O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
NOTE: Please keep this posting on topic and do not let it get hijacked with emotion and side issues. It is important enough to devote careful study and polite discussion to. As preterists, we do not ascribe to a time in the future when Christ will return and "reset" the earth by force. Instead, we believe Christ came already and is progressively transforming the world through His people, who now, are in His kingdom doing great things in an invisible realm. But we need to do more than just tell futurists that they are wrong. We need to develop a complete theological framework, backed by scripture, that gives futurists a clear hope for how the world will be redeemed. This posting is just a shot across the bow to help us develop such a framework. As a community, we can reason together and help futurists understand that we are not trying to inject heresy in the church, but instead we are helping our futurist brethren understand that we all have to labor in the Kingdom of God as a present reality and not look for some golden age where God will fix all our troubles in one fell swoop.
Scripture is replete with stories of individuals and groups. And, often (if not always) individuals and their personalities are stand-ins, or metaphors, for the human condition. For example, Adam "represented" mankind, and human nature. Nevertheless, Adam was a real human (although there is dispute about that, that is not the point of this post)
Additionally, there are entire groups of people who represent attitudes and ideas, and the lifetimes they lived serve as instruction for those of us on the earth now who read about them.
I have often wondered about the INDIVIDUAL dynamic of how God looks at these people who happened to be born at a time and into a people group where God was not present and who, essentially were never exposed to the true God.
I know that we are told that everyone "knows" that God exists, or should know, based on what they see in nature. While this is true, the hardscrabble realities of a life lived in a tribe or culture where just surviving is all one can do many times means that there isn't time to ponder the afterlife, or God, or the question "why am I here?" Whole civilizations have been subjected to the whims of powerful and cruel rulers with no chance to break out from that bondage.
Paul said that the whole creation groans for the revelation of the sons of God. c.f. Rom. 8:
"…21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.…
Cross reference the OT
How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, "He will not see what happens to us."
It's clear this is God's design for all creation to groan and wait till they are delivered.
That brings me to the core of my question, and I would like to know what you think...
How is it "fair" for God to do this? Is it "fair" for God to subject some to no hope, while others are given great favor and essentially given salvation?
In orthodox Christianity, this question arises often, being answered in the reformed tradition by stating that God is sovereign and does what He pleases. But implicit in all common explanations of this is the assumption that this is the only day of salvation, and that individuals are "lost" if they are not exposed to Christ now, in this life.
But does scripture really teach that?
I have not personally seen anything in scripture that says that if someone does not encounter the true God and salvation in this life that they are doomed to extinction or eternal punishing.
Which is why I titled my post "individual versus groups"
If God is willing to "sacrifice" whole groups of people so that only a few can be saved by learning from those groups, or individuals, then is God's kingdom really like a mustard seed, growing and growing until it encompasses all things? In other words, has God consigned all those people who essentially sat in darkness with no hope to the dustbin of history, only to be punished for not accepting what they never could comprehend, much less apprehend?
I can accept that God would use them as examples for our admonishment. But I can also see that THEY, THROUGH US might have salvation later, just like US, THROUGH THEM, have our salvation now!
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
1 Corinthians 10:11
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
Again, I see nothing in scripture that precludes those who have lived in ignorance being given their FIRST opportunity to accept and believe that which we, the firstfruits, have learned from their sacrifices. In fact, I see many indications of a time when whole hosts of people will be given their first opportunity.
Please do not think I am preaching "second chance" theology, since I do not believe there is such a thing. I am talking about "first chance" for those who have not had Christ ever presented to them.
But, since I am speaking to a preterist audience, consider that such an idea must of necessity require some flexibility on our part for a future scenario where things will not continue in the status quo as we see it now. In other words, the world will not just keep going on and on as we see it now, but instead there will have to come a time when God will make it plain who He is and who His Son is, with no doubt about what is required of mankind. Those who dwell in darkness have seen a great light, and that light is being lived in us now.
There is scriptural precedent for God delaying light until the time comes. Consider the delay of Christ until the time was right in these scriptures:
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan--
Mat. 4:16"THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED." 17From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Although 2,000+ years have passed since Christ came, the natural process of the mustard plant is such that there will come a time when the whole world will see light and know beyond a doubt that Christ rules.
I do not see scriptural evidence that a physical resurrection will occur in which all who have ever lived will come up and see this time of God's glory on the physical earth. But I am open to hearing from others what they think, and how (or if) such a time will come. If it will not come, then please tell how you believe those who did not hear are going to receive justice. Please do not simply say that they were "disposable" people who were sacrificed and consigned to hell for their unbelief. That is not justice, and is not the picture of God I see in scripture. Remember, I am not saying there is a "second chance". I am saying that these people who lived and helped usher us into Christ deserve their FIRST CHANCE. I am just wondering how they fit into the future, scripturally speaking.
How then will those who have never heard fit into the plan of God?
I cannot remember any verse which speaks of salvation for those who never heard the gospel.
Seems the question could be beyond the revelations of Scripture.
Do you know any verses which address these (i.e. those who never heard)?
"Do you know any verses which address these (i.e. those who never heard)?"
I think the question properly is whether this is the only day of salvation. There seems to be a tacit acceptance in most of Christianity that this IS the only day (era, period, etc.) in which people can be saved. But where do we get THAT idea? Is that idea biblical? I don't think you can find scripture to support that idea either.
So if one cannot prove that this life is the only life we get, why is it so odd to think that there might be another "chance" at salvation?
Having said all the above, let me say I am aware of the scripture in Heb. 9
"…26Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him."
The context in Hebrews is talking about the sacrifice of Christ being efficacious one time, and that Jesus only had to die once. It is not a scripture creating a doctrine about dying once. In fact, the statement about dying once is, in my opinion, a reference back to the garden of Eden, in which God states that "in the day you eat thereof, you shall die" I completely endorse the idea that sin must be paid for, whether or not that sin was committed willfully. Sin is sin, and when it occurs, it then completely cuts off a person from God, and in that way, the person 'dies". So it is appointed for men to only die once (when they commit their first sin), and it is appointed only once for Jesus to die as an offering for sin.
I would contrast Hebrews with this scripture in 2 Sam. 14:14
"Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him."
In context, this is a statement from a woman who is pleading a case to King David. Absalom, David's son, had been banished from David's presence and Joab was trying to maneuver the king through the woman to bring Absalom back into fellowship. In any case, it is still a true statement that there are "ways" that God has to bring people back who are banished. In our experience as christians, the only way WE know is through Jesus Christ. And in fact, that is and always will be the only way to holiness and salvation for all people for all time because as Hebrews says, "Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
So I completely affirm that the sacrifice of Christ was a one time event for all men everywhere. But I also don't see anywhere in scripture that mercy stops at physical death. And why should it? The fact is, the vast majority of mankind has not heard the gospel in this lifetime. If you believe in the supremacy of God having rule over all things for all time, then in one sense, it appears that God is losing the war of salvation if indeed the point of living is to hear the gospel, repent, and be saved. Unless you believe that God only saves a few in all of history, you have to allow that there might be another day of salvation in which those who lived an unsaved life will be exposed to the true gospel, unencumbered by their earthly situations.
All this said, my main point is that I don't want to shut off the possibility of future salvation for physically dead people. I want this because I can't accept the alternative which seems to be the christian orthodox view of life after death. That is, that you only get one round in life, and if you never figure it out, well then, tough luck, you just drew the short stick in life. Knowing the compassion and mercy of God, I find this view too hard to swallow, especially when orthodoxy places those poor hapless souls in an ever-burning hell for no other crime than to happening to be born into an age or in a place where the gospel wasn't available.
Doug: I completely endorse the idea that sin must be paid for, whether or not that sin was committed willfully.
Indeed… and I completely endorse the idea that Jesus DID this very thing i.e., wilfully paid the price for sin.
Doug: Knowing the compassion and mercy of God, I find this view too hard to swallow, especially when orthodoxy places those poor hapless souls in an ever-burning hell…
Yes, and thus the most logical and obvious question to ask in response to this “knowing” is… “what makes you think you have MORE love, compassion and mercy in your heart than does God?” – to which the answer is clear, you don’t; no one does. And again in-kind it’s the other old question… IF Jesus came into the world “to seek and to save the lost” (Lk 19:10; 1Tim 1:15) did he succeed or did he fail? I endorse the former.
Good logic in your response. I like that!
But you asked a question that implies you have an opinion on the answer. You said:
Yes, and thus the most logical and obvious question to ask in response to this “knowing” is… “what makes you think you have MORE love, compassion and mercy in your heart than does God?” – to which the answer is clear, you don’t; no one does."
I assume you have something more to say than just asking a question? Sure, of course, I don't have more love, etc., than God. But are you alleging that because I don't have this, then the traditional view of hell is correct? Or, are you saying you are agnostic on this point?
I don't believe that just because I don't have as much of something as God has that He hasn't revealed His intent about it. I said "Knowing the compassion and mercy of God, I find this view too hard to swallow, " Just because I don't have ALL the facts about how God thinks doesn't mean I have NO facts about how He thinks. He has chosen to reveal how He thinks.
No, I don't have His compassion, love, and mercy. But I do have a little bit, and I am made in His image. I also have the privilege to think for myself, and the thinking processes I have were given to me by God, as were yours and everyone else's.
Therefore, just as the angels who desire to look into the mysteries of God, we are allowed to investigate and draw logical and sound conclusions, because God has not given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a SOUND MIND.
Being deliberately agnostic and saying everything is a mystery is a cop-out for anyone who studies the word of God. I admit I don't know even a fraction of God, but I am on a level playing field with my fellow humans and can engage with them in ways that make sense based on what God has already revealed.
Our challenge when we engage here at DID or anywhere else on the human plane is to use what God has revealed and draw correct conclusions. I believe God has equipped us with reasoning abilities and proper guidance and revelation to arrive at the truth, however much that truth might be partial and "looking through a glass darkly". It is still truth, just maybe not the whole truth.
If this weren't a true principle, then I might as well give up now and quit looking into God's ways. And, to be totally transparent with you, I sometimes do want to just quit looking, because study into God's ways is so deep it makes me feel like an imbecile. But I think this internal drive to keep looking is an imperative driven by God's spirit within me that won't allow me to stop. It is sometimes exhausting, but most of the time it is thrilling.
Don't you feel the same way?
Doug: But are you alleging that because I don't have this, then the traditional view of hell is correct? Or, are you saying you are agnostic on this point?
Doug, my question as to having MORE love, etc, than God, was purely rhetorical… as noted by my inclusive “no one does”. I find it a good question to pose however whenever the notion is expressed of wanting/wishing God’s grace could be extended to all… a desired expression indicative of grace in one’s heart toward others. IF we mere mortals can want such a thing then how can we, beings less than God, suppose such depths of love haven’t ALWAYS ALREADY been firm in the heart of God and active towards His creation.
However, I’m not quite sure how you’ve made the leap that any apparent lack (on your part, and certainly I’m NOT suggesting that) of “knowing” has to equate to holding onto “the traditional view of hell”? In any case, as I understand it Doug you’re an annihilationist; which IMO is even more fraught with dubiousness than eternal conscious torment model, but that might be another discussion. :)
Doug: Being deliberately agnostic and saying everything is a mystery is a cop-out for anyone who studies the word of God.
Yes I agree 100% and certainly don’t subscribe to the “everything is a mystery” excuse for not looking deeply into things.
You would be right in thinking I am an "annihilationist", but not in the commonly used sense of that word. Annihilation, as a word, suggests an active "putting to death" by an antagonistic adversary. In this case, it would be God "annihilating" those who don't knuckle under to His will. That is not my concept of the term.
Instead, I align myself with what I believe scripture teaches about the subject (and, BTW, scripture never uses annihilation either as a concept or as a word), and what it teaches is that those who are saved receive eternal life, but those who are not saved, die. It's really that simple, and very provable from scripture.
I believe that the idea of eternal torment was and is used by people to present a side of God that isn't a correct description of His revealed character and love.
Throughout scripture from beginning to end the theme of life and death is presented to humans. It isn't life on the one hand and torment on the other, it is life, or death! This is so prevalent that I marvel that the idea of torment is so mixed up in modern theology.
I believe, based on my own study of human theistic evolution, that the idea of an afterlife wherein we are tortured for making mistakes in this life comes directly from pagan beliefs and practices, and was used by them in order to control their populace.
Additionally, the concept of an immortal soul that can live on based on its own intrinsic power is foreign to anything scripture teaches. But modern orthodox christianity has that covered too by stating that God upholds the soul's immortality so that He can torture souls forever. This makes God into a monster, not a savior.
So for those reasons alone I can dismantle the idea of eternal conscious torment. But besides all that, scripture just doesn't support the idea. Those who adhere to it are misreading scripture based on culturally popular ideas that they probably aren't even aware of.
But as you said, this is a discussion probably left for another thread. I just wanted to clear the air about what I believe about that subject.
Doug: (and, BTW, scripture never uses annihilation either as a concept or as a word)
How does this work Doug considering the paragraph wherein this clarifier is nestled gives the rundown of your understanding of annihilationism according to Scripture? Lol, this is called incongruence Doug. ;)
Anyway, just to clarify further myself… I too believe annihilation means nothing more than “to die”, albeit in divine consequence (judgment), BUT as such said annihilation only had (past tense) relevance to THIS LIFE and not the direction and nature of one’s experience beyond the grave.
This sentence of death (annihilation) would match Jesus’ statement “You shall die in your sins” where the consequence for those of Israel rejecting their Messiah would end in the loss of life in the great conflagrations of AD 30-70 not knowing Israel’s covenant renewal into the coming new age.
Thanks for engaging me further on this.
I don't think there is any incongruence here. I already stated that strictly speaking, I don't embrace annihilationism. I call it something else, so when I say that scripture doesn't teach it as a concept or word, that is what I mean. Now, if you want to talk about what I do believe, and if I misstate myself, by all means, call me on it. I don't want to be incongruent! ;)
I do appreciate your honesty in acceptance of the principle of the opposite of life being death. But how is it that you believe (I assume) that when Jesus is speaking about LIFE (contextually), He is speaking about it in the next life, yet, when He speaks of death, He is talking about it in THIS life?
When we are told that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, (Rom. 6:23), it doesn't make sense to think that the death is physical, but the life is eternal and spiritual.
Doug: But how is it that you believe (I assume) that when Jesus is speaking about LIFE (contextually), He is speaking about it in the next life, yet, when He speaks of death, He is talking about it in THIS life?
Your bracketed words above “I assume” cause you to ask the wrong question because it’s based on a wrong premise. I don’t view Jesus’ many references to “eternal life” as referencing the AFTER life, but rather, THIS life; and in particular the nature of it in terms of the fullness and quality restoration of divine fellowship has wrought, i.e., life from the dead (death). Thus DEATH = alienation and LIFE = restoration.
This then is the INCLUSIVE bent of pantelism, as opposed to universalism, which doesn’t really capture where I’m coming from, or to use your own particular parlance “I call it something else” for that very reason.
Doug: When we are told that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, (Rom. 6:23), it doesn't make sense to think that the death is physical, but the life is eternal and spiritual.
I’m not inclined to approach that text with this ‘either/or’ wedge, but rather understand the spiritual realities of LIFE/DEATH as pertinent to THIS life.
Now as to my own assumptions… I take it as a given that biological demise is simply the cessation of observable existence and yet there is more to life than meets the eye.
Yes, I guess it is because of my assumption about your belief in "the afterlife" that creates our differences.
Davo: "Now as to my own assumptions… I take it as a given that biological demise is simply the cessation of observable existence and yet there is more to life than meets the eye."
I really don't get your point on this. This is the first time, however I have heard you state what you do think about death, i.e. "biological demise", although I don't understand your point of view.
But that's a discussion for another time... ;)
Doug: This is the first time, however I have heard you state what you do think about death, i.e. "biological demise",…
Well remember, don’t just leave that thought hanging out by itself as it wasn’t said in a vacuum… I also said I “understand the spiritual realities of LIFE/DEATH as pertinent to THIS life”. And… “Thus DEATH = alienation and LIFE = restoration.”