Love Mercy

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).

But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless (Matthew 12:7).

A while back, I came to the conclusion that I would rather err on the side of mercy when relating to others. I’m not talking about being soft on sin. But I am talking about walking graciously toward others who may not be at the same place in their walk with the Lord as you or I may be. And, if a brother or sister is caught in sin, learning how to “restore such a one in the spirit of meekness” (Gal. 6:1).

When I look at others who are covered with the scars of bad decisions they have made, I do not lose sight of the fact that there but for the grace of God go I. God has spared me from a lot in life but that is a testimony to His goodness, not mine.

mercifulgod

Luke 6:36 tells us:

Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Matthew 5:7 says:

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

I have received so much mercy in my life. How could I be so heartless as to not show mercy in return?

Dictionary.com defines “mercy” as:

1. compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence:
2. the disposition to be compassionate or forbearing:
3. the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, especially to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty:
4. an act of kindness, compassion, or favor:
5. something that gives evidence of divine favor; blessing.
I want to be that person that doesn’t hesitate to put an arm around a struggling sinner who is broken instead of the one who says (even in the heart), “If you just hadn’t done that stupid thing, you wouldn’t be in this predicament.”
 
There are times when pious, religious people may need a firm rebuke but only if it can be done in humility with the purpose of the sinner coming to repentance and being restored. But there are other times that we must help to lift up the broken so they can find that hope that will lift them out of the pit they find themselves in.
Several times in the Gospels, we read that “Jesus had compassion.” We need to follow His example. Won’t you show mercy to someone today?

The Sufficiency of Christ

Brian Hedges’ book, Christ All Sufficient, an Exposition of Colossians, is a welcomed book in 9781633421219any Christian’s library. It is widely recognized that Colossians is perhaps the most Christocentric book in the Bible; every preacher loves to preach from this text. Hedges’ book adds a rich tapestry of theology and doctrine to our understanding of this epistle that will cause the reader to rejoice and be in awe of his Savior.

Ten concise chapters bring out various themes from this letter in a consistent focus on our main goal in life – to glorify our God and King. Our author covers the gospel from three perspectives – the power of the gospel, the ministry of the gospel, and the mission of the gospel; all it very well presented and founded on the epistle being examined.

What thrills my soul the most and what ought to stir any saint to desire a deeper walk with Christ is the study of the nature and work of the Lord Jesus. In his chapter titled The Supremacy of Christ, Hedges reminds us that Jesus is “not only reveals to us God’s character and nature, he also perfectly bears the imago Dei as the Adam. He shows us what it means to be truly human.” (page 52) Since the first Adam, each of us has born the image of God in a twisted, marred manner as we were marked by sin from conception and every thought that followed. Jesus is the perfect image and He will be among us on the new earth. Hedges also reminds us of Jesus’ role in creation and in holding things together, as all things were created by Him and for Him. “The implications of this for believers is astounding … believers should never live in fear …” (page 54)

As Col 1:20 tells us Christ brings peace with the Father, our author rightly tells us “Peace is more than just a cease-fire in the conflict between God and humanity: it is the restoration of cosmic and relational harmony under the supreme lordship of Jesus Christ across all domains of existence.” (pages 57 & 58) There is nothing to fear in this life where all they can do is kill the body. Our refuge, our security is eternal and is more secure than anything all the armies of this age could provide.

In chapter V on the Sufficiency of Christ, we are encouraged to walk in obedience to our Lord with thanksgiving. We are complete in Christ, united with Him who is the fullness of God. Paul wrote that the ordinances against us were nailed to the His cross, a vivid word picture that communicates the imputation of sin onto Jesus. Horatio Spafford put this in lyrics that Hedges quotes and every Christian ought to love:

My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part, but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Addressing Col 2:15, Hedges tells us, “Paul here alludes to the victory parade following a Roman victory, an image also appearing in 2 Corinthians 2:14.” (page 86) and follows up with “The powers of darkness thus have no claim and can pose no threat to those who are in Christ.” (page 87” I think our author was channeling Martin Luther:

And though this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us.

The Prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him.

His rage we can endure,

For lo, his doom is sure.

One little word shall fell him.

That one word, of course, is the person of Christ – none other. Confidence in Him, the one in whom there is salvation; that is what this book builds up. Colossians is God’s Word about the person and work of God’s Son. Brian Hedges’ book gives the reader an excellent look into some of the deeper, richer meanings of what the Spirit spoke through the apostle.

Just to Clarify

Just to clarify if there are any questions, Defending Contending will NOT endorse any candidate in this election. Both candidates hold positions that defy the laws of God. This is not about the economy, Benghazi, lies, treason, their lack of theology, or anything apart from following the Scriptures when it comes to making decisions that will impact our lives as we stand before God.

 

Two Kingdoms

It saddens me to see so many Christians get wrapped up in politics. We have virtually no sense of history (the early days of what used to 26822be a representative republic were far wilder than the current election cycle) and seem to have lost sight of the two kingdoms in play. Augustine likened them to Two Cities.

The Bible is clear – God created three units of government for this age: the family, the state, and the church. We do not read of any of the apostles nor the Lord trying to overthrow the Roman government, although that is the charge brought against Jesus by the Jewish leaders.

We are not selecting a theologian-in-chief this year. We have not had a solid Christian man in the White House in the past 100 years; all of them have put politics above Truth for the most part. We play into the hands of the world when we try make this country into the mold we imagine for it. But no matter how much we desire a secure temporal future under a God-fearing government, that is not where our security lies.

The best thing for this country would be political leaders who cling to the Constitution, just as the best thing for our local churches are men who cling to the Scripture.

The political machinery in D.C. all works together to consolidate power at the national level (the Whig Party lives in the policies of both current parties). No matter if your favorite President was Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, GW Bush, or Bill Clinton (all professing Christians) – none of those men were able to put this country on the foundation of Scripture. That is not the job of the President.

If your view is that you must vote for a truly godly person as President, how is your position different from the Jews who clamored for a king like the pagan nations had, discontent with having YHWH as their King?

A President who will work against the status-quo and try to push the national government back to it charter document will do this country good, no matter what you or I think of his theology.

Dump Them Both

I have lived almost half a century. Being both a US citizen and a British subject, I can say that I have seen my share of politics. I have seen the games, heard the lies, and watched the vitriol fly. This current election in the USA must be the worse I have ever seen. We are a laughingstock among the nations of the world, many of whom have no fear of us as a nation. More importantly, they have no respect for us because our leaders (and potential wanna-be leaders) have no respect for the laws of this land.

America used to be a very great nation. We are the nation that was silent for the first 3 years of The Great War, also known as World War I. Finally joining in, the men of this nation answered the call to arms and routed the enemies of freedom. That was ALL that was fought for.

The same thing occurred in World War II when the greatest generation of Americans who have ever lived rose up and resoundingly thrashed the enemies of freedom on two fronts (Europe and Asia). We asked for nothing, but gave much. After all was said and done, we sent more of men and women to former war fronts and America rebuilt those nations one brick at a time. We even paid for it with grants, many of which have still not been repaid.

The men and women who gave their lives in the theaters of war followed their orders so that we might have the freedoms we enjoy today.

Sadly, I never thought, and I am sure our Founding Fathers, nor those veterans of war from World War II on, could have thought or imagined that our nation would be allowed to flounder like a fish out of water. To think that the choices for President and Commander-in-Chief is down to the vulgar, trash-talking, debauched candidate on one side and a feminist, God-hating, traitor on the other side is just enough to make anybody with half an ounce of common sense want to vomit – violently!

However, there is something even worse than what we are seeing today. Our nation has become a nation that panders to evil. It calls good to be evil, and evil to be good. Our nation has become a culture that thinks it is entitled. It thinks it is entitled to disrespect the American flag while being paid millions of dollars. Sadly, most of the people who complain about this are the same ones who will still pay hundreds of dollars at sporting events every single week and thus support and endorse what is taking place.

Our society believes that is must speak from the pocketbook because after all, “it’s about the economy, stupid!” When will we ever learn? Obviously, it is true that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This once great nation is repeating history. History shows that Rome was NOT destroyed by her enemies. She was destroyed from within. Rome thought she was entitled to what she had. Ultimately, she was destroyed because she forgot the reason she existed was because of God and God alone.

Not only is our society at large a problem, but even the evangelical church is a problem. We have people fighting back and forth across the aisles of Facebook, Twitter, and even church itself trying to decide why and which of the lesser of two great, monstrous evils to vote for!

Seriously?? Let’s put this into perspective.

Let’s assume in a few years that the choice is down to a president who promises that he or she will only kill 10 Christians per day versus a president who promises that he or she will only kill just one (1) Christian per day. Are our only choices really to vote for the lesser of these two evils? The cries are growing louder and I can hear some saying, “Oh, that would never happen!”

May I remind you that we can easily substitute the word “Christian” in the above sentence and replace it with “baby” or “infant.” We end up with the same solution. We soothe our conscience by declaring that we are only voting for the president who “promises to only kill just one (1) baby a day” on his watch instead of standing for what is right.

You can argue all you want while using the illustrations of Joseph being second in command in Egypt, and Daniel being third in command in all of Babylon. Those two men were NOT voted in to their office. They were placed strategically, specifically, and sovereignly in those places of power by none other than God for a specific purpose.

The Christians of Rome had no option to “vote” for the lesser of two evil Caesars. They would NEVER have been told by the apostles to “vote your conscience” or “vote for the lesser of two evils and hope for the best.” Utter ridiculousness! They were commanded to obey the laws of the land, to remember who was in control, to pray for the leaders of the land, to watch for the Lord’s return, and to pray without ceasing.

Today, we have many who are not only self-acclaimed evangelicals, but even claim that they believe in the sovereign hand of God. They then turn around and think that the entire picture puzzle rests upon their feeble shoulders of clay. They declare that God is in control, but refuse to believe Psalm 2 that reminds us that God sits in the heavens and LAUGHS at the wicked. The wicked say, “Let us break their bands asunder” but God holds them in derision.

Today, our churches rarely pray and are certainly not watching and hoping for the return of the Lord. Our churches are more concerned about keeping the peace between rival factions in the congregation instead of saying, “Thus says the Lord…the wicked shall not prosper!”

In the meantime, having cast aside the belief in the sovereignty of God, we have become more and more pragmatic in our belief system. We justify the killing of only one baby a day because “maybe God will take this candidate out of the picture after he becomes president so that we can be blessed with the second person in charge” and America will truly become a Christian nation again. Our pastors and churches have accepted the handouts of the government and thus have been lulled into silence for the sake of a few dollars saved on church supplies at the local office supply store.

I would be a fool to encourage our readers to follow their heart. Your heart and mine cannot be trusted. Jeremiah 17:9 makes this very clear, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Both candidates are simply two sides of the same coin. They both endorse the murder of helpless babies and support the abomination of the homosexual movement. Evil is still evil and will always be evil. Please spare me the details of how “a vote thrown away is a vote for ______” or “if you don’t vote, you are not obeying your civic duty and thus in sin!”

No, no, no, and NO!!!!!!

I want to hear more pastors, Bible teachers, and evangelists crying out to God like Nehemiah to forgive their sins, the sins of their homes, and the sins of this nation. I want to hear more who will be willing, even as a top official, to pray for what is right and true, even if it means that you get thrown to the lions. I want to hear more cry for mercy for the tragedy that has befallen this nation, and plead to God asking, “How long, O Lord, will the wicked prosper?”

The truth is that if those who claimed the name of Christ were willing to cease being pragmatic in their approach to life and realize that the Scriptures are good for all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), then we would become a voice crying in the wilderness, “Make straight your paths for the King is coming.”

With all the arguments that have been bandied about as to who we should or should not vote for, I am truly appalled at the lack of integrity that is seen in every quarter. I am appalled at the emotions that are in play instead of the Scriptures. I am appalled at the reality that many who say they love the Lord and believe He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords live as though the rise and fall of America depends on them casting a vote for the lesser of two evils!

I have no right to tell you to vote for either candidate. Americans, by the law of the land, have been given the liberty and the choice to make as to what they will do in this election and every election after this.

Those who claim the name of Christ though have a much higher calling. We are not called to obey our emotions. We are not called to vote with our pocketbooks. We are called to be ambassadors of the King of Kings, and I have to wonder how many in the world look on us with disdain because we have fallen hard and fast away from the truths we claim to hold dear.

As a true believer in the sovereignty of God and the dictates of Scripture, I personally cannot and will not vote for either candidate. I will not violate my conscience in order to pacify my emotions. Finally, I choose not to vote ultimately because to do so means that I must practice situational ethics in order to justify either choice.

Like Joshua of old said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” We will wake up on November 6th giving thanks that we are one day closer to the return of the Lord. We will be able to sleep well at night knowing that we did not approve of one single candidate who stands daily to mock the Most High God. We will wake up knowing that no matter who will be the next president that our God still reigns and He ALONE puts up one and puts down another.

He alone can make our next Nebuchadnezzar to eat grass like a cow until he lifts up his eyes and praises the Most High God, and He alone can choose to feed the next Herod literally to the worms!

In conclusion, our readers have choices to make as well. My prayer is that each of you will pray about how you can make the right decisions that are in line with the Word of God. There should be and can be no other rule by which you decide your paths. Ultimately, we will each give account before God for the decision we choose to make, but we will not have the liberty to say that we loved what God hates because it was the better of all the other options.

The Shepherd and His Sheepdogs

The Shepherd and His Sheepdogs

One of the things I am passionate about is closing the gap between Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers within the body of Christ. We have become so segregated in our roles that it is almost as if they never overlap. The Pastor is in charge of the sheep, and the Evangelist is in charge of bringing the lost sheep into the fold. My dear readers, this is wrong! Just as equally wrong is the idea that the Evangelist is incapable of preaching on any other topic other than evangelism, that the burden of biblical counseling should only be left upon the head Pastor, or that Eldership belongs only to the pastors or teachers of the congregation. In accordance with Ephesians 4:11-15, I would encourage all of us to view the roles/gifts these kind of men bring to our local congregations and the universal body of Christ.

I remember an illustration a famous preacher gave one time about how the sheepdog is like the Evangelist that barks at the sheep and the sheep run into the sheepfold. Meanwhile, the sheep are taken care of by the pastor(s) of the flock. I submit to you that I have a better illustration. The Evangelist and the Pastors and Teachers are all sheepdogs. And whether they hold to the office of Elder within a particular church or not, they are going to be called by God to gather the lost sheep, rally the sheep, guide the sheep, discipline the sheep, and keep the sheep bonded in the unity and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. But you know what, they do it all underneath the command of The Shepherd! Don’t miss this point. The Shepherd guides and gives commands to the sheepdogs as to what He wants, in accordance with His will. Let me further explain what I mean.

When I visited a farm in Washington, they were having a Scottish Border Collie demonstration. They showed how these dogs rally the sheep and guide them into the sheepfold underneath the command of the shepherd. The shepherd would whistle and call out commands that would inform the dog to run, lie down, or walk at a specific pace or in a certain direction. It is really a sight to see. I wanted to upload the video I captured, but my phone crashed before I could. So I could only find this video to give some visual illustration of what I am talking about. If you watched the video, you will notice that even though the dog may have some natural instinct on what to do, the sheepdog, nevertheless, must still be underneath the guidance and direction of the shepherd. And this is where Ephesians 4:11-16 comes in.

In the work of the ministry, all those who are gifts to the body as Ephesians says overlap in some way concerning their work among the sheep. I hope to write a book about how the Evangelist needs to be reclaimed and reintegrated back into our local churches, but for now, understand that true Evangelists are not lone wolves. They are sheepdogs, just like the pastors and teachers, among the body that listen to the voice of The Good Shepherd, my Lord Jesus. Although there can be street preachers who may not necessarily be Evangelists in accordance with Ephesians 4 (which isn’t a bad thing), and there may be some who claim to be Evangelists but preach a false gospel and disdain the body of Christ (which is a bad thing), an Evangelist called by God will fulfill their ministry not just by calling the lost to repentance and bringing people into the fold, but by building up the body, perfecting the saints, teaching sound doctrine, and many other things that seem to be only “the pastors job.”

If you think about this, this is one of the reasons why the plurality of Elders is not just biblical, but essential wisdom. I strongly assert that Evangelists are an essential piece on God’s chess board. Even if it was just one man in a small congregation, he should nevertheless do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:5). Also, even though an Evangelist may be typified by church planting, missionary work (local or overseas), and/or proclaiming the gospel among the heathen in the local area, the pastors and teachers among us should be doing some of the very same things! And if you’re thinking consistently about the Great Commission, every Christian is called to do their part in the work of making disciples. But regarding our ministerial duty to the body, as sheepdogs, we are called as a team that heeds the voice of our Shepherd to do the joyous labor of serving the body while we endeavor in the very same mission. And whether it is building up the body by adding to the church, or by edifying and perfecting those already added, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers must rally together more than ever underneath the sound of Jesus’ voice to protect, guide, unify, and edify His sheep.

I am pleading with those of you who are leaders to stop putting Evangelists in the evangelistic sand box to play outside the church as if that is their sole domain.  We can do better than this! There are many Evangelists who are fit to lead and exegete the Scriptures and can provide relief to their fellow sheepdogs. Their heart may lie in a passion for lost souls, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a passion for God’s people either. We may differ in personalities, strengths, and abilities, but so do the many of pastors and teachers in our congregations. Evangelists are no different. We desire to train and build up and lead the sheep just as much as any of the others who are called to the work.

One thing I remember about my time at that farm was all the sheepdogs on the sidelines, chained to the fence, aching to get in the field and work among the sheep. They were zealous, eager, knowledgeable, and would jump up and down while they watched their fellow sheepdogs do the work they were also bred for. But when they were let loose, they all attentively obeyed the voice of the Shepherd. And if either them stepped out of line, or did not obey, they would be disciplined just as much as the sheep. And this applies to all sheepdogs! Some of us have been standing on the sidelines waiting for our local congregations to let us join in on the work for too long. Although anyone called by God will fulfill their calling whether blind leaders recognize it or not, they nevertheless desire to work hand in hand with other sheepdogs. The problem is, we have too many wolves in the pulpits who desire to devour the sheep and not obey the voice of the Shepherd. And unfortunately, there are too many goats that don’t mind serving themselves up on their plate every Sunday.

But that aside, if you are reading this, and you are a leader/elder/pastor among your congregation, I plead with you to join arms with your fellow sheepdog, the Evangelist. I’d love to help you on how you can best approach this. You can contact me here, and we can correspond through email. Or if you are reading this and you feel like you are called as an Evangelist, I would love to help you to study thoroughly what that means and equip you to know how you can support and approach your local church. You can also contact me here. Keep in mind, though, that in some churches, their ecclesiastical government may require that you submit underneath the Eldership. In other congregations, the Evangelist may be appointed as one of the Elders. But whatever government your church may have, one thing remains true – there are sheepdogs that are eager and called to do the work of the ministry within the body of Christ. Some are already obeying the voice of their Heavenly Shepherd. As a church, as leader, as a Christian, will you do the same?

-Until we go home

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 3) – Eternal Punishment

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 3) – Eternal Punishment

The distance that certain conditionalists will go to deny the obvious linguistic nature of eternal conscious torment is very disturbing. While I have already revealed in Part 2a why the fire is categorically different and in and of itself eternal, AND how it is semantically linked as the instrument and reason why those that are in it will continually endure eternal punishment (since it is indicative of God’s wrath, read Part 2b), the twisting of Scripture continues. The basic premise is that eternal punishment is not an eternal “punishING” but one of eternal “punishMENT.” In essence, what is proposed is that the eternal punishment that Jesus speaks of in Matthew does not refer to the process of being punished for an eternity, but that Jesus’ administration of the punishment (in their case the punishment is death/annihilation brought about by fire) is what is meant by eternal punishment. Therefore, that punishment which He administers lasts forever.

There are several personal observations that I must bring to the forefront before I address the linguistic/scriptural issue of this argument. 1) Language is messy business. It is one thing that I learned from studying linguistics is that many of what we take for granted everyday can often be arbitrary and ambiguous. Many of the points conditionalists make, from a linguistic standpoint, are notable nuances, but too often are exploited for their benefit. In other words, they capitalize on the ambiguities of language. This is to not say that I or anyone else is not guilty of doing such a thing, but they do it so often with clearly understandable texts like Matthew 25 that I have no choice but to assume deception (which is once again, what we are accused of). 2). A dictionary is not meant to regulate language. I know it is a habit for some to use dictionary definitions of words because it is an easy reference, but this wonderful tool simply records how the language can be used in any given context, not regulate how is should be used. In other words, it describes not prescribes. It tells you how words have been used and are conventionally used (that means by agreement) depending on the kind of dictionary you have. But they do not always capture every nuance. However, internet is changing that. So whenever we go to our dictionaries, remember that it is good to have an general understanding of what a word entails, but syntax, grammatical structuring, discourse structuring, and even idioms can break the “rules.” Therefore we are to be cautious how we bring dictionaries to make our points. Look up lexicography if you care to know more. It really is a fascinating field of linguistics. Now, unto my arguments.

Here is the first problem I see. In my last post, I mentioned how conditionalists believe that the result of the punishment is eternal. I wrote it this way because whether it is Chris Date in his podcasts/debates, or recently William Tinksley (a contributing author to Rethinking Hell), I am told something along the lines that this is not what they believe. Their correction to my statement is that they too believe in “eternal punishment,” and I am apparently wrong for saying that they believe in the results of the punishment. But then they go on to say (perhaps not all of them) that the punishment is the result of Jesus’ punishing action, or it is the duration of the punishment inflicted once which is eternal (the example given is capital punishment). So what we have here is an example of saying the same thing, just differently. By asserting that eternal punishment refers to “the result of Jesus’ punishing action” is to say, in essence, that you believe that eternal punishment in Matt 25 is implying the result, not the process. So to be corrected by saying that conditionalists do not believe that the results of the punishment is eternal is being semantically illusive. They are very good at making distinctions without making any difference, as well as proving their point without proving their position (which I’m sure I will be accused of doing).

Here’s the second problem. In order to prove their point, conditionalist compare the words redemption (using Hebrews 9:12 as an example) and punishment. Since redemption can refer to a one time act, or can refer to the results (there’s that word again) of an act, they say that this is a comparable example to the punishment administered by Christ in Matt 25. From a linguistic perspective, this is a notable nuance in any given context. Even though conditionalists are correct that punishment and redemption both can refer to a single act or a result of an act, they overlooked the very same Scripture tells us what exactly that punishment is (eternal fire), and they assume we will be burned up. But they also don’t realize that the suffixes of both punishment and redemption can imply a state or condition. Before I go to Matt 25, here is a quick breakdown of suffix usage.

The suffix -ment can refer to a state or condition. It is a way to “noun” a verb (notice I just verbed the word noun because how I placed it in the sentence. This kind of syntax is key when having these sorts of discussions. Not just how words are defined, but how they are used in any given utterance or text). For the word redemption, the suffix -tion does the same.  In both words, the suffix can imply a state or condition. In Jesus’ case, He went into the Holy place to obtain eternal redemption for us. In this case, eternal punishment refers to the state or condition of being punished. In other words, while Jesus’s obtaining the state of condition of eternal redemption for us is accomplished by the one time act of enduring the wrath of God and death, we experience the state or condition of punishment by being in eternal torment by the one time act of being thrown there (we I will explain below). But also in this case, if you are given a punishment, depending on the punishment, it can be temporary or eternal based off of how or by what means it is being administered. The effects can last even after the infliction has has passed (just like the death penalty), or you can remain in a state of condition of being punished (like a lifetime in prison). The downfall in our case is that any punishment that is meant to endure can only endure in our lifetime. And, if it does endure throughout our lifetime, it can be a punishment that is consistently being administered or undergone by an instrument or agent, or it can simply leave a lasting result (sort of like a physical scar, although emotional “scaring” is not outside the realm of semantics).  In Matthew 25, eternal punishment into eternal fire is a state or condition that the wicked find themselves in forever, eternal punishment being another way of appositionally (see Part 2b again to remember what I’m talking about here) describing that state.

Now, lest you think this can also sway in the conditionalist favor, one must understand that verbal nouns like punishment keep some semantic value of the verbal form, although they do not function as a verb. I can get pretty technical at this point, but I will save that for other posts or conversations that I may have with conditionalists. For now, punishment always has the sufferer in mind. That is, whatever the means, whatever the outcome, punishment always has the person receiving it as its focus. Seeing that the fire mentioned earlier in Matthew is eternal, and is the instrument that will forever administer the punishment, and since that fire is indicative of God’s wrath and judgment, if the fire is eternal, then the one who is experiencing that fire is in that state or condition for an eternity.

It is clear that any punishment administered in this life that is administered by man or by God, even physical death, is not eternal. The first death we experience is not forever. We will one day be resurrected. Jesus came to save us from the power of the first death (Rev 20:6; 1 cor 15:54), which by natural consequence saves us from second death. But the first death is not like the second in nature. And Scripture clearly demonstrates, at the very least in Matthew 25, as making the day of judgement and final judgment different by saying that out of all the punishments, this one will last forever. If death is the punishment as conditionalists make it out to be, then why would God have to resurrect them to only do the same thing again? This question cannot be redirected at us who believe in eternal conscious torment because while we may die, we have yet to face the wrath of God that Jesus took upon Himself on the cross before He died. And we can’t, because we would die in our current state. And if conditionalists continue to assert that the eternal fire in Jude 7 is equivalent to the eternal fire in Matthew 25 (in the sense of how they use it) then if Sodom and Gomorrah suffered punishment by eternal fire, why resurrect them and do it all over again? Eternal conscious torment is consistent in that the only thing that the wicked have not yet faced is God’s full wrath in the body. This is something Jesus did. And He doesn’t need to suffer eternally like we do to do it. Which is the reason why we need a resurrected body designed for such an occasion.  Because if we use the Old Testament as an example, which  Sodom and Gomorrah is just a taste of, then there is a reason why that body would have to be a body fit for eternal punishment. Because the current one we have will whittle away.

But guess what, in one sense, the conditionalists are right! When you read verses 41 and 46 of Matthew 25 which reveal that the wicked “go away into” eternal punishment while the righteous to eternal life, it is a one time act of sending them to their respective locations. And when they arrive, they will experience the bliss or the pain of what God has in store for them there, and they will experience that state or condition for an eternity. So to say that the punishment can be a one time act, or the result of the act really makes no difference seeing that the punished will experience their state of punishment eternally, just as the natural understanding of the text is to be interpreted. So even if this is what it means to be punished, this one time act of being thrown into the fire indeed has an eternity behind it, and those that are there will be in a state of eternal punishment. In other words, how conditionalists argue their points still doesn’t prove their position, nor does it prove that those that are thrown into the fire will be eventually annihilated.

But what of the words “eternal destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 and the parts in Scripture where Jesus uses parables to describe what happens to the wicked when they are judged? Like in Luke 13:40 where the Greek word katakiaw is used to illustrate the wicked being “burned up”? What about those? Those will be dealt with later on in upcoming articles. For now, remember to take all these article as a collective whole. What I mean is, each article is designed to build off of one another. It may be difficult to process all this, but I know many of you reading the New Testament understand the implications of eternal fire and punishment and that it lasts forever. It is something our Church Fathers understood (something I will prove as well), and it is something that has been easily understood by many generations, except for those that have an agenda (whether they realize it or not) to prove otherwise.

-Until we go home