A SIMPLE APOLOGETIC
I want to thank you for your reply in the Cleveland
divinity forum. To jog your memory, you thanked so-called
Universalists for providing you another means to dispel the horror of
eternal damnation. Your response also cited, that you really haven't
been fair to our point of view. One of the things I like about you is
your honest assessment of Biblical information. It seems you try to
allow the Scripture to speak for itself, thereby cutting through
traditionalist's myriads of doctrines and creeds.
I would ask, as I argue elements of universal
reconciliation, that you would not label me a Universalist or Unitarian.
I know nothing about either group and have no affiliation with them. The
outcome of our teaching may use similar words but I seriously doubt they
espouse the same line of thinking. Labels are so unfair.
I have visited your web page and read the compilation
of Scripture and resultant logic that has led you away from eternal
torment and into the thought of conditionalism. I like the way you
employ the character of God in your thinking as you examine the logic of
Scripture as well. Yet, we see things differently in the end of God's
eonian dealings with man. To some extent we have highlighted these
differences on the forum. I hope to give an apologetic of God's eonian
purpose and show how universal reconciliation is Biblical, as well as,
consistent with God's character and plan. I hope to be brief, hard
hitting, fair and logical.
It is so easy to get caught up in the trees, as the
saying goes, we fail to see the forest. God is not restricted to such
inadequacies. God clearly spells this out in Isaiah 46:9-10, "I
am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me. I make
known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to
come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
(v.11) What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned,
that will I do." We know from Heb 6:18, "it is
impossible for God to lie", that God is a revealer of secrets,
(Daniel 2:28) and God knows things even the Son did not know, (Matt
24:36). Undoubtedly, what can be cloudy to creation is absolutely clear
to God as He manifests His intention.
God is an eonian God. (Rom 16:26). This does not
limit God in any way as to His absolute significance, or His
timelessness. It just means He is relating to His creation, and that He
has a purpose that is going to be revealed through eons. In so doing, He
wields a powerful and Sovereign hand. God or El, in the Hebrew, means
Subjector. We see this phenomenon plainly spoken of in II Corinthians
5:18. "All of God," This literally reads, "The
all out of God," I do not mean to imply that all of creation is
outside of God. We know from Acts 17:28, "for in Him we are
living and moving and are." "The all out of God"
then, must pertain to purpose. A simpler verse is Eph 1:11, "…Who
is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will." In
your writing you accuse so-called Universalists of using the words all
and everyone strategically, that they conclude that all means all, even
when it means the all of the context. I will be using the word all a lot
in this exhortation because scripture uses it a lot. I intend to be
careful about the context. Clearly, in the above stated verses, the all
is in reference to the working of God's will toward his subjects.
Christ comes on the scene. He is both, "Firstborn
of every creature," and " God's creative
Original". (Col 1:15 and Rev 3:14 respectively.). God began His
purpose and plan through Christ. God is the source of all, for Rom 11:36
says, "that out of Him and through Him and for Him is all: to
Him be the glory for the eons! Amen!" yet, Christ is the
channel, for Col 1:17 says, "all is created through Him and for
Him, and He is before all, and all has its cohesion in Him." A
decisive verse that clearly shows this is, I Cor. 8:6, "one God,
the Father, out of Whom all is, and we for Him, and one Lord Jesus
Christ, through Whom all is, and we through Him". Both the
purpose and the creation of the eons were established through Christ.
(Eph 3:11) Even though God's nature hadn't changed one iota, He now
became broader in the sense that He became the eonion God.
How soon this happened after the origination of
Christ isn't to my knowledge, known.
We are told, though, that prior to the establishment
of times eonion, God had His purpose in mind and that involved man. II
Tim 1:9 says, "God, who saves us and calls us with a holy
calling, not in accord with our acts, but in accord with His own purpose
and the grace given to us before times eonion." God promises
life eonion before times eonion. (Titus 1:2) Does it seem significant
that God uses Christ as both the vehicle for creation and salvation?
BEFORE THE DISRUPTION
There is other scripture that pre-dates the creation
of man where we see that God had formed a purpose for Christ and
creation to act out. The most significant is I Peter 1:20,
(Note: disruption is based on Genesis 1:2, the
word most often translated "was" actually means
"The precious blood of Christ, as of a
flawless and unspotted lamb, foreknown, indeed, before the disruption
of the world."
The astounding ramification from this verse (I Pet.
1:20) is that Christ was provided as Savior even before man was created.
Just as astounding is in Eph 1:4 where we see that God "chooses
us in Christ before the disruption of the world." He is talking
about the members of the body here. These verses cause us to conclude
that God, at the very least, knew there was going to be separation
between Himself and man by virtue of sin. Further God rescues an elect
amount for salvation prior to anything those elect did. Looking on the
negative side of this scenario, we can absolutely deduce that God could
have prevented mans' condemned condition in Adam. Additionally, by
virtue of not electing some for salvation, beforehand, He is culpable
for their destruction. If that were to a finality He would be a horrific
God to most.
THY SOVEREIGN HAND
I am going to continue to stress the Sovereignty of
God and His purpose because in your segment 13 subtitled: God Chooses,
you make some contradictory statements that, if true, would destroy the
omnipotence of God. Paragraph 4 reads, "God is the omnipotent
Creator of the universe, and nothing is outside of His control."
Then in paragraph 6 you write, " God gives humans a free will and
allows harmful influences to lead them astray." I am convinced that
you know this cannot be true. God gives no one a free will. I just
showed unequivocal proof that God is operating His will. You try to
express God being involved, at least, by saying He "allows harmful
influences". I hope you can see that if God is influencing, then in
fact, no will is free. Free actually means devoid of influence or
restriction. The real issue, though, is mans' heart –felt need to
try and rescue God from His own identity. My friend suggests that,
"freewill is a bad check written to cover the bad check of
everlasting damnation." Let's act like men here and just say that
God causes everything! Allow is a weak word. How can God allow something
if He is the source! Another evidence of God causing everything is that
He has foreknowledge. What He sees as the outcome must come to pass. It
is ridiculous to think that God can foresee an outcome and yet be
divorced from seeing the journey bringing it about. He is omniscient as
well as omnipotent. He not only sees what is occurring He is ordering
the steps, according to Jeremiah 10:23 and Proverbs 20:24.
Despite the desperate attempt of man to disassociate
God with evil, it cannot be done. God is the creator of it. Isaiah 45:7
says, "I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity
and create evil; I the Lord, do all these things." I took the
liberty of substituting the word evil for disaster in the quoted verse
from the NIV. This is precisely my point. Evil is translated from the
Hebrew word ra. This is used multiple times in the scriptures for evil.
In this verse though, it presented identity problems for God. Thus the
interpreters mellowed the word to calamity. When man starts trying to
protect God from His own word and how He determines to reveal Himself,
doctrines like "free will" are born. Evil is a necessary tool
in God's tool bag. He uses to bring about judgment as well as to
burden humanity. Ecclesiastes 1:13 illustrates that God has given
humanity an experience of evil to humble it. Psalm 105:25 shows God
turning the Egyptians hearts to hate his people. In I Samuel 15 God gave
instructions to Samuel to have Saul completely destroy every man, women,
child and infant. Psalms 66:10-12 uses an operation of evil to bring
recognition of His goodness. "For you, O God, tested us; you
refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on
our backs. You caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire
and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance." Does it
seem like God is concerned with His image in these verses? The subjects
of the Refiner's fire will be thankful and realize they were better
off for having to have experienced evil. Philippians 2:11 says, "that
in the name of Jesus every knee should be bowing and every tongue should
be acclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of the
Father." Could this occur unless God had given His creation the
experience of evil? Why did God create the darkness (Is 45:7)? Because
when our Savior arrives (Jesus the true Light-John 1:9) there is a
backdrop to reveal His goodness.
THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE CROSS
"Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all
welcome, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
(I Tim. 2:15) Did He accomplish His mission? "Behold the Lamb of
God that takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) True?
Some say for only the elect. "He Himself is the propitiation for
our sins; and not ours only, but also for the whole world." (I
John 2:2) Here we see all mankind in view and none of those scriptures
used the term everybody or all. The strongest verses in Scripture
pointing the sufficiency of the cross, however, do contain the God
inspired words: all and everyone. "…so that, in the grace of
God, He should be tasting death for the sake of everyone."
(Heb. 2:9) Do we not start to see the grace stand out here through
Christ? Without a backdrop of sin and evil would this grace be
recognized and glorified? "…that we rely on a living God, Who
is Savior of all mankind especially the believers." (I Tim.
4:10) There is no doubt that all rely on God. Acts 17:25 states, "He
Himself gives to all life and breath and all." But even with
the all in mind Paul designates (I Tim 4:10) the believers as having a
special salvation. The fact that the elect are mentioned separately here
is added proof that God is the Savior of the entirety of humanity. A
good parallel verse that magnifies our understanding of this verse in
Gal. 6:10. "Consequently, then, as we (believers) have occasion,
we are working for the good of all, yet specially for the family of
faith." The "especially" is just giving an emphasis
to the subset. It does not disqualify the rest though.
CHRIST OR ADAM
This argument is really a continuance of the
sufficiency of the cross. It is important to whittle the entire
operation of salvation down to two men: the first Adam and the last
Adam. Who wins in the quest for mankind? There is great significance
just in Christ being called the last Adam. Adam affected all mankind. By
calling Christ the last Adam, it gives us the same understanding that
His affect will be on all mankind as well. This is played out in Romans
5 beginning with verse 15. Through Adam the offense is passed on to the
many. Through Christ grace super abounds to the same many. (v.16)
Through Adam condemnation, through Christ, one just award. (v.17)
Through Adam a death sentence, through Christ, life. For every element
brought upon by Adam, (sin, condemnation, and death) Christ is the
The clearest evidence we have of this relationship is
concerning resurrection in I Cor. 15:21,22. "For since, in fact,
through a man came death, through a man also comes the resurrection of
the dead. For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ,
shall all be vivified." There are two tremendous keys to this
verse. The first is the relationship of the all to the two men. All die
in Adam and all are vivified in Christ. It is ridiculous to think that
Scripture would not limit the all in Adam and then limit the all in
Christ to those that believe. The next key to this verse is to
understand the word vivify (derived from the Greek word zo o poi e o).
Vivify means to give life beyond the reach of death. Resurrections from
the dead had occurred prior to the resurrections spoken of here in
15:20-24. The parties to the previous resurrections still had death
operating after they were given life. That is why vivify is the better
word here as opposed to "made alive".
All those resurrected because of the affect of Christ
become immortal. This passage also privileges upon us the order of this
resurrection. First Christ. That has happened, and He alone now has
immortality. (I Tim 6:16) The next group will be those who are Christ's
in His presence. This would be the sum of the elect. "Thereafter
the consummation." The consummation is the summing up of Christ's
entire purpose as Savior. Not in the sense of cessation of time but
completeness of task. Remember, He came to earth to save sinners!
This consummation comes after the second death or the
completion of His purpose would not exist and the word vivify could not
apply to the all affected by Adam. If the second death were the final
annihilation of the non-elect, 15:20-28 would be a lie. Specifically,
the statement in verse 27 would be untrue. 27 states emphatically that
death is the last enemy and is abolished.
Paul completes the word of God. (Col 1:25) This does
not mean he wrote the last word in the Bible. The finishing of God's
unveiled purpose for man to understand was given to Paul. The Lake of
Fire does not complete the Word of God. Whether or not specifics are
given for the dead after the Lake of Fire does not complete the Word of
God. Paul does. The absolute furthest reaching scripture verses we are
given in the Bible are I Cor. 20-28, Eph. 1:23, and Col. 1:20. The
verses emphasize the word all and without a doubt, have not only man,
but the entire creation, created through Christ, in view. Christ was the
channel through which all creation was created, as well as, the vehicle
for salvation of that same creation! Christ is greater than Adam.
SOVEREIGN WILL VS REVEALED WILL
If you'll recall I mentioned early in this
apologetic that often, we cannot see the "forest through the
trees". From that perspective I showed God's elevated purpose
pertaining to His creation. Unfortunately for the creation, however, we
do not always see things clearly. "Satan Himself is being
transfigured into a messenger of light." (II Cor. 11:15)
Why? To produce a "systematizing of deception."
(Eph 4:14) Free will and eternal damnation, among others, are two
doctrines that he is actively deceiving in. This is "all of
God" (II Cor. 5:18), as we are told that the Adversary was
"sinning from the beginning." (I John 3:8). Hence, it
means Satan was created to oppose. He is a tool, like evil, to help
reveal the grace and mercy of the Father.
God highest or ultimate will, will be done. On the
stage of life though, His revealed will can seem to oppose His Sovereign
will. The story of Joseph pictures this phenomenon.
With the end in view God made Joseph to save Jacob's
posterity. When he was tossed in the pit, and then sold into slavery was
God's Sovereign will in view? The answer is yes, to God. No, to Joseph
and all those involved. God's providence produced, for the subjects
involved, a recognition of His powerful yet ultimately gracious hand. If
God were to have just given Jacob and his seed an abundance of
essentials, would they have recognized and glorified Him to the same
Hebrews 3:4 reads, "For every house is
constructed by someone, yet He Who constructs all is God." Do
we see God's hand in this process? Do we labor, smash our thumbs, and
agonize over the costs? Yes. But it doesn't change whom ultimately
constructs. God is constructing His house in the celestials. We are on
the stage of this world doing it.
His Sovereign will is elevated absolute truth. It is
the standard that subjects all other truth as relative. There can be
corresponding truths in Scripture that appear to be contradictory.
Failure to recognize this relationship of absolute vs. relative
relationships has caused artificial doctrine. Here are some examples of
seemingly contradictory truths.
I will write the revealed will verse first.
- Seek and you will find-Matt. 7:7
- Not one is seeking out God-Rom 3:11
- Then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve-Joshua
- You have not chosen me; I choose you-John 15:16
- Come all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you
- No one can come if the Father is not drawing him-John 6:44
- How many times do I want to assemble your children in a manner a
hen gathers her brood under her wings -and you (Israel) will
- God gives Israel a spirit of stupor-Rom 11:8
On the stage of life we make choices, are exhorted to
do things, and are given commands and law, yet we know that it is "God
Who is operating in us to will as well as to work for the sake of His
delight." (Phil. 2:13) Man is merely given a measure of faith
(Rom 12:3) or none at all (I Cor.2:14), to navigate the course of life.
Like Joseph, though, it is the providence of God that is bringing about
the harvest He desires. For who, indeed "hath withstood His
intention"? (Rom 9:19)
This apologetic was by no means exhaustive. I hope to
some degree you appreciate that.
However, the wealth of verses that are clearly
stating God is operating His purpose are overwhelming. To the extent and
the degree most people have not attained. The further scripture takes us
away from our habitation and correspondent workings, the muddier the
water gets as far as details. What we must do then is meditate on the
Scripture that is given to us, that takes us the furthest, and combine
that with the character and expressed will of God. From that we can
deduce somewhat the depths of God.
God cannot lie. He describes His essence as that of
love. He created His Son; Whom "He loved before the
disruption", (John 17:24) and created all things through Him
and for Him. Why because it delighted God to, at some time, "head
up all in the Christ-both that in the heavens and that on earth."
(Eph 1: 9-11). Yes the word all is in that verse. It, however, is
qualified by the, "those in the heavens and those on
earth." It's the same all that God will become all in. (to).
Knowing God's character as He describes, knowing He
is operating His will, knowing that sin didn't happen upon creation
but was foreknown and dealt with before the world began, knowing that He
loves us, plus knowing His whole operation is for the sake of His
delight, shouldn't we give God the benefit of the doubt, that He is
producing for Himself that which will fill Him and conjoin to His
holiness? I say without a doubt, and to God be the Glory!!!
Yours in Christ Jesus,