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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Was Mary Magdalene A Prostitute?

"There is no evidence that the early church tried to tarnish Mary Magdalene’s reputation by making her out to be a prostitute. Any reference to her as a prostitute does not come from the Bible. Here is what we do know of Mary from the biblical record: Seven demons were cast out of her by Jesus (Luke 8:2); she witnessed the horror of the crucifixion (Matthew 27:32-56); she was present at the burial of Jesus (Matthew 27:57-61); she, along with two other women, went to anoint the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1), and she was the first person to see Jesus in his resurrected body (John 20:10-18).

Some have surmised that since her name and story appear immediately following the account of a prostitute, the two are one and the same woman (see Luke 7:36-8:2). But there is no biblical support for this conclusion. (Most historians agree that the reference to Mary Magdalene as a prostitute was started in the sixth century by Pope Gregory I). Still others have conjectured that she is the anonymous woman caught in adultery. There is no evidence to support that assumption, either. Some have guessed that she might have been a prostitute simply because she came from Magdala, which was often associated with prostitution. Once again, the Bible says no such thing. Any association of Mary of Magdala with either of the above-mentioned anonymous women would have been merely a result of conjecture--or very careless scholarship--probably dating to the Middle Ages, as opposed to a smear campaign."

James L. Garlow and Peter Jones, Cracking Da Vinci’s Code, pg.59-60

Monday, April 29, 2019

Strong End Times Delusions--Godless Men Believing Speculative And Absurd Theories

The Oxford Student has learnt that Dr Young-hae Chi, Professor at Oxford’s Oriental Institute, believes in a strong correlation between climate change and alien abductions.

In 2012, Dr Chi gave a lecture at the the Ammach Conference, titled ‘Alien Abduction and the Environmental Crisis’ in which he outlined his theory concerning the presence of aliens on earth.

Dr Chi began his lecture with the statement that “perhaps human civilisation is coming to an end”.

In his fifty-five minute presentation he cited Dr David Jacobs, an ‘abduction researcher’ in the US, who argued that aliens’ primary purpose is to colonise the earth, by interbreeding with humans to produce a new hybrid species. Second generation ‘hybrids’ are, according to Jacobs, walking unobserved among us.

Dr Chi argued that “it is not only scientists and theologians, but also non-human species who appear to be greatly concerned about the survivability of the human species”.

He pointed out that the timing of aliens’ appearance coincides with the earth facing major problems, climate change and nuclear weapons in particular.

He concludes that “it may be more or less assumed that the hybrid project is a response to this impending demise of human civilisation”.

He went on to argue that if we act now on climate change, “not only can we save ourselves, but also prove aliens wrong in their judgement of our moral capacity”.


[Final statement of the article] He added, “So, they come not for the sake of us, but for the sake of them, their survival, (but their survival is actually our survival as well) the survival of the entire biosphere. That is where I progressed in developing my theory and I’m still looking for more evidence to support my view.”

https://www.oxfordstudent.com/2019/04/26/oxford-professors-theory-on-climate-change-and-alien-abduction/

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Futility And Repulsiveness Of Idol Worship

"How much more truly do dumb animals naturally judge concerning your gods? Mice, swallows, kites, know that they have no feeling: they gnaw them, they trample on them, they sit upon them; and unless you drive them off, they build their nests in the very mouth of your god. Spiders, indeed, weave their webs over his face, and suspend their threads from his very head. You wipe, cleanse, scrape, and you protect and fear those whom you make; while not one of you thinks that he ought to know God before he worships Him; desiring without consideration to obey their ancestors, choosing rather to become an addition to the error of others, than to trust themselves; in that they know nothing of what they fear. Thus avarice has been consecrated in gold and silver; thus the form of empty statues has been established; thus has arisen Roman superstition. And if you reconsider the rites of these gods, how many things are laughable, and how many also pitiable!"

The Octavius of Minucius Felix (a dialogue between a Christian and a pagan), chapter XXIV

Friday, April 26, 2019

Was Jesus Christ Crucified On A Cross Or A Stake As The Jehovah's Witnesses Claim?

  • Discussion:
          -The Greek word stauros does not necessitate that it was the traditional shape of the cross. It meant a pole or stake in some instances. The traditional cross shape was the normal form of crucifixion, but many people were crucified on poles or stakes.

          The Romans were not tied to one form of crucifixion. We know this from historical evidence. One example is Seneca the Younger who recounts, "I see crosses there, not just of one kind but made in many different ways: some have their victims with head down to the ground; some impale their private parts; others stretch out their arms on the gibbet.” The available attestation of patristic writers is in agreement with the cross shape.

          The Greek word xulon refers to something that is made of wood and can alternatively refer to a tree. The quotation from Deuteronomy (speaking of Galatians 3:13 where the Apostle Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21:22-23) is not referring to crucifixion in its original context. It is referring to the fact that some people were hung on trees in order to communicate that they were cursed by God. Jesus Christ being hung in the air communicated that He was cursed by God for us. This leaves the question as to the shape of the wood that Christ was crucified on. It technically does not matter because He bore our sins anyway. On the other hand, it would be interesting to know. The t shape was the normal form so it would be reasonable to say that He was not crucified on a stake.

          Moreover, the biblical evidence that Jesus was nailed to a cross of the traditional shape is strong. Consider the encounter of the doubting Thomas with the resurrected Christ (John 20:24-29). The passage mentions having nails pierced through both hands. That reference to nails is plural. A stake would require one nail. The Scripture records Pontius Pilate nailing an inscription above His head (Matthew 27:37; Luke 23:38). Also, the Apostle Peter was told that he would eventually be made to stretch out his hands for crucifixion by Roman guards (John 21:18). That was the exact posture in which Jesus Himself was crucified previously. So the Jehovah's Witnesses are proven wrong when they insist that Jesus Christ was crucified on a stake. Ironically, the Watchtower Society originally taught that Jesus died on a cross. So much for the claim of being a divinely inspired prophet of God!

          The Jehovah's Witnesses deny that Christ resurrected in a glorified physical body. Rather, it is believed that He manifested Himself as a spirit. But Scripture clearly indicates that He was raised from the dead in a physical body (Luke 24:39). He even ate so as to demonstrate to the disciples that He was not a spirit (Luke 24:40-43). The very body of Christ was raised from the dead (John 2:19-22). He was born of a virgin, and so has a body which is permanent. He is both fully human and divine. He is God incarnate. He has been resurrected and glorified for eternity. The denial of a physical resurrection is a pernicious error of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

False Prophecies That Seventh-Day Adventists Do Not Want You To Know About

"Seventh-day Adventism grew despite endorsing a false date for Christ's return. What a dubious beginning!

Ellen G. White endorsed a false prophecy by William Miller that Christ would return, first in 1843 and then 1844. Miller repented when Christ didn't show up on his date but Ellen didn't want to be viewed as a false prophetess for endorsing him through her visions. The idea was concocted by one of her followers that the date was right, but the event was wrong. Ellen eagerly accepted this "out", and this explanation was offered to explain away the false prophecy:

Christ didn't come visibly to earth, but He, invisibly, in heaven, changed compartments from the Holy to the Most Holy in 1844 and began the work of "investigative judgment" that we have discussed previously.

This false date and its failure triggered other heresies on the atonement of Christ which continues to this day. Honest-hearted SDA's who have pointed out the error of the 1844 investigative judgment have been shown the door by their Conference. You sure won't be told the true history behind the 1844 doctrine by SDA's!

Embarrassing false prophecies by EGW have been, altered, covered up, and locked up by the SDA's. You won't be told about them, but here are a couple.

One false prophecy done in the name of the Lord marks that one as a false prophet (See Deut. chapter 18).

Ellen G. White said people alive in 1856 would be translated at the 2nd coming of Jesus. (Testimonies, V1, p 131,132).

She said in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 1, p. 259, that the United States would be "...humbled into the dust" by England during the Civil War.

No wonder Jesus told us to "Beware of the false prophets". Time is their enemy. These false prophecies will never be mentioned by the SDA's."

http://mmoutreachinc.com/seventh_day_adventists/sda_facts.html

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Critical Exposure Of The Clear Word Bible

  • Discussion:
          -The Clear Word Bible is a paraphrase written by Jack J. Blanco and made available to the public by the Review and Herald Publishing Association in March 1994. This product of the Seventh-Day Adventist church was designed to amplify the clarity of Scripture. In other words, the Clear Word Bible was made for devotional purposes. Nonetheless, this paraphrase is to be avoided because it contains textual modifications aimed at reflecting aberrant Seventh-Day Adventist theology. It contains bias in support of false doctrines such as annihilationism and Sabbatarianism. Following are examples of textual perversion within the Clear Word Bible.
  • Genesis 2:2-3:
          -"Then on the seventh day of creation week, God stopped to enjoy what He had made and to rest in the beauty of it all. So He blessed the seventh day and set it apart as a day of spiritual refreshment and joy." (Clear Word Bible)
          -"By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." (New American Standard Bible)
          -And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation." (English Standard Version)
          -The Seventh-Day Adventist rendering of this passage makes the seventh day a day of creation when the process was actually completed on the sixth. The Sabbath is introduced prior to the time when the Bible actually reveals that day (Exodus 16).
  • Genesis 35:18:
          -"But Rachel didn’t survive the birth, and as she was dying, she named her baby Benoni, which means Son of My Sorrow, but Jacob renamed the baby Benjamin, meaning Son of My Right Hand." (Clear Word Bible)
          -"It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin." (New American Standard Bible)
          -"And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin." (English Standard Version)
          -The Seventh-Day Adventist rendering of Genesis 35:18 is clearly biased in favor of the false teaching called soul sleep.
  • Matthew 25:46:
          -"I have no choice but to end your lives, because in my kingdom everyone cares about everyone else.” (Clear Word Bible)
          -"These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (New American Standard Bible)
          -"And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (English Standard Version)
          -This verse has been altered so drastically in the Seventh-Day Adventist rendition that both translations barely resemble each other.
  • John 10:30:
          -"You see, my Father and I are so close, we're one." (Clear Word Bible)
          -"I and the Father are one." (New American Standard Bible)
          -"I and the Father are one." (English Standard Version)
          -The Seventh-Day Adventist rendering of this text is problematic because it makes it a relational oneness rather than ontological. The oneness is of being, the nature of God, not merely a relational closeness.
  • Hebrews 4:9:
          -"So there still remains the offer of spiritual rest that God intends for each generation to have, of which the Sabbath is a symbol." (Clear Word Bible)
          -"So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." (New American Standard Bible)
          -"So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." (English Standard Version)
          -This passage when taken in context plainly tells us that it is through Jesus Christ that we enter into the promised rest of God. It has nothing to do with Christians observing a weekly Sabbath.
          -"I do not think anyone should trust The Clear Word as a reliable translation of the Bible, or even as a useful paraphrase. It repeatedly distorts the teaching of the Bible. It removes significant content that is in the original Hebrew or Greek, and adds new ideas that are not found in the original texts. Verse after verse has been changed simply to support unusual Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, but these changes are not supported by reliable translations such as the KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, RSV, or NIV, or even by dynamic equivalence translations such as the New Living Translation or free paraphrases such as The Message. I was deeply troubled as I read various verses because it was clear that these verses were no longer the words of God only, but the words of God mixed in with many words of man, and ordinary readers of The Clear Word will not be able to tell the difference"

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Virgin Birth And Science

  • Discussion:
           -One challenge to the doctrine of the virgin birth by skeptics is that such an occurrence violates known science. However, that attempt at refutation would hold water only if nature was all that existed. Belief in His virginal conception would be irrational only if one rejected the existence of the supernatural realm.

           The Bible does not teach that Mary naturally conceived Jesus. Rather, it was a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit which Scripture recognizes to be impossible in any other situation. Science can only address the natural realm.

           God created the universe and regulates and governs all things according to His will and power. He created Adam without a father or mother, and He caused Mary to conceive in her womb without a man.

           The virgin birth should sound even more so plausible in light of scientific breakthroughs such as embryonic transfer and artificial insemination. It is possible for virgins to give birth, although we do not know how this miracle recorded in the New Testament worked.

           And lastly, Rich Deem provides these insights as to how the virgin birth points to the overall reasonableness of the Christian message:

           "...it would have been very risky to document and claim that He was born of a virgin. In the Middle East there were "honor killings" for women who conceived out of wedlock, so to speak of a virgin birth was extremely dishonorable. In fact, the Bible alludes to some disparaging remarks made by the opponents of Jesus. In addition, if you look at the anti-Christian literature at the time, much of it focused on this aspect of Christianity. This makes one wonder why, if Christians were just making up a religion, they say something that would offend virtually everybody in the Middle East. It makes no sense to make up something offensive, unless it were true."

Is It Wrong To Celebrate Easter?

  • Discussion:
           -It would be inaccurate to consider Easter, also known as Resurrection Sunday, a pagan holiday because Christians have for centuries set aside that time to specifically celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

           That day was formally recognized as such when Roman Emperor Constantine called for the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. The annual dating for the holiday is determined by moon cycles as was the Jewish Passover, though both religious observances are distinct. Differences in timing and how the Easter celebration was to take place can be traced back to the earlier second century.

           Any parallels to pagan symbolism would be the result of primitive believers interacting with the culture of their day. Nonetheless, customs and traditions are not inherently sinful (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Scripture records believers assembling on Sunday (Acts 20:7-12), yet it nowhere mandates us to gather on that day. The point of emphasis is the church service being conducted in accordance with the Word of God. Thus, we see what amounts to a biblically sanctioned tradition. The question of Easter is one that deserves fair treatment.

           Most things nowadays have pagan parallels, which would even include the names of planets in our solar system and days of the week. So can we do anything at all? Similarities do not in themselves prove something to be evil or malicious. Similarities do not in themselves prove a logical connection or association. Symbols are subject to reinterpretation and can therefore be reused.

           If pagans once did something, that does not necessarily mean Christians cannot do them for good reasons or simply for fun. Pagans also eat, walk, talk, etc. We are not forbidden from doing something simply because pagans did it for the wrong reasons.

           Resurrection Sunday was celebrated by Christians long before it was made about the mythical creature called the Easter Bunny. The holiday points us to Christ, namely His resurrection. That historical event is of pivotal significance to our faith. If Jesus Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our faith would be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). That point is certainly worthy of repeated commemoration. Such a ceremony does not exceed or violate the teachings of Scripture.

           Claims of Easter being pagan originated with pagans themselves and secularists who detest the truth of the gospel. The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. No mere man has the power to make a day that God created corrupt. Christians who dogmatically condemn the celebration are guilty of making category errors and oversimplifications. No sacrifices or homage is given to false gods in the process.

           The English term Easter comes from the old German word "erstehen", which means coming back to life. It does not pertain to the celebration of anything pagan.

           The form of compromise Scripture condemns is that which hinders service or allegiance rightfully belonging to God alone. There comes a point when separation no longer resembles a desire to grow in sanctification but a religious recluse. The latter is not the way God wants us to thrive. If we were to be absolutely disconnected from the world, then He would have to remove us at this very instant. We are to be in the world (to preach the gospel, etc.), but not of it. We are to engage the culture with our beliefs, but lovingly stand firm in so doing.

           Even the act of painting eggs or the idea of imaginary rabbits are nothing more than childish means of entertainment. Such is not inherently involved or related to the worship of false gods. Admittedly, fun is not (or should not be) the motivation behind celebrating Easter.

           Whether or not a Christian chooses to observe Easter is entirely a matter of conscience or personal preference. It is not meant to be a test of orthodoxy. It is not a matter to break fellowship over. The Apostle Paul said the following about matters such as these:

           "One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God...Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way" (Romans 14:5-6; 13).

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Does The Roman Catholic Eucharist Entail Cannibalism?

  • Discussion:
          -Tim Staples of Catholic Answers wrote an article titled What Catholics Believe about John 6, where he attempts to address the charge of transubstantiation involving cannibalism. The author provides three lines of reasoning as to why he believes that particular objection to be invalid, which will be examined here as follows:

         "First, Catholics do not receive our Lord in a cannibalistic form. Catholics receive him in the form of bread and wine. The cannibal kills his victim; Jesus does not die when he is consumed in Communion. Indeed, he is not changed in the slightest; the communicant is the only person who is changed. The cannibal eats part of his victim, whereas in Communion the entire Christ is consumed—body, blood, soul, and divinity. The cannibal sheds the blood of his victim; in Communion our Lord gives himself to us in a non-bloody way."

          The Roman Catholic Eucharist does indeed imply cannibalism, as it includes literally consuming the human flesh of Jesus Christ. Eating only part of a victim does not remedy this dilemma, but only further enhances the repulsive, graphic implications of transubstantiation. A cannibal does not cease to qualify fitting under that label just because he or she has eaten a whole victim or does so in a different manner.

          The claim that one eats soul and divinity is inherently illogical. Souls are immaterial. Divinity is spiritual. But eating is a physical process. One cannot eat a soul. One cannot eat divinity. That is simply the reality of the nature of things themselves.

          Furthermore, it is self-contradictory to assert that "in Communion our Lord gives himself to us in a non-bloody way" because it is believed that the sacrament is His body and blood. How can one partake of the blood of Jesus in a "non-bloody" fashion?

          If the consecrated elements have the power to change the communicant, then why do so many who partake in the Mass remain in their ordinary, sinful lifestyles? Does not the grace of God transform our hearts (Titus 2:11-14)? If the Eucharist really is God, then how come so few (if any at all) Roman Catholics fall on their knees out of fear and reverence as did the Apostle John who saw Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:12; 17)?

          "Second, if it were truly immoral in any sense for Christ to give us his flesh and blood to eat, it would be contrary to his holiness to command anyone to eat his body and blood—even symbolically. Symbolically performing an immoral act would be of its nature immoral."

          The usage of symbolism does not suggest as a logical consequence a literal understanding or act practiced.

          Jesus says throughout the New Testament that He is life to us. Eating and drinking is the way in which we maintain life and He is "the bread of life", not because we actually eat Him, but because His death, His sacrifice, His body broken and blood shed, are the means by which we live.

          How come the inspired writers of the New Testament never clarified that the Eucharist was not cannibalism?

          "Moreover, the expressions to eat flesh and to drink blood already carried symbolic meaning both in the Hebrew Old Testament and in the Greek New Testament, which was heavily influenced by Hebrew. In Psalm 27:1-2, Isaiah 9:18-20, Isaiah 49:26, Micah 3:3, and Revelation 17:6-16, we find these words (eating flesh and drinking blood) understood as symbolic for persecuting or assaulting someone. Jesus’ Jewish audience would never have thought he was saying, “Unless you persecute and assault me, you shall not have life in you.” Jesus never encouraged sin. This may well be another reason why the Jews took Christ at his word."

          It would be an exegetical fallacy to assert that because something has a negative connotation in certain contexts, that it always has that same meaning or intension. It is very clear from the passages of the Lord's Supper that He is not telling His disciples to persecute or assault Him. Metaphorical references to eating and drinking are used in other texts to mean ingesting realities provided by God (Psalm 34:8; Isaiah 55:1; 1 Peter 2:2-3).

          One biblical problem for the Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation is that the so-called miraculous occurrence conflicts with the nature of the miracles that take place throughout Scripture. Two examples would include the marriage at Cana (John 2:1-10) and the doubting Thomas touching the resurrected Christ's pierced hands and feet (John 20:26-29). Unlike the Eucharist, scriptural miracles were recognizable to our five senses.

          If transubstantiation is true, then the consecrated elements should taste like raw human flesh and blood. But that is obviously not the case here. The communion elements taste like bread and wine even after consecration by the priest. The literalist interpretation of the Lord's Supper is absurd beyond all measure. There is something wrong with a proposition which tells us that things are not correspondent to the reality of our surroundings.

          If transubstantiation is true, then that would mean the full human body of Christ is literally inside the stomachs of partakers during the liturgical service. That conclusion is nonsense, as our digestive system would obviously be holding far beyond its natural capacity.

          Jesus Christ has a material body just as we all do. That means His body and blood would have been consumed a long time ago. His body and blood would have been all eaten up. His body and blood would have been gone two thousand years ago, thereby making transubstantiation in future generations a logical impossibility! The literalist interpretation of the Lord's Supper is loaded with metaphysical and theological problems. Nothing is sacrificed during the Mass except one's own common sense.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Hebrews 1 And The Divinity of Jesus

"[Hebrews] 1:5-13 The author's use of the OT will appear audacious, or even arbitrary, to anyone which does not share his convictions that: (a) the whole OT is the voice of God; (b) Jesus Christ is very God; (c) the whole OT testifies to Him. (Cf.  Introduction, pars. 12 and 13; Jn 5:39; Acts 10:43; 2 Co 1:19-20; 2 Ti 3:15)

1:5a Ps 2:7, where God addresses the king on David's throne in words whose full meaning becomes real and apparent in the Son of David, the Son of God.

1:5b 2 Sm 7:14. God's promise to David (through the prophet Nathan) concerning David's successors, a promise fully fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

1:6 Words which in their original settings (Dt 32:43) called upon the angels to worship the Lord God of Israel as the Avenger and Savior of His people are here applied to the incarnate Son of God, "that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father" (Jn 5:23). The OT is quoted according to the Septuagint (an ancient Greek translation of the OT), which differs from the one reproduced in English versions. Recent discoveries indicate that this reading may well be the original one.

1:7 Ps 104:4 God's angels ("messengers") appear in various forms, fulfill their service, and vanish. God's Son endures unchanged. (1:8-10)

1:8-9 In Ps 45:6-7 the anointed king of God's people is, as God's vice-regent and executor of His righteousness on earth, called God (or his reign is marked as divine, cf. RSV note a): being under the favor of God, his reign is destined to endure. This ancient promise found its final Yes in Jesus Christ. (2 Co 1:20)

1:10 Ps 102:25-27. Ps 102 is entitled "A prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaints before the LORD." The psalmist, his existence shattered, can find grounds for hope only in the God who endures when all else passes away. He will arise and have pity on His people, so that all "nations will fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth" will bow before His glory (Ps 102:12-15). In Jesus Christ God did arise and lead all peoples to worship Him; and the words of Ps 102 are fitly applied to the Son.

1:13 Ps 110:1. God addresses His anointed king. It was with the words of this psalm that Jesus Himself had stated that His Messianic claim most powerfully. (Cf. Mt 22:41-46 note)"

Martin Franzmann, Concordia Self-study Commentary [commentary on Hebrews], p. 238

The Messianic Kingship Of Jesus Christ

"[Psalm 110:1] The Lord says. For the name the Lord, also in vv. 2 and 4, see Ex 6:3 note. What the Lord says is expressed in the original by the noun "oracle," i.e., a divine communication or revelation which the prophets transmit to their hearers with the introduction: "Thus says the Lord." (2 Ch 34:26)

My Lord. The Hebrew noun denotes a respected or superior person. It is used as a title in addressing kings or other dignitaries (Gn 19:2; 23:6; 1 Sm 22:12; 2 Sm 13:32). The king to or "concerning" whom this prophetic oracle speaks is by that very word of God made to be the "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rv 19:16). His elevation to the right hand of power is to coincide with the defeat of enemies, reduced to serve as a footstool (Jos 10:24; 1 K 5:3). For the fulfillment of this promise see Acts 2:25; 1 Co 15:25; Heb 1:13; 10:13."

Martin Franzmann, Concordia Self-study Commentary [commentary on Psalms], p. 395-396

Friday, April 19, 2019

It Is The Spirit That Gives Life

"[John] 6:63 Spirit...flesh...words. When Jesus has ascended where He was before, He will bestow the Spirit on those who believe in Him (7:39). The Spirit will lead those who believe into all truth (16:13); He will enable the believer to apprehend that the flesh of Jesus, which in itself is of no more avail than any human flesh, is the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, given for the life of the world (6:51). The Spirit will recall and confirm in the believer the words of Jesus which gave His flesh this significance and power (14:26); thus the Spirit will give life."

Martin Franzmann, Concordia Self-study Commentary [commentary on John], p. 92

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Critical Response To De Maria On Transubstantiation

  • Discussion:
          -Roman Catholic apologist De Maria wrote an article titled The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Mass, where he provides a few biblical arguments for transubstantiation alongside with rebuttals to certain objections. Each of the author's claims in regards to the Catholic Eucharist will be analyzed in this article as follows:

          "The Mass is our Passover feast. Because Christ is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Perhaps you refuse to keep the Feast. But we don’t."

          1 Corinthians 5:7-8 does not mention anything about transubstantiation. It says that Christ is our Passover. He was sacrificed on the cross. When we celebrate the Lord's Supper, we are to do so without malice.

          "If you choose to deny, denigrate, disparage, dishonor and disannul the Mass, then Christ died in vain for you. (Hebrews 10:25-31)" 

          Hebrews chapter ten says nothing regarding the Mass. Rather, it addresses the singular act of Jesus Christ at Calvary. The people who forsake Him have denied the only sacrifice for sin. Notice especially what an earlier portion of the context says:

          "And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary." (Hebrews 10:18)

          The Book of Hebrews emphatically states that the work of Jesus is not ongoing or reenacted.

          "Did you not understand that the Eucharist is the self same sacrifice that took place on Calvary?"

          That is simply a Roman Catholic assertion devoid of biblical evidence. The Lord's Supper is described in Scripture as nothing more than a simple communion meal.

          "Here is what Protestants miss and don’t understand. And the reason they don’t understand is because they don’t understand the Scriptures."

          Must a "Protestant" become a Jehovah's Witness or Mormon in order to see those particular systems of doctrine in Scripture? If a stranded individual who was fairly educated just so happened to stumble across a Bible and decided to read it with an open heart, then it is highly unlikely that he or she will see distinctly Roman Catholic dogmas in its pages. De Maria is reading foreign ideas into Scripture as he engages in a circular argument.

          "In the Old Testament, we learn that Sacrifice is not simply the slaughter of the victim. Sacrifice is also the offering of the Victim. And Sacrifice is also the consuming of the Victim. Christ takes care of the first two aspects of His Sacrifice. We participate in the same Sacrifice by consuming the Passover. Have you not read in Scripture (Exodus 12:1-10)?"

          The fact the Israelites ate the flesh of the animals that they sacrificed does not support the Catholic notion of literally eating Jesus Christ's flesh and blood because no transubstantiation took place during the Old Testament.

          The Lord's Supper is a New Testament institution. It is the New Covenant form of Passover, but no transubstantiation takes place in the latter any more than it did in the former.

          There is no mention of an ordained ministerial priesthood in the New Testament. What we find instead is a universal priesthood of believers who offer spiritual sacrifices to God under the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

          In the Lord's Supper, we eat bread and wine. Jesus instituted them as the signs of His body and blood, both of which point to His final atonement sacrifice on the cross. Also, the animal sacrifices were not Christ but types or pointers to Christ, so the Levitical Passover was not an actual eating of the Lamb (i.e. Jesus), but eating a type.

          "[Responding to Hebrews 9:22] We believe that the wine becomes the Blood of Christ. Therefore, Blood is involved. But it is not visible to the eye of flesh. By faith alone does one discern this Blood of Christ in the Cup of Salvation. (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:27). Therefore, the Blood of our Lord is consumed in the Eucharist and that is why it is propitiatory for our sins."

          Nice try with the use of flowery philosophical language, but Hebrews 9:22 is still a problem for transubstantiation because there is no blood shed during the ritual. That is the means by which atonement and forgiveness of sin is enabled. So the Mass does not actually have propitiatory value as the Church of Rome claims.

          Notice Paul's analogy of the body of Christ to the Jewish altar. Did the Jews eat pieces of the table? Are we literally one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:17)? The reference to "partaking of Christ" is obviously not meant to be understood literally. We do so through faith by looking at the memorial.

          "Where do you get the Blood of Christ which you claim washes away your sins, since you deny the Eucharist?"

          Christ translated His literal blood to the heavenly sanctuary so that it could be applied to the Mercy Seat and sprinkled on believers through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:12-28).

          "[Responding to Hebrews 7:27] True. But if that means that Christ no longer offers Himself to the Father, why is the Lamb standing in heaven as though slain (Revelation 5:6)?"

          Revelation 5:6 is imagery describing eschatology, not the eternal state of Christ. It is using the imagery to identify Christ as the one who has been slain, not as one who is continually being slain. The Greek there is even perfect in form, which in this context indicates a completed action:

          "And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth." (Revelation 5:6)

          "And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." (Revelation 5:9)

           "Saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12)

          The Apostle John's message is perfectly consistent with the author of Hebrews. How it is even possible to re-present a once-for-all sacrifice? Jesus Christ completely paid our debt of sin at the Cross. His work has already been accomplished.

          "[Responding to Hebrews 9:12] Well, He did. How does this contradict the Mass. It is because He did that we can celebrate the Mass."

           Jesus died once for all. His sacrifice was complete and perfect and will never be repeated. It is not like the Old Covenant sacrifices, which were repeatedly offered because they could never actually atone for sin. This article is also relevant here:

          https://rationalchristiandiscernment.blogspot.com/2019/01/once-for-all.html

          "[Responding to Hebrews 9:26-28] This also does not speak against the Mass, but confirms it."

          The Roman Catholic Mass is contradicted because the text tells us that Christ is only going to appear twice with the later time to bring salvation for those who believe:

          "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Hebrews 9:24-28)

          "[Responding to Hebrews 10:10] Yes. Once for ALLLLLLLLL. That includes us. And the benefits of the Sacrifice of Christ, are applied to us, in the Mass."

          The Word of God emphatically teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ was offered up once for eternity. It is that single act by which our redemption was made possible. Only Christ could offer Himself up (John 10:17-18). His atonement sacrifice is neither ongoing nor re-enacted. He made His sacrifice one time, and died one time. His work has already been accomplished.

          "[Responding to Romans 6:9-10] Excellent! It is Protestants who accuse us of killing Christ over and over. But we don’t believe that at all. We simply obey His Word and “do this in remembrance” of Him. We “re-present” the once for all sacrifice upon the altar as He commanded. Yes, we have an “altar”. It is the Table of the Lord. But it is an altar of Sacrifice (Hebrews 13:10)."

          There are simply no passages in Scripture supporting the Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation. In fact, such is unthinkable! The notion of re-presenting a once-for-all sacrifice sounds similar to the time traveling that we hear of in science fiction literature.

           In Hebrews 13:10, it is not clear at all that the reference is to the Eucharist. It seems rather to be talking about the cross - the salvation and benefits of Christ which we have in Him.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Evangelicals And The Annihilation Of Hell

                                           Part Two

                                           By Alan W. Gomes


From the Christian Research Journal, Summer 1991, page 8. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.

In Part One of this article I discussed how some prominent evangelicals recently have abandoned the doctrine of eternal, conscious punishment for the wicked in favor of various annihilation theories. I also examined the scriptural teaching on the doctrine of hell, paying particular attention to key passages from the Gospel of Matthew and the Book of Revelation. From our investigation, we saw that the biblical teaching on the fate of the unsaved is clear: they will experience conscious torment of unending duration.

From what we saw in Part One, we might well question how anyone who claims to believe in the authority of Scripture -- as the evangelical annihilationists do -- could affirm anything but the traditional teaching. Evangelical annihilationists counter that they have rational and biblical evidence to support their position. In Part Two of this article, we will examine some of the main arguments advanced by annihilationists in support of their theory.

In the short space available it is not possible to present every proof annihilationists could marshal in defense of their position -- just as there was not enough space in Part One to advance many of the arguments supporting the orthodox position. In Part One, I selected what I consider to be the strongest arguments in favor of the traditional teaching. In this concluding installment I will do the same in presenting the annihilationists' case. In selecting these arguments I have tried to discern which ones the annihilationists themselves regard as the strongest. These proofs appear in virtually every defense of the annihilationist view.

When annihilationists present their case, their evidence generally falls into one of three basic categories. First we have the moral arguments, which maintain that the traditional teaching on hell would -- if true -- involve immoral actions on God's part. Second are linguistic arguments, based on the meaning of key biblical terms used to describe the final fate of the wicked. Third are exegetical arguments that attempt to neutralize verses the traditionalists commonly offer in proof of their position (such as those expounded in Part One). We will consider evidence from each of these three categories. (A fourth category, that the traditional doctrine is derived from the Platonic notion of the soul's immortality, was adequately answered in Part One.)

MORAL ARGUMENTS

Annihilationists frequently complain that it would be immoral for God to inflict everlasting torture on His creatures. Clark Pinnock regards the doctrine of endless punishment as "morally flawed" and a "moral enormity."[1] If the "outrageous doctrine" of the traditionalists were true, God would be a "cruel" and "vindictive" deity. In fact, He would be "more nearly like Satan than like God, at least by any ordinary moral standards...." Indeed, the traditionalist's God is a "bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for victims whom he does not even allow to die."[2]

Annihilationists commonly argue that endless torment represents a punishment far in excess of the offense committed. John Stott maintains that if the traditional teaching were true, there would be "a serious disproportion between sins consciously committed in time and the torment consciously experienced throughout eternity."[3] Likewise, Pinnock states, "it would amount to inflicting infinite suffering upon those who have committed finite sin. It would go far beyond an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. There would be a serious disproportion between sins committed in time and the suffering experienced forever."[4] Such vindictiveness, we are told, is totally incompatible with the character of God and utterly unacceptable to "sensitive Christians."[5] It would "serve no purpose" and be an act of "sheer vengeance and vindictiveness," which is "out of keeping with the love of God revealed in the gospels."[6]

Stott and Pinnock's argument that "sins committed in time cannot be worthy of eternal suffering" is fallacious. It assumes that the heinousness of a crime is directly related to the time it takes to commit it. But such a connection is nonexistent. Some crimes, such as murder, may take only a moment to commit, whereas it may take a thief hours to load up a moving van with someone's possessions. Yet, murder is a far more serious crime than theft.[7]

Second, the nature of the object against which the sin is committed, as well as the nature of the sin itself, must be taken into account when determining the degree of heinousness. As W. G. T. Shedd observes, stealing in general is a crime, but stealing from one's mother is even more despicable because one owes special allegiance to one's parents. Torturing an animal is a crime, but torturing a human being is an even greater crime, worthy of greater punishment. The criminal act is the same in each case (i.e., stealing and torture), as is the person committing the act. But "the different worth and dignity of the objects upon whom his action terminates makes the difference in the gravity of the two offenses."[8]

How much more serious, then, is even the slightest offense against an absolutely holy God, who is worthy of our complete and perpetual allegiance?[9] Indeed, sin against an absolutely holy God is absolutely serious. For this reason, the unredeemed suffer absolute, unending alienation from God; this alienation is the essence of hell. It is the annihilationist's theory that is morally flawed. Their God is not truly holy, for he does not demand that sin receive its due.

The reason these "sensitive Christians" have such an emotional problem with hell is because they, in the words of Anselm, "have not as yet estimated the great burden of sin."[10] If they truly saw sin as God does (recognizing that no sinner can do so perfectly), they would not have the slightest problem with the doctrine. Indeed, they would find themselves distraught if God did not punish sin for all eternity.

LINGUISTIC ARGUMENTS

Annihilationists believe they can make a case for their theory based on the meaning of key biblical terms used to describe the ultimate fate of the wicked. LeRoy Edwin Froom, in his book The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, presents a list of seventy words that he says demonstrate total annihilation.[11] On the basis of these words, Froom exults triumphantly that "no loopholes are left."[12] Edward W. Fudge likewise cites this list, and concludes: "Without exception they portray destruction, extinction or extermination."[13]

Space will not permit us to examine all or even many of the words that Froom, Fudge, Stott, and others offer to establish their position. We should note, however, that many of the words in Froom's "impressive, cumulative array" of seventy terms do not even merit examination.[14] For example, he lists words like "tear" and "tread down" as proof of annihilation -- as if a torn piece of paper has been removed from existence! Here, we will consider a few of the words that at least offer the possibility of teaching annihilation. By refuting these examples, I will demonstrate the flaws in their method generally.[15]

"Destroy," "Perish," and "Cut Off"

Annihilationists believe that words like "perish," "destroy," and "cut off" indicate total annihilation. Fudge declares that these words "seem clearly to say what the conditionalist wishes to convey....and the conditionalist is confident that the ordinary man in the street can tell us what those words usually mean to him."[16]

The most common term translated "destroy" in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word abad. It is used to describe the fate of the wicked, as in, for example, Proverbs 11:10. But should we understand this destruction to mean total annihilation?

It is clear from other Old Testament passages using this word that abad need not mean annihilation.[17] The word has a range of meaning. For example, Numbers 21:29 says that the people of Chemosh were "destroyed" (abad). But this is a reference to their being sold into slavery, not to their annihilation. In 1 Samuel 9:3 and 20, the word is used in reference to Saul's "lost donkeys" (athonoth abadoth). In this context, the word means "lost," not "annihilated." In Psalm 31:12, a vessel is "broken" (abad), not annihilated. Here, the meaning is that the vessel is rendered unfit for use, not that it has lapsed into nonexistence. It simply is not true that abad, "without exception," must mean annihilation.[18]

Evildoers are also said to be "cut off." Fudge and Pinnock both cite Psalm 37:22, 28, 34, and 38 as representative.[19] These verses, they believe, prove the utter annihilation of the wicked. The word used here is carath. But note that this same word is used to describe the Messiah being "cut off" (Dan. 9:26), who certainly was not annihilated. Even if one admits that the wicked are "annihilated" in the sense of being removed from earthly existence (as Jesus was), this would not prove that they are removed from any existence.

Turning to the New Testament, annihilationists claim that the Greek word apollumi conveys total annihilation. Stott asserts that the verb apollumi means "destroy," and the noun apoleia means "destruction." He cites Matthew 2:13, 12:14, and 27:4, which refer to Herod's desire to destroy the baby Jesus, and the later Jewish plot to have Him executed. Stott then mentions Matthew 10:28 (cf. James 4:12): "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy [apolesai] both soul and body in hell."[20] He regards this "destruction" as a reference to the soul's total annihilation in hell. Stott also offers the contrast between believers and unbelievers as manifest proof: "If believers are hoi sozomenoi (those who are being saved), then unbelievers are hoi apollumenoi(those who are perishing). This phrase occurs in 1 Corinthians 1:18, 2 Corinthians 2:15; 4:3, and in 2 Thessalonians 2:10."[21] He believes that this language of destruction points to the total annihilation of the wicked.

Stott concludes: "It would seem strange, therefore, if people who are said to suffer destruction are in fact not destroyed;...it is difficult to imagine a perpetually inconclusive process of perishing."[22]
Careful scrutiny of passages using these words shows, however, that they do not teach annihilation. Consider 1 Corinthians 1:18, one of the passages cited by Stott. This passage tells us that "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing [tois apollumenois]." This participle is in the present tense, which, as Robert Reymond rightly notes, "describes existing people who are presently perishing. The verb does not suggest that their future state will be non-existence."[23]

As Reymond points out, Luke 15:8-9 uses the word to describe the lost but existing coin. In Luke 15:4 and 6 it describes the lost but existing sheep. The prodigal (but existing) son is described by this term in Luke 15:17, 24.[24] Murray Harris cites other passages, such as John 11:50, Acts 5:37, 1 Corinthians 10:9-10, and Jude 11, where the concept of destruction (apoleia) or perishing (apolusthai) need not imply annihilation.[25] Indeed, as Albrecht Oepke remarks in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, "What is meant here [in passages speaking of divine judgment] is not a simple extinction of existence, but an everlasting state of torment and death."[26]

It is true that apoleia is often translated "destruction" or "ruin." But Charles Hodge explains how "destruction" or "ruin" differs from annihilation: "To destroy is to ruin. The nature of that ruin depends on the nature of the subject of which it is predicated. A thing is ruined when it is rendered unfit for use; when it is in such a state that it can no longer answer the end for which it was designed....A soul is utterly and forever destroyed when it is reprobated, alienated from God, rendered a fit companion only for the devil and his angels."[27]

Roger Nicole offers an illustration that highlights in a very lucid way the truth of Hodge's explanation. We speak of an automobile as wrecked, ruined, demolished, or "totalled," "not only when its constituent parts have been melted or scattered away, but also when they have been so damaged and twisted that the car has become completely unserviceable."[28]
"Consume"

Annihilationists also point to words translated "consume" or "consumed" in the Old and New Testaments as proof that the wicked are annihilated. Pinnock states, for example, that the Bible repeatedly "uses the imagery of fire consuming (not torturing) what is thrown into it. The images of fire and destruction together strongly suggest annihilation rather than unending torture."[29] Pinnock then cites Malachi 4:1 as a case in point.

Stott likewise claims that the imagery of fire does not refer to conscious torment, even though all of us who have experienced being burned have felt acute pain. He says that the main function of fire is not to cause pain but to secure destruction, as in the case of an incinerator. The Bible speaks of a "consuming fire" and of "burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:12; cf. Luke 3:17).

Stott concludes, "The fire itself is termed 'eternal' and 'unquenchable' but it would be very odd if what is thrown into it proved indestructible. Our expectation would be the opposite: it would be consumed forever, not tormented forever. Hence it is the smoke (evidence that the fire has done its work) which 'rises forever and ever' (Rev. 14:11; cf. 19:3)."[30]

In response, Robert Morey and others have shown conclusively that the Hebrew words translated "consume" are used in many contexts where the meaning cannot possibly be annihilation (e.g., Ps. 78:45; Lam. 3:4; Ezek. 13:13; etc.).[31] (Since space does not permit an exposition of these passages, I refer the interested reader to Morey's fine discussion.) Therefore, we should not assume automatically that the mere presence of the word "consume" ipso facto proves annihilation. Context is always determinative.

Now, let us grant that fire normally represents that which consumes or annihilates its fuel until nothing but ashes are left. Normal fire dies out once the fuel has been consumed. But the fire of judgment is no normal fire: it is described as an eternal fire (Jude 7) which is unquenchable (Mark 9:48). The fact that the smoke is said to rise "forever and ever" is not evidence that "the fire has done its work," as Stott wrongly infers, but rather that the fire is doing its work through a process of endless combustion. Stott replaces the "unquenchable" fire of Jesus with the "quenchable" fire of the annihilationists.

The same argument holds for the undying worms (Mark 9:48). Worms are able to live as long as there is food for them to consume. Once their food supply has been consumed, the worms eventually die. But the torments of hell are likened to undying, not dying worms. This is because their supply of food -- the wicked -- never ceases.

ANNIHILATIONIST ANSWERS TO TEXTS SUPPORTING THE TRADITIONAL VIEW

Adherents of the annihilationist position believe that they have the teaching of Scripture on their side, and that they are able to answer the arguments advanced by the traditionalists in support of eternal, conscious punishment. But is this really the case?

In Part One I put forth a few selected texts to demonstrate the doctrine of eternal punishment. I stated my conviction that these texts alone are sufficient to settle the matter once and for all. Let us see how annihilationists attempt to answer the challenge of these texts, and whether they succeed at doing so.

Matthew 25:46

Consider the approach of John Stott:
    At the end of the so-called parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus contrasted "eternal life" with "eternal punishment" (Matt. 25:46). Does that not indicate that in hell people endure eternal conscious punishment? No, that is to read into the text what is not necessarily there. What Jesus said is that both the life and the punishment would be eternal, but he did not in that passage define the nature of either. Because he elsewhere spoke of eternal life as a conscious enjoyment of God (Jn. 17:3), it does not follow that eternal punishment must be a conscious experience of pain at the hand of God. On the contrary, although declaring both to be eternal, Jesus is contrasting the two destinies: the more unlike they are, the better.[32]
Stott is incorrect in asserting that the passage "does not define the nature of either [eternal life or eternal punishment]." As we observed in Part One, the mere fact that the wicked are said to experience "punishment" (Greek: kolasin) proves two inescapable facts by the nature of the case: the existence of the one punished, and the conscious experience of the punishment. If either of these two are lacking, then punishment is not occurring -- at least not in any meaningful sense of the term.
Someone cannot be punished eternally unless that someone is there to receive the punishment. One can exist and not be punished, but one cannot be punished and not exist. Nonentities cannot receive punishment. Now, it is possible that one could receive punishment for a time and then be annihilated.

In that case, we would have a finite time of punishment followed by a finite process of annihilating (i.e., the actual time it takes to accomplish the annihilation), followed by an unending result of the annihilating process. But the Bible uses the adjective "eternal" to describe the punishment itself, not merely the result of the punishment.

But mere existence is not enough either. One cannot "punish" a rock or a tree, even though these might exist. Annihilationists (e.g., Pinnock[33]) sometimes complain that traditionalists "smuggle" the word "conscious" into their descriptions of punishment. But really, the traditionalist need not "smuggle" anything into the description. Once we have said the word "punishment" we have also said, at least by implication, the word "conscious." Punishment, per se, is conscious or it is not punishment. A punishment that is not felt is not a punishment. It is an odd use of language to speak of an insensate (i.e., unfeeling), inanimate object receiving punishment. To say, "I punished my car for not starting by slowly plucking out its sparkplug wires, one by one," would evoke laughter, not serious consideration.

Stott's axiom, "The more unlike they [i.e., heaven and hell] are, the better," actually harms his own case. If heaven represents unutterable joy, then hell should be unutterable sorrow. Yet, the whole point of the annihilationist's argument is to mitigate the horror of eternal suffering for the lost, not to increase it.

Revelation 20:10

Since Matthew 25:46 is more than adequate to refute annihilationism, we could stop here. But in Part One we saw that Revelation 20:10 is also an exceedingly clear passage teaching eternal punishment for the lost. Even if we conceded Matthew 25:46 to the annihilationists, what could they possibly say in response to John's words: "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever"?

Clark Pinnock on Revelation 20:10

Pinnock states that in Revelation 20:10 "it is the Devil, the Beast, and the false prophet who are the only ones present, and they cannot be equated with ordinary human beings, however we should understand their nature. John's point seems to be that everything which has rebelled against God will come to an absolute end."[34]

Well, first of all, even if Pinnock's point is that "everything which has rebelled against God will come to an absolute end," John's point is that the Devil, beast, and false prophet will be tormented day and night, forever and ever. To read the text is to refute Pinnock.
Second, Pinnock's statement that the Devil, beast, and false prophet "cannot be equated with ordinary human beings, however we should understand their nature" is both ambiguous and proves nothing, however one wishes to interpret it. Of course an angel's nature is different than a human being's nature. But the point of "equivalence" is not the nature of the beings (i.e., angels as disembodied spirits vs. human beings as psycho-physical unities), but their ultimate fate. I demonstrated clearly in Part One that the fate of wicked humans is "equated" with the fate of the Devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 14:11; 19:20; 20:15).

Besides, even in terms of nature, the Devil (and other angelic beings) can be equated with humans in this respect: both are personal, sensate (i.e., feeling) beings who can experience conscious torment. Consider, for example, Matthew 8:29, where the demons exclaim to Jesus, "Have you come here to torment us before the time?" This shows clearly that demons can be tormented.

If Pinnock allows that Revelation 20:10 proves even the Devil's unending torment, as the form of his argument implies, he will have annihilated one of the main pillars of his position: the belief that finite creatures are incapable of committing infinite sin ("however sinful they may have been"[35]), and thus cannot be punished justly with unending torment.

John Stott on Revelation 20:10

Let us see how John Stott handles this same passage. He declares, "The beast, the false prophet and the harlot, however, are not individual people but symbols of the world in its varied hostility to God. In the nature of the case they cannot experience pain. Nor can 'Death and Hades,' which follow them into the lake of fire (20:13)."[36]

If the beast, the false prophet, and the harlot are only abstract symbols -- with no relation to individual people -- then Stott is certainly correct in saying that they cannot experience pain. Symbols, being abstractions, cannot be tortured. However, the text says that these three are tortured.

It is well and good to deny that abstractions can be tortured. But then Stott should tell us what the text does mean when it describes these alleged abstractions as "tormented day and night." Yet, no explanation whatever is offered. We are left with two possible conclusions: (1) that the three are not mere abstractions (contrary to Stott's exegesis); or (2) that Revelation 20:10 is pure gibberish (contrary to the character of God, who inspired the text). If forced to choose between such an exegesis or God's character, the choice is obvious: the beast, false prophet, and harlot are not mere abstractions but have reference to individual people.

Now, even if we allow that these three are "symbols of the world in its varied hostility to God," we must admit that the world which they symbolize is made up of individual people who are the ones exercising the hostility. If abstractions cannot be tortured, neither can they express hostility. At some level, then, these symbols must designate real people. The same can be said for the expression "death and hades." That is to say, it is individuals held in the power of death and occupying hades who are cast into the lake of fire. This is made exceedingly clear by verses 13-15 of the same chapter.

For the sake of discussion, let us grant to Stott the impossible: the beast, false prophet, and harlot are abstract symbols with no real reference to individual people. Is Stott prepared to say the same about the Devil? Certainly Stott still believes in a personal devil. But the text says, "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." As we observed when refuting Pinnock's argument, the annihilationists fall on their own sword: finite beings, they tell us, cannot be punished with infinite punishment. Since none of the annihilationists are prepared to ascribe infinity (and, hence, true deity) to Satan, they must abandon their "moral" argument.

Edward Fudge on Revelation 20:10

Edward Fudge is recognized by many within the annihilationist camp as the standard-bearer for the position. What does the apostle of annihilationism say in response to this verse?
    This is the single most problematic text in the whole Bible for the extinction of all evil, even though it does not specify human beings. In view of the overwhelming mass of material otherwise found throughout Scripture, however, one ought to remember the general hermeneutical rule that calls for interpreting the uncommon in light of the common and the obscure in light of the more clearly revealed.[37]
I can paraphrase the essence of Fudge's response as follows: "We know from elsewhere in the Bible that annihilationism is true. Therefore, this verse cannot possibly mean what it says."

What about the hermeneutical principle Fudge invokes, "unclear passages should be interpreted by the clear ones"? Fine. Let us admit his principle. We have already shown that the passages advanced in favor of the annihilation theory can, and often must, be interpreted in the traditional sense. But what is ambiguous about Revelation 20:10, in so far as the doctrine of eternal, conscious torment for the lost is concerned?[38]

Is the word "devil" ambiguous? As seen throughout Fudge's writings, he believes in a personal, malignant spirit-being called the Devil. There is no ambiguity here.

How about the expression, "lake of fire and brimstone"? What is ambiguous about that? Certainly, when God threatens sinners with the lake of fire and brimstone, they do not immediately scratch their heads and ask for clarification. Fudge argues that the term "lake of fire" is "but a symbol for annihilation."[39] But, if we might borrow the words of Fudge himself, the traditionalist "is confident that the ordinary man in the street can tell us what those words usually mean to him." Given the fact that the place described in Revelation 20:10 is a place of unremitting torment, annihilation does not (and cannot) come naturally to mind! Now, we did note in Part One that many traditionalists do not regard the "fire" of Gehenna as being a kind of material fire, but as symbolic of something far worse. Regardless of one's stand on that question, this "ambiguity" does not affect the argument here. The "fire" of Gehenna is at least as bad as the material fire we know in this life.

How about the expression, "beast and false prophet"? Like Stott, Fudge regards the language as "symbolic," referring to "political power and apostate religious beguilement." He concludes that these "are not persons who can be tortured in fire."[40] We already saw the futility of this "symbolic vs. personal" interpretation in connection with Stott.[41] But even allowing that the beast and false prophet are neither individual people nor symbolic of individual people, one cannot escape the fact that the Devil is an individual and that he is tormented day and night, forever and ever. Here Fudge is on the ropes, and grudgingly admits, "There is no easy solution." But then he adds, "Yet to this point no human beings are involved in the lake of fire, nor does this passage say that any of Adam's race are tormented forever and ever."[42] Of course, verse 10 does not mention humans, but one need only look at verse 15 of the same chapter -- not to mention Matthew 25:41, Revelation 14:11, and Revelation 19:20 -- to see that Satan's human followers experience the same fate as he.

If Revelation 20:10 teaches the eternal, conscious torment of the Devil (as indeed it does), then that fact alone annihilates the annihilationist's entire system because: (1) The Devil's eternal punishment reduces to ashes their "no infinite punishment for finite sin" defense. (2) It also shows that eternal, conscious punishment against a sensate, finite, sinful being is moral -- and if it can be moral in one case, it can be moral in others. (3) It leaves the traditionalist in a position to prove his entire case simply by showing that unregenerate sinners experience the same fate as the Devil and his angels, a task that is quite easy to do.

How about the word "tormented" (basanizo)? What is unclear about that? We examined the consistent scriptural usage of this word in Part One. We already observed that Fudge tacitly admits the obvious meaning of this term -- at least in the Devil's case. But in the case of his "abstractions" (i.e., the beast and false prophet), Fudge, like Stott, tells us that abstractions cannot be tormented. He then leaves us hanging as to what John could have possibly intended by such a meaningless expression.

Finally, is there something ambiguous about the phrase, "day and night forever and ever"? Here we find the emphatic form eis tous aionas ton aionon ("unto the ages of the ages"). This construction is used only to describe unending duration. We saw in Part One that this phrase is the most emphatic way of expressing endless duration possible in the Greek language.

Superior Sensitivity or Secular Sentimentalism?

Pinnock speaks of the "sensitive Christians" who have no choice but to abandon the doctrine of hell in favor of a kinder and gentler fate for the wicked.[43] But as J. I. Packer observes, "the feelings that make people want conditionalism to be true seem to me to reflect, not superior spiritual sensitivity, but secular sentimentalism which assumes that in heaven our feelings about others will be as at present, and our joy in the manifesting of God's justice will be no greater than it is now."[44]

We should never forget that it was the Lord Jesus Christ, more than any other, who enunciated the doctrine of everlasting torment for the lost. Christ had no need to attend a modern sensitivity training workshop; He was "sensitivity incarnate." But He also manifested a perfect balance of love and justice. The same holy God who "shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire" (2 Thess. 1:7) is the God who stooped to become one of us, and bore the vengeance of God's fire in His own body on the tree. If God should open our eyes to understand the terrible price He paid, we would in that instant comprehend the awful guilt of spurning that price. If those who scorned the old covenant were consumed with the fire of this present age, "how much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant" (Heb. 10:29)?

NOTES

Clark Pinnock, "Fire, Then Nothing," Christianity Today, 20 March 1987, 440; "The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," Criswell Theological Review 4, no. 2 (Spring 1990):246-47, 253.

2 Pinnock, "Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," 246-47; 253.

3 David L. Edwards and John R. W. Stott, Evangelical Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), 318.

4 Pinnock, "Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," 255.

5 Pinnock, "Fire, Then Nothing," 40.

6 Pinnock, "Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," 254-55. See also Stephen Travis, I Believe in the Second Coming of Jesus (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 199.

See W. G. T. Shedd, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1886; reprint, Minneapolis: Klock and Klock, 1980), 152-53. It is also possible to interpret Pinnock's and Stott's ambiguous language to mean that sins committed in the realm of time (i.e., sequential duration) cannot justly be punished in a timeless, eternal realm (i.e., eternity in the sense of an "eternal now"). At least in Pinnock's case, it hardly seems likely that this is what he intends, since elsewhere he has wrongly argued against understanding even God's existence -- much less the existence of His creatures -- as "timeless." But even if this were their intended meaning, the argument would be refuted simply by noting that the realm in which sinners suffer in hell is the same -- temporally speaking -- as the realm in which they committed the sins: it is a temporal realm. Sinners in hell, as well as saints in heaven, do not occupy "eternity" in the same sense that God does; that is, as an "eternal now." Sinners will experience their punishment in temporal sequence, just as the sins they committed took place in temporal sequence. An endless time of punishment is a time of punishment nonetheless.

Ibid., 152.

9 The infinity of guilt for sin against God was cogently argued by St. Anselm in the eleventh century in his epochal work, Cur Deus Homo? ("Why the God-Man?"). See especially Book 1, Chapters 20-24, 239-51. In St. Anselm: Basic Writings, trans. S. N. Deane (La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing, 1962).

10 Ibid., 242.

11 LeRoy Edwin Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, 2 vols. (Washington, DC: The Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1965), 1:106-11.

12 Ibid., 1:107.

13 Edward W. Fudge, "The Final End of the Wicked," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 27 (September 1984):326.

14 Froom, 1:108.

15 Robert A. Morey deals with many more of these terms in his book, Death and the Afterlife (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1984).

16 Edward W. Fudge, "'The Plain Meaning': A Review Essay," Henceforth 14 (1985):23-24.

17 See Morey, 109.

18 There are several other Hebrew words that are often rendered "destroy" or "ruin." For a discussion of these, see Morey, 108 ff. For additional evidence that "destroy" does not mean "annihilate," see Harry Buis, The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1957), 125 ff.

19 Edward W. Fudge, The Fire That Consumes (Fallbrook, CA: Verdict Publications, 1982), 92-93; Pinnock, "Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," 250-51.

20 Edwards and Stott, 315.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid., 316.

23 Robert Reymond, "Dr. John Stott on Hell," Presbyterion 16 (Spring 1990):53.

24 See Reymond, 53; Albrecht Oepke, "apoleia," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 1 (1964), 397.

25 Murray J. Harris, Raised Immortal: Resurrection and Immortality in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 184. See also R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel(Columbus, OH: Wartburg, 1943), 297.

26 Oepke, 397.

27 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979 reprint edition), 3:874.

28 Roger Nicole, "Universalism: Will Everyone Be Saved?" Christianity Today, 20 March 1987, 34.

29 Pinnock, "Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," 250.

30 Edwards and Stott, 316.

31 Morey, 110 ff.

32 Edwards and Stott, 317.

33 Pinnock, "Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," 256.

34 Ibid., 257.

35 Ibid., 247.

36 Edwards and Stott, 318.

37 Fudge, Final End of the Wicked, 332.

38 Some may wish to argue that the entire book of Revelation, being a symbolic and prophetic book, is "ambiguous." But even if symbolic language (like any language) has a range of meaning, the language is certainly not meaningless, nor can it mean anything anyone wishes it to. Even granting the reasonable range of meaning for the words in the passage before us, the traditional doctrine concerning hell is still affirmed. In any case, it is not necessary to defend the understanding of the Book of Revelation as a whole, since the annihilationists themselves grant this point. Even Fudge, who calls the Revelation 20:10 passage "obscure," draws whatever conclusions he can from the passage in support of his position. This will be evident as we proceed.

39 Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 304.

40 Ibid.

41 The logic that should be followed here is clear, and is easily expressed as a syllogism: (1) Mere abstractions cannot be tormented. (2) The text says that the beast and false prophet are tormented. (3) Therefore, the beast and the false prophet cannot be mere abstractions. I say "mere" abstractions because I have no problem believing that these could be abstract symbols that refer ultimately to individual persons. In that case, through a figure of speech, one could speak of "tormenting" the symbol with the understanding that it is the people represented by the symbol that actually undergo the torment.

42 Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 304.

43 Pinnock, "Fire, Then Nothing," 40.

44 J. I. Packer, "Evangelicals and the Way of Salvation: New Challenges to the Gospel -- Universalism, and Justification," in Evangelical Affirmations, ed. Kenneth Kantzer and Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 126. In Part One, I stated that I do not believe that annihilationists hold their position merely out of sentimentalism. In citing Packer's remarks, I do not wish to take away with my left hand what I granted with the right. Nevertheless, while I will take the evangelical annihilationists at their word when they declare their belief in the authority of Scripture, it also seems that emotional factors have predisposed them to interpret the texts on hell in a less-than-objective manner.

                                       Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute

Monday, April 15, 2019

1 Timothy 3:16 And The Deity Of Jesus Christ

  • Discussion:
           -"By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory." (1 Timothy 3:16)

           Some of the Greek New Testament manuscripts we possess contain a textual variant when it comes to the Greek word that is translated as "who" (i.e. who was revealed in the flesh) and the Greek word for "God." It seems likely for a number of reasons that the pronoun "who" is the original word in the original autographs penned by the Apostle Paul.

           It would have been tempting for a scribe who held to a high Christology, one who acknowledged Jesus Christ's full divinity, to change the word "Ος" (who) for the Greek word "θεος" (God) in emphasizing Christ's divinity. First of all, His deity is not the main aspect of the text in question. And secondly, the use of the pronoun is perfectly consistent with the manner in which Paul writes elsewhere (Colossians 1:15; Philippians 2:5-11).

           Nonetheless, 1 Timothy 3:16 supports the divinity of Christ in a subtle fashion. The language of "he was manifested in the flesh" suggests that He existed prior to His incarnation. He was not created, but took on human flesh. Additionally, this text echoes an early Christian hymn.

           The phrase "vindicated by the Spirit" refers to Christ resurrecting bodily from the grave (Romans 1:4). The phrase "seen by angels" points to Christ ascending into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). The phrase "proclaimed among the nations" refers to His glory being revealed by the Holy Spirit through the gospel to the world (2 Corinthians 4:2-4). The phrase "taken up in glory" refers to Christ being exalted at the right hand of the Father (Acts 7:56). Jesus Christ is God incarnate. This note is also insightful as to how this texts points to Christ's divinity:

           "Notably, the phrase “great indeed, is the mystery of godliness” may intentionally echo the phrase frequently heard in Ephesus: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:28). If so, Paul is indirectly subverting the cult of Artemis, Ephesus’ patron goddess."

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Exposing The False Gospel Of Physical Well-being

  • Introduction:
          -Prosperity gospel preachers are known for making fraudulent promises of recovery, financial blessings, and freedom from demonic influences to those who voluntarily donate large sums of money. It is claimed that God gives people who have enough faith a hundredfold in terms of wealth and health in addition to the forgiveness provided by the Cross. Professing Christians who give money to prosperity gospel ministries are wrongly assured that God will materially reward them as a result of their contributions.
  • The Origin Of The Prosperity Gospel As Recounted By This Source:
          -"Its roots, though, don’t just lie in explicitly Christian tradition. In fact, it’s possible to trace the origins of the American prosperity gospel to the tradition of New Thought, a nineteenth-century spiritual movement popular with decidedly unorthodox thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James. Practitioners of New Thought, not all of whom identified as Christian, generally held the divinity of the individual human being and the priority of mind over matter. In other words, if you could correctly channel your mental energy, you could harness its material results. New Thought, also known as the “mind cure,” took many forms: from interest in the occult to splinter-Christian denominations like Christian Science to the development of the “talking cure” at the root of psychotherapy."
          -"The more I studied the Bible, however, I had to admit that the prosperity message did not line up with the tenor of Scripture. My heart was crushed to think that I led so many people astray. I was appalled that I could have been so wrong, and I was deeply grateful that God had not struck me dead as a false prophet!"
    • The Book Of Proverbs Expressly Identifies An Appropriate Financial Balance:
              -"Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." (Proverbs 30:7-9)
    • Our Lord Jesus Christ Warned Against Being Greedy:
              -"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:19-24)
    • The Apostle Paul Stated That The Love Of Money Is A Root Of Evil:
              -"Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
    • We Have Been Exhorted In Scripture To Be Content With What We Have:
              -"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
              -"The Montanists believed that true Christianity depended on a mystical experience with the Spirit, and they taught a two-tiered division of believers, distinguishing between ordinary believers and the pneumatakoi, or “spirit-filled” Christians. The pneumatakoi were the “more advanced” group that received a special indwelling (a “baptism”) of the Holy Spirit after conversion. According to the Montanists, a life of true holiness or godliness was not possible if you were not numbered among the pneumatakoi."
              -People involved in the prosperity gospel have been guilty of these same types of extreme use of the gifts where there are special people who are filled with the Holy Spirit and those who are not. They also do this with the use health and prosperity only for the strong of faith.
    • Signs To Look Out For When Attending A Church:
              -The biggest sign is someone promising riches and good health for those with faith.
              -Unlike biblically solid congregations, a prosperity gospel church never teaches on how to respond in godly ways to suffering.
              -Graduates usually receive degrees from institutions such as Rhema Bible Training College and Oral Roberts University.