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Passions in Poetry

Universal Reconciliation

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Denise
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0 posted 12-28-2003 10:00 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Has anyone here ever investigated Christian Trinitarian Universalism or Universal Reconciliation as it is also known? I believe that it is a belief (not a denomination) held cross-denominationally,(Mother Teresa, Hannah Whitehall Smith, among others) that holds that somehow, in someway, God, because of the sacrifice of Christ, will ultimately reconcile all creation, inluding all mankind, to himself, and that the faith that saves believers in the here and now is a blessing in the here and now as well as in eternity, but that those who do not come to faith in this lifetime are not lost forever, but after the resurrection and a time of corrective chastisement of some sort (the reason for the urgency for faith in this lifetime being to avoid this time of chastisement), all mankind will eventually come to saving faith..."every knee will bow and every tongue confess..."

Orthodox Christianity considers this heresy. But Orthodox Christianity once considered "By Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone to the Glory of God Alone" heresy as well (some denominations still do.)

I've read that UR was a common understanding of the early church. I'd like to believe it's true. It seems to me to ring more true to God's character of love than does His allowing anybody to be tormented for eternity, even considering that man makes his own choices regarding faith in God (or does he?) Would the God who says to me to turn the other cheek and not to render evil for evil and to love others with the same kind of love that I have for myself do any less? Would He allow people to be born that He knew would end up in hell, tormented eternally? Is it not possible that God's justice was fully met in Christ for all men and that some will just not experience the blessing of it in the here and now?

Your thoughts?  
Stephanos
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1 posted 12-29-2003 04:15 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Denise,

Though I sympathize with your desires to see every person saved, I am afraid that scripture doesn't present us with such a picture. Though the Bible does not seem to support this as a certain outcome, it does seem to support a hope toward universal reconciliation.  Anything beyond a hope and desire (on our part), is to go too far I think.  One thing is certain, the Bible does not teach that unbelievers will be saved.  And unbelief, biblically speaking, is not just intellectual doubt ... it is a choice, a non-reliance upon Christ for redemption and forgiveness of sins.  So, though everyone will finally be "believers" in the sense of acknowledging God, it doesn't follow that everyone will trust him or love him in the end.  

As to God being unjust for creating someone he knew would reject him ... I don't think this shows anything contrary to God's love or good character.  The only alternative is to believe God created us without any choice in the matter ... forced to love him.  This is antithetical to the nature of love.  


Anyway ... I have more to say.  I will give you some scriptures later (I'm actually at work now, on my break) which show pretty clearly that universal salvation ... though theoretically available and possible through Christ, will not be attained, due to the choice of many who have preferred darkness to light.


A good chapter for you to read is the chapter entitled "hell" in C.S. Lewis' "The Problem of Pain".  He does a great job of answering some of the objections to everlasting punishment, by an omnibenevolent God.  


Stephen

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (12-29-2003 04:16 AM).]

Opeth
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2 posted 12-29-2003 08:19 AM       View Profile for Opeth   Email Opeth   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Opeth

It is without a doubt in my mind that the Bible teaches that most all will be saved and only a few incorrigbly wicked will be ultimately annihilated in the lake of fire.  

"If this grand panorama before me is what you call God...then God is not dead."

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3 posted 12-29-2003 05:11 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Denise,

The parable of the sheep and goats, as told by Jesus, seems to rule out universal pardon on the day of judgement.  You can read the whole passage for context, but below I have included the scriptures of interest ...


quote:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom, prepared for you since the creation of the world...

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me...

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels ...

I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.  

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

(selected from Matthew 25:31-46)



Saying this is only a parable does not take away the sharpness, for parables were always meant to describe realities.

Also, in the parable of The rich man and Lazarus, when the rich man, who had died, wanted to pass from torment to "Abraham's bosom", Abraham replied:

quote:
...between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.

(v.26 selected from Luke 16:19-31)



Also consider this passage in Revelation:

quote:
If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.  He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever ...

(Revelation 14:9-11)



These are just a few, there are actually many more passages which seem to deny universal pardon ... but only in the sense that many refuse to recieve what has been provided for.  If nothing else, this serves to show us the gravity of the whole question of personal salvation and forgiveness of sins.  The consequences are eternal.  If everyone will be saved in the end, unconditionally, then we have no persuasive thrust from scripture to urge them to live for God.  As a Van Halen song once expressed, there are many who want "The Best of Both Worlds", wanting the pleasures of sin and at the same time the guarantee of escaping eternal punishment in the hereafter.  Even Jesus said that for Judas, it would have been better for him if he had never been born.  That saying is hard to reconcile with an unconditional pardon of everyone.  


I've rambled long enough against universalism.  But on the other side of things, my heart is with men like William Barclay when he wrote that he would "pay any price to be able to say truthfully 'All will be saved'".  He also wrote that "Ever and again there shines in Scripture the glint of the larger hope.  We are not forbidden to believe that somehow and some time the God who loves the world will bring the whole world to himself.".  Though I see clearly where his heart was on the matter, Barclay did seem to stop short of a dogmatic univeralism.  But my heart is with his, and yours, all the same.

After all consideration, I still have to land where C.S. Lewis did in his thinking.  He found the doctrine of Hell abhorrent, yet to some degree necessary.

quote:
I am not going to try to prove the doctrine tolerable. Let us make no mistake; it is not tolerable ...


The problem is not simply that of a God who consigns some of His creatures to final ruin. That would be the problem if we were Mahometans. Christianity, true, as always, to the complexity of the real, presents us with something knottier and more ambiguous—a God so full of mercy that He becomes man and dies by torture to avert that final ruin from His creatures, and who yet, where that heroic remedy fails, seems unwilling, or even unable, to arrest the ruin by an act of mere power. I said glibly a moment ago that I would pay "any price" to remove this doctrine. I lied. I could not pay one-thousandth part of the price that God has already paid to remove the fact. And here is the real problem: so much mercy, yet still there is Hell.

(From "The Problem of Pain")



Not at all an easy topic to discuss.


And, by the way, I think it is dangerous to imagine that Hell is only for the "incorrigibly  wicked", if for no other reason than that we too quickly dismiss the possiblility of our own depravity ... We wouldn't, after all, do the things that Hitler or Judas did, so that makes us okay.  


Stephen.




[This message has been edited by Stephanos (12-29-2003 05:29 PM).]

Denise
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4 posted 12-29-2003 10:25 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Stephen,

Having been indoctrinated in Catholicism as a child, and then finding the same teaching in the Protestant sphere, minus Purgatory, I guess I've always heavy-heartedly accepted the teaching. I don't see it as a necessary teaching, though, in the sense that without it people wouldn't live for God, for are people really truly living for God anyway (from a heart of love because He first loved us), if they are doing it, even in part, to avoid a future eternal torment? Isn't that really just basically self-interest, self-preservation? What glory is given to God when people live for Him, or serve Him, in order to avoid hell. Isn't it our faith working through love that gives Him glory, and not service out of fear?

I can see punishment or discipline that has corrective value, that shows us the folly of our ways, as we have to do with our own children when we are raising them, and as God does with us in our day to day lives, but I don't see the idea of eternal torment as having any corrective value. It just comes across as purely punitive, something that I would not have the heart to do to even the most heinous criminal society has to offer, let alone my child. I can't imagine such a doctrine coming from the heart of God, who is infinitely more loving and compassionate that I could ever hope to be.

I don't know, I can't even begin to comprehend all that there is about God, but I've always tended to mentally suppress this doctrine because it doesn't seem to sit well in my heart, but at the same time I don't want to be involved with something if it is heresy. I just know that this teaching of hell has always been a wedge between me and God and not a teaching that draws me nearer to Him.

Perhaps it is possible that we read too much into the parables and make them say more than Christ intended? For instance, with the Rich Man and Lazarus, wasn't the point of the parable to contrast the original "wealth" of the Jews due to their godly heritage with the "poverty" of the Gentiles and the latter's subsequently better position of blessing due to their faith in the Messiah, rather than being a treatise on the doctrine of hell? Must it be that, even secondarily? Is it possible that He related that story to them because it was one that was very familiar to them in their culture (hell was a prevalent teaching among the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians and I understand that versions of this story were popular in those cultures as well and may have even crept into Jewish lore through the influences of those cultures) and lent itself well to the lesson He was trying to teach without it being a "thus sayeth the Lord" in its particulars?

Perhaps some of our translations are not all that they could be in terms of the meanings and nuances of the original languages? For instance, the word that we have as "eternal" does not exist in the Greek. I believe the word is aion, which could be translated eon, or age, which could allow us to understand that any punishment could be for a limited time, to bring people to eventual faith and not unending torment, and thus be corrective in nature and not punitive? Could it be that the believers from this lifetime enter the Kingdom for an age while unbelievers enter an age of punishment of some sort (it would do away with the idea of having your cake and eating it too, since it is some sort of punishment, definitely best to be avoided) until a time when Christ reconciles all to Himself, when He destroys the Lake of Fire and the Second Death, creates the new Heaven and new Earth and He becomes all and in all? (I don't remember the exact verse, somewhere in Revelation.)

I don't know, maybe I'm grasping at straws here. But I too would give all that I have for it to be true.

I'm going to buy a literal translation of the Bible and see how that helps my understanding. In the meantime, I'll keep an open mind and continue to consider other understandings that others may have. Thanks for sharing yours with me, Stephen and Opeth.
Stephanos
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5 posted 12-30-2003 02:49 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

quote:
if they are doing it, even in part, to avoid a future eternal torment? Isn't that really just basically self-interest, self-preservation? What glory is given to God when people live for Him, or serve Him, in order to avoid hell. Isn't it our faith working through love that gives Him glory, and not service out of fear?



Denise, I agree.  But what of those who will turn to God for no other reason but self-preservation?  To me this glorifies God in his humility.  Most would not recieve such groveling ingrates who just want to escape punishment ... But God has, and does.  In my own experience, I know God recieved me on such miserable terms.  I guess the best way I can describe it is that I had nothing really worthy of meriting salvation in myself ... only a desire for life, at whatever the cost.  He paid that price on the cross.  When I saw this, then my self-interest changed into gratitude.  He has worked within me the kind of returning love and thankfulness you are describing... but it did not come first.  Isn't there a scripture that says "Not that we loved him, but that he first loved us"?  I think ultimately it glorifies God that he recieves sinners for no other reason that he loves them ... and then his love is shed abroad in their hearts.  With time they are able to return some of this love back to him.  


As far as the doctrine of Hell is concerned,  I would encourage you not to embrace a belief out of  human sentiment alone.  Find out if it is true from the testimony of scripture.  I personally found that universalism did not match what is communicated.  But let the love of Christ for the world be your guard against distrusting God concerning Hell.  Personally I have found that all of my misgivings about the doctrine, have a lack of trust behind them ... that God might send people there unjustly, or that he might take delight in torment.  But these mistrusting and suspicious thoughts are not warranted ... especially, as C.S. Lewis said, in sight of the cross of Jesus.  Can anyone rightly imagine that all is not done, painstakingly by God for every soul who finally perishes?  I think if sentiment or sense will not suffice us here, then let our knowledge of God's character do so.  That he is just, should quell our anxious hearts.


Stephen.


[This message has been edited by Stephanos (12-30-2003 02:51 AM).]

Stephanos
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6 posted 12-31-2003 03:54 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Denise,

I found a link to chapter 8 of Lewis' "The Problem of Pain" ... "hell"

This is very good writing on a much misunderstood subject.


http://www.merelewis.org/CSLpp08.html


Happy New Year!

Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (12-31-2003 03:55 PM).]

Denise
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7 posted 12-31-2003 07:45 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Thanks again for your input, guys. I appreciate the feedback, and thanks for the link, Stephen. I've read through it, and while I respect C.S. Lewis' literary contributions, I don't think I'm in sync with him theologically. He seems to place more emphasis on man's will than on God's sovereignty and grace to undeserving sinners. I am not of the persuasion that a self-surrender of some sort is what brings people into a saving relationship with God.(how much would be enough and when would we know we have achieved it, and then is it lost and regained with each failing and repentence, and then isn't our salvation more dependent on our actions, than on Christ's?) I believe that it is a trust in the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ alone, irrespective of the desire or will of sinful man, that brings about the new birth. But not just a historical belief in Christ's existence, but a trusting of one's salvation to Him on the basis of what He has performed on our behalf, and nothing of ourselves. I guess I don't really prescribe to free will, per se, but more to man's will being subjected ultimately to God's sovereign purposes, i.e., "some as vessels of honor, and some as vessels for common use."

The struggle is, in our understanding of things, to seek truth, without our tainting the search with our feelings or desires or human wisdom, preconceived ideas, indoctrinations, with how we would do things if we were God, with what makes sense to us, to our sense of right and wrong and justice, etc. It is a struggle indeed.

The search continues...


Stephanos
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8 posted 12-31-2003 08:50 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Denise,

It seems that such extreme Calvinism would render some unable to believe, rather than merely unwilling ... thus making the punishment of hell for something like having a brown hair instead of red.  While I cannot reconcile God's sovereignty to our free will in my mind ... they both seem to exist, regardless of what we think.  The problem we run into when we try to uphold one, without the other, is that we always end up sweeping significant portions of scripture "under the rug".  For God to not provide what is needed for some to believe, then condemn them for not believing, doesn't seem to me to paint a picture of justice.  I guess you have dealt with that by questioning hell as a valid doctrine.  One thing I do see is the sovereignty of God and the will of man working together.  The scripture does say that God "hardened Pharoah's heart", but interestingly enough it says that Pharoah hardened his own heart first.  There is no doubt our will is involved in salvation ... I will never say it is sufficient by itself.  But to say that God's choice is completely arbitrary, causing some to be saved, and others to perish, does not fit exactly with scripture either ... nor with my "heart", as you are wont to say.

One thing, though this is my opinion ... the doctrine of Hell is more difficult to dismiss scripturally, than the free will of man.    


Stephen      

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (12-31-2003 08:54 PM).]

Stephanos
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9 posted 12-31-2003 08:56 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

quote:
I believe that it is a trust in the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ alone, irrespective of the desire or will of sinful man, that brings about the new birth.


I was just wondering if you consider "trust" to be an act of the will.

Stephen
Denise
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10 posted 01-01-2004 09:58 AM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Stephen,

I guess I tend to believe (at the moment, anyway ) that man does have a will that he can exercise, but not really 'free' in the purest understanding of the word, as I believe that it is influenced ultimately by God's sovereign purposes.

Trusting Christ, I believe, depends on whether an individual, after having been presented with the evidences in Scripture about Him and His work on the sinner's behalf, finds that evidence credible. If they find it credible, they trust Him for their salvation, if they don't find it credible, they don't. I suppose man's will is involved in the sense that one can decide to even consider the evidences presented or can decide to dismiss them out of hand, preferring darkness to light, blindness to sight, despite the constant drawing of the Spirit.

I can't reconcile God's sovereignty with man's will either, but also see both in Scripture. Maybe we aren't meant to understand it?

Denise
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11 posted 01-02-2004 09:42 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Here's an article on the concept of free will that makes sense to me, and a touch humorous to boot.
http://martinzender.com/free_will_and_the_oh_well_creed.htm

Here's a link to some other of his writings.
http://martinzender.com/zenderature.htm
Stephanos
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12 posted 01-06-2004 09:18 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Denise,

From what I've read, Zender has a lot of wit, and compassion for mankind.  But he also points out his opinion that the doctrine of "hell" is the cause of the apparant paradox between Calvinist thinking, and Arminian thinking.  And he does a good job of poking fun at honest men who described the truths they saw (from both quarters).  The only problem is that he doesn't defend his own view very well scripturally, apart from attacking "literalism".  A problem that occurs when he spiritualizes "Gehenna", is that he doesn't recognize that the reality may be worse than the symbol.  And if descriptions of hell in Jesus' parables are not symbolic of a deeper reality, then why did he say them ... for what purpose?  They were terribly misleading to warn us from a harmless spectre.  This is where I would like to probe Zender more ... if hellish descriptions are metaphorical, then what is the reality?  And why would not the reality be worse?  Why would Jesus tell us that we should prefer to pluck out an eye, or cut off a hand, rather than to enter that state?  That's pretty drastic language to just describe a nonentity isn't it?


I wouldn't hesitate to call this man a "brother" in the faith, but I think he's misled.  I would give his material much more consideration, and prayer, before swallowing it whole.


And I'm not saying he doesn't communicate some valid truth.  After all, Hell is not our gospel ... Christ is.

thanks,

Stephen.  
Denise
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13 posted 01-07-2004 09:18 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Perhaps it has been the interpretations that have been misleading us, Stephen. We have to differentiate between the infallible Word and man's interpretations of the Word. They aren't necessarily the same, as you know. I think correct, literal translation of His Word is the key to our gaining the understanding that God intended. Men's interpretations may help us or hurt us in our quest for the truth. We have to retain a teachable spirit, seek God for proper interpretation, whatever the cost, whether we like the answers or not, whether it goes along with the mainstream, or takes us outside the gate. We won't be mislead if we are relying on God alone for the answers.
  
I don't see that Gehenna is being 'spiritualized' in Martin's writings, just the opposite. I think he is interpreting it as literally as possible, i.e., the burning trash heap in Jerusalem, also spoken of in Isaiah. In context Jesus and Isaiah are speaking of the fate of the transgressors during the Thousand Year Reign. Below are a couple more links for illustration.

http://martinzender.com/the_rich_man_and_lazarus.htm
http://martinzender.com/huck_finn_explains_hell.htm


Here's what I think is a good article that I came upon regarding The Rich Man and Lazarus. Very long but worth the study. I think it will bless you.
http://www.godfire.net/eby/abrahams.html
Denise
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14 posted 01-08-2004 06:52 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Just a note -

By literal interpretation I was referring in this instance to literal renderings from the languages of the original texts, actual word for actual word. I think this provides the surest way to arrive at God's intended communication to us.

There are many things in the Bible that were never meant to be taken in a literal way, but that's another matter altogether than what I was trying to convey. Sorry for not making myself more clear.
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15 posted 09-05-2004 11:24 PM       View Profile for Arnold M   Email Arnold M   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Arnold M

As a new member, I wish to reply concerning this subject of UR. The wonderful thing is it is true and the Scriptures affirm it. But,an accurate, literal translation is surely most important.  One I recommend is Young's Literal Translation which is available for a reasonable cost. There are many verses which affirm that Christ died for the sins of the world.  When Christ died for all, we read in 2 Cor.5:14, all died.  I understand this to mean that God reckoned all humanity dieing with Christ. And in verse 19, "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them." NIV.  While there is still sin in the universe, and all humans will be judged for their deeds, what Christ  accomplished means that at the end of the ages death and sin will be done away with, 1 Cor.15:26 and Heb.9:26. There's more. Arnold
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16 posted 09-06-2004 01:17 AM       View Profile for Arnold M   Email Arnold M   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Arnold M

Denise and Stephanos:
Let us look carefully at the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  There are a number of reasons why this account is a parable, figurative, not literal: 1)The Lord represents Abraham as being alive in Hades(Gk), yet in Luke 20:37-40 the Lord Jesus makes it plain to the Sadducees (who did not believe in resurrection), that Abraham is dead but will be resurrected. Quoting from the NIV, "but in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."  God sees the future as if it were now.  Since Abraham is dead at the time of this story, this must be taken as figurative, not literal. 2)The Lord states that both the rich man and Lazarus died, then describes them with bodies that can see, feel, hear, talk etc, after death, apart from resurrection, which contradicts the rest of the bible.  Therefore, the story is figurative. 3)Elsewhere the Lord himself taught that the dead do not live until resurrection. See: John 5:28,29; 11:23-25; 12:17; Rev 20:4-6.  To take this story literally is to deny the need for resurrec-
tion. John writes in John 3:13 "and no one hath gone up to the heaven, except he who out of the heaven came down -- the Son of Man who is in heaven." YLT.  4)For the words of the Lord Jesus to be taken literally, concerning the rich man and Lazarus in Hades, is to make Him contradict all that is revealed in the Scriptures concerning the state of the dead. Many scriptures tell us that in the grave (sheol, Heb; Hades, Gk) there is no remembrance, wisdom, knowledge, etc. There is silence. See:Psa 6:5, 31:17, 115:17; Ecc 9:19, 12:10; Isa 38:18, etc.
5)Our Lord addressed this parable to the Pharisees and the multitudes just as we read in Matt 13:34, "all these things spoke Jesus in parables to the multitudes; and without a parable spoke he nothing unto them."  Since our Lord spoke only parables to the multitudes, then surely in this case His words must be figurative, not literal.
I'm sure there are any number of applica-
tions that could be seen in this account. To me the chief one is Luke 16:31, where Father Abraham tells the rich man, "if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead."
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17 posted 09-06-2004 01:12 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Hi Arnold. Welcome to Passions, and thank you for sharing your views.

I have also come to believe that UR is true. Its views, in my opinion, are supported by the literal word for word rendering from the original languages of the Scriptures, most importantly. It also does not violate the concepts of an all-loving, all-merciful, and yet at the same time, an all-just God, who, because of the sacrifice of Christ on mankind's behalf, has saved mankind from eternal separation from Himself. Yet this does not rule out future gains and losses in this lifetime and at the Judgment for deeds done through faith, or deeds done through a lack of faith. I believe that any punishment, though far from desirable (what punishment ever is), is remedial, it has a forward-looking and corrective purpose, and is not an eternal torturing in fire (a concept that would violate all the attributes of God, in my opinion). It also harmonizes the concepts found in the Scriptures, such as election, predestination, vessels made for honor and vessels made for common use, the potter and the clay, man's will, God's sovereignty, etc. I believe He blesses some in this lifetime with faith, and that He blinds some in this lifetime, and that we each fulfill our God-given role in the grand scheme of things.

I agree with your views on the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus as well. The best study on the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus that I have come across to date is found at the link below, which I referenced earlier. I found it particularly enlightening that the Rich Man was identified as Judah (the son of Jacob who had five brothers [Leah bore six sons by Jacob]), as the Rich Man stated that he had, i.e., the Southern Kingdom of the Jews, who had developed an exclusive and pharisaeical spirit toward those (Lazarus) not similarly blessed.
http://www.godfire.net/eby/abrahams.html
Larry C
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18 posted 09-06-2004 01:34 PM       View Profile for Larry C   Email Larry C   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Larry C's Home Page   View IP for Larry C

Denise,
Only those who are saved will live forever. So those who are not saved cannot be tormented forever as they do not have eternal life.

If tears could build a stairway and memories a lane, I'd walk right up to heaven and bring you home again.

Denise
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19 posted 09-06-2004 02:41 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Hi Larry! It's always good to see you! I'm glad you have a computer at home again too! I know you're happy too!

Annihilationism is one school of thought that I have looked into. In studying with a literal word for word, though, the word rendered "eternal" (only God is eternal, which means without beginning or end, man can only hope for "everlasting") is actually "aionian" which means "ages", pertaining to the various ages that God created (as in God of the Ages) and that the actual verses that have "eternal" in them in most of the transliterations that we commonly use today should say "aionian" or "for the eons", or "eon" or "age" or "ages", etc., depending on the context of the particular verse. In this school of thought then, those in this lifetime with faith (the saved) are promised the blessings of "aionian" life (one or two future ages of blessing (various thoughts on the number of future ages as well), while those without faith (the unsaved) remain in the grave during that time) and that after the Resurrection and Judgment and a time of chatisement, all will finally come to the knowledge of Christ, who He is, and what He has done on their behalf, and "every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord", the last "Age" ends, the overall period of the "Ages" concludes and Christ will then submit all to the Father and God will then become all and in all, forever.

So that's where I'm at in my present understanding. At least for now!

Stephanos
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20 posted 09-06-2004 10:25 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Arnold,

There's no use just saying that "the rich man and lazarus" is a parable and not literal.  Why?  Because that's obvious enough, but it doesn't solve the problem.  Because parables always point to a greater reality that is spiritual.  Parables are essentially elaborate metaphor and simile.  


So, if these parables are figurative only and metaphorical (which I've granted), then what spiritual reality does the "fixed gulf" between Abraham's bosom and Sheol, and the impossiblity of the rich man's crossing alude to?  Why does the parable seem to suggest a graciouly given time to repent and turn to God, that does not extend indefinitely?


Also if the parable of the wheat and the tares is figurative (which I grant) then what reality does the gathering of the tares and burning with unquenchable fire refer to?


All I've got to say, is that if these parables do not refer to damnation, then they are very poor parables, because they are misleading.  (and these are only two, out of many many scriptures that describe eternal punishment ... most of which are NOT parabolic, but doctrinal in nature.)


I also believe in Universal reconciliation ... it was provided for all of humanity.  But something so universally offered can be particularly rejected by individuals.  


Stephen.
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21 posted 09-06-2004 10:44 PM       View Profile for Arnold M   Email Arnold M   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Arnold M

Hi Denise. Your last reply was right on, as far as my knowledge of the Scriptures.  The key to really understanding the Bible and God's plan and purpose for the ages is to understand the doctrine of "the eons". We are shown there are at least seven distinct divisions: pre-eonian, post-eonian, and the five eons themselves.
In Titus 1:2 we are told that God promised us life BEFORE eonian times.  In 2 Tim 1:9 we are told of God's purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus BEFORE eonian times.  In 1 Cor 2:7 we are told of God's wisdom in a secret, which has been concealed, which God designates BEFORE the eons for our glory.  Now, since there was a time when there were no eons, they must have been made, and they were.  We are told in Heb 1:2 "God...in these last days did speak to us in a Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He did make the ages." YLT. The next question might be, "how many eons (ages) are there?  Here is how we can arrive at the number of the eons.  Gal 1:4 tells us that "Christ...did give himself for our, sins that he might deliver us out of the present evil age..." YLT.  So, we know there must be at least one eon.  In Col 1:26 we read of a secret which has been concealed from the ages.  Since that is plural, there cannot be less than three eons, two in the past and the present one in which we live.  Then in Eph 2:7 we find that God will be displaying the transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus, and this display will take place in the on-coming ages.  So there are at least two eons in the future, making a total of five.
Each eon begins, and each eon ends including the last eon.  This is clearly stated in Heb 9:26, "yet now, once, at the conclusion of the eons for the repudiation of sin through His sacrifice, has He been manifested. CLNT
While there are many objections to this doctrine by traditional, "orthodox"  theology, when the truth is known, their objections disappear.
Denise
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22 posted 09-06-2004 11:14 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Hi Stephen,

I think perhaps the fixed gulf between Abraham and the Pharisees might be one of their own making, their own pride and arrogance regarding their standing before God? They had come to despise all those not like themselves, all those not similarly blessed as they had been, and were not exemplifying the humble spirit of their father Abraham. I believe that Christ was trying to make them see the reality of their situation through the parable, that they were not the spiritual giants that they thought they were simply because they were physically descended from Abraham, and that an outcast of society, like Lazarus, who was humble, was closer to Abraham (so much so that he was resting in his bosom). The gulf would remain as long as the pride and arrogance remained because it blinded them to the very existence of their self-created gulf.

To my understanding, unquenchable fire in Scripture usually refers to punishment that will continue for as long as it is required. It can't or won't be quenched, it has to run its course and burns itself out of its own accord when there is nothing left to burn.

I think the understanding that we bring to the Scriptures determines how we read them. If we believe in damnation, we see damnation. If we don't, we see other applications, such as a loss of blessing, forfeiture of rewards, temporal punishment, etc.

Just some thoughts.
Denise
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23 posted 09-06-2004 11:36 PM       View Profile for Denise   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Denise

Hi Arnold. Yes, I agree. I have come to a greater awareness of the awesomeness of God after reading a literal translation of the Word and discovering the wealth of treasure that is easily missed, read over, not understood, when reading other translations. I leant my Concordant Literal New Testament to my sister. I have to get it back. I may also get a YLT to check out that version as well.
Stephanos
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24 posted 09-07-2004 04:26 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Denise:
quote:
I think perhaps the fixed gulf between Abraham and the Pharisees might be one of their own making, their own pride and arrogance regarding their standing before God?


And yet it's the "fixed" part that is hard to explain if we believe in uncondtional universal salvation.  In what sense was their self righteousness and hardness irreversible and fixed, if they too were simply bound to be changed in the eschatological "by and by"?  

quote:
To my understanding, unquenchable fire in Scripture usually refers to punishment that will continue for as long as it is required. It can't or won't be quenched, it has to run its course and burns itself out of its own accord when there is nothing left to burn.

Seeing that Jesus already told his disciples the interpretation of this parable (see Matthew 13:37-43), you have to ask yourself whether the punishment referred to is temporal or eschatological.


If it is eschatological, then you are claiming, like the Roman Catholic Church to believe in something like Purgatory.  However, there's nothing redemptive even hinted at in this parable for those "tares".  If it's a parable describing the salvation of all ... including the wicked by a purging kind of punishment, then it is a poor parable to that end.  


Consider Jesus' own explanation of the parable ...


"He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.  The enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.  Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.  The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire.  There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."


"Burned in the Fire" ... "Out of his kingdom" ... "Cast them into the furnace of fire" ...

In their context, these phrases are very poor, if meant to describe a redemptive process.  There is nothing in the parable, or in Jesus' explanation that would indicate the purification of the wicked.  

I would ask you:  What in the parable itself or Jesus' interpretation, do you see that would even hint at such a thing as the salvation of the tares as well as the wheat?


Or if you want to say that the parable is about temporal punishment, spoken in a highly imaginative way ... Then Jesus' words about the harvest being "the end of the age" and "angels gathering" don't make much sense.  Exegetically, this parable most naturally speaks of the final judgement, and great escatological events, not merely of present sufferings which may help even the wicked to repent.  (There are indeed other scriptures that DO speak of that, but it's not this one).


So secondly, I would ask you:  If this parable speaks of temporal punishment, how do you explain Jesus' references to the end of the age, and angels reaping the souls of men, etc ...?  


quote:
I think the understanding that we bring to the Scriptures determines how we read them. If we believe in damnation, we see damnation. If we don't, we see other applications, such as a loss of blessing, forfeiture of rewards, temporal punishment, etc.



I agree that our preconceptions can shape our views of scripture.  But surely you're not saying that scripture itself may not be the primary shaper of a person's belief in damnation?  My belief that hell is an eternal state, to be dreadfully avoided, has been determined by what I consider to be proper exegesis of scripture.  Any other interpretation of it is lacking, since questions go unanswered, too much extra-textually gets added for support, and too much bending occurs.  But if you can answer my two above questions on these scriptures, I may still be persuaded.


And BTW, I still believe in the temporal suffering, loss of rewards, etc ... for the sanctification of the believer.


Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (09-07-2004 06:29 PM).]

 
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