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Part 2 of 2
Love Your Enemies By Pouring Boiling Water On Them?
The End Of Life Eternal?
The End Of Everlasting Punishment?
"And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." Matthew 25:46.
Before continuing with our topic, let us be reminded who it was that Jesus was referring to concerning everlasting punishment and life eternal:
"And whenever the Son of Man may come in his glory, and all the holy messengers with him, then he shall sit upon a throne of his glory; and gathered together before him shall be all the nations, and he shall separate them from one another, as the shepherd doth separate the sheep from the goats, and he shall set the sheep indeed on his right hand, and the goats on the left. Then shall the king say to those on his right hand, Come ye, the blessed of my Father, inherit the reign that hath been prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I did hunger, and ye gave me to eat; I did thirst, and ye gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and ye received me; naked, and ye put around me; I was infirm, and ye looked after me; in prison I was, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see thee hungering, and we nourished? or thirsting, and we gave to drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and we received? or naked, and we put around? And when did we see thee infirm, or in prison, and we came unto thee? And the king answering, shall say to them, Verily I say to you, Inasmuch as ye did it to one of these my brethren -- the least -- to me ye did it. [Nations that ministered kindness to His people.]
"Then shall he say also to those on the left hand, Go ye from me, the cursed, to the fire, the age-during, that hath been prepared for the Devil and his messengers; for I did hunger, and ye gave me not to eat; I did thirst, and ye gave me not to drink; a stranger I was, and ye did not receive me; naked, and ye put not around me; infirm, and in prison, and ye did not look after me. Then shall they answer, they also, saying, Lord, when did we see thee hungering, or thirsting, or a stranger, or naked, or infirm, or in prison, and we did not minister to thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say to you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of these, the least, ye did [it] not to me. And these [goat nations] shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous [sheep nations] to life age-during." Matthew 25:31-46. Young's Literal Translation.
That which Jesus explained was very clear that He was talking about nations rather than individuals. Some translations have made it sound as if individual people within nations would be punished or blessed; but there is no indication of that in the Greek text. Notwithstanding, we will approach our thought today as if they are right and see if we can determine if God's punishment upon anyone, whether entire nations or individuals, will be without end or not. Since the same Greek word, aionios, is used concerning everlasting and eternal, and most believe that the life that Jesus was referring to is without end, many assume that the punishment will be without end. On the other hand, since the definition of aionios is age-lasting, and it is applied to both issues (punishment and life), there will be an end to each. Hopefully, we can clarify these thoughts today.
We closed our previous article with having said to love our enemies, and it seems that people who have not received the love of the truth have difficulty in loving anyone but those of their own kind, much less their enemies. Regardless of the reason for not receiving the love of the truth, it is clear that the various hells which are taught by many mainline Christian churches are inventions of men to where their enemies will be cast. To compound their folly, they carelessly say that their imagined places of endless torment are all the same as the lake of fire. While doing so, they never mention that this lake is actually the all consuming, flaming glory of God's presence which brings an end to all sin and death. The very thing that marks the end of all conflict, of all evil, rebellion, inordinate passions, sorrow, suffering, death, and hell itself--they say is a place of endless suffering where all these things continue forever.
Love Your Enemies By Pouring Boiling Water On Them?
Where, may we ask, is their love, not only for their own, but for their enemies as well? Jesus said to "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" Matthew 5:44. But those of the church system--those who have been bitten and their minds coiled about by the ancient serpent--say otherwise. Although without authority, they pronounce everlasting judgment upon the lost and forlorn of the world. There is no clause of forgiveness in this decree that consigns them to burn in hell forever with no hope of remedy or escape. Brethren, there is something vastly wrong with this picture. Nevertheless, this is how it is portrayed by those who say they are in the image of Christ! It is clear that they have not only created a lake of fire after their own hearts, but have also created a god after their own image and likeness. Do you suppose it is this fearful god that they worship, and also to whom they sacrifice their children? The answer is a resounding yes! That is, if they worship such a god and teach their children to do the same. In so doing, they have in fact sacrificed them to Moloch.
People who believe God will commit forever most of His creation to a burning hell have been known to ask, "Why is it that you are not being safe by teaching the hell doctrine that will keep people in line? What if you are wrong in this belief that all will eventually be saved? Don't you realize that you could be cast into the worst part of the inferno for teaching such things that could cause others to lose their souls and suffer the torments of God's eternal wrath?"
Please, let me ask: If you are one of these concerned souls, can you imagine Jesus, or my Father who is the God of Love, saying to me at the great white throne judgment, "Elwin, oh Elwin, I had such hopes in you; but you failed Me. I hate to do this; but I am going to have to send you to hell for thinking that My love was so enormous, so victorious that I could actually save everyone against their free-will. You really overextended yourself by giving Me that much credit. To think that I had the power to carry out My plan was way out of line. As admirable as your intentions were, how could you have spread such rumors about Me? Not only that, once you embraced this silly notion of Me saving everyone that I died for, you really started loving people way too much. For how in the world could anyone who loved as much as you do find solace, much less joy, in knowing and seeing most of humanity burning in their deserved hell forever? You went over the line in believing and teaching that my love and blood could accomplish such a monumental feat. You really overestimated Me, and now that it is too late for you to repent, you know you carelessly made Me bigger than life itself."
This could be the scenario if that which I believe and teach proves to be wrong. But how preposterous it is to think God will fail in His grand plan for His beloved creation. Frankly, if people are turning to God as fire insurance or a way to escape the last days Bar-B-Que, it is only lip service. Such is not a true conviction that leads to conversion, and God hates lip service along with outward feign of righteousness: "This people draws nigh unto me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand." Matthew 15:8-10. It's time folks. It is time to hear and understand--don't you think?
But back to our topic questions: Knowing that aionios is the Greek word used for punishment and life, are both forever or are they age-lasting? If God's punishment is truly age-lasting, does that mean that there is an end to life eternal? On the other hand: If there is no end to life eternal, it would stand to reason that there is also no end to punishment. Such reasoning, however, does not make this true, which we we see after noticing something Paul said about the proper treatment of our enemies.
The apostle quoted Proverbs 25:22. "If your enemy hungers, feed him, If he thirsts, give him drink; For in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head." Romans 12:20. I have heard this verse quoted more times than I can remember by Christians who are praying for their enemies, but for the purpose of vengeance and wanting God to torment their souls, or to burn down their homes, set up a car wreck or some other calamity that will serve them right. Or just make their lives overall miserable.
The following story of is an example of the popular concept of the coals of fire heaped upon your enemy's head :
I read about a pastor who knew the meaning of this metaphor who was counseling a woman who was having marital problems. He asked if she had ever tried heaping coals of fire on her husband's head. She confessed she had not; but that she tried throwing boiling water on him once. We can only assume that she felt she was doing the next best thing.
The problem here is that she saw heaping coals of fire on his head the way most of those of the western world today, and in her vengeance, this little darling would have most likely heaped literal coals of fire on her husband's head if a bucket of them had been handy rather than boiling water.
We can surely see that something is missing in this formula of understanding, or the lack thereof, so let us see what it might be. The two opening statements in Romans 12:20 obviously teach that we are to do more than is required to help those in need. In the biblical era fire was a valuable commodity. Often a person would go to a neighbor and ask for a coal with which to start his fire. This expression means to not just give him the basic essentials. Instead, give him so many coals that they are so heavy he has to carry them on his head as was the custom with heavy loads. Thus, we are taught a lesson in helpful generosity.
To bring this point home, let us remember the thought conveyed in these verses. We are told not to repay evil with evil and not to seek revenge, that vengeance is the Lord's and He will repay if necessary. If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. All of these are forms of blessings to your enemy. And in doing all this, you will be heaping live coals on his head. The good things done to him does not torment the poor man, it blesses him to the point that his precious load is so heavy that he has to carry it upon his head. Therefore, recompense to no man evil for evil, avenge not yourselves, and be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12-21). All he listed is good, including the coals of fire. If the popular concept were true, the apostle could have said, "Give your enemy a drink and something to eat, and then throw boiling water on him. That should win him over." Such is the imagination of unlearned, vindictive minds.
We can see clearly why Jesus was so critical of the religious leaders. They were dragging the intent of God's holy Law through the muck of legalism; but not only that, they had degraded His Father, and made Him to be the exact opposite of His true nature of love, saying that He was one to fear and avoid at all cost, which is exactly what we see today.
Some will, no doubt, be disturbed by my accusations toward those who speak evil of my Father; but anyone who sits idle when their father, natural or spiritual, is called worse than a diabolical infidel, must be pitied for their complacent gutlessness. Furthermore, I don't know of anyone, past or present, who was more blistering to the religious rulers than was Jesus, and they accused Him of being a bastard, and attributed His deeds to the working of demons, and so will you be accused of the same if you stand up to them.
He responded by calling them whited sepulchers full of dead men's bones and all uncleanliness. And no less than four times He called them a generation of vipers who neglected the weightier matters of justice, such as mercy and faithfulness.
Therefore, by seeing the same spirit working in the majority of the religious figureheads today, let it stand--they will have their part in the lake of fire; but be sure to know, it will not be the lake that was maliciously invented by men of all religions. And they can thank God for that! They can also thank Him that the corrective punishment is "everlasting," that is, aionios/age-lasting.
There will be an end to the "everlasting" punishment in the same way there will be an end to "eternal" life. Remember? This article was initiated with the logic that if the punishment has no end, then neither does Christ's life. And if punishment has an end, it stands to reason that life would also have an end, since the same Greek word for "everlasting" and "eternal" is the same, aionios.
What a conflict this presents to some, but there is no need for it. All runs smoothly when a small, but significant, amount of understanding dawns upon our minds. It becomes clear to what aionios means, truth begins to unfold. Although religious leaders have argued that the word can mean eternal as well as the primary meaning, age lasting, this is not true. If it were true, we could then say the stone age, the bronze age, the ice age, and all the other ages the earth has endured are eternal. Yet, the diehards to dogma will still say that if eternal life never ends, so it is with God's punishment upon sinners; but blindness does not allow them to see even basic truths of spiritual matters.
The End Of Life Eternal?
It is easily seen by most that a loving God does not and will not punish without end any of His creation, that surely once the punishment has worked its purpose of correcting the wrong, the punishment ends, for it would serve no purpose to keep it going. And it is the same with Christ's eternal, age-lasting life. When one form of His life has served its purpose, there is no reason to keep it going. Life itself does not end, of course, but that phase of life does in the same way each of us have had phases of our lives to end.
The age of incubation in our mother's womb ended after nine months, and we were born. Our lives did not end when we were born, but that phase of life ended. If it had not ended, our mothers would be most miserable carrying us around the rest of her life while we grew to 100 to 200 pound "embryos," that is, non-entities as the medical profession likes to call the babies. Even so, there is no argument with any of us that the age of incubation had to end, but when it ended the life itself did not end, only the age-lasting characteristic of it.
After the age of incubation ended, a new one was born, the age of being an infant, and that age had to end as well when the baby became a toddler; but its life did not end, only the age-lasting part. And those ages continued to the age of youth, the teenage years, the age of young adulthood, age of maturity, middle age, and finally old age. After that is the age beyond the shores of this natural life, and I am sure there will be an end to many ages on that side as well. With each passing age, the life we had at the moment of conception remained. It never died, and never will die. It can't die, not in the sense of ceasing to be, but it can certainly progress from one age to the other; for the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end. The Kingdom of God will change from age to age, from glory to glory, even beyond the age of sonship to fatherhood. That is the order and nature of things both natural and spiritual: from conception to infancy, from infancy to childhood, from childhood to manhood, from manhood to fatherhood! And that life never dies, but the uncountable phases are forever being changed and swallowed by those that have never been. For instance, you teenagers, had you ever been a teenager before you turned thirteen? Or us old-agers, had we ever been old before we became old? Of course not, and so it is with the ages past, the present age, and the ages to come. None had ever been nor will they ever return once their glory has been changed to the next glory. The age dies as they are changed from glory to glory, but the life itself never dies. We are the same person now that we were at conception, at birth, and at our first memory; but all those ages from then until now have died, and I am thankful.
The End Of Everlasting Punishment?
I recall having written quite a number of years ago a scenario of a very wealthy family man who was the mayor of his village as well as the judge whose brother was the chief constable. He was honorable, the pillar in the city who was loved by all. He was generous to a fault, giving freely to anyone who was in need. He was one who would sacrifice and do without so others would be blessed. His generosity went to the extreme at times, so much so, that he deprived his own children in order for complete strangers to eat and have a roof over their heads. He was a man that everyone admired, even worshiped by some. A few did, however, fear him because they knew he was a very strict man of matchless authority. It was a side of him that no one should cross; for rumors had it that not only was this philanthropist a man of love and ultimate sacrifice for others, but that he had a vindictive side as well, so do not, and I repeat, do not cross him! If you should, it would be hell to pay...f-o-r-e-v-e-r! He would never forgive and certainly would never forget.
The story goes that he was having guests over for a special dinner to celebrate the awards he had received for his humanitarian services to the poor of his community as well as his humanitarian work throughout the world. There was no end to his love and giving. Wherever there were people hurting, he tried to be there to help relieve their suffering.
After dining on the finest of cuisines and during the celebration a young man noticed a door at the end of a long, dimly lit hallway. The door was of old, tattered wood with huge iron hinges and a latch that seemed would take a little effort to lift it. The decor of the door was out of place in such a beautiful mansion; but there it stood for all to see, almost as if this wonderful man wanted people's eye to be drawn to it. He asked a few around him to where did that door lead. Some had no clue, while a few who had known about this man of honor for a long time, said, "Stay out of there. Don't get close to that door. It leads to a place you don't want to go. Be warned!"
After his curiosity could no longer be contained, he cautiously slipped down the hallway toward the door without anyone noticing. The latch was not nearly as hard to lift as it looked, and the door swung open with ease. It led down a dimly lit, foreboding staircase, and to his horror, utter shock, he saw the most heinous torture chambers he could have imagined. There were torture racks, beds of needle sharp spikes, red-hot iron rods resting in beds of live coals of fire, and horrific implements that staggers the mind. To this young man's amazement were three of the honorable man's children who seemed to be from around 17 years old to perhaps 29 or 30. But the worst part were their remorseful groans. It was so horrible that he thought that he must be asleep and was having a terrible nightmare; but if it was, he was not able to wake up.
These poor kids were being tortured day in and day out by hired thugs who delighted in what they were doing. They were so demented that it was all a big game to them. It would have been merciful if they could die; but these bottom of the barrel hirelings made sure they did not torture unto death, and gave the bare minimum of food and water to keep them alive, but never enough to satisfy their hunger and thirst.
The man in his horror, screamed out, "What in your loving father's name are you doing here? Does he know about this?" The answers were all the same: "Yes, he knows we are here. He put us here. Not thinking he could be serious, we all ignored his warnings after we became of age and could make our own decisions. He told us that after becoming of age, if we chose to live the way we wanted to rather than what was required of us, that he would throw us into this cellar to be punished for the rest of our lives. He loved us so much that we could not believe he would carry through with it, even to the point of not letting us soon die so the torment would end. If only we would have taken heed to our loving father's demands and chose his ways rather than those of our youthful temptations, we would be upstairs being enraptured by the festivities that everyone else is enjoying. But it is too late, so late, eternally too late. Oh, father, I wish we had a second chance; but like you warned, that will never be."
His heart was being torn out by what he was seeing and was told by the man's children, as his attention was drawn to the awful screams of one of the servants. He asked what was her offense that caused her to be imprisoned here and tortured? "I was caught lying about my coworkers, and I didn't repent and confess my sin before the end of the week, the deadline I was given. It came and was gone before I had a change of heart. Now it is too late, too late, forever too late." Another servant sorrowfully told him that he was sentenced to this fate for stealing and drinking several bottles of his masters best wine. He said, "I was told that this would be the punishment for stealing and drinking unto drunkenness. I should have known better, but temptation got the best of me, and now I will always be paying for the debt that can never be paid."
In this scenario, after witnessing such a surreal nightmare, we can see him slowly climbing the stairs back to the party where everyone is rejoicing and praising their wonderful host for his unprecedented love and generosity for all who were meritoriously invited to his banquet. But the stunned man cannot reconcile what he had just seen in that horrid torture chamber with what the host of honor was ravishing upon his guests in paradise made especially for them.
After a few moments, that seem like an eternity had past, the man could not refrain from questioning his benevolent host. "How could it be, Sir, that you lavished such love upon everyone here; but you are having your own children and servants tortured in the basement below?" Without hesitation, and showing no emotion, he said, "First, it is beyond me that you would question a man of my stature, the mayor, the judge, the one who has made this town and provided jobs for everyone who lives here. Nonetheless, I will put your concerns to rest. You see, I taught my children, as well as my servants, throughout their earlier childhood about rewards and punishments. Of course, to be fair, I gave them a sacred free-will that I would never trespass. They could choose to obey the rules I established for my household, or they could chose to disobey, and they knew the consequences. If they had obeyed, I would have rewarded them beyond measure. They would be here with the rest of us if they had been obedient; but if they freely chose to disobey and live frivolously. They knew their punishment would be without measure, and for the rest of their lives. They knew what was facing them, and still, they went astray. So, I had no choice, especially since I had given my irrevocable word of what would happen. I didn't want to do this, but they made me! They forced my hand! Now, do you understand?"
We know that no one in their right mind could understand or accept such an atrocity. Only on rare instances do evil people hold others in captivity and torture them, and those who do are labeled as demented, diabolical fiends. Yet, so many in the world of most religions say that our God, the Father of all, is that way.
Some of you might feel that the above scenario is a bit harsh and unrealistic; but this is a very accurate example of what has been formed in the minds people over the centuries. Notwithstanding, let me say this--there is no end to God's judgment! But let me also say this--there is an end to His judgment; that is,His judgment that has to do with *punishment! How can that be? Isn't judgment always equated with punishment and condemnation? Are they not the same? Not at all! Punishment can certainly occupy the space and time of judgment. Judgment, after determining a person is guilty of a crime, will often measure out punishment to the person; but judgment and punishment are not the same. *Some have said that God does not punish people, that He is love and never brings pain of any kind upon them. However, If you are one of His own, He will most assuredly punish/chastise/scourge you, else, He is not a true father and, Hebrews 12:6 is a lie.
There are judges of all types in the world, and there are many facets to their judgments, and also to God's judgments. Judges in the world are most often thought as being those presiding over a court of law; but there are countless judges. The fact is, everyone is a judge in one fashion or the other. Every time a judgment is made, there can be punishment or loss experienced by the one being judged. On the other hand, the one judged can reap rewards or benefits. For example, judgment presided over two men in 1964 in Miami, Florida at the heavyweight championship world boxing match between Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and Sonny Liston, and again by the same two boxers about a year later. In both cases, the referees and judges rewarded Cassius Clay, while Sonny Liston by default lost everything. The officials and judges had ruled, they passed judgment on both men. One man was judged as the loser while the other use judged to be the winner, and everyone accepted the verdict, not so much like some judgments that are made today. But that is another issue for another time.
Likewise with so many things, such as Olympic competitions. Suppose it is a one mile track race. Every runner is judged by the official as they are watched with eagle eyes in case there are any infractions to be noted as evidence against the contenders. If there are any, the runner, or runners, will be judged and punished, that is, disqualified, while the winners will be judged and given rewards--the gold, silver, and bronze metals. All the others are judged as losers, winning nothing. Not penalized or punished, they just lose everything they hoped to gain, period. So you see judgment does not always come as punishment. Judgment just as often, or more, involves rewards. Judgment is merely making decisions concerning millions of things everyday by everyone, especially with God, the Judge of all.
But the question is, "Does everlasting/aionios punishment ever end or does it not?" It does end the same way various aspects of eternal life ends as each glory gives place to next; but there is the life that never ends. Although it endures through the ages, it is not subject to the ages. They are subject to the never ending life, the Life of Jesus Christ!
It is the same way that the aionios life ends as a new glory of life replaces it, so is God's everlasting/age-lasting judgments. After the age-lasting punishment has run its course, the problem will have been corrected by it. The next judgment to be issued is that of rewards. The sinners are no longer sinners, but born of His Spirit and joyfully moving and having their being in their Lord Jesus Christ, and they are judged according to the wonderful things they do so freely and honorably. Thus another everlasting/age-lasting decision made by God, the eternal judge.
Both God's life and His judgments never end. He is always living, and He is always judging; but He is not always living as an infant in us, and He is not always judging with punishment. Like a jewel, there are facets to both His Life and judgments, and they are ever-changing, always ending, always beginning and everlasting until each age has been fulfilled. They are always progressive as each gives place to the greater; thus, His Kingdom is without end, and always on the increase.
Therefore, since there is AN END to one, there is AN END to the other, and since there is NO END to one, there is NO END to the other! In conclusion we can have it both ways, but only if we know what it is all about.
So, God's judgments and His life never end. He will always bring forth His ever-progressive judgments, starting with punishment and advancing to rewards. And also with His eternal, age-lasting life, He took us from Passover, to Pentecost, then to Tabernacles, and on to never ending infinity! HIS LIFE that holds the universe together CAN NEVER END; yet HIS LIFE of the ages is ALWAYS ENDING while giving place to the new ages. They are ever advancing; for surely, "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." Isaiah 9:7
Elwin R. Roach
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