I want to add my “two cents worth” to the current discussion of universalism. This topic is currently being widely discussed in both preterist and non-preterist circles.
It seems to me that one thing that is undeniable is the fact that from the prophetic perspective, the key characteristic of the New Creation was/is to be “righteousness.” As Peter anticipated the arrival of the New World, he wrote “according to His promise, we look for a New Heavens and Earth, wherein dwells righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). The exact meaning of this is, naturally, somewhat controversial. Is man made righteous purely and solely through the Fiat act of God, irrespective of any participation on man’s part, or is man counted righteous, as Abraham was, through his faith in the work of God? Some preterists espouse that since A.D. 70, there is no such thing as sin, no evil; there are even those preterists who say that man is not even saved by faith in Christ!
Patently, the issue of universalism is currently a matter of widespread discussion in preterist circles. 1 It seems to me that many have gone beyond the scriptural testimony in their understanding of the New Creation, failing to understand that Biblically, the New Creation demands that we live holy lives, and that we condemn sin today. I consider it a dangerous error to take the position that there is no such thing as sin today, and that all men, regardless of their faith in Christ or lack thereof, are destined to receive the blessings of his atonement. I want to approach this topic from a slightly different perspective than what I have seen presented so far. My focus here is on ethics and eschatology, and on ethics and universalism.
I want to emphasize two things: First, I am not ascribing to all preterist universalists (hereafter PU), the logical implications of their doctrine. It is very easy to take a position without fully understanding the implications of that doctrine. This is very clear from 1 Corinthians 15. There were some seemingly devout believers in Corinth that took a position concerning “the dead ones” but they did not think through their position. Therefore, Paul began by showing them the implications of their doctrine. Paul did not say that they believed what he presented. He said that if they believed what they taught, then, logically, their doctrine led to other conclusions that they themselves did not accept. For Paul, to accept one was to lead to the other, and while he did not charge them with the implications of their doctrine, he nonetheless held them accountable for leading the way to the logical end of what they taught.
So, in other words, I am concerned to show that the logical implications of saying that all men are saved regardless of faith, that there is no such thing as sin or wickedness, no such thing as a moral standard of right and wrong to which men must submit today, is to say that all men are free to live lives of profligacy and indulgence. Now, to be sure, thankfully, I have not heard or read any PU openly espouse such a lifestyle. However, I do have in my files, but will not divulge names, an Internet exchange in which a PU said that since A.D. 70 there is no such thing as right and wrong, no sin, no law of morality. The church cannot therefore, condemn fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or any other kind of actions. The church, the body of Christ, has no standard to proclaim, except, “God’s grace is great! You are saved!” My point is that you cannot teach a doctrine without implications. And if the implications are dangerous, then the doctrine is dangerous. 2
Second, building on what I have just said, if one takes the position being espoused by some PUs, I suggest that the direct, logical implication of that doctrine is the very antinomianism condemned by the inspired N. T. authors. You might not personally espouse or accept the implications, but if you teach that doctrine, and others accept and act on the implications, then Biblically, that is a very dangerous thing.
ETHICS AND ESCHATOLOGY: THE MOTIVATION FOR HOLINESS
In formal debate and in informal studies, one of the most common objections to Covenant Eschatology that I hear is that the coming of the Lord is, persistently, in the N. T., the ground for ethical paranesis, or exhortation. Peter wrote, “seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of men ought we to be?” (2 Peter 3:11). Other writers expressed the same sentiments. So, it is argued, since the N. T. authors based their exhortations to holiness on their convictions of Christ’s coming, then, if Christ has come, there is no more ground for ethical exhortation. This objection fails on several grounds, but let me take note of just one or two.
Biblically, eschatology is not the only ground for holiness. Rather, fellowship and relationship with God is the ultimate ground for holiness: “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). In other words, those who would follow the Lord, should be like the Lord because of what He is! Not from fear of doom, destruction and damnation, but, because we want to be like Him. Now, in the very nature of the case, to be like God means that we love what He loves, and we hate what He hates, we condemn what he condemns! The suggestion being made that there is no longer any standard of morality and of right and wrong suggests, no, demands, that God’s intrinsic nature has changed.
The question naturally arises, does God no longer hate those things that always were antithetical to His very nature, to His very character? We are not discussing God’s modus operandi. We are discussing His nature. Or, were the things that Jehovah said He hated, just a bunch of arbitrary “rules” that He made up and said that He hated those things, when in fact, they were okay with Him? If God’s very nature abhors certain actions, and rejects them, then to be holy is to hate those things and reject them. Unless the very nature, the very heart of God has changed, then He still abhors immorality, He still rejects dishonesty, He still condemns murder.
Consider the preaching of John and Jesus, in regard to the question of ethics and eschatology. Both John the Immerser and Jesus proclaimed, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near.” Why were the people to repent? Because of the imminence of the kingdom! Thus, ethics and the kingdom go hand in hand, right? Would the arrival of the kingdom mean that the exhortations to repentance and holiness would no longer be applicable? Would the arrival of the kingdom nullify ethical conduct, or magnify it? It will surely be argued that when the kingdom arrived in its fulness that righteousness would be emphasized. Life in the kingdom, in fellowship with Messiah, would be incentive for living for Him in holiness. After all, if one dwells in the presence of the Righteous King, that person would want to reflect the glory of that King, right? I would agree!
What this argument fails to understand is that the kingdom did not fully come in its glory until the parousia! See Matthew 25:31f; Luke 21:28-31; 2 Timothy 4:1f; Revelation 11:15f). So, if it is argued that righteousness would be the order of the Day, when the kingdom arrived, then one cannot argue that the fulfillment of the parousia negates ethical paranesis! This argument will be examined later in more detail, in regards to the PU argument that the parousia has destroyed any objective moral law of right and wrong. For now, it is enough to understand that eschatology is not the only ground for ethical exhortati
on and moral living. Rather, the full arrival of the kingdom demands holiness and righteousness.
So, I suggest that those who object to Covenant Eschatology based on the misguided claim that a fulfilled parousia negates the demand for moral living, are guilty of misunderstanding the relationship between the full arrival of the kingdom, ethics and eschatology. The consummation of eschatology was not to bring ethical conduct to an end, it was to emphasize the nature of God’s holiness, the holiness of His New Creation, and the demand for living according to the standard of that New Creation: “Seeing then that all these things are to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be?”…we look for a New Heavens and Earth, wherein dwells righteousness” (2 Peter 3:11-13). I believe that McKnight has ever so slightly touched the hem of the garment by suggesting, “Until we tie the surviving remnant, the church, into Jesus’ predictions about both salvation and judgment, in connection with A. D. 70, his teaching about God, ethics, and kingdom cannot be given their proper historical significance.” 3 I suggest further that those who are suggesting that all moral mandates ceased to exist at the parousia are likewise failing, badly, to understand the source, motivation, and demand for ethical conduct in the kingdom.
ETHICS AND MORALITY BEFORE THE END
Since this article is, by and large, addressing universalism as it is being manifested in the preterist world, I am not concerned with proving that Christ came in A.D. 70, revealing the New Creation. I want to ask two questions at this point:
Do the N. T. authors demand ethical moral living on the part of the first century, pre-parousia saints? This is easily and irrefutably answered in the affirmative. Of course the N. T. writers demanded moral living! Paul and the rest of the inspired writers demanded that Christians, as members of the New Creation, live lives of holiness! This is critical, for the inspired writers believed that the New Creation had begun, and was simply awaiting consummation. So, the fact that the inspired writers demanded holiness of the New Creation, is highly significant and informative.
Did the N. T. writers condemn immoral conduct on the part of the pre-parousia saints? Once again, there can be no doubt as to the answer. Paul is emphatic that if those members of the New Creation were to abandon their faith, and enter once again into profligacy, they could not inherit the kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9f). He did not believe, nor did he teach, that they had been sanctified and justified, cleansed, in order to have the freedom to commit the sins of the flesh. On the contrary, he taught that as the New Creation, they were expected not to live that life, and he said they would be condemned for living that life! This kind of teaching is of course, repeated in Galatians 5:19f; 2 Peter 2, and one has only to read the letters to the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira to see the identical moral requirements, and warnings being given.
What is important to see is that these moral mandates, and condemnation for violation, were present before the parousia, but were characteristic of the New Creation! The New Testament writers were instructing the pre-parousia saints how to conduct themselves in light of the impending consummation, in light of the fact that the consummation meant that what was in place, morally and ethically, was to be the order of the Day. The moral mandates of Christ, pre-parousia, are nowhere, in contradistinction to some other elements of the pre-parousia, church, said to only last until the parousia! On the contrary, the moral mandates of the pre-parousia body were preparatory for the consummative body of Christ, post-parousia!
Let me illustrate with a situation that existed pre-parousia. The mystery of Christ was Jew and Gentile equality in Christ (Ephesians 3:6f). This was the focus of Paul’s distinctive personal ministry (Colossians 1:24-27). His message was that in Christ “there is neither male or female, Jew nor Greek,” and he taught that in Christ, “neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision avails, but faith that works through love” (Galatians 5:6). His gospel was scandalous, revolutionary. Our point is that this equality proclaimed by Paul was a New Creation reality, “in the making” as it were, but was to be perfected, by Christ, at the parousia. In other words, that equality was an already but not yet reality, and when the parousia occurred, that reality was to be emphasized, not terminated. What was “partially true,” but demanded of the New Creation, pre-parousia, was expected even more, post parousia.
The same is true of ethical conduct, and the condemnation of that which is antithetical to the very heart of God. The New Testament writers were fully aware that the New Creation had broken into the world, and that this being true, it demanded that they live lives of holiness, rejecting and condemning that which was in violation to the very nature of the New World. They did not believe for one moment that the full arrival of the New World would obliterate the existence, reality and the danger of immorality. They knew it would continue to exist outside the New Creation after the end (Revelation 21:27). They did teach that there was a haven and deliverance from that danger, but, that deliverance was in the City, not outside.
So, the New Testament writers mandated holy living on the part of the New Creation, and condemned immorality on the part of the New Creation, prior to the end. They taught that the holiness they were proclaiming was the kind of holiness that was befitting children of the King, and the coming New World when it fully arrived. If the current teaching among some preterist universalists is true however, then what Paul condemned among pre- parousia, New Creation saints can no longer be condemned. It is no longer sin, although it was sinful and dangerous for those pre-parousia saints. This raises the question: why would Paul condemn, in pre-parousia saints, those things that could not be condemned in the post-parousia New World?
PRE-PAROUSIA GRACE AND ETHICS
An answer to the above question might be offered, that at the parousia, God’s grace covers all. However, this overlooks the fact that Paul and the rest of the New Covenant writers proclaimed the abundant grace of Christ in the pre-parousia New Creation (Ephesians 3:17f). But, while they proclaimed and rejoiced in the abundance of God’s grace, at the same time, they warned against “taking advantage” of that grace, by leading profligate lives. In other words, the inspired writers did not believe that God’s grace covered rebellion against God’s grace! After all, it was God’s grace that instructed them to live “soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age” (Titus 2:11f). And to return to the point just above, lest it be argued that Paul was saying that they were to live holy lives in the end of the Mosaic Age, while this is true, we would also reiterate the point that they were to live those holy lives in anticipation of the New Order where that kind of life was also demanded. Are we to suppose for even one moment that Paul was saying that Christians were to live holy lives in light of the end of the Old Order, only to be set free from those constraints of holiness in the New World of Christ, the World of righteousness?
The choices here are relatively few.
First: Paul was demanding holiness of New Covenant Christians based on the mandates of the Old Covenant. This is patently false, since Paul never called &
ldquo;Gentiles” into obedience of the Mosaic Mandates.
Second: Paul was demanding holiness based on the New Covenant of Christ, but, the demand for that holiness was only temporary, since the end of the age was near. This being the case, one would have to prove conclusively that the moral nature of God and of the Son, from which God’s moral laws have always flowed, has changed, dramatically, and that now, in the New Creation, that soberness, righteousness and godliness is no longer demanded of New Creation saints.
Third: The third option is the one I am proposing, and that is that the moral mandates–based on the righteousness of God Himself– dictated by Paul were given to pre-parousia saints in light of the impending end of the age. That holiness is a permanent part of the very warp and woof of the New Creation.
The implication of saying that there is now no sin, no moral standard of right and wrong, is to demand that Paul’s moral “legislation” was either temporary, or wrong. I have not seen one scripturally derived or logically based argument to prove either one of these possibilities.
But, again, the argument is made that now, everything is about grace. Grace covers all; it is comprehensive. It is universal! What this overlooks is that grace was very much at work in the pre-parousia world, and in spite of grace at work, there was still sin, there was still condemnation for those outside of that grace, and there was still the demand that man respond to that grace through faith! There was even condemnation for perverting and distorting that grace.
I have heard it said that unless we today are preaching grace in such a way that men can misunderstand it and misapply it to mean that “anything goes,” then we are not preaching grace like Paul preached it. And, interestingly enough, there is, perhaps, some merit to that suggestion, although in my opinion it is a bit too strong. It is certainly possible for men to pervert and distort things no matter how clear-cut, no matter how concise, no matter how well we think we have communicated. So, we don’t have to teach in such a way that it “allows” misunderstanding and perversion.
Nonetheless, Paul’s doctrine of grace was misunderstood (was it misunderstanding or just perversion, the result was the same) by those who said one of two things.
First, they taught that since grace abounds where sin is, then that means we should, or at least we are free to, indulge in the works of the flesh.
Second, Paul was misunderstood, or perverted, to say that because grace abounds, there is no such thing as right and wrong, no moral “law” to which man, i.e. Christians are amenable, therefore, licentiousness cannot be forbidden or condemned.
What was Paul’s response to these perceptions of his doctrine of grace? He gives it in Romans 6:1: “What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin, that grace might abound? God forbid!” Now, if PU is correct, Paul was only temporarily true. He should have said, “Well, now, you have to understand that my condemnation of immorality is only temporary, and that while I am not suggesting that you actually indulge in immorality after the parousia, I cannot condemn it if you do, because then, there will be no such thing as sin! God’s grace will cover you then, if you do decide to become profligate, so just wait until the parousia, and things will be different!” 4
So, our point is that in the pre-parousia period, no one taught abundant grace more abundantly than did the apostle Paul. Perhaps no one understood the grace of God more than he (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). Yet, in spite of his understanding of the comprehensive nature God’s grace, he uncompromisingly condemned those who taught, believed, and practiced the idea that God’s grace allows a life of profligacy. If the one that understood grace better than any of us today demanded lives of self discipline, holiness, and conformity to the will of God, and condemned in no uncertain terms those who abused his doctrine of grace so as to allow and encourage selfish indulgence, then is it not dangerous today to espouse a doctrine that embraces or permits the very abuse of grace that he condemned?
So, Paul proclaimed the marvelous grace of Christ, and its’ comprehensive nature prior to the parousia. In full knowledge of the extensive nature of that grace, the apostle said that those who taught that God’s grace encourages, excuses or allows open profligacy were perverting God’s grace. It was such a strong perversion of God’s grace that Jude described those who taught that doctrine of unlimited grace as “twice dead,” and both Jude and Peter said those who taught that doctrine of unlimited grace would be condemned at the parousia (Jude 14-15). This tells us several things.
1.) God’s grace does not negate moral law, rather, it emphasizes it (Titus 2:11f).
2.) God’s grace did not, in the pre-parousia kingdom, extend to open rebellion against God.
3.) The doctrine of God’s grace that taught, pre-parousia, that God’s grace covers open moral transgressions, and negates all moral law, was a perversion of the truth concerning Christ’s grace. To reiterate, no one taught more about grace than Paul. He taught, “you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14), but immediately added that being under grace demanded that they not “yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God, as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:14f).
Notice that Paul does not say “you are not under the law” here, even though he does say that they had died to “the law” in chapter 7. The definite article is missing, and this is not by accident. Paul was saying that they were not under a law system. The PU posit is that since we are not under “the law” today, and not under “law,” that therefore, there is no moral law, no such thing as right and wrong, no sin. This is a direct violation of Paul’s doctrine. He affirms that they are not under “law” as a system, but under grace, but nonetheless says that grace forbids them (us!), to live lives given over to immorality. Grace teaches, grace demands, and yes, grace condemns that which is contrary to the heart and the nature of the grace giver!
Notice that three times Paul warned the Romans against giving themselves over to becoming the “slaves” of self indulgent immorality. He told them that the “fruit” of doing so was “death.” No this very fact completely destroys PU. If universalism is true, then nothing actually, objectively results in death. (Patently, the death in view is not physical death). If anyone, at any time, was condemned to “death” then universalism is falsified. Paul warned the Romans that to abuse God’s grace and give oneself to indulgence as a slave of sin would result in death.
It cannot be rejoined that Paul was speaking only of the pre-parousia situation, and that therefore that does not apply today. That is irrelevant, not to mention false! It overlooks what we have noted about Paul delivering the New Covenant in preparation for post parousia life. It also does not matter if one speaks of the pre-parousia situation or the post parousia situation here. The fact is that Paul said that the “end” of becoming a slave of sin was death. If PU is correct, he should have said, &l
dquo;If you give yourself over to sin, you will be threatened with death, but will never experience it, the end will actually be life.” If the end result, not an interim or temporary result, but if the end result of that kind of life, either pre-parousia or post, was true, the PU is falsified.
Notice the contrasts between PU and what Paul taught. Paul taught that the Romans were not under law, but that grace condemned profligacy. PU says that we are not under law, that there is no standard of right and wrong, no such thing as sin today. Paul said that to abuse grace and live a life of profligacy produced the fruit of death. PU says there is no such possibility.
If today, the PU posit is true, then Paul’s pre-parousia warnings are falsified and nullified. If PU is correct, it basically means that the antinomians were simply ahead of their time! They taught that God’s grace does not condemn profligacy. PU says that is true today. They taught that God’s grace allows a life of indulgence. They taught that God’s grace will not condemn. PU says that God will not condemn a life of sensuality. So, we ask again, were the antinomians simply ahead of their time? Was Paul’s doctrine that said grace forbids and condemns profligacy a 40 year flash in the pan, to take the thrill out of life for that one generation? Are all future generations of New Covenant saints not in fact under the New Covenant constraints that Paul proclaimed? Don’t forget, Paul was saying these things about grace and morality to the New Creation, instructing them how to live in the New Creation. He was not imposing Old Covenant law on the New Creation!
4.) Since the doctrine of grace as taught by Paul was the New Covenant doctrine of grace, preparatory of life in the kingdom, post-parousia, then, to suggest that today there is no such thing as moral law, no such thing as sin, is a direct contradiction of what the New Covenant apostles taught about God’s grace. To say that today, God’s grace does cover those in open moral rebellion is to justify what Paul’s doctrine of grace condemned. To say that today, there is no moral law, is to teach the very antinomianism condemned by Paul, Peter and Jude.
Let me reiterate that all of the New Testament authors were, naturally, fully conversant in regard to the grace of Christ, and its comprehensive nature. They knew better than any of us today how broad that grace was, and in light of that knowledge they unequivocally condemned those who applied that grace to the rebellious, the profligate, the unbeliever. In spite of our difficulty today with the “universal” nature of God’s grace, those who taught it initially, and best, excluded some from that comprehensive grace!
One can discuss the extent of God’s atoning work all day long, and that is surely important. However, in the final analysis, if our theology says that since Jesus died for all men, that this means that those who give themselves over to immorality inherit the kingdom anyway, then you do thereby fundamentally distort Paul’s proclamations. He knew that Jesus died for all, did he not? He knew God’s grace was comprehensive, did he not? He knew that God is the “savior of all men, and especially those who believe,” did he not? Yet, even in light of this knowledge, he, and the rest of the N. T. authors, declared that there were some things that would exclude one from the blessings of the grace of Christ, after Christ finished his work.
POST PAROUSIA BLESSINGS?
To emphasize what we have just seen, I want to focus on four areas of concern to the N. T. writers even as they expressed their appreciation for God’s grace. In other words, the inspired writers affirmed on the one hand that Christ died for all men, and said that God was “not willing that any should perish.” They desired that men would understand the vastness of the grace of God. Yet, at the same time, they addressed areas of concern, and when they discussed these issues, they undeniably excluded some from the benefits of the wonderful grace of which they spoke.
I want to focus on four areas of concern that the apostles condemned in no uncertain terms. And they condemned those guilty of these things in full knowledge and recognition of the grace of God! They spoke of these issues prior to the parousia, in full light of that coming event, and said that those who were guilty of these things would not receive the blessings attendant with the parousia! Now, by the very nature of the case, it seems that for anyone to be excluded from the blessings of the parousia, especially the blessings mentioned by the authors in these discussions, was to be excluded from the spiritual blessings of life and immortality itself. And that of course, negates the very premise of universalism.
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9f)
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19f).
Let me reiterate something here that is vitally important. Paul was not addressing the mere weakness of the human nature when he spoke of these problems and dangers. He was addressing the danger of yielding ones body as a slave to this manner of life (Romans 6:16f). He was addressing the danger of open rebellion against God by giving oneself over to licentiousness. A mistake of weakness is one thing, and Paul is not addressing that issue. He is addressing “the sin” of open rebellion. He is addressing the situation also, just addressed above, that some were saying that God’s grace allowed the child of God to live the “fleshly life” and still be covered by God’s grace.
Another thing that has to be considered is that Paul was anticipating the arrival of the kingdom, and all concomitant blessings. Needless to say, the arrival of the kingdom is the time of the giving of eternal life and immorality (1 Corinthians 15:50-56). It is the time of the resurrection and judgment (2 Timothy 4:1). To forfeit the blessings of entrance into the kingdom, was to forfeit salvation itself. Thus, Paul, Peter (2 Peter 2), and Jude, specifically say that those who gave themselves over to the life of the flesh would not enter into kingdom blessings, i.e. salvation.
Universalism has to alter Paul’s words, or deny them outright. PU has to say that those guilty of those things then, were punished for a while, and then taken to heaven. I have not found one single scriptural, logical argument in support of this, but, it is logically demanded to support the PU posit. Similarly, to support universalism, it would have to be argued that those guilty of those things were, or are, given the opportunity to catch a glimpse of condemnation, after they die, and are then, in light of that vision of horror, given the opportunity to repent and enter heaven. Again, I have not found one so
und argument in defense of this, but something like this has to be argued for the PU argument to be tenable. PU has to say that ultimately, those who were or are guilty of the life of the flesh did, and do, after all, in direct denial of Paul’s words, inherit the kingdom.
To suggest that those things that would exclude one from inheriting the kingdom at the parousia (1 Corinthians 6:9f; Galatians 5:19f), will no longer exclude one from the blessings of the kingdom now that it has arrived, demands that there has been a fundamental alteration in the very nature, not only of God, but of the New Covenant as well. Paul was expressing New Covenant realities in these texts. He was writing to Christians to whom he had proclaimed the abundant grace of God. Yet he warned them that to give themselves over to immorality 5 would result in loss of the kingdom blessings. 6 Since Paul, as proclaimer of the grace of God, was “legislating” New Covenant realities, then, to repeat, if those things that Paul warned about are no longer dangers to the salvation of the body of Christ, there has been a fundamental change in the very nature of the New Covenant. Any way that you want to express it, the view that says God’s grace is so all encompassing that there is no longer any such thing as sin, no moral law, is the very kind of perversion of Paul’s grace that he unequivocally condemned.
Notice the following:
Paul said that the profligately immoral person would not inherit the kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
The kingdom represents fellowship with God, immortality and life (1 Corinthians 15:50f).
The kingdom would fully arrive at the parousia (Revelation 11:15f; 20-22).
John said that the immoral remain outside the city, after the parousia. That is they remain outside the kingdom wherein is found fellowship with God, immortality and life (Revelation 22:15).
So, Paul–who wrote of the salvation of “all men”– nonetheless said that someone, i.e. the morally profligate, would not inherit the kingdom. The kingdom represents salvation (Matthew 25:31f). Therefore, the morally profligate would not inherit salvation. Universalism is falsified if the morally profligate did not, or do not inherit the kingdom/salvation. The morally profligate did not/do not inherit the kingdom. Therefore, universalism is falsified.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:1-4).
Paul is addressing the Judaizing problem. He struggled mightily with these Judaizers, who taught that the Gentiles, “must keep the Law of Moses and be circumcised to be save” (Acts 15:1-2). These Judaizers were Christians. However, for the discussion of universalism, it does not matter who they were! The point of fact is that Paul stated emphatically that:
1.) Those who submitted to physical circumcision for theological reasons were subject to the entirety of the Old Law.
2.) Those who–and of course this is a direct referent to Christians– submitted to circumcision, “Christ shall profit you nothing.”
3.) He emphatically said that those who sought their justification in Torah and circumcision, “you are fallen from grace.”
Question: can a person be saved without the benefit, i.e. the “profit” of Christ? We are not even discussing the Moslem, the Hindu, the atheist, etc.. We are talking about the so-called believer. Paul was speaking to and about Christians, and he said that those who sought their justification through Torah, i.e. legalism, that Christ was of no benefit to them.
The PU has to say that the “benefit” of Christ here is not related to or identified as eternal salvation. Perhaps it is some “temporal” benefit. But where is the suggestion of that in the text? Or, the PU has to simply deny, outright, what Paul said. In other words, the Judaizers, who taught a different gospel than that delivered by Paul, and as a result of that were “anathema” (Galatians 1:6-9), ultimately were not anathema at all!
Chronologically, it makes no difference where one stands in regard to this text, and its warning. If one takes it in reference strictly to the first century situation, then it does not change the fact that Paul said there were some in that situation that Christ would not benefit! And, if a person today can be guilty of trying to live by “law” and self-justification, then does not Paul’s warning still apply? Is the principle of justification by works condemned only for Paul’s first century situation, or, is it okay for a person today to seek justification through personal perfection?
How could Paul, who wrote that, “God is the savior of all men, and especially those who believe,” harmonize that doctrine with his warnings that Christians seeking justification from the Law would receive no benefit from Christ? How did Paul harmonize his doctrine of the marvelous saving power of grace, with his warnings that those who sought justification through Torah would in fact fall from that saving grace? Unfortunately for those of us who live this far removed from Paul, he never tries to explain this tension. It is clearly more of a problem for us than it was for him. Yet, we cannot afford to deny his words of warning, his specific and emphatic declarations that those guilty of “legalism” have no benefit from Christ, and in fact, fall from his saving grace.
The argument is sometimes made that at the parousia, “the law” and “the death” were to be thrown into the lake of fire, and that therefore, sin-death no longer exists as an objective danger. These statements are of course true, but do not fully explicate the situation, nor do they explain the reality of the situation of Paul’s day, nor mitigate his warnings. These facts do not take into consideration the pre-parousia world in which Paul wrote.
Paul wrote before the objective passing of “the law.” However, he wrote to those who had died to the Law through the body of Christ (Romans 7:4), and for whom Christ had, “abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10f). True, the objective reality of the post parousia world had not yet arrived, but they were, as already noted above, a part of, and participants in the New Creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yet, as we have shown, even for those who had died to the Law, and been “raised from the dead” (Ephesians 2:1f; Colossians 2:12-13), Paul condemned the profligate life, and he condemned a return to the Law! What was to be true after the parousia– the passing of “the Law and the death”– was already at work in the pre-parousia saints in Christ, and yet, Paul still condemned profligacy and legalism in those saints! Is it not dangerous therefore, for modern students to ignore or overlook Paul’s’ pre-parousia awareness of grace, his awareness of the dying to the Law, his awareness of their raising to life, and yet, his uncompromising condemnation of profligacy? What was demanded of those dead to the Law, but alive to Christ in the pre-parousia period, was in fact the foretaste and prepara
tion for life in Christ post parousia.
Universalism is falsified if anyone would not be, or will not be benefitted by Christ’s work. Those who sought (seek) justification through the Law (or law), are not benefitted by Christ’s work. Therefore, universalism is falsified.
UNBELIEF, AND OTHER ISSUES
“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” (1 John 2:22-23)
“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9)
“Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15)
It is highly significant that John wrote some of the more “universal atonement” words in the N. T.: “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).Yet, the very one that, like Paul affirmed the “universal” atoning work of Christ, also affirmed that those who reject Christ are “liars,” they are “antichrist,” and they do not have i.e. possess fellowship with, the Father.
What does it mean to not have either the Son or the Father? Is that a salvific issue? Is that strictly an issue of temporal blessings? This is untenable. John was not concerned here with temporal blessings. He was concerned with fellowship, and he said that those who deny Jesus as the Christ do not have either Christ, or the Father! This sounds suspiciously like “I am the Way the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Can a person have eternal life, redemption and salvation, if they do not have fellowship with either the Father or the Son? If so, with whom do they have fellowship, and who is it that forgives their sin? Who is it that extends grace to them, if they do not have the blessings of either the Father or the Son?
These verses affirm, directly several things:
1.) That salvation is not by the Fiat act of God separate and apart from man’s acceptance of Christ. 7
2.) There must be “acceptance” of Christ, by the believer (Cf. John 1:11-12).
3.) Those who refuse to accept Christ have no fellowship with the Father.
4.) Those who refuse to accept Christ in faith are liars in their denial, because the Truth is that Jesus is the Christ, and their unbelief is a denial or rejection of Truth. They are not only liars, they are “antichrist” i.e. they stand opposed to Christ.
Now, for the PU to posit salvation for those who are “antichrist” they must be able to demonstrate that the enemies of God have ever been rewarded by God. They must be able to prove with scripture, not emotionalism, that God ignores unbelief and rebellion, and actually rewards it with salvation. They must be able to prove, with scripture, that what John really meant is that the unbelievers are only temporarily liars and antichrist, but that they will ultimately not be liars and antichrist, because once they realize the awfulness of their condition that they will be taken to heaven. He said no such thing.
At this juncture, it would be good to take note of a situation that Revelation describes, i.e. the post-parousia world. In Revelation 21: 27 we are told that after the end, after the arrival of the New Creation when every person who has ever, or will ever live, is supposedly declared justified and redeemed according to PU, that there are still liars outside the city! They do not dwell in the presence of the Father and the Son–just as 1 John 2:22f suggests. The Tree of Life is inside; they are outside, and they do not enter the city. The river of life is inside. They are outside.
In one discussion with a PU, I pointed these things out, and was simply met with a derisive comment that I was “nitpicking.” However, it is not nitpicking to honor the words of the inspired text! What does it mean to be outside the city, in the post parousia world?
So, here is what we have: Before the parousia, John says that those who deny the Son do not have the Father, and they are liars.
In Revelation, John describes the post parousia world and says that liars remain outside the city, outside the blessings of the city. The question is, how can John depict anybody outside the city, unable to enjoy the blessings of the Father and the Son, if universalism is true? Is being outside the city the same as being inside the city? Is life given to those outside the same as to those inside?
The description of the post parousia worlds gives no hint of a “second chance,” no hint of acceptance in, or of, unbelief. No suggestion that God’s grace is so comprehensive–or compelling– that it brings the unbelieving “liars” under the umbrella of that grace. No hint that God’s “desire” that all men would be saved has over ridden man’s rejection of His grace.
Just as Jesus said to Jerusalem, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stones those who are sent to thee! How often I would have gathered you under my wing as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but you would not!” (Matthew 23:37). Was it Jesus’ “will” that Judah come to him in fellowship and obedience? If we accept his words it was. But, they would not! And as a result, they were destroyed. Likewise, God “desires” all men to come to His salvation. Yet, clearly, in Revelation, some, i.e. those who work abomination, liars, etc. would not, and they are excluded from the city! God did not drag them, kicking and screaming into the City! He offered His Son to invite them in, but they “would not” and as a result of their refusal, they remained outside.
Remember who is writing these things. It is the apostle who said that Christ died for all men! Was John contradicting himself? More importantly, was the Holy Spirit confused? No. It seems to me that there are only a few possible solutions to this issue:
1.) Christ died for all men, and the benefit of his atoning death would be applied to all men whether they believe or do not believe. However, unless John was contradicting himself, this is patently not true in the light of what he says in the verses given above. The liar does not have the Father. The one denying the Son has neither the Son nor the Father. The murderer does not have eternal life. Thus, the atoning benefit is not automatically applied to all men, although Christ died for all men.
2.) Christ died for all men (1 John 2:2), but the benefit of that atoning death is applied only to those who accept Christ (1 John 2:22-23). By accepting Christ, they are of the Truth, and they have both Father and Son.
John’s doctrine of “universal salvation” must be viewed as “all, except, and all who.” In other words, Christ died potentially for all men. He died effectively for all who accept him.
Universalism is falsified if anyone forfeits or fails to obtain the fellowship of the Father and the Son. Those who reject Jesus as the Christ forfeit, or fail to obtain, the fellowship of the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22-23). Therefore, universalism is falsified.
PU is falsified if, after the parousia anyone remains outside the parameters of God&r
squo;s city, i.e. outside of His grace. Revelation 21:27/ 22:15 posits those who remain outside the parameters of God’s city, i.e. of His grace after the parousia. Therefore, universalism is falsified.
We should point out that any proposed “second chance” doctrine must distort John’s inspired words. To get universalism, in the PU sense, from John, one must take 1 John 2:2 as the over riding principle that negates and mitigates what John said in 2:22f; 3:15; 2 John 9. Was John so confused as to on the one hand affirm the salvation of all men, regardless of their attitude or belief in Christ, and then affirm that if anyone denies Jesus that they do not have the blessings of Christ? That sort of suggestion would impugn inspiration.
What John should have said, if the PU concept of universalism (at least some advocates), is correct, is to have said: “Those who deny the Son, will be threatened with loss of fellowship with the Father, but when they repent of their unbelief, they will have that fellowship.” But he did not say that. If PU is correct, he should have said that, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life, until they see their awful danger, repent, and enter life.” He did not say that. If universalism is correct, John should have written that those who “transgress and go beyond the doctrine of Christ” would be threatened with loss of the Father and Son, but that threat would not be real, because they will undoubtedly be taken to heaven anyway, because, after all, Jesus died for them. He did not say that.
In fact, John did not say what universalists needed for him to say. He said that Christ did indeed die for all men, but he also said that all men would not enter into the blessings of that atonement. And we cannot emphasize enough that John was fully aware of the incredible grace of God. He knew full well how marvelous, deep and wide it was. Christ’s grace could encompass anyone and everyone, no matter what they had done, if they accepted that grace through faith! But in full knowledge of that grace and its wonder, he nonetheless said that there were limits to that grace, and one of the limits of that grace was unbelief, and rejection of Christ. This is not the doctrine of universalism.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4f).
“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”
We could write a book on these verses. But, this article is already getting too long. Just a few observations.
1.) In chapter 6, the text does not say “if they shall fall away,” it literally speaks of those “falling away.” There is no hypothetical situation here. The author is considering those who have been partakers of the Spirit, and tasted of the heavenly gift, etc. These are Christians! They were apostatizing. And the writer likens them to the thorns and non-productive plants of the field “whose end is to be burned” and rejected (6:8). Was the author simply expressing the idea that Christians who went back into Judaism were doomed to die in the city, or does the idea of “rejection” not go beyond that?
2.) In chapter 10, the author is dealing with those who had been “sanctified” (v. 29), and “enlightened” (v. 32, from photesthentes. Robertson, says this is equivalent to “regeneration,” 8 ). These are like those in chapter 6 who have tasted of the heavenly gift, and partaken of the Spirit of God. The only difference is that in chapter 6, the writer contemplates those who were falling away, and in chapter 10 he is encouraging the readers not to fall away.
3.) In chapter 10 the author is considering those who openly, rebelliously, reject the Way of Christ, and return to the Law. So, we are dealing with a situation similar to that under the “legalism” heading, but, here, we have open apostasy back into the Old Creation. These had once come to “the full knowledge of the truth” (v. 26– from epignosko). This is not just intellectual knowledge, but comprehensive acknowledgment. They had made it theirs! They had known Christ! Once again, we are not dealing with the simple human condition of weakness of the flesh. This is open apostasy, open rebellion, open rejection of that once believed, embraced and practiced.
4.) Those who had once embraced Christ, and his grace, but were now openly rejecting him and returning to the Law, were guilty of three things: a.) They had trodden Christ under foot. They were guilty of crucifying Christ afresh (Hebrews 6:4f). b.) They were despising the very blood of Christ, the blood that confirmed the New Covenant of grace, counting it as an unholy thing. They were guilty of “doing insult” (from enubrizo, a “strong word” per Robertson, p. 414 ), to the very spirit of grace that they had received. They had known and experienced grace but were now rejecting that grace! Was God going to impose grace on those who knew of it, but still did not want it?
5.) Those who were guilty of these things were subject to a fate worse than those who despised the Law of Moses and died a physical death as a result. Question: What is worse than physical death?
It can’t be argued that all the writer is expressing is the threat of physical death in the impending Jerusalem holocaust. That would be the same kind of death suffered by those who despised the Law of Moses! Incidentally, those who rejected Christ were to suffer being “cut off from the people,” because they were in fact being disobedient to the Law, that testified of Jesus (Acts 3:23f)! So, in effect, those who rejected Moses and the Law through rejecting Christ did suffer the penalty of the Law. However, those who had accepted Christ, and then rejected him, would endure a greater, worse punishment than that!! So, again, the question is: What punishment is worse than physical death? There can only be one answer, and that is “spiritual death.” 9
In these verses, there is no hint of a second chance. No hint of grace imposed. No suggestion of repentance on the part of the apostate. There was only something worse than physical death for those who had come to rejoice in the crucifixion of Jesus, and had come to despise the New Covenant–the covenant of grace, forgiveness and salvation– and had come to despise the very grace that they had once received.
Now, it might be rejoined that no one today can be guilty of that since the Old Law has been removed. This is a non-sequitor. Can anyone duplicate precisely, what those who crucified Jesus did? No. But, according to the write
r of Hebrews, to once embrace Christ and then to forsake him is tantamount to engaging once again in his crucifixion! Can a person today come to agree with those who crucified Jesus? You know they can, they have, and they do.
Furthermore, can a person today be guilty of involvement in the world, accept Christ, and then abandon Christ and become an unbeliever? Consider a Moslem. Islam rejects Christ’s atoning death, and denies his resurrection. He is not the Son of God! Well, if a Moslem abandons Islam by faith in Christ, but then later rejects Christ and once again embraces the former belief that Christ is not the Son of God, did not die for his sins, and is not raised from the dead, just how different, in principle, is that from the situation in Hebrews? He has made the transition from faith to unbelief! He now counts the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified an unholy thing. He is now insulting the spirit of grace, is he not? He now denies the Son, does he not? If the rejection of faith and journey to unbelief is still possible, then is not the danger of that transition not still valid? After all, what we have threatened in Hebrews 10 (and cf. Hebrews 2, 12 also), was not Old Covenant wrath (only). It was worse than Old Covenant punishment!
Let me express this like this. It does not matter, to some degree, who the writer of Hebrews is discussing.
1.) If a person takes the Arminian view, then those who were once sanctified and redeemed by the blood of Christ were now apostatizing and were to receive a fate worse than physical death.
2.) If a person takes the Calvinistic view, then these were never really “saved” in the first place, having only an appearance of salvation. Nonetheless, from the writer’s perspective, if, even taking a Calvinistic view, if anyone ever did, or ever will, suffer a fate worse than physical death, then universalism is falsified. And undeniably, in Hebrews, the author was saying that someone was to suffer such a fate.
3.) It does not matter how one wishes to delineate between the words atonement, reconciliation, and salvation. The fact is that there was a group under consideration that were to receive a fate worse than physical death.
The fact is that in Hebrews we have a group of people who had and were “falling away.” They had been partakers of the benefits of Christ’s blood, God’s grace and gifts. However, they had now rejected Christ as the Messiah, and, per 1 John 2:22f, were now classified as liars because they now rejected Jesus as Messiah. Thus, They no longer had the Father and the Son. Further, a case can be made that they now “hated their brother” i.e. Christian brothers, and as a result, now, they did not have eternal life abiding in them. They now counted the blood of the covenant, by which they had been sanctified an unholy thing, and were insulting the Spirit of grace. Thus, there awaited them a fate worse then physical death.
Had Christ died for them? Surely, for it is his blood by which they had been sanctified. 10 Christ’s blood is a direct referent to his atoning work (Hebrews 9:24-28), and is thus a salvation reference. So, we have a reference here to a group of people, and remember that it does not matter if a person takes a Calvinistic perspective or an Armenian, this group of people was to receive a fate worse than physical death. Thus, if this group of people did in fact receive that threat of a fate worse than physical death, then universalism is falsified.
Universalism is falsified if a person could or can forsake Christ and suffer a fate worse then physical death. Those in Hebrews 6, 10 were forsaking Christ and were in danger of a fate worse than physical death. Therefore, universalism is falsified.
Universalism is falsified if a person could (can) reject faith and reject grace, and be subject to a fate worse than physical death. Those in Hebrews 6, 10, had or were in danger of, rejecting faith and rejecting grace, and were in danger of a fate worse than physical death. Therefore, universalism is falsified.
Now, we have to be reminded again that if the author of Hebrews was Paul, that he was the author of the statements that God desires all men to be saved. He wrote that God wanted all men to come to knowledge of the truth and be saved. He wrote that God is the savior of all men, especially those who believe. Yet, in full recognition of those facts, Paul (or whoever wrote Hebrews, it does not matter), was still compelled by the Spirit to say that while God wants all to be saved, there were some who were going to effectively reject that grace, that salvation, and suffer a fate worse than physical death. I therefore suggest again that the Biblical doctrine of Christ’s “universal work” is that “he died for all men potentially, but for the believer effectively.”
POST PAROUSIA ETHICAL DEMANDS
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:11f)
I have argued thus far that Paul and the rest of the N. T. writers were giving their moral mandates and commands, not based on the Old Creation, but on the New, preparing and instructing the New Creation members for life in the New World. In other words, what was wrong morally, in the pre-parousia New Creation, was to be wrong when the New Jerusalem came down from God out of heaven. What was holy, pure and good in the pre-parousia world was to be expected when the New Order was fully in place. Paul nor any other inspired writer ever suggests that there would be a time when morality, based on the holiness of God and the New Covenant, would not be demanded of the children of the King. The text above demonstrates this definitively.
Notice that Paul says that the Old World of darkness was ready to pass. The Day of the Lord was near, to usher in the glorified New Creation. Consequently, the apostle urges his readers to live lives of holiness by putting aside, among other things, “rioting and drunkenness, chambering and wantonness, strife and envying.” See also the works of the flesh in 2 Corinthians 6, Galatians 5, 2 Peter 2 , Jude, and Revelation again. And now note, that in putting these things off, and clothing themselves with Christ, they were to live “as in the day.” This highly significant term means one thing: “live your lives as if the Day of the New Creation had fully arrived!”
The implications here are undeniable.
First, to engage in profligacy was to live in darkness, and it was wrong.
Second, to put on Christ and live a holy life was right.
Third, to live a holy life was demanded.
Fourth, to live a holy life was to live as if they were already in the Day, where that kind of life would be the standard!
Fifth, undeniably, to refuse to live the life consistent with the Day would be wrong. It would be to refuse to put on Christ.
What these undeniable facts show us is that in the New World, the world of the Day, that there is a definite standard of right and wrong. Those things listed by Paul, i.e. “rioting, drunkenness, chambering, wantonness, strife and envying,”
and the other evils listed in the other texts, are still evil, they are still sin, because they are a violation of the very nature and character of the Day!
The fact that Paul sets forth a standard of right and wrong that would, and does, characterize life within the New Creation, is totally destructive to claims of some advocates of PU. To say that there is no right or wrong, that grace covers even the most rebellious of unbelievers, flies in the face of Paul’s demand for a certain kind of living when the Day arrived.
This same kind of demand of righteous living, and implicit condemnation of immorality is to be found in Peter’s famous statement that they were anticipating “a new heavens and earth, wherein dwells righteousness.” That world of righteousness, the body of Christ, was not to be a world in which morality has become subjective, unknowable, or non-existent. It is to be a world of righteousness, based on faith in the one who founded and perfected this Aeon. Just like Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him for righteousness, the N T. writers believed that imputed righteousness, through faith, was the order of the Day. They knew that there was no righteousness through the Law (Galatians 3:20f). They knew however, that for those who believed, as Abraham did, that they,“became “the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:26-29).
The N. T. writers did affirm that Christ died for all, and desires that all men be saved, they affirmed nonetheless, uncompromisingly, that salvation is in Christ, only in Christ, by faith.
We have seen that Paul said that “the end” of becoming a slave of immorality was death.
We have seen, that in the pre-parousia world, the N. T. writers affirmed that those who lived lives of immorality would “will not inherit the kingdom.” We have seen that John, in describing the post parousia world, says that the immoral are outside the city. They have not inherited the kingdom!
We have seen that John, writing before the parousia, said that those who deny Christ do not have the Father or the Son, and are liars. The same author, describing the post parousia world, said that liars are without the city, excluded from its blessings.
We have seen that in the pre-parousia world, the blessings of God were to be found “in Christ.” In the post parousia world of Revelation blessings are found only “in the city.”
These irrefutable facts falsify the doctrine of universalism. An emotional appeal to the “mercy and grace of God” cannot mitigate or falsify these inspired statements and descriptions. We have no authority today to impute to the rebellious unbeliever what the inspired writers promised to those of faith.
 The discussion of universalism is being revived outside of preterist circles as well. A recent new book Universal Salvation? The Current Debate, Robin A. Parry and Christopher H. Partridge, editors, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2003), reveals that the topic is being revived within scholarly circles once again.  Very clearly, one has to prove that the implications that one thinks that they see in a doctrine, are indeed valid. I have had any number of opponents of Covenant Eschatology claim that it implies this or that, and therefore it is wrong, when in fact, what they claimed was an implication was just an over active imagination, based on faulty assumptions on their part, as they attempted desperately to maintain a long held view. Scott McKnight, A New Vision for Israel, (Grand Rapids, Eerdman’s, 1999)13.  Part of the issue here is the reality of objective right and wrong. Some might object by saying that adultery, homosexuality, thievery, murder are still “wrong” because they harm people, not because they are still considered dangerous sins in God’s eyes. This is semantic sophistry. David realize that his adulterous sin was a sin against God, not just against Bathsheeba and her family (Psalms 51): “Against you and you only have I sinned.” You cannot relegate “sin” to a simple matter of offending fellow humans. The atheist will argue that these things are wrong because they harm people, but that there is no objective standard of right or wrong, for which man must answer. So, will PU adopt the humanistic relativist mentality, wrapping it up in theological robes? The end result is the same, a rejection of the righteousness of God. In other words, Paul was not warning that simple “weakness of the flesh” would result in loss of kingdom blessings. He was addressing the danger of committing “the sin” i.e. the sin of Adam, by open, continuous rebellion against the will of God. In Paul’s writings, there is a distinct difference between “the sin” and “sin.” For Paul, “sin” is the human in weakness, struggling with his desire to serve the Lord, and his own frailty. “The sin” is man in open rebellion. He is not struggling. He wants to be his own god, the ruler of his own destiny and decisions. It is the later Paul has in mind in 1 Corinthians 6, Galatians, Hebrews 6, 10. etc.  In a sense, in the discussion of universalism, it does not matter who Paul is addressing. His statements that those who give themselves to rebellion against God’s moral law excludes someone from enjoying the kingdom blessings, after the time of the end! Only God can provide salvation. So, in that sense, salvation is a Fiat act of God. However, that is not John’s point, nor mine. My point is that John affirms that a person must be actively involved in accepting Christ in order to receive the blessings that the Father has offered. If there is no active acceptance of Christ, there are no blessings from the Father.  A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures of the N. T. Vol. V., (Nashville, Broadman, 1932)414 Very clearly, the author does not have any kind of temporal chastisement in mind, because any kind of temporal “chastening of His children,” could never be worse than the physical death of the text’s comparison. This threat is exponentially worse than any temporal chastisement, and that can only be spiritual death.
 It is my personal conviction that too much emphasis is being placed on a supposed distinc
tion between the atonement of Christ, reconciliation, redemption and salvation. In the mind of a Jewish reader, the completion of the work of Christ, in the antitypical fulfillment of the High Priestly function, would bring about reconciliation for the alienated. That reconciliation would be accomplished through forgiveness of sin, because sin is what alienated in the first place. However, the forgiveness of sin is the climax of the atonement process, and the climax of the atonement praxis was in fact salvation. For Paul, redemption is inalienably linked with forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7). So, while there may be, and are, nuances in the different words with some variation of emphasis, nonetheless, substantively one would be hard pressed to draw sharp distinction between these terms.
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