Monday, November 7, 2011
Redux - Lord of the Living and the Dead
Note: I was not satisfied with the last chapter posted, and have ended up revising the revision. I felt that the chapter in its early parts strayed from the subject it was intended to address. There is so much that I want to communicate in this book that I struggle at times to know how to properly apportion and present it. I ask those who benefit from reading this blog to please pray that I would be guided by the Spirit and write with that anointing that Yahweh is willing to bestow.
Lord of the Living and the Dead
Joseph Herrin (11-07-2011)
A key doctrine that the saint in Christ must understand and receive in order to grasp Yahweh’s plan to restore all creation to Himself is that Christ’s work of reconciliation does not stop at the grave. A great many Christians have been taught, or have in some manner concluded, that when a person dies their fate is sealed for eternity. If an individual died separated from God, it is assumed that they must remain forever estranged from God.
It is this belief that man has only one shot at being reconciled to God that forms the foundation for the grotesque doctrine of eternal damnation. The prevailing teaching in the church today is that the majority of men and women from all ages, including the present time, are lost. They will die in their sins, never having come to know Christ as Savior and Lord. Because the majority of mankind did not receive Christ while they were alive on the earth, it is taught that they must be cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity. Even after billions of years have passed, it is taught that these tormented souls will have no possibility of ever escaping from torment, or being reconciled to the Father.
Such doctrines defame God, painting Him with an image of a severity so extreme that it beggars the imagination. The church teaches that Yahweh’s wrath is greater than His love. How could it be otherwise if Yahweh will never relent of tormenting lost souls, even after they have endured punishments and suffering far in excess of the length of their earthly lives? According to the prevailing doctrine of the church, a person could spend a million lifetimes in hell and not be any closer to being released, for it is taught that there is no opportunity for repentance or reconciliation beyond the grave.
Having been shown by the Spirit of Christ the error of the doctrine of eternal torment, I am bold enough to say that the god most Christians have envisioned in their minds is a cruel tyrant. This cruel tyrant in no way resembles the true and living God. Hell and the Lake of Fire do exist; There is punishment and suffering awaiting those who sin; Yahweh is to be feared, but He is not going to subject any part of His creation to eternal torments.
If you find such a statement hard to bear due to the persistent proclamation of a message of eternal torment, I encourage you to review again what has been presented thus far in this book. The goal of Christ’s reign is to reconcile “all things” to the Father. Christ must reign until He fills all things; until He has subdued every enemy under His feet. This subjection is not merely that of a conquered foe where Christ stands with His foot upon the neck of the rebellious in heart. What the Bible declares is that a full reconciliation must take place, attended by repentance and confession of the righteousness and power of God.
Some in teaching on the subject of the universal reconciliation of all men do err by climbing out of one ditch only to be cast headlong into the ditch on the other side of the road. Some deny that there is any punishment of sinners after this life. Such a conclusion ignores a wealth of Scriptures that declare otherwise. When one considers the whole counsel of the word of God, and have rightly divided it, they will perceive that Yahweh will indeed punish sinners. Many will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Yet, the wrath of God will come to an end when every man has repented. Yahweh takes no pleasure in punishing the wicked. What He finds pleasure in is a repentant heart.
“But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declares Yahweh God, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?”
When God judges a people, we see a manifestation of His righteous wrath. However, the wrath of Yahweh is always temporal. He does not remain perpetually angry at anyone.
There are certainly Scriptures that seem to contradict such a conclusion. There are many Scriptures that speak of God cutting men off forever, of never showing them forgiveness, even of blotting out entire nations from the earth. If we were to view these Scriptures in isolation, we could certainly arrive at a doctrine of eternal damnation, or possibly of annihilation. When the entire counsel of the Scriptures is considered, it is revealed that the mercy of God will triumph over judgment in the end.
Following is one passage, if taken out of the larger context in which it is found, would appear to prove the doctrine that says God will reject some men forever. After Moses had delivered the Law of God to the Israelites, he then spoke of the punishment that would accrue to that man who disregards the Law of God by spurning those curses and judgments pronounced by the Law.
It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, "I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.” Yahweh shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of Yahweh and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and Yahweh will blot out his name from under heaven. Then Yahweh will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law.
Moses then proceeds to pronounce a similar judgment upon the entire nation of Israel if they should forsake Yahweh and His law.
Now the generation to come, your sons who rise up after you and the foreigner who comes from a distant land, when they see the plagues of the land and the diseases with which Yahweh has afflicted it, will say, “All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which Yahweh overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.” All the nations will say, "Why has Yahweh done thus to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?” Then men will say, "Because they forsook the covenant of Yahweh, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom He had not allotted to them. Therefore, the anger of Yahweh burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book; and Yahweh uprooted them from their land in anger and in fury and in great wrath, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.”
These judgments of God have actually been poured out. There were people, and even an entire land, upon whom Yahweh brought the most severe judgment. Yahweh refused to pass over the sins of His people. They did not find forgiveness. They were delivered into the hands of their enemies. They experienced slaughter, famine, pestilence and disease. Their wealth was looted, and those who remained were taken captive into foreign lands. Yahweh did make the land of Israel a wasteland like unto Sodom and Gomorrah. The people were blotted out as a nation. Their country was taken from them. They were dispersed among the nations.
We know, however, that Yahweh’s wrath did not burn perpetually against His people. Though He demonstrated that He would not overlook their sins, and He proved willing to punish the evildoer, in time He showed His forsaken people mercy once again. The passage continues with the following words:
So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where Yahweh your God has banished you, and you return to Yahweh your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then Yahweh your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where Yahweh your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there Yahweh your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. Yahweh your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. Moreover Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.
Is this not a marvelous thing? Yahweh in His wrath strikes a people, but in His mercy He restores them to Himself. Yahweh promises that He will take the rebellious people and circumcise their heart. He will remove ungodliness from the heart of man and write His law where there was only rebellion. This is what brings pleasure to Yahweh - restoring the rebel who has come to repentance.
In the passage we just viewed, Yahweh compared His judgments upon Israel to the judgment that befell Sodom. You may ask, “Certainly the judgment of Sodom was final, was it not? There is no room for repentance for those who died when God rained fire and brimstone upon them, is there?” The prophet Ezekiel reveals that Sodom will indeed be restored. Ezekiel, as did Moses, compares Yahweh’s judgment upon His people to that of Sodom. Ezekiel affirms that not only will Yahweh put away His wrath toward Judah and Jerusalem, restoring them to Himself, He will do the same for Sodom and for wicked Samaria.
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it. Furthermore, Samaria did not commit half of your sins, for you have multiplied your abominations more than they. Thus you have made your sisters appear righteous by all your abominations which you have committed. Also bear your disgrace in that you have made judgment favorable for your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. Yes, be also ashamed and bear your disgrace, in that you made your sisters appear righteous. Nevertheless, I will restore their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, and along with them your own captivity, in order that you may bear your humiliation and feel ashamed for all that you have done when you become a consolation to them. Your sisters, Sodom with her daughters and Samaria with her daughters, will return to their former state, and you with your daughters will also return to your former state.”
Is it not an amazing testimony that Yahweh will restore even Sodom? That city in which God could not find five righteous will be shown mercy. Indeed, Christ said that the judgment of Sodom would be less than the judgment of certain cities of Israel, for Sodom did not receive the witness that Israel received.
"And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."
There is a parable in which Christ revealed that the wicked would be punished, but none would be punished eternally.
And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
Although this parable is specifically addressed to believers, it reveals a truth of God’s kingdom. Some who are wicked receive few stripes, and some many. There are none who receive unending stripes. If the sin of those who knew to do right is worse than that of those who did not, then how can Yahweh punish disobedient believers for a limited duration, while punishing unbelievers eternally? Did not the believers have more truth and a greater witness while choosing to act wickedly? If these believers “share a place with the unbelievers” then is it not logical to conclude that there are none who will receive unending stripes?
Sodom is like that servant that did not know his master’s will, and he acted wickedly. Israel is that servant that knew the master’s will and still chose wickedness. This is why Christ said it would be more tolerable for Sodom than for the cities of Judea in the day of judgment. Those to whom much is give have much required.
Do not Christ’s words regarding Sodom reveal that her punishment is not eternal? How could the punishment of Sodom be “more tolerable” than that of Bethsaida if the punishment was endless? Even in the Law of Moses we find that punishments had limits set to them.
“If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. He may beat him forty times but no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not degraded in your eyes.”
Yahweh’s punishments are meted out. Yahweh’s wrath is only for a moment. His love for that which He has created leads always to a renewal of mercy.
"Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; But you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your husband is your Maker, whose name is Yahweh of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth. For Yahweh has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one's youth when she is rejected," says your God. "For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you," says Yahweh your Redeemer.
The words above were addressed to Israel. Yahweh calls Israel His “firstborn” (Exodus 4:22). As such, Israel serves as a type and shadow of how Yahweh will deal with all the nations. Yahweh chose Israel to be a nation holy unto Him. Israel strayed often, forsaking Yahweh and serving other gods. Israel became filled with murder, adultery, and all forms of corruption. This led to Yahweh forsaking Israel in His wrath, but His wrath lasts for a brief moment. Soon Yahweh’s everlasting lovingkindness once more was manifested and He took Israel back to Himself. What Yahweh did for Israel, He will do for all nations.
Two of Israel’s greatest enemies were the nations of Egypt and Assyria. Both of these nations incurred the wrath of Yahweh. This wrath will have an end. Even Egypt and Assyria will receive mercy. Yahweh will transform these nations which formerly scorned Him into worshipers of the one true God. They will worship Yahweh alongside Israel.
Yahweh will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to Yahweh, and He will respond to them and will heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom Yahweh of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance."
Israel may be Yahweh’s firstborn, receiving the inheritance, but Egypt is also God’s people, and Assyria is the work of God’s hands. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. In the book of Jonah we read of God instructing the prophet to go to Assyria and proclaim judgment against them that they might repent. Yahweh does not want to destroy Nineveh, for He has compassion on all His creation. Jonah, however, does not share Yahweh’s burden to see all nations reconciled to Himself. Jonah wants Nineveh to be destroyed, so he flees from Yahweh.
Yahweh prevails over Jonah and the prophet proclaims judgment against Nineveh. The entire city repented. Even the king donned sackcloth and proclaimed a period of fasting and prayer to Yahweh. Yahweh relented of the judgment, but Jonah was displeased. Yahweh spoke to Jonah the following words:
"Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"
Should not God also have compassion on Sodom, on Egypt, on Assyria, and on those who perished in the flood of Noah?
I Peter 3:19-20
He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark...
As Christians, we need to cast off the false doctrine that states that the mercy of God does not pass beyond the grave. Christ’s work of reconciling “all things” to the Father will not be thwarted by something as inferior to Him as death. Christ is Lord of both the living and the dead.
For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.
(See also II Timothy 4:1, I Peter 4:5)
Yahshua told those Jews gathered together to hear Him that must be heard even by those who had died.
“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice...”
In this account from John’s gospel Christ is speaking of the resurrections to come. He states that some will be resurrected to life, others to judgment. It is this judgment that Christ referenced when He said that some would receive few stripes, and others many. Those who are resurrected to judgment must experience the Lake of Fire. As we have seen in previous chapters, the Lake of Fire is also called “the second death.” It cannot continue forever, for “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” When the wrath of God has been fully spent; when every enemy has repented and sworn allegiance to Yahweh; when even Egypt, Assyria, and Sodom have become worshipers of Yahweh, then death will be no more.
Christ did not say that “some” who are in the tombs will hear His voice. He said that “all” must hear His voice. Does not such a declaration lead us to marvel? Tragically, many Christians refuse to accept this truth. Christ will reconcile ALL those who have died back to the Father. The waters of death will roll back all the way to Adam. Christ will provide a “merciful covering” for all who were born of Adam.
I Corinthians 15:22-23
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order...
Who are the first to be made alive? It is the firstborn. There is both a natural firstborn, and a spiritual firstborn. The nation of Israel is Yahweh’s natural firstborn. They must be the first nation to go through the pattern of death, burial and resurrection. They are the first to know the wrath of God, and will be the first nation to wholly turn to Yahweh in repentance and become worshipers of Yahshua.
And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”
"At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of Yahweh,’ and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of Yahweh; nor will they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart. In those days the house of Judah will walk with the house of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers as an inheritance. Then I said, ‘How I would set you among My sons and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful inheritance of the nations!’ And I said, ‘You shall call Me, My Father, and not turn away from following Me.’”
What a glorious day it will be when Yahweh restores all Israel to Himself! Israel will then serve Yahweh as priests, leading the nations to repentance and restoration to the God of all creation. Israel has not thus far received this call. Like Jonah, Israel has fled from the call of God upon their lives. They have not desired to see the nations restored to the favor of Yahweh. Israel has manifested the attitude seen in the elder brother to the prodigal son. When the father was rejoicing that his son who had been lost had been restored to him, the elder brother was angry.
“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.' But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’”
The attitude of the elder son is detestable. He is angry because his father is merciful. So too were the Jews incensed at the idea that the nations should be reconciled to God. They wanted to be exclusive. Their hearts were selfish. They did not share the burden that the Father has for the prodigal nations. Contrast the attitude of the elder son with that of the father.
“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate.”
How remarkable is the love of God! He does not delight in the death of the wicked. He desires repentance and restoration. Reconciliation is what He takes pleasure in.
What the natural seed has done in showing scorn at the mercy of Yahweh toward the nations, the church has also done. There are multitudes within the body of Christ who are offended when they hear it declared that the goal of Yahshua’s reign is to reconcile all creation back to the Father. This reconciliation includes both the living and the dead. There is an interesting passage found in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Yahshua 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 Yahshua Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Who are those “under the earth”? Is it not the dead? Christ testified plainly that those who were in the grave would hear His voice. The father’s words to the elder son in the parable of the prodigal form a parallel to the words Yahweh spoke to Jonah.
“But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.”
"Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"
Yahweh is ever having to defend His mercy to mankind, for man is far less merciful that his Creator. When David was given a choice between falling into the hands of men, or into the hands of God for judgment, he wisely chose God.
II Samuel 24:14
Then David said to Gad, "I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of Yahweh for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man."
David reveals in these words that man is not as merciful as Yahweh. The attitude of the elder brother to the prodigal has ever been present in the hearts of men. Is it any wonder that Christians today fall short of the mercy of God, proclaiming that those under God’s wrath must endure eternal torments, never to be reconciled to Him. Nevertheless, the testimony of Scripture is certain. Yahweh will restore all things to Himself through Christ.
When we rightly divide the word of God we find that Yahshua’s work of reconciliation does extend beyond the grave. Those in the tombs must hear His voice. Christ descended into hell and preached to the captives held since the days of Noah. Yahshua is Lord of both the living and the dead.
Did not Christ call Lazarus forth from the grave? So too will He call out to many who have perished and been buried. Those in the grave will hear His voice. Before the reign of Christ is fulfilled all who are “under the earth” will join in confession and worship f God. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Yahshua Christ is Lord; Lord of both the living and the dead.
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