that this body will be similarly planted, to die much like a seed to give rise to a body which will resemble this one about as much as an oak tree resembles an acorn! In Romans 7 Paul asks, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" and answers, "Christ".  

In conclusion, while we are still in this body, which is still under the condemnation of law, we can still lose the blessings of the old covenant, though not the new as it says in Galatians that the one under law would not be heir with the one under grace. So that while one cannot lose one's status under the new covenant (viz. one's salvation), one can lose one's place in this age, of having the blessings of the old covenant. (To see the blessings and the curses of the Old Covenant, read the book of Deuteronomy)  

And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?  

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.  

This failure of Israel to come to Christ has an "until". They are not lost without end. Note that they are blind. They cannot see. Their blindness will have an end however!  

And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.  

Note that there will come out of "Zion" the deliverer. Note  

that the "deliverer" is spoken of as plural in the passage below.  

And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD'S. (Obadiah 1:21)  

This is the holy city of the next age wherein God will accomplish the finishing of the destruction of death through His kingdom of priests, (saviors) the body of Christ, the Deliverer. Note also that it does not say that Jacob will turn away from his sins, but that God will "take away their sins".  

As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.  

What have those whose teachings you have followed told you about what happens to the "enemies of the gospel?" But here we are told that these enemies of the gospel are beloved for the sake of the "election"! What is Paul saying!? Just what he has been hinting at throughout, that God uses the disobedience of man to accomplish His will! He used the disobedience of man to accomplish the greatest demonstration of His mercy and grace -- the crucifixion of Christ. He uses the disobedience of Israel to accomplish the salvation of the Gentiles! He then uses the mercy and grace shown the Gentiles to move the hearts of His people, Israel!  

For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.  

Those who die in unbelief are in the same condition we were! Just as we were once dead in trespasses, just as we would not accept the invitation of Christ "Come unto me...", but had "turned every one to his own way" and none of us were "good, no not one!", and yet were saved, these also who now fit the descriptions above may be saved in the same manner but because of our salvation and the mercy shown us, they will come to Christ in the next age. God can do this because since None of us ever came to God seeking Him, but were saved by His sovereign will, work and act, he can save all of us by the same method.  

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon ALL.  

We are all concluded in unbelief! God tried to win us through the curse in the garden (failed), through a worldwide cleansing and establishment of human government (failed), and through the establishment of a theocracy known as the nation of Israel (again, failed). The only method which worked was to sovereignly overrule the depraved will of man in a final display that there is no goodness without God, a lesson which corrects the error of Lucifer who felt that he could live independently of God. Thus is fulfilled the curiosity of the cherubim looking intently down at the blood on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. Thus is the curiosity of the messengers sated about whom Peter said they desired to look into things concerning salvation. Thus is the revelation of the mystery of which Paul spoke concerning the church through which the manifold wisdom of God might be known to the principalities and powers! Satan and his followers are learning from the church, much as he learned that Job was not a "paid lover" of God!  

This wonderful passage summarizes God's marvelous wisdom in how he can bring about the salvation of all mankind. Since none of us come to God at his invitation, (even we who now believe came as a result of His giving us the gift of faith through His re-creation of the inner man) but must be compelled, then He can save all men according to His own will.  

This wonderful truth so moved Paul that he effused the following words which many have memorized and put to music, but most have never understood what emotions caused such praise to be given to God.  

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?  

For of him, and through him, and to him, are ALL things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11:11-36)  

For of Him (all creation originated in Him), and through Him (His redemption is preparing us to return to Him through His blood) and to Him (His creation will return to Him) are ALL THINGS! (ALL will return!)  

Who Enters the Gates of the Great City?

And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.  

In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  

And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. (Revelation 21:24-22:4)  

Notice that the gates of the city are open! There are people entering this city! Christ told us that those who eat His flesh and drink of His Blood would never hunger or thirst again. For whom are the trees with leaves for the healing of the nations? Who is this river having the water of life for. Why is there a "kingdom of priests" in this city? Why indeed all of these things when the work of salvation is finished? We are told that nothing defiling will enter the gates of the city, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of Life. So there must be good, non-defiling people outside the city, written in the Book of Life, right? Wrong!!! Look at the following passage given just a few verses down...  

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without (outside) are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.  

Who are outside the city? Dogs, sorcerors, whoremongers, idolaters and liars. Wait! Where are the good people, the ones written in the Lambs book, the ones which do His commandments who gain entrance?  

Just as we obeyed and gained entrance to this present kingdom of God, these also outside the gates must also obey the commandments of God. What is the commandment of God? John told us in another of His letters, "And this is the commandment of God; that you believe in Him whom He has sent."  

So who is the river having the water of life for? It is for the prodigals coming in late, having been chastened by the time spent eating with the swine outside the gate, like the rich man of Luke 16, repentant and changed. They are those who received not the baptism of the spirit, but the baptism of fire - not the elder brother who remained with the father, but the younger brother who squandered his inheritance. What the father's invitation failed to do, the swine pit accomplished.  

They are met at the gates by members of a royal priesthood who came out of this present age. This priesthood is comprised of the firstfruits of creation, having the firstfruits of the Spirit, those given the task of doing the "greater works" which Christ said we would do. God said that He would take the tribe of Levi (the priests) "instead of the firstborn". This priesthood is the "church of the firstborn" a tithe of mankind by God to Himself which sanctifies the whole to Himself. This lump, taken out during this present age, will complete the work of Christ. These are the elders, the first born (elder brothers) having received the inheritance of the "double portion" who are given the task of redeeming their younger brethren who have squandered their inheritance. The prodigals are greeted at the gates by their first born brothers and with a new ring on their fingers and a new robe on their backs, they are guided to the waters of life and to the tree of life.  

If thy Brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.  

And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it; Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession.  

But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it until the year of jubile: and in the jubile it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession. (Leviticus 25)  

What is it in the New Covenant that answers to the Jubilee? Yes, there is still an invitation in the next age. Whoever will is invited to drink from the water of life freely. The gates open, the Spirit and the Bride extend the invitation...  

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.  

(Revelation 22:14-17)  

God Kills to Make Alive!

When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God. And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. (Psalms 78:34-35)  

Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. (Psalms 90:3)  

Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. (1 Corinthians 15:36)  

For he who has died has been freed from sin. (Romans 6:7)  

Will Some Never Have Hope?

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)  

What is Paul saying here!? If indeed there is the eternal burning of the lost forever and ever in endless torment, then WE are the ones who should sorrow! The heathen have no idea what awaits them. They have no expectation of the fiery judgement. The christian is the one who is most full of sorrow that many members of his family will enter a Christless eternity. What kind of hope is that? Is Paul implying that we are to be so self-centered that we can take comfort in our own salvation even when a loved one departs this life to enter eternity in darkness and flame?  

No, the hope the christian has is that even though this unbeliever has died without Christ, God has sworn by His own Name that His covenant will be kept. His arm is not shortened that it cannot save, His desire is to save ALL men and that NONE should perish, and He WILL perform everything according to HIS will! That is why we have hope! The unbeliever believes that the departed are gone forever, never to be seen again. The believer knows that there will be a reunion, that this unbeliever will be seen and known again in his new sanctified and redeemed state, cleansed by the blood of his Savior, Jesus Christ!  

Just because others have no hope does not mean that they are destined for destruction. We who now believe were similarly at one time "without hope"...  

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: (Ephesians 2:12)  

...but are now among those born again to a "living hope"!  

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3)  

What about Forever, Eternal and Unquenchable Fire?

The word in our Bibles "Forever" or the term "Forever and ever" are mistranslations of the term "aionios". Aionios is the Greek term from which we get our English term "age", "eon", or World and the constructions used in the Greek bible are "to the end of the age" or "for ages of ages".

The Hebrew word most often used for forever is "Olam" and it too does not translate to "forever". In the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament, this word is translated to "aionios"

Both the Hebrew Old Testament as well as the Greek New Testament use terms which speak of a limited period of time. If none of the following applications of the terms using "forever" were really forever without end, why would we suddenly apply that meaning to the terms when applied to the fiery judgment? See if the following scenarios which the Bible says would continue forever, actually continue today...  

Jonah was not inside the great fish forever.

I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. (Jonah 2:6)  

The bars about Jonah were ended when God brought up his life from corruption!  

Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever. (Exodus 21:6)  

The slave's death would END his period of servitude AS WOULD THE YEAR OF JUBILEE!  

I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever. (1 Kings 8:13)  

That physical temple no longer exists!  

And the LORD said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually. (1 Kings 9:3)  

(Solomon's temple lasted only 400 years.)  

The Old Covenant is said to be "everlasting"...  

Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. (Leviticus 24:8)  

But the writer of Hebrews declares that it has been superseded by a "better" covenant...  

If that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: (Hebrews 8:7-8)  

In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:13)  

The Levitical priesthood said to be "everlasting"...  

And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations. (Exodus 40:15)  

The writer of Hebrews says Levitical priesthood has been superseded by the priesthood of Melchisedek...  

If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?  
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. 
And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. (Hebrews 7:11-18)  

Note that this covenant is indeed forever because it uses another greek term (akatalutos) which translates "endless" and means "indissoluble," or "not subject to destruction."  

Ecclesiastes says the earth will remain "forever"...  

One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4)  

...but Christ says the Earth is destined to "pass away"...  

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:35)  

The animal sacrifices, dietary laws and sabbaths were to be ordinances "forever"...  

Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:16-17)  

Behold, I build an house to the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate it to him, and to burn before him sweet incense, and for the continual shewbread, and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts of the LORD our God. This is an ordinance for ever to Israel. (2 Chronicles 2:4)  

It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. (Leviticus 16:31)  

...but Hebrews says they were to be an ordinances "until" the time of reformation...  

Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. (Hebrews 9:10)  

Christ's throne is said to be "forever"...  

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. (Hebrews 1:8)  

...but Christ is said to give up the throne to the Father...  

Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. (1 Corinthians 15:24-25)  

And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28)  

What about Unquenchable Fire?

Many use Mark 9:43-45 to "prove" that the destructions of Hellfire are eternal or everlasting...  

"And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:" (Mark 9:43-45)  

...but does "unquenchable" mean "everlasting"? Or does it simply mean what it says -- the fire cannot be "quenched". To quench means to snuff out the flames prior to the complete consumption of the fuel. A fire which totally consumes its fuel source is never quenched! Note the examples below of fires which were also "unquenchable", but which ceased burning after accomplishing the purpose of the Lord...  

"Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched." (2 Kings 22:17)  

"Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be poured out upon this place, and shall not be quenched." (2 Chronicles 34:25)  

"Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched." (Jeremiah 7:20)  

"But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched." (Jeremiah 17:27)  

"And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein." (Ezekiel 20:47)  

All of these prophecies were fulfilled. In every case an "unquenchable" fire burned, yet these fires went out of themselves after accomplishing the purpose for which the Lord had ignited them.  

In not one instance did an "unquenchable fire" last forever!

One of the basic tenets of hermeneutics is that you compare usage of ideas in other parts of scripture "comparing spiritual with spiritual" in order to arrive at the meaning of the current text. Are we so in love with the concept of eternal damnation that we must insert the concept of "endless" torment into the word "aineaos", when in every other incidence of its use, it referred to a period of time having a beginning and an end?  

The conclusion has to be that in keeping with God's Previous uses of this concept, neither are the fires of hell Everlasting! They will accomplish His purpose of saving all men, and no one will be able to intervene to the quenching of these flames until every purpose of God has been performed in regard to His will. Even in the case of the rich man of Luke 16, God's purpose was accomplished through the flames.  

Are Sodom and Gomorra Lost Forever?

In Jude we are told that the city of Sodom has been set forth as an example of suffering the vengeance of "eternal fire".  

"Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of ETERNAL ("aionial" age-lasting) fire." (Jude 1:7)  

...but in the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel's prophecy, we are told the surprising news that the captivity of Sodom is NOT "endless", but is to have an end, being "brought back"!  

And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters. Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways.  

As I live, saith the Lord GOD, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters.  

Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done.  

Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, bear thine own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they: they are more righteous than thou: yea, be thou confounded also, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters.  

When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them: That thou mayest bear thine own shame, and mayest be confounded in all that thou hast done, in that thou art a comfort unto them.  

When thy sisters, sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate. For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride, (Ezekiel 16:46-56)  

Which Has the Greater Impact on Mankind -- The Sin of Adam or the Obedience of Christ?

The scriptures teach us that the sin of Adam had an incredible impact on the fate of mankind. That one act of disobedience condemned the entire race and placed it at enmity with God.  

Paul, in Romans 5, compares the power of the disobedient act of the first Adam with the power of the act of the obedient last Adam (Christ). The first act killed the entire race. Death is powerful, but the dead do not reproduce. The act of Christ gave life to the race. Life springs to more life. Paul said, in a faithful translation of the Greek, "Where sin abounded, grace "super-abounded". Can it be that Paul's illustration contrasting the power of Christ's obedient act against Adam's disobedient act fails at the following point?  

"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man's obedience, many will be made righteous." Romans 5:19  

We are told "death passed upon all men" due to Adam's sin. Does the act of Christ become diminished in scope on this one point, against all that Paul has said about the greatness of Christ's act over Adam's? Is Christ's act the less powerful when it is measured against Adam's in terms of quantity of its power? Under this commonly-held scenario, Adam's act of sin condemns all, but Christ's act of obedience only saves some of them, and that very few.

This logic would prove Satan right! Sin is more powerful than obedience! Who has really gained the victory when the act of Christ is put in such terms?  

Note that at the end of Revelation, Christ is still on the throne, the Spirit and the Bride are saying "Come". The work of redemption continues, so the Book of Revelation is not the end of the story. As a matter of fact, we are given a peek at an event which occurs after the end of the book of Revelation, when Jesus whose throne was said to be forever, gives up the throne to His Father. This peek is found in 1 Corinthians 15:  

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:22-28

So the work of salvation goes on after the time at which the Book of Revelation ends!  

If indeed you were to conclude that the teaching of eternal damnation were not true, you would then have to conclude that it is the greatest calumny, the greatest blasphemy on the name of Yahweh God to accuse Him of such a plan! Stalin nor Hitler ever came up with such a monstrous plan for their enemies. Even Hitler's ovens operated on those anaesthetized by death, whose fires ceased when the body was consumed.  

So whence did this concept of eternal damnation arise? It became a political necessity with the rise of Catholicism in the early church. It was a political tool to frighten people into joining political and state churches and to enforce religious uniformity. The better translations of the Bible have now dropped the mistranslations of the word "aionios" in favor of "age lasting", "age-during", or some more accurate term.  

The doctrine of eternal damnation paints a false picture of God and turns Him into a pitiless tyrant. God does not want to frighten people into coming to Him. John said "We love Him, because He first loved us!" His plan throughout scripture is to woo us to Him with His love.  

He will accept all who come to Him in faith! And guess what! You cannot come to Him unless He draws you! And you know what else? He wants and desires to save all men and keep them from perishing. Do you think He's a wishful thinker, or will He accomplish His own will. Will Jesus Christ actually destroy the last enemy, death (separation from God)?

"Love of the Truth Ministries" seeks in the spirit of the New Testament letters to Preach the Word and to correct, rebuke and encourage, with patience and careful instruction, the assemblies gathered to Jesus Christ. It ignores denominational divisions and reaches out to all who have ears to hear in these last days. Please do not ask for a doctrinal statement. We have none as we are constantly changing our understanding as we bring ourselves continuously into conformity to what we are learning from God's Word. To conserve resources, we do not distribute hard copies of these articles but make them available on the world wide web. You may download, create and distribute our articles in printed form. We ask that you let us know how you are using them so that we may determine the wisdom and /or effectiveness of continuing this ministry.

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