HEBREWS and UNIVERSALISM
24. Unbelievers: No way to escape judgment
I must of course make the typical comment that we do not know for sure who wrote the book of Hebrews. The earliest recipients knew, and the church has traditionally accepted the book as in some way apostolic and in every way authoritative. We shall refer to the author as... the author.
One other note. This is a treatise that sets out to prove the superiority of Jesus and the New Covenant. It was not written to address our current problem. But when it does address it, there is no doubt as to the intent. Judgment is coming.
Hebrews 2:3. The author refers to a non-existent escape for those who neglect their salvation. Escape from what?
Hebrews 3:6. We are Christ's House. IF. If we hold fast, firm to the end. And if not?
Hebrews 3:12-19, 4:11. Serious warning here. Serious comparison. Israel tested the Lord. He passed the test, they did not. The disobedient did not enter in. Unbelieving evil hearts today will likewise be rejected. No exceptions mentioned. No change of heart , either, in future eons.
Hebrews 6:2. The doctrine of eternal judgment is listed here as one of the basics of the faith. That's why Universalism must be treated as a major illness in the Body. It must be dealt with severely, as a cancer that spreads its death slowly and surely throughout. There is a judgment coming. It is eternal.
In the Universalist book of doctrines, assuming that even false teachers have a system for their theology, the page that should describe eternal judgments is blank.
Hebrews 6:4-8. Thorns and briers that grow on an otherwise blessed earth will be cursed, and in the end, burned. Pretty clear language.
Hebrews 8:10-11. Here is a message to Israel, directly from Israel's original Bible. A new covenant is coming. The old written covenant needs to be replaced. In the old covenant days, it was possible to live in the Kingdom, and not even know the Lord. Prophets were raised up to call people back to obedience, and knowledge of the Holy.
Not so in the new covenant. Everyone who is a part of that covenant will, by definition, know the Lord. No one has to tell a born again Jew or Gentile, "Know Jesus." He already knows Him. That's how he qualified to be a part of the covenant to begin with.
Carried even further, in that coming worldwide Kingdom, the government that shall be upon His shoulders, the same principle will apply. Kingdom people will obviously know Who is the King!
So, no, this is not a passage promising endless salvation to everyone who ever lived. This is an announcement of the New Agreement between God and His own special people.
Hebrews 9:15. Only those who are called receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Hebrews 9:28. Jesus will come again. (Only once, by the way!) He will come to receive to Himself those who are eagerly waiting for Him. I wonder just how many people in today's world could answer to such a description, "waiting eagerly for Jesus."
Hebrews 10:26-39. Here is perhaps the most terrifying passage of Hebrews. Universalists should heed it well. Non-universalists should do the same.
If one has come to Christ but continues in his sin, as Paul allowed to be possible in Romans 6, he can expect nothing but judgment. Fiery indignation. God not in a "good mood", oh decidedly not!
Why so angry, Lord God?
1. They have trampled the Son of God underfoot.
2. They have counted the blood of Jesus a mere common thing.
3. They have insulted the Spirit of grace that was trying to convict them and bring them to repentance.
A God to be feared.
Why has all of this teaching about our God been dropped from the discussion, not only by Universalists but by most of the rest of us too?
Hebrews 12:8-11. Chastening. There, you see, all this talk of judgment is merely about a temporary corrective measure. No, the chastening discussion is directed to true sons, and it is about the here and now.
There is another group mentioned. Bastard sons. Here and now, they receive no correction. Spoiled. And ripe for the judgment described graphically in the rest of the book. Chastening and judgment are two separate subjects.
Hebrews 12:14. No holiness, no vision of God, ever.
Hebrews 12:17. Esau is used as an example of the unchangeableness of God's judgment. Isaac, the God figure in the story, cannot bless his own son because of his breaking of the rules. Man can be forgiven all sin. But there is a sin against the Holy Ghost which cannot be forgiven. Those who despise the workings of the Spirit in their lives will be cast out forever from the blessing. "Depart from Me," Jesus will say. "I never knew you."
We must not mistake God's mercy and grace activated at Calvary for repentant sinners, with the on-going workings of the Spirit in the life of His sons. The writer of Hebrews is especially emphatic about this.
Hebrews 12:25-29. Did I say that this book is not about eternal judgment? Yet in 8 of its 13 chapters we have mention of this terrifying subject. Here is one last look.
Israel refused Moses. They did not escape judgment. Much less will we escape if we refuse Jesus. Israel witnessed the shaking of the earth. We will see the shaking of heaven and earth. In the final shaking only the Kingdom will survive.
There is a Kingdom. There is a non-Kingdom. Our God, the consuming fire, will utterly destroy that which is not His Kingdom.
"Gentle Jesus, meek and mild." Yes, in the manger. Yes, at His first coming. "I will give you rest." Yes.
He will also give the world judgment. To misunderstand this aspect of Who He is, is fatal.
JOHN and UNIVERSALISM
25. The Jesus of Revelation
Our final, and perhaps most decisive in many ways, look at eternal judgment, is through the eyes of the apostle John. We met him in his Gospel earlier, but I decided to save the rest of his writings for the closing of New Testament thought, as that has been the role assigned to him by the Spirit and the church through the ages. Jesus' final word about the wrath to come, and a chilling one it is, is through John.
As we indicated earlier, it is quite possible to be known as a man of love and a man of judgment. The two are not exclusive after all, and if it be so in this human, why is it not also possible in the One in Whose image he was made?
God is love. God is a consuming fire. No contradiction.
I John 3:6, 8, 14; 5:12, 19. John continues the exclusive tendencies of Scripture. It is hard for us to hear talk such as this in a culture of "acceptance" and "tolerance" and "non-discrimination." But the fact is that those who continue in their sin, whatever their label may be, have never seen or known Jesus Christ.
Further, sinning people are from the devil. Those who do not practice righteousness are simply not from God. Ditto, those who do not love their brothers in Christ.
John says that there are people of death and people of life. That those who are in darkness and filled with hate are murderers, and do not have eternal life in them. Period.
He goes on to indicate that anyone who has the Son has life. No Son, no life. And his most obvious division of the two peoples and their destinies: "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one."
Where in the world can one work into the seamless theology of John that somehow, somewhere, in a different age, these two groups shall be one, and will be forever in God's favor?
Revelation. Here is a book like no other. Many want to downplay the prophetic nature of the book and its dire warnings of doom for the lost by saying, as it says in its first words, "The revelation of Jesus Christ."
This is first and foremost a revealing of Jesus. Though we might argue that the meaning here is that all that is to follow comes to us under the auspices of Jesus Christ, for the moment let us accept the notion that the book is a revealing of the very person and nature of our Lord Jesus.
Then what an awesome uncovering is this! Jesus, with swords coming out of His mouth. Jesus, holding the keys of death and hell. Jesus, with eyes as a flame of fire. Jesus, who is holy and true. Jesus, a Lamb indeed, but one filled with the wrath of God. Jesus, who stops the rain, brings humongous earthquakes, showers of hail. Jesus, wielder of the sharp sickle with which He reaps the earth. Jesus, Who treads the winepress of Almighty God, causing an unprecedented bloodbath. Jesus, who allows the sun to scorch unrepentant man. Jesus, Who destroys the commercial and religious interests of mankind in one fell swoop of His anger. Jesus, Who strikes the nations with an un-healable blow, and rules them Himself with a rod of iron. Jesus, Who casts His enemies into a lake of fire. Jesus, who judges living and dead in a world-wide judgment.
Look again, and you will see the One we have come to love and in Whom we rest. A gentle Jesus Who wipes away tears, encourages, invites.
These two revelations of the Lord demand that there are two groups of people to Whom Jesus is responding. The same theme we have seen throughout Scripture is even more evident here. There is no universal salvation. There is universal justice.
Revelation 6:10. See here the God of vengeance.
Revelation 6:16, 11:18. The God of wrath.
Revelation 7:14. The persecuted are welcomed home. Do you imagine that their persecutors will be greeted in the same way?
Revelation 9:20. Here, mankind has been given many rude awakenings. No repentance. Can a man truly be saved forever who does not repent here?
Revelation 14:9-13. Surely the antichrist (beast) shall be sent to torment. But here we learn that anyone who receives his mark shall be likewise tormented with fire and brimstone. The smoke of that torment ascends forever. They have no rest... ever.
That's what it says. No comment needed, except to note the stark contrast for that other group: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on, that they may rest from their labors..."
Revelation 15-16. The consummation of God's wrath in a series of unbearable judgments. Yet we are told elsewhere that God has not appointed us to wrath.
Revelation 17-18. The harlot Babylon is judged. Yet God's people, who by the way are still on earth, are told to come out of her. No lingering in Babylon. So, there is a cursed people. And there is a blessed people. They do not mix.
Revelation 19: 17 ff. The utter judgment of all at the return of Jesus. The supper of flesh given to animals and birds.
Revelation 20:12-15. Somehow "Death" and the grave, that is, the home of departed spirits, are all cast into the Lake of Fire. And into that lake are thrown anyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life.
There is some confusion about what is "the Book of Life", and what is the "Book of Life of the Lamb." No matter. It is clear that records are being kept. From those records it will be gleaned that all men sinned, but that some men had their sins paid for by the blood of the Lamb. Those who have no such payment added to their account will go to the Lake of Fire.
Again, what could be more clear?
Revelation 22:19. Possible for people to be lost? Why, even the third last verse of the Holy Bible makes it abundantly clear that it is possible. It says that those who in any way corrupt the plain teaching of Scripture by adding or subtracting its words shall find that the plagues they did not accept as real will be very real indeed, and the automatic spot they thought they had in the Heavenly Home has been assigned to someone else.
Let me use that very thought to conclude, as does John, the words of God in His New Covenant. Universalists, do not add your ideas to the Record. Do not subtract God's. There is a penalty for such activity.
26. Words matter.
Having failed to convince the bulk of believers that the Bible is silent about eternal judgment, the Universalist is forced to re-define "eternal". His source is Strong, as in the concordance. His argument is weak.
The little Greek noun aion, and its companion adjective aionios are at the heart of their defense. These are most often the words used when the New Testament speaks of eternal or everlasting punishment.
Alas, says the Universalist, the word simply does not mean "without end." It means "an age." Or even "the world." It can mean the Messianic Age, the Millennium. So you see, if there is such punishment at all, it is only to the end of the present age or the Millennial age, not all eternity.
We would counter, eternity is also an age, and it is this age of which the writers speak. Strong's is very quick to point out that, by extension, aion means "in perpetuity." Ongoing, always. The basic meaning of the adjective is actually perpetual. Once it starts, it never ends.
But the lie is much more easily given to Universalist thought by merely observing how the same word is used to explain the length of other quantities. Here is a partial list of such items, using the words aion and aionios as the false teachers would have it.
These verses have been paraphrased, and are in the order of their appearance in the New Testament.
Matthew 19:29. Everyone who has left all for Me shall inherit life for the duration of the Millennium.
Luke 1:33. Jesus will rule over the house of Jacob for an age.
John 3:16. God loved the world so much that He gave Jesus to die for it, so that whoever believes in Him will live until the end of the Millennial age.
John 4:14. Inside of the believer is a well that springs forth for the entire Millennium.
John 8:35. Jesus abides in the House of the Father for an age.
Romans 1:25. The Creator is to be blessed for 1,000 years.
Romans 16:26. The mystery of the Gospel has been made known by commandment of the God who will live until the end of the Millennium.
Galatians 1:5. Jesus gave Himself for us. We should give Him glory for the Millennial Age.
II Thessalonians 2:16. God has given us consolation that lasts 1,000 years.
I Timothy 6:12. Lay hold on life that lasts for 1,000 years.
I Timothy 6:16. To God has been given power that will stretch up to and to the end of the 1000-year reign of Christ.
Hebrews 1:8. Your Throne, O God, is for the Millennium.
Hebrews 13:8. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for the Millennium.
Hebrews 13:20. We are saved through the blood of a covenant that will last for 1,000 years after Jesus comes.
II Peter 1:11. The Kingdom that is coming will last for an age of 1,000 years.
I Peter 1:25. The word of the Lord endures for 1,000 years.
Revelation 5:13. Glory to the Lamb until the end of this age.
Revelation 11:15. And He shall reign for the Millennium.
Revelation 22:5. And they, the saints, shall reign for the Millennium.
Can you forgive me if I stop here? The list is so much longer, but I think you get the point. The Biblical context of aion and aionios is never-ending. Lasting forever and ever and ever. As thrilling as that is to us, it is equally horrible to those who do not know Jesus Christ. But the Greek word is what it is. We cannot change it, nor should we desire to do so. Let us believe it instead, and change our behavior to match the reality, rather than changing the reality to match our behavior.
It is proper to ask questions. It is improper to seek answers from man. Man has no answers about eternity. Man is seeking as much as the questioner. Though our authorities, the prophetic and apostolic writings found in your Bible, look very much like "man", it is our faith that the words they have given us are God-breathed, straight from Heaven.
Therefore we ask questions from God through these writings. What questions they answer, they answer very clearly. What they don't seem to answer, we assume is not necessary for us to know.
For example, there is a legitimate question, I believe, regarding those who have never heard the Gospel. There are several ways to deal with this issue, but it does not seem that a definitive word has been given. Nevertheless, the command to us is to preach the Gospel to every member of creation. We need not worry about what does not happen, only what does. Commands from Father negate philosophical queries of sons.
Clues in the Scripture do point to nature as being a messenger of God. There is some indication that a person who sees nature and wants to know more about its Creator, and His demands, will be visited by God in some way.
However we understand how God will deal with the lost, there is the principle of depravity with which to deal. The tribes of Canaan's time were utterly evil, and all had to be destroyed, including what we like to call "innocent" children, for the seed of evil was only going to continue reproducing.
So it is on every continent. Utterly depraved sinful humanity labors under a curse. Some will be snatched out of the flames when we give them access. But no one will be allowed to confront God with a righteous claim to eternal life. All have sinned.
I speak of this Scriptural mystery, but offer it in contrast to the Universalist position, which goes so much farther than to "correct" the problem, as though one needed to improve on the justice of God. The problem of "What about those who have never heard?" is not solved by saying that every human who ever lived, whether he wants it or not, whether he is covered by Calvary or not, will one day see the grace of God that will allow him into the Heavenly City, world without end.
No. As we have seen in nearly every book of the New Testament, the record does not support this fantasy. Justice will prevail when grace is finally withdrawn. The eternal justice of the eternal God demands payment. Those who refuse the payment already offered must pay their own way. And what price can equal the blood of God Himself?
The tragedy of this doctrine is that "all will be saved" soon becomes "all are saved" which becomes "What's the difference?" which becomes the Universal religion. And that truly is coming, but it belongs to Satan.
And what does "saved" mean, anyway? Rescued. Delivered. From what? Sin. Why? Death is the payment for sin. Eternal death. When one is saved from this awful fate, he is in a position to praise God forever. Eternally deserved punishment was mine. Now it isn't.
But when the news is, "You are already saved, you were born saved, you will die saved, don't sweat it," every possible connection to the Christian culture is warped. Joy recedes. The Great Commission is not needed. Holiness is out. Separation is out. The whole salvation experience is out, along with the "narrow way", the call to suffer for Jesus, the entire meaning of being the "called out", the "elect."
Universalism fails every Biblical test, and needs to be avoided and condemned. Its followers need to be urged immediately to repudiate this doctrine so as not to poison further the wells of salvation that flow for unclean souls.
Which reminds me of why I started this study to begin with. One day on Facebook there was this old friend of mine...
But that's mine to deal with.
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