This is the idea that those who die without Christ, will not suffer an eternity in hell, but instead they will be “burned up” and “destroyed” sometime after death. It’s kind of a more humane concept than an eternal torment. Those who ascribe to this view, say things like,”How can a loving God torture someone forever/infinitely when their sin was only temporary/finite?”
Here’s my answer:
God is infinitely holy, and therefore any sin we have (big or small) is infinitely punishable. That’s why He sent Jesus – He is the only infinite payment. He is the only one who could endure an infinite punishment. This is also why His gift is so amazing.
The annihilationists also like to use the image which Jesus Himself used of fire (Matthew 3:10, 12) or Gehenna (Matthew 5:22). This was the dump of Jesus day and there was a constant fire burning up the waste of Jerusalem. They argue that the waste was consumed and destroyed by this fire, but is that really true?
I’d say, “No, it was changed into ash and smoke, but still not completely gone.” The matter still exists – it has only been changed. Also, how do they answer the rest of scripture? What about Mark 9:48 and the “fire that is not quenched” or Revelation 20:10 which says, “They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” What about all the “weeping and gnashing teeth” verses (Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51) where there clearly is a conscious torment? or Daniel 12:2 which speaks of “everlasting shame and contempt.”
It seems clear to me that the whole of Scripture affirms the orthodox/normal view that there is a conscious eternal hell rather than this annihilationist view. Therefore, I will live as a man who has a healthy fear of an eternal hell and I will seek to save the lost from it. In light of this argument, I also recognize that seeking the whole counsel of the Word of God is vital in gaining a proper understanding of God and His ways. I’m amazed at how different verses can be used to support the craziest of ideas.
OK – for those of you who don’t know, let me first explain what universalism is. Basically, it’s the idea that everyone will be saved. There are quite a few really smart people who adhere to this position, and it’s gaining popularity in the world today because everyone simply “likes” the idea. I “like” the idea of the Bluebell (ice cream) weight loss program too – that doesn’t make it true. As a matter of fact, if I were to live my life by this idea, it would be pretty harmful. (I’d be even fatter.) Universalism is similar.
The universalists use Scriptures like:
John 3:16 – “God so loved the world . . .”
and Romans 5:18 – “. . .one act of righteousness that brings life for all men.”
But they like to skip over the verses like:
John 10:11,15 – “The good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” It doesn’t say “everyone.”
and 2 Thes 1:9 – “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.” If universalism was true, who is this verse talking about?
Anyway, here’s the bottom line for me. If universalism is true, then Jesus death and resurrection was pointless. Why would He have chosen that kind of suffering, if people could be saved any other way? And what kind of Father would allow His Son to endure the cross, for no reason at all? I wouldn’t want to worship the kind of God that universalism requires.
It’s important to live our lives worshiping the God of the Bible. He clearly loves all people enough to have sent His Son to provide a way for us to be saved, but if we reject Him, He is a gentleman God who allows our rejection. I once heard someone (Scott Crenshaw) say, “Sin is our way of saying to God, ‘I don’t need you.’ and hell is His way of saying,’OK, have it your way.'” If we choose universalism, we also render Jesus’ command to “Go and make disciples. . .” pointless. Therefore, I will live my life telling others about Jesus so that they can come to know Him, follow Him, and be saved.
The arguments surrounding this particular concept revolve around whether or not there are prophets in the world today or not. It seems to me that the answer to this question is pretty well decided by how you define prophecy. If you look at the bible, you can see a few things: 1.) A prophet spoke in the name of God, 2.) Signs and miracles often authenticated his message, 3.) His message harmonized with Scripture, 4.) He spoke only by revelation from God, and 5.) He had 100% fulfillment of his prophecies. This last one holds the key to my own personal convictions regarding this subject. Let me explain the differing opinions and then we’ll get back to my opinions.
Some say that prophecy still exists today, but that it just doesn’t look the same way it did back then. Their idea is that prophecy happens when God speaks to someone and gives them an instantaneous thought. If that person speaks this thought then he has become a prophet who speaks for God. This happens quite often in charismatic churches today, but I personally don’t see this in the same way. If you define a prophet the way the bible seems to, then this idea falls short. Does this person represent God and speak in His name? Maybe temporarily, but certainly not like the prophets of the bible. Does he enjoy 100% accuracy of the things he says? probably not. Does his message harmonize with Scripture? I guess that depends on what he says, but I’ve witnessed men giving me a “word” that certainly didn’t. Does this man have signs and miracles to authenticate his message? It’s doubtful, but I guess possible. Anyway, in theory, I can’t deny that this view is certainly debatable, but my own personal view follows this next theory.
Another idea is that of the cessationist. He believes that prophecy ceased with the closing of the canon of Scripture. Certainly no one who holds to the authority of Scripture could say that prophecy disappeared before that since the writers of the New Testament, were clearly able to speak for God. They lived up to every requirement which we previously listed and could be considered prophets by the biblical standards. Now, let’s be clear, I don’t believe that prophecy is completely gone. I believe that the office of prophet as it was in the bible is gone, but that the Holy Spirit can certainly give the believer special even prophetic insight into certain situations as He sees fit to do. It could be argued that when this happens one could be considered a prophet, but I personally think we should give the glory and credit to the Holy Spirit in these situations rather than giving a title to a man. He may function temporarily as a prophet, but still doesn’t live up to the Biblical standards for who a prophet is.
To be honest, I’m not completely sold on the cessationist’s view. I could probably read some more and be convinced otherwise. I want to remain a man who is teachable and it’s difficult for me to say that anything has ceased to exist. It scares me to think that I have somehow put God in a box which says that He can’t work in certain ways, because I believe He can do whatever He wants to. At this point in my life, I’d have to lean more heavily toward the cessationist view, but if God wants to raise up a prophet like the ones we read about in the Bible, I certainly believe He could do it.
How will I change my life as a result of this concept? I’m not sure.I will probably be much more critical or cautious about people who bring a “word” to me. I will try to weigh their words against Scripture and be discerning about who they are in regards to whether they are living up to the Biblical standards. I will seek God and ask the Holy Spirit more questions about their message before taking it too seriously. I guess I must also say that for me, God usually shows me things multiple times and multiple ways, so if their message is similar to other things God has been showing me, I might be more apt to just receive it. I will try to be intentional about discernment now that I have this understanding of prophecy though. I think the key in discernment has to do with Scripture. It’s interesting to note that the articles we read with differing opinions all agreed on one thing – that the authority of Scripture should be place higher than that of modern prophecy.
OK – In class, our professor described a couple of other views regarding prophecy. The Pneumatic view is like me – they are basically cessationists who say that in this dispensation, God generally operates as the cessationists describe, but that in special circumstances He might do something different. I’m not real sure how this is any different than the cessationists view – maybe just a bit more liberal in saying that God might do something different. There is also a new idea being put forward by Wayne Grudem called “Cautious Charismaticism” in which he tries to divide right down the middle. Grudem clearly thinks theres something of value in the charismatic practices, but he is also disgusted by their misuse and lack of Scriptural integrity. He encourages a cautious practice of prophecy and the other sign gifts.
Alright – so for my next class at school (Theology 3331) I’m supposed to make 20 journal entries covering 20 different theological concepts. I’m also supposed to answer the question “How will I change my life in view of this concept?” (I’m not sure I’m gonna be able to do that part on some of these questions ’cause I don’t believe in some of them. (You’ll understand what I mean later when you see the topics.) I’m guessing that’s what my next 20 posts will be. It amazes me how often this school stuff (which I really love) gets in the way of other things I enjoy. I really don’t read much anymore just for fun ’cause I have to read so much for class and now I’m not even gonna be blogging too much for fun. Oh well, I’ll be done with this class in 5 weeks, so there’s still time.
During class tonight, one of the guys sitting at our table (Beto) said something that I thought was pretty insightful. We were discussing our outlines of the book of James and he said something like this:
“Do we break the law, or does it break us? It’s the standard of the law that breaks us.”
The truth is that for me most of the time it’s me breaking the law. Sometimes I don’t ever even know I did it. But sometimes, the Holy Spirit reveals it to me that I’ve done it, and then I have a choice to either let the law break me or to rebel and refuse to repent. I wonder how many times I’ve been so hardened that I’ve ignored the Spirit. I wonder how many times He knew I wasn’t even ready to admit my sin and decided not to even reveal it to me?
Prayer: God, I wanna be the kind of guy who is broken by the law. I know it’s not a fun place to be, but I wanna chase after You and that means being broken to my own selfish desires. It means that I wanna have a soft heart which is sensitive to your subtle nudges and prods. Push me God. Let me be broken by your law, and restored by your grace. Renewed and rebuilt into the man you’ve called me to be. I believe You are working on me and trust You to do it – I’m even excited to see how it’s all gonna turn out! Thank You! AMEN!
I’ve decided to take this “General Epistle” class as one of my two pass/fail classes. This means that my grade will only depend on a few of the assignments and my attendance. I will not receive a letter grade (so it won’t count for me or against me in my grade-point average), but only a pass or fail. I’m choosing to do this because Dr. Loken led us to believe that this may be the most difficult class remaining in the leadership program and because I need a little extra time to work on the “independent study” class which I am taking simultaneously. It’s a “marriage and family” class which will count for a sociology credit. During the next 4 weeks, I’ll focus my attention on getting the homework done for the marriage class. Miranda and I have planned to go to a friend’s beach house in Galveston in a couple of weeks with her family, so that’ll be a great time to work on that homework too.
Tonight was “Student Appreciation” day at CBS. That means that we get a longer break and have speaker share some sort of message (very short) and a band or group sing some songs. They also usually try to give us some food. Tonight was James Coney Island Hot Dogs. I probably shouldn’t have eaten at all but after seeing the hot dog competition on ESPN a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t help myself – I had to know what those hot dogs tasted like. It was pretty good, but I certainly can’t imagine shoving 66 of them down my throat in 12 minutes. (Joey Chestnut, 2007 Fourth of July Event)
(oops – I already ate that hot dog, but now I realize it isn’t a james coney island contest but a Nathan’s Hot Dog contest – oh well)
Today is the first day of this new class – General Epistles and Revelation. Dr. Loken started out by telling us that the class should really be called the “General Epistles” ’cause Revelation is actually a “general epistle” too. It was clearly written to at least 7 churches which makes it pretty general.
We started out talking about Hebrews. The author is unknown, but most likely it was Paul or Barnabas. Much of the book is completely different than any of Paul’s other writings, but the greatest argument against him as the author comes in Heb 2:3 where the author says he learned the gospel from “those who heard Him.” Since Paul continually said that he had acquired the gospel directly from Jesus himself, it would be highly unlikely that he would have written this verse.
Dr. Loken explained that Hebrews was written to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. They were poor. Paul had even taken up offerings for them. They were poor because everything revolved around the temple in Jerusalem. All the commerce, social structures, everything. When someone became a Christian, they were immediately kicked out of the synagogue. They also typically lost their jobs, friends, family, and all support. When they confessed their faith, they understood that they were choosing persecution and struggle. This is why they were so good at sharing all their possessions, and living out their Christianity together. They “needed” the body in ways that our culture doesn’t understand. The easiest way for them to relieve the pressures of this kind of life was to go back to Judaism and the sacrificial system.
The book of Hebrews is a combination of dangling a carrot in front of them and then whipping them. Chapters 1, 3, & 5 are the carrots which talk about how Christ is so much better than Judaism. Chapters 2, 4, 6, 10, & 12 are more like the whip behind them saying you guys are going to receive the curse which was upon you head as a Jew if you go back to Judaism. The author of Hebrews continually encourages them to “hold fast” to their confession. Listen to Hebrews 10:24-27 with this understanding, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for our sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”
This is not a verse about going to church, but one about staying together in the midst of persecution and encouraging one another. It also clearly talks about how these Jewish believers cannot just go back to the sacrificial system – cause it’s not a valid system anymore.
Hebrews 6:4-6 – For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
There are many interpretations for these verses, but here’s mine – These guys are clearly believers – “enlightened,” “tasted the heavenly gift,” “partakers of the Holy Spirit.” They have to be Jewish believers ’cause the only guys who could crucify Jesus “again” are the guys who did it the first time. Basically the author is telling these Jewish believers (who are tempted to go back to Judaism for their own prosperity, comfort) that it would take Jesus going to the cross a second time to save them if they went back to Judaism now. Since that’s not gonna happen, they better remain true to their faith in Christ.
This probably sounds a bit like a ramble, but these are just some of the ideas we talked about tonight. I hope it’s not worthless reading, but I must admit that it probably isn’t my best writing. I don’t exactly have all my thoughts together very clearly yet either.
Howard Hendricks wrote this book and we’re studying it in my Hermeneutics class. There is also a video series that goes along with it that we’re going to be watching throughout the 5 weeks of class. It’s a 19 part series and we’re gonna have to go to the library at the school to watch them. It’s an hour and a half drive for me to go to the school so I got on-line and was looking for a place I could buy the videos or rent them or something. Anyway, it looks like they have reworked the series into a 7 session video instead of the 19 sessions. It doesn’t look like there’s any place to buy the old version which is what my homework is written from, so I’m gonna be trying to find a way in the next few weeks to get up to the school – I hate spending $$ on gas right now – it’s about $2.80 gallon. (I’ll probably read this 20 years from now and think that’s cheap, but it’s not – at least not right now.)
Anyway, the video part is Howard sitting in front of about 8 other folks who are supposed to be students. It’s pretty funny to watch though ’cause they are definitely not actors. It’s clear that Howard has instructed them on what questions to ask and such. Anyway, I guess the content of the videos is pretty good – it’s all about the basics of studying the Bible. He divides it into three main sections. (1) Observation, (2) Interpretation, and (3) Application. It sets up a pretty good basic structure for how we should study the Scriptures. I hope that as we go further into it, I’ll have more to share. We’ll see.
Check out this picture of me as a little kid. I couldn’t get out of that bucket without knocking it over and crawling out. I had gotten in a little too deep for my own good. (I’m not even sure how I got in there. – Probably, with a little help from my Dad. – By the way Lord, is that what You do with us? Encourage and help us get into places where we’re gonna have to learn to rely and trust in You to help us out?)
Hmm. . . That’s about how I’m feeling today about school. I guess I’m a bit overwhelmed. I feel like I’ve got lots of homework to do and not a lot of time to get it all done. If I were a full-time student, it wouldn’t be a problem, but since I have a full-time job as a youth minister and also volunteer as a worship leader. . . .there’s just not lots of extra time in my life. I especially want to protect my marriage. It’s important that I’m involved in these things, but even more important that I’m involved and connected with my beautiful bride. Last night, she watched some TV (one of her favorite shows – Studio 60) and I would normally have snuggled and watched with her, but I had to work on my homework. It’s only one night, but when you multiply this out over time, it all adds up pretty quickly. I don’t ever want my bride to feel neglected, and she’s a “quality time” girl when it comes to her love language. If it comes down to choosing between my wife and this class, there really is no choice at all – I will choose my wife. I just hope it doesn’t come to that.
Lord, help me to be diligent in my relationship with You and my wife. Show me how to balance my time so that I can accomplish everything that You’ve called me to. Anytime something changes in my schedule, I’ve had to rework all this out, and You’ve been faithful in the past with these kinds of things. I’m trusting in You to show me how it can be done this time too. Lord, You really are so very good to me – even the opportunity to be able to take part in each of these things is a testimony to Your goodness. Lord, give me a grateful heart, instead of this negative, I-can’t-do-it-all attitude that I’ve been feeling lately. The truth is that by Your Spirit, I can do everything You’ve called me to, and I should be grateful that You’ve called me to so many things – Thank You for inviting me to be a part of Your work in all these areas.
Lord, I also ask for you to guide me in my relationship with Miranda. Let me cherish every moment I have with her, and teach us how to live together with these new schedules of ours. Bless her in her ministry at SLP, and use her to build bridges between the school and the church. AMEN!
OK – so my new school (College for Biblical Studies) is requiring me to keep a journal. I haven’t been faithful at keeping one daily for a few years, but I do enjoy it when I have done it. I’m not sure how often they really want me to write or even the topic they’d like me to write about so I’m just gonna put my thoughts about class down here until they tell me otherwise. I’ll be in class tomorrow, so maybe I’ll get more details then.
My first class is Theology 3330. We’re supposed to read a book called “Major Bible Themes” by Lewis Sperry Chafer and answer a bunch of questions and also write a book review on another book – “Dispensationalism” by Charles Ryrie. I haven’t begun “Dispensationalism” yet, but my friend Hans (who is attending DTS in Dallas) says it’s a great book and that Ryrie is an incredible theologian. I’ve focused this first week on getting back into the habit of doing homework and answering the questions from the other book. So far I’ve finished the first 10 chapters and here’s what I’m thinking:
I don’t feel like I’ve really “learned” any new concepts. By reading this book, I feel like I’m learning some new language and terminology to speak about these concepts. Anyway, I must admit I’m a little disappointed. It’s probably good to know these terms, but the truth is that I don’t wanna be the guy who speaks over everyone’s head. I want to be able to explain these same concepts with regular language. I’m also disappointed because I’m really hungry to learn right now, but I’m not learning any new concepts. Of course, my prayer is that there is more to come, and I do feel confident that we’re just kind of laying a foundation for deeper things.