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Why I Don’t Believe In “Eternal Hell,” Pt. 1: Introduction

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For several years now I have been convinced that no one will end up in “eternal, conscious torment” (ECT), and lately I tend to believe that everyone will be reconciled to God through Christ someday, in some fashion.  Any view similar to this is sadly considered heretical and dangerous today, although it seems to me that, in comparison with “eternal torment,” to believe that all will be reconciled, or at least that the wicked will be destroyed, is far more God-exalting, scripturally honest, and consistent with the belief of the majority of early Christianity, prior to the heavy influx of pagan ideas and practices beginning in the 300’s AD. 

Many who read this might say: “the Bible teaches plainly about eternal torment, hell, and the lake of fire, so anything like universal reconciliation is clearly wrong.”  I am well aware that the Bible mentions these things, and I intend to look in depth at scripture in posts to come.  The truth is, the Bible is not as plain, literal, and clear-cut as people like to think.  If it is, how can you explain the vast differences in belief and doctrine among good, intelligent, Biblically-devoted people?!  All I’m saying here is that while the Bible does mention hell, torment, gnashing of teeth, the lake of fire, etc., a closer look reveals there is no solid basis to teach that all “unbelievers” who die end up permanently and unendingly in what amounts to sadistic eternal torture.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences, by the way.

I don’t ask or expect you to believe something just because I do.  All I ask is that you keep an open mind and heart to the possibility that the particular way you now believe is misguided.  After all, hasn’t that been true of all of us more times than we would like to admit?!  Isn’t refusing to even consider a reasonable alternative view an unhealthy, cultish trait?  Keeping a pliable mind and heart, which seeks truth above comfort, familiarity, sentiment, and tradition is the only way true repentance can take place.  And repentance is necessary to progress in one’s salvation.

Like many my age, I grew up reluctantly believing that eternal torment in hell is the fate of millions. I accepted this mind-bogglingly terrible idea primarily because I trusted those who taught it to me, I was familiar with a few scriptures which seemed to support it, and I was almost never exposed to other viewpoints.  A few things contributed to changing my belief about hell: first, I began to read scripture on my own, with a desire to learn rather than to support my current beliefs, and I began to read and talk with those who saw differently (and deeper) than me.  I saw scriptures that actually contradicted eternal torment, and supported the idea of universal reconciliation, which in my experience no pastor or teacher had ever mentioned.   Also, as I got older, I had some personal experiences and met others with personal experiences of the all-encompassing love and mercy and compassion of God.  The biggest factor, perhaps, was that I continued taking seriously the Biblical account of the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, who in Hebrews 1:3 (MLV) is said to be: “…the brightness of (the Father’s) glory and the exact representation of his essence…”  Jesus even said of himself: “he who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

I think most would agree, it is no minor detail that the words and the actions of Jesus (again, the exact representation of God as a human) are completely contrary to the idea of any sort of eternal torment or punishment (not to mention, the idea of “eternal punishment” doesn’t even make sense, considering men are extremely fallible and vulnerable and live such short lives).   It’s certainly true that in Jesus’ zeal for God’s Kingdom, he was sometimes harsh (though always correct) when speaking to the Jewish religious leaders, who like many religious leaders still today, continually misrepresented, hindered, and opposed the truth of his Father, thereby keeping his precious brothers and sisters under needless bondage and prevented from receiving their inheritance as sons of God. 

Despite these stubborn, prideful and greedy hypocrites opposing all he and his Father stood for and did, continually resisting the truth and ultimately torturing and murdering him, Jesus never once retaliated with violence or harm – in fact, he consistently taught and lived out that we are to love our enemies and persecutors.  When one of Jesus’ closest followers cut off the ear of someone arresting him, Jesus rebuked his friend but healed his enemy.  Some of his very last, painful breaths were used to plead for the forgiveness of those actively torturing and killing him. 

Sure, we can explain this away, as many have, by saying that Jesus was only showing God’s mercy while on earth, but that later he will show His wrath.  But that’s not what Jesus himself said.  He said if you have seen him, you have seen the Father – that the two were one.  He said that he spoke and acted from what he heard and saw from his Father.  The Bible DOES mention wrath in a few cases – but this wrath was tied to the breaking of the law, and we are not under the law!  This wrath also does not necessitate eternal torture!  I see no genuine, honest way of reconciling the plain accounts of God in the flesh teaching and living out truth and mercy with the idea that this same God has designed a world in which eternal torture waits for those who don’t “accept” His son, or who fail to meet some other standard.

Another issue I have with eternal conscious torment (apart from scripture, which I promise I will get to in posts to come) is that it is thoroughly toxic to human beings. At best, I feel it hinders intimacy with God and encourages the development and presentation of a false identity as fearful servant, which greatly hinders intimacy and freedom, rather than our true identity as sons and daughters, with intimacy and joy and freedom.  The false identity of “fearful servant” often leads to apathy, confusion, frustration, powerlessness, spiritual blindness, and devotion to traditions.  More specifically, the idea of eternal torment fuels many negative mental states, including anxiety, doubt, religious foolishness, fanatacism and even psychosis.

Maybe you have heard of Andrea Yates, the mother from Houston, Texas who in 2001 drowned her 5 young children in their bathtub while her husband was at work. Now, apart from any religious beliefs she did or did not have, there is no question that she was very mentally ill and had been for at least two years.  No sane person, regardless of their belief about hell, would do what she did.  It was inexcusable and terrible beyond words. HOWEVER, one reason she gave to police for killing her children was that they had been acting badly and she didn’t want them to end up in hell. She is on record saying her children were being “unrighteous” and that “they didn’t do things God likes.” Therefore, she said, she believed that if they died as children: “in their innocence, they’d go to heaven.” The sickening reality is that the (false) idea of eternal torment, if you are brave (or mentally compromised) enough to truly and fully consider it, is so terrible it can create a twisted logic that can actually justify killing children, which in Mrs. Yates’ mentally diseased state she was actually able to carry out.

This twisted logic is actually quite simple and quite sound, but it requires the addition of one other mainstream Christian idea, known as the “age of accountability.”  This idea  basically says that children under a certain, undefined age will go to heaven when they die even if they do not “believe in Jesus.”  This popular idea has even less scriptural basis than eternal torment, but was made up and is adhered to by those who cannot let go of the idea of eternal torment but also cannot stomach the thought of children going there (a good question is why it’s so much easier to accept teenagers or adults going there).  So, with that in mind, the logic goes like this: If it’s true that those who die as children are guaranteed to go to heaven – a place of eternal peace and comfort and happiness with God – but those who die after childhood have a very real chance of going to hell – a place of eternal torture without hope – then it is far better to die as a child then run that risk.

By this logic, a strong case could be made that Mrs. Yates actually acted in a very “sane” and even “loving” manner by sacrificing her reputation and freedom to make SURE that none of her children ended up in eternal torment by killing them as children.  HOW SICK AND PATHETIC IS THAT???!!! Here’s one terrible outcome of eternal, conscious torment: if this truly is the immediate and permanent fate of all “unbelievers” who die, then the best options are to either never exist at all, or, if you have the misfortune of being born, to die a quick and painless death as a young child.  I’m sorry, but IF the premises of eternal hell and the age of accountability are true (thankfully I’m convinced they aren’t), then Mrs. Yates’ logic was sound. 

I have personally known people who, though they would never harm their children themselves, actually prayed that God would kill their children, because they saw them making choices or choosing a lifestyle they felt would end up landing them in hell, to suffer eternal torment.  That line of thinking is madness.  Is the best that the Body of Christ and ministers of God can offer that death as a child is ultimately “safest?” Of course not!  Especially not on this side of the victory of Christ on the cross, which the Bible says “reconciled the world,” was a victorious sacrifice offered “once for all,” and which “took away the sin of the world”?  Again, is eternal torture in line with the love and healing and compassion of Jesus, or the revelation of the Father given by the apostles in the Bible, who is said to be kind and merciful even to the unrighteous, and who scripture plainly says will be All in all?  No!  Not at all!

The walk of a believer is spiritual, and based on one’s identity as a son, with freedom and joy.  It’s time we join this inevitable progression out from following the ideas of flesh conceived in fear and ignorance, as familiar and comfortable as many of them have become to us, and into the truths revealed by the inward Spirit of divine love and demonstrated in Jesus and the apostles.  This will mean change.  It takes some courage, but the one who leads us is the best guide there is, and there is ultimately nothing to fear!  Will you join me? I could use your help. Bless you.

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Posted by on October 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Suffering Servant

Sometimes, I will send a text to myself when I have a thought I don’t want to forget.  The following quote is an expanded version of one such text I sent myself while thinking about the nature of love:

Love is “unfair,”  in favor of the beloved.  Love looks like a suffering servant – it’s the strong bearing with the weak, it’s putting others above oneself, it’s choosing mercy instead of judgment, it’s speaking grace and life in the face of death.  Because love doesn’t “know after the flesh,”1 it cannot and does not react or respond; certainly not with evil.  Love, being founded in the nature of God Himself, CANNOT be changed or overcome.2   Love isn’t painful in and of itself, but until the world is matured and perfected, love must and will take the form of suffering servanthood.  We must know this: if the Kingdom/Reign of God (the expression of the nature and will of the Spirit) is ever to be manifested on earth, it must do so through the body of Christ on earth!  As such, those who are Christ’s cannot repay evil with evil – not even a slight evil with an even slighter evil.  As should be obvious, repaying evil with evil, violence with violence, anger with anger, selfishness with selfishness, insult with insult, etc. simply perpetuates evil.  To end this cycle, someone has to absorb blows and insults, without returning them.  Someone has to walk in a higher plane than reasonings and reactions based on ego and fear; demonstrating the nature of God by showing KINDNESS to those who are undeserving, by speaking truth and life in spite of persecution, by both proclaiming and demonstrating God’s nature and mind.  This, by the way, does not mean pointing out “sin” any time you see it.  Doing that is actually administering DEATH.  It means showing and offering Life.

As I’ve said many times before, I am optimistic for the future.  I am confident that death will be swallowed up by life, light will banish darkness, truth will prevail over lies, Christ will replace Adam, and love will overcome fear.  In fact, I am certain of these things, because I am certain that in Christ, from the foundation of the world, they have already been accomplished!  Time and space place inescapable constraints on flesh and blood, but they have no such constraint on Spirit, where the end is known from the beginning and both past and future are merely parts of one whole.  In the Spirit, death IS swallowed up by life, and love IS the foundation of all things.  Just how and when these things will manifest in time and space, I don’t know. But I am confident they will.  Now, I am very aware that there is much I don’t know!  I am just increasingly confident that Christ has fully prevailed, so therefore NOTHING can stop the manifestation of love and truth and Life!

It bears repeating: true love often involves suffering.  Love suffers because it absorbs the various abuses that stem from fear, ignorance, and unbelief, but never returns them.  Paul wrote that Christ’s body is to “overcome evil with good.”  Love overcomes evil in the same way that light overcomes darkness, and truth overcomes lies.  Love suffers yet overcomes, because it doesn’t change or cease when things are difficult or when opposition is strong.  Jesus, the greatest man to ever live, allowed himself to be abused, beaten to shreds and crucified by prideful religious fanatics and a callous military and political system – in order to save them all!

I’ll end with this: what if the “salvation” Paul wrote of has more to do with aligning ourselves with and then bringing the “Kingdom of God/Heaven” to earth than it does with going to “heaven” when we die!?  What if, as the body of Christ, WE are the only ministers of salvation this world has – a world that still remains in darkness and needs it!  What if love is the necessary foundation, without which any preaching is useless?  What if the way we minister this salvation is no longer primarily by “preaching,” but by sacrificial LOVING, even if that means physical death!  Are we willing, or willing to be willing?  Our Spirit is.

Be blessed my friends, thanks for reading.

 

 

  1. 2 Corinthians 5:16
  2. 1 John 4:7, 1 Corinthians 13:8
 
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Posted by on August 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Speech and The Two Truths

John 21:25 ESV: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

1 John 3:18 ESV: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Ephesians 4:29 ASV: “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.”

In recent years, I have increasingly begun to value the practical instruction Paul gives in his Biblical letters; instruction about how those who are Christ’s are to live and relate to others.  While I still value and enjoy the deep spiritual revelations Paul shared, I think it is wise to be wary of intellectual assent without real-life application.  Let’s not forget that the same Paul who proclaimed profoundly deep revelation also said things like: “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing,”1 and “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”2 . It is easy to over-value knowledge and under-value applied love, because knowledge in itself demands no change, while love is always accompanied by humility and sacrifice (and glory)!  A question I’m asking myself is this: do I really “know” a Truth if it is not being expressed in the way I conduct myself in the world and relate to others?  

Ephesians 4:29, quoted above, is an example of one such practical instruction.  While it sounds like an ancient version of the modern saying: “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” it is actually much deeper than that.  To understand more fully what Paul was saying, let’s start by looking at the definition of some of the Greek words that this verse was translated from:

Corrupt:”

 Greek transliteration: “sapros.”

Definition:
1. rotten, putrefied
2. corrupted by one and no longer fit for use, worn out
3. of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless

-Sapros seems to roughly mean: “worn out, unfit, useless.”

Edifying“:

– Greek transliteration: “oikodome.”

– Definition:
1. (the act of) building, building up
2. metaph. edifying, edification
a. the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness
3. a building (i.e. the thing built, edifice)

“Edifying” seems to be a good translation of oikodome, which seems to mean “to build up, to strengthen.”

Grace:”

-Greek transliteration: “charis.”

– Definition:
1. grace
a. that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech
2. good will, loving-kindness, favour
a. of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
3. what is due to grace
a. the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace
b. the token or proof of grace, benefit
1. a gift of grace
2. benefit, bounty
4. thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward

Charis is a harder word to pin down, as it describes something divine.  If I had to define grace, I would say it is “the influence of the divine.”  When a human heart is influenced by grace/the divine, it will always, at least in some way, change the way one lives and relates to others.

With these things in mind, here is what I think Paul essentially meant in Ephesians 4:29: 

Be very careful not to say anything that is spiritually or otherwise useless or harmful to the hearer.  Instead, as a child of God, what comes out of your mouth should be only things which give Life – things which are of the Truth and are helpful and useful in building up the hearer into a realization and manifestation of their identity as a son of God and a member of Christ’s body.  In so doing, you are literally acting as Christ – as a minister of God’s divine grace and Life and peace to that person – instead of a minister of self-awareness, death and condemnation.  

A friend of mine once pointed out that there is a difference between things that are true, and Truth itself.  Things that are true, also known as “facts,” are things which deal with the natural realm.  Statements like “I feel sad,” or “the sky is blue” are in the realm of the “true.”  However, Truth, with a capital T, is deeper, being exclusively reserved for the realm of the divine.  Truth cannot be changed by what is “true” or by “facts.”   Truth has to do with that which is part of the fabric of creation, of God’s nature Himself.  Statements such as “you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God,”3 like “one died for all, therefore all died,” like “(Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world,” are in the realm of Truth.  Truth has to do with the heart and will of God for mankind, which was most clearly demonstrated in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.  We don’t need to ignore facts, but we cannot let facts (truth) become more real to us than Truth.

What I’m saying, and I believe much of what Paul was saying, is that those who are Christ’s MUST speak and call to the divine within each person, speaking the Truth of their identity and being as sons.  This is what it means to speak things that edify, instead of things that corrupt.  Pointing out sin, as many Christians have erroneously taken it upon themselves to do, only INCREASES guilt, shame, and condemnation in the world – it is literally anti-christ to act as a law-giver and bring guilt.  It may be “true” that men are sinners, but it’s NOT Truth.  

Finally, the member’s of Christ’s body cannot just “proclaim” Truth, we must embody it.  IF and when we “see” Christ as our life, as the life of the world, we must let this truth permeate all of our being.  While this is certainly a lot deeper than merely “say nice things,” it includes that!  A better way of thinking about it is not to “be nice,” but to be Truthful and Edifying, building our world and it’s people into their identity as sons, rather than reinforcing a false identity as sinners, which just creates more sin and death (which scripture clearly says was the whole purpose of the law)!  Amen.  

 

  1. 1 Corinthians 13:2 WEB
  2. 1 Corinthians 8:1 WEB
  3. Colossians 3:3
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:14
  5. 1 John 2:2
 
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Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Meekness and Life in Knowing Christ Crucified

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As recorded in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, the apostle Paul said this about his visit to a group of believers in Corinth:  “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

That’s a bit dense, but it seems the essence of what Paul was saying is something like this: “Because I wanted you to encounter God the Father rather than a human ego known as “Paul,” I chose to conduct myself among you in meekness and simplicity, rather than with severity and grandiosity.”  It seems that many times, Paul took pains to be humble and meek.  2 Corinthians 10:10, to give another example, shows that many people found Paul to be less “impressive” in person than in writing.  He intended it that way.

Somehow, Paul makes a connection between the exclusive “knowing” of Christ crucified and a conduct of meekness, sincerity, and simplicity. What does that mean? Here is a suggestion: “knowing Christ crucified” = recognizing Christ AS one’s life(!) and therefore walking in humility and sacrificial love. Scripture says clearly: all men (all of Adam) died in Christ, and Christ is their true life and identity. The recognition of Christ AS one’s life is a natural product of knowing the truth that in Christ ALL were crucified and risen anew. It’s not a matter of changing or doing, it’s a matter of seeing and integrating. Consider the following verses:

  • Colossians 3:3-4: “For you (self/ego) have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When (literally: “whenever”) Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died…”
  • Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I (Paul/ego) who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
  • Romans 6:6,11: “We know that our old self (old man) was crucified with him…” “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:1: “If (since) then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above…”

The knowing of Christ crucified caused Paul’s meekness because “knowing” has nothing to do with a mental agreement of fact, but everything to do with integration with revealed truth, which then naturally leads to the expression of that truth outwardly.  If that truth is that “Paul” the ego has died and Christ lives in him, then to know/integrate with that truth will mean the suppression of that (in this case brash) ego and the manifestation of the Life of Christ – a Life of love and truth and grace.  This is especially important when teaching others.  You don’t want them seeing YOU or receiving from YOU the ego; you want them seeing and receiving Christ the Life!  I’m not saying we are all identical robots.  We are all unique and amazing expressions and functions of the body of Christ on earth, and for that very reason, we must be sure we are not presenting the dead ego/self, but Christ the Life!

So, can one really “know” a spiritual truth while ignorantly living in a contrary manner? Does one truly “know” Christ crucified if one still sees the ego/self/flesh as one’s life, and relates to others as that self/ego?  I think the answer to those questions is “no.” That answer concerns me, it inspires me to go deeper. Again, if Paul himself – the one who was able to truthfully claim to be a flawless Jew and later a gifted, revelation-endowed, miracle-working, fanatical evangelist of Jesus – if such a man took pains to ensure the ego/self known as “Paul” wasn’t seen, but Christ the Life was seen in him, how much more should you and I do the same? Let’s give this some serious thought, brothers and sisters. Bless you!

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Sting of Death (Root of Slavery Pt. 2)

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, (Jesus) himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, (15) and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (bondage).  -Hebrews 2:14-15 ESV

In my last post, found here, I made the case that the “devil” in Hebrews 2 is not an evil spiritual being.  “Devil” is translated from the Greek word diabolos; an adjective which means something like “an accuser.”  In this post I want to look at what this “accuser” actually is.  

The primary thing Hebrews 2 says about this devil/accuser is that it had the “power of death.”  To make sense of this, we have to understand that “death” is often used in scripture in a spiritual sense, referring to a state of separation from God (who is Life).  Here are a few examples:

  • Romans 8:6: “For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace…”  Just like darkness has no existence in itself, simply being the absence of light, so death has no existence itself, being the absence of Life.  The idea that the mind of the flesh IS death means is that there is nothing divine to be found in or given from the natural mind/imagination of man, which has not been refined by the Fire of God’s presence.

  • 1 John 3:14: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”  Abides in death = dwells/lives in death.  This is clearly not speaking of physical death (or life), but of a state of separation from from God, who is Life.  Note also: love is THE sign of Life.

  • 1 Timothy 5:6: “…She who is self-indulgent is (spiritually) dead even while she (physically) lives.”

 

  • The devil having the “power of death” means it somehow facilitated a separation from God, and it creating a “fear of death” means it also reinforced the awareness of this separation.

 

Now, how did the devil create a separation from God?  To answer that, let’s look at a few other scriptures which mention death and its power. My comments are in blue.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:56 ESV:  “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”  -In other words, law empowers sin, and sin gives death it’s “sting.”  So the foundation of sin and “stinging” death is law.  Law—> sin —>death.

  • Romans 5:12-13 ESV:  “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.”  Again, crazy as it may sound, we see that law —> sin —> death.  

  • Romans 3:20 ESV:  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.  -Justification NEVER comes by law, only knowledge of sin/violation does!  

  • Romans 7:5-6:  For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.  This is the same basic thing as said in the verses above: law—> sin —> death.  But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”  There are many parallels here with Hebrews 2.  Here in Romans, we are told law and the “written code” held men “captive.”  Hebrews 2 mentions a “life-long bondage” empowered by a “devil” which was destroyed through Jesus’ death.  It’s clear in this passage that “that which held us captive” is the law, also referred to as “the written code.”  So, the “captivity” of Romans 7 is the same thing as the “life-long bondage” of Hebrews 2. All this captivity and bondage stems from the law, aka “the written code,” which created sin and death.

Think of a speed limit: does the law give a reward to those who drive within the limit?  No!  Law doesn’t work like that!  Law’s ONLY function is to accuse; to identify and prescribe penalties to those who step outside it’s boundaries.  In this way, law creates both sin and “sinners.”   When we become self-aware and conscious of sin, then spiritually speaking, we “die.”  This is what took place when Adam and Eve at from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  They immediately saw their “nakedness,” BECAME AFRAID, and hid from God.   But, remember this: when Adam and Eve “sinned,” THEY hid from God, but HE went looking for them!   So here it is:

 

  • LAW is the “devil” of Hebrews 2.  Law accuses and thus gives rise to sin.  Sin then gives rise to death – an awareness of separation from God – through self-awareness and fear.  This also gives death a “sting,” causing people to be aware of and pained by it.  

To summarize: we know that the devil had the “power of death.”  By the same token, it is LAW which gives rise to sin, which then gives rise to death. The devil also facilitated a “fear of death.”  Again, law, by way of sin, gives death a fearful “sting.”  Third, the devil caused “life-long bondage.” Again, it is LAW which creates “captivity,” or bondage!  Here is one final scripture to support this idea:

In part 3 to come, I am going to look at how Jesus broke the cycle of “sin and death” and placed ALL men into a position of grace and life, though many remain ignorant of it.  Thanks for reading.  I know this may be a bit “dense,” but I hope it makes sense and you glean what you can.  Bless you!

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Women Are The Devil!? (The Root of Slavery Pt. 1)

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, (Jesus) himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, (15) and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (bondage).  -Hebrews 2:14-15 ESV

These verses contain a lot of big ideas, stating “the devil” imparted a “fear of death,” which then made one “subject to” (meaning “put under the authority of”) “lifelong slavery” (or bondage).  Put another way, this says: “the devil’s power created a fear of death, causing life-long bondage to those under his rule.”  Although (thank God!) Jesus broke this bondage once for all, I think it’s worth understanding what the devil and this bondage are or were, so we don’t somehow go back under it.  

To understand what all this means, we have to be open to the possibility that our current understanding is wrong, and that this is ok!  It also greatly helps to keep in mind that while the New Testament contains much truth and enlightenment we can benefit from, was not written TO us, in 2017 A.D. (possibly except for the gospels).  Certainly the book of Hebrews, which was written nearly 2,000 years ago to Jews living while the temple in Jerusalem was still standing, was not written TO us!  I could elaborate a lot more about this, but my point is that our understanding of scripture derails very quickly when we don’t keep the original audience and time-frame in mind.

So, looking again at Hebrews 2:15, the Greek word translated “slavery” or “bondage” is douleia.  This word, used four other places in the Bible, always refers to a “state of being” which was undesirable, immature, inferior, and temporary.  In fact, it is said to have already passed away in Christ!  Notice its use in these four scriptures: 

  • “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery (douleia) to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”” (Romans 8:15 ESV)

  • “…that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage (douleia) to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21 ESV)

  • “Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery (douleia); she is Hagar.” (Galatians 4:24 ESV)

  • “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (douleia).” (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

So, douleia is associated with death, the devil, fear, corruption, an old covenant, and a yoke of slavery!  Aren’t you glad Jesus defeated the devil and delivered us?!  

That leads me to the main issue I want to explore: who or what does “the devil” refer to?  You might be surprised, as I was at first, to learn that this term does not necessarily refer to an evil spiritual being.  The Greek word translated “devil” is diabolos, which is not a name and does not refer to a specific being.  Diabolos is an adjective, a descriptive term, literally meaning “an accuser, a slanderer.”  Anyone or anything which slanders and accuses a child of God is a/the devil!  Consider these scriptures:

  • 2 Timothy 3:2-3 ESV:  “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous (diabolos), without self-control, brutal, not loving good…”   –Here, we clearly see Paul writing that PEOPLE will be diabolos (devils)…

  • Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers (diabolos) or slaves to much wine.”  (Titus 2:3 ESV)

  • Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers (diabolos), but sober-minded, faithful in all things. (1 Timothy 3:11 ESV)

Again, very literally, people who slander others are “devils,” and judging strictly by scripture’s use of this term, it seems women were particularly prone to being devils (kidding)!

Now, I’m not arguing for or against the idea that there is a spiritual being or force known as “the devil.”  My point is simply to show that the term “devil” in the Bible doesn’t necessarily or always refer to such a being, and, as you are probably gathering, I strongly believe Hebrews 2 is such a case where “devil” isn’t referring to an evil spiritual being.  In my next post, I hope to show why I believe this, what the “devil” refers to in this passage, and look at how he/it empowered the “fear of death” and what “life-long slavery” referred to.  I hope this has made you think!  Stay tuned.  

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Three Fathers

The Three Fathers

 

“Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.” -John 8:43-45 ESV

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  –James 1:17 ESV

“…one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” –Ephesians 4:6 ESV

“If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers (literally: “the fathers of our flesh”) who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?”  –Hebrews 12:8-9 ESV

Have you ever noticed that the scripture refers not just to God, but also to the devil as a “father?”  This means, in some sense at least, that there are both sons of God and sons of the devil on earth.  It seems scripture identifies three main “fathers”:  God, the devil, and men.  As I see it, the term “father” refers to the one whose “seed” (mind, nature) we have received and are expressing.  God is said to be the Father of lights, of Spirits, and of all.  The devil is said to be the father of lies and murder.  Men are the fathers of flesh.  

With regard to men as fathers of flesh, I mean just that.  Our physical bodies are clearly derived from our parents, often with strong resemblances.  Many mental and physical diseases run in families, and research has shown that children adopt at least some of their biological parents’ personality traits even if raised by someone else.  

As for the devil as a father, Jesus claimed this was the case with the Pharisees, as evidenced by their resemblance to him in their proclivity for murder, condemnation and slander (which are essentially the same), and their devotion to lies coupled with an inability to recognize Truth or hear God’s word.  The devil’s “seed” was so prevalent in them, they couldn’t recognize and even hated and killed the son of the very God they claimed to worship.

One might ask how God can be the Father of “all,” as Ephesians 4:6 says, while at the same time some people are sons of the devil.  As I see it, God is the Father of all in the ultimate/final sense of being the source and destination of all.  But, there are those (like the Pharisees) who receive and nurture a different “seed” than God’s, and so they begin to take on a different nature, character, and appearance.  Therefore, in a manifest/actualized/present sense, these are not sons of God.  

Romans 8:19 famously says: “…the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing (or manifestation) of the sons of God.”  Let’s keep in mind the description of a manifest son of God which Paul gave just a few verses earlier, in verses 13-14:  “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  

Let me unpack these verses a bit.   First of all, in verses 13-14, notice Paul is highlighting the contrast between flesh (death) and spirit (life).  The spiritually dead mind of the flesh, in it’s fear and ignorance, will interpret a statement like: “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body” as “if I meet the requirements, the Spirit of God will empower me to __________ and I will be holy.”   But that’s all wrong.  First of all, there is no holiness in mere outward behavior.  Second, God/Spirit doesn’t empower us against flesh, because flesh is already dead!  Instead, God enlightens us to spiritual reality, and as the Life of the spirit grows, the deadness of the flesh becomes naturally manifest.  It’s not something WE do, at all.

The phrase “by the Spirit” could also read “in the Spirit” or “according to the Spirit.”  It’s not specified in the original text.  It makes more sense to me to read it as “according to the Spirit,” since Paul is comparing with a life that is “according to the flesh.”  “According” means “corresponding to, conforming to, in keeping with.”  Elsewhere, Paul contrasted the “works” of the flesh with the “fruit” of the Spirit, because the flesh deals with outward things, while the Spirit is naturally present inwardly.  So here is what I think Romans 8:13-14 means:

“…if your mind and actions are corresponding to the flesh, you are dwelling in death instead of the Life that is your inheritance as God’s son.  But, if the reality of your union with Christ, your adoption as a son, and the love of God become revealed to you, in keeping with that reality you will naturally begin to manifest the fruit of the Spirit and the carnal works of the body will fall away.  In this way you will become a manifest son of God, for all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  

I do greatly desire and pray that we be enlightened to the true gospel and the radical nature of the new covenant.  It is so needed and is so different from religion.  You are loved and reconciled, right where you are.  This truth can be ignored, but it cannot be changed.  I encourage believers to consider focusing less on “current events” done by darkened minds, which will only stir up the flesh into fear and anger.  Instead, see beyond the works of darkness to the unchangeable Spirit.  Embrace love, let it permeate you, heal you, and extend to others.  Amen.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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