Bible truths you won’t hear at church

Learn what Scripture really says about sex, hell, tithing, and much more

By Drew Costen (2024. edition)

I’ve made many updates since this was originally published as an article titled “Nearly everything we learned at church was wrong” on April 22, 2017, and even after it was expanded into a full eBook, and I continue to do so regularly, so if you notice that the dates in some of the supporting links postdate that time, this is why (it’s also a good reason to give the book a re-read every now and then as well).

Please note that I’m including many of my scriptural references in those links (the links are the underlined words throughout the book), and they also link to studies with extended details that I couldn’t fit into the book, so please be sure to click all the supporting links in order to get the full picture, as well as all the Scripture references. Please also keep in mind, however, that just because I link to specific articles or videos doesn’t mean I agree with everything their creators believe and/or teach. In fact, the resource I link to could theoretically be the only thing I agree with them on, theologically-speaking. Sometimes it’s just that they happen to have better supporting material on a specific point than anybody else does.

Table of Contents


Part 1: Doctrine

Chapter 1 – Dividing

Chapter 2 – Judgement

Chapter 3 – Choice

Chapter 4 – Deception

Part 2: Practice

Chapter 5 – Morality

Chapter 6 – Politics

Chapter 7 – Church



No matter what doctrines you might hold to, based on the number of denominations there are in the Christian religion, if you happen to be a Christian yourself, it should go without saying that the majority of other Christians out there believe you’re interpreting the Bible incorrectly in one way or another, and some of them even consider you to be a heretic, based on some of your beliefs. Of course, it’s important to remember that the definition of “heresy” isn’t “false teaching,” and that “orthodox” doesn’t mean “true” either. In fact, the meaning of the Greek word αἵρεσις/“hah’-ee-res-is,” which is transliterated as “heresies” in certain less literal versions of the Bible, is simply “sects,” or “divisions,” and not “incorrect doctrine” at all. And just like that Greek word doesn’t mean “false teaching,” the English word “heresy” simply means “that which is not commonly accepted as true,” just like the word “orthodox” really just means “that which is commonly accepted as true,” and there’s always been plenty of commonly accepted error out there, just as there’s lots of commonly rejected truth. For example, Galileo was technically a heretic because he taught that the Earth wasn’t the centre of the universe, but he was still quite correct that it wasn’t. Meanwhile, the idea that our planet is the centre of the universe was the orthodox view at the time, as far as those in the Christian religion went, but they were entirely incorrect. So always keep in mind that just because something is “heretical” doesn’t mean it’s incorrect, and something being “orthodox” doesn’t make it true. In fact, both Jesus and Paul were considered to be heretics by the orthodoxy of their day, so consider yourself in good company when someone calls you a heretic.

With that in mind, if you do happen to be a Christian, I have one simple question for you: Have you ever considered the possibility that you might be interpreting parts of the Bible incorrectly yourself? I myself grew up as a conservative, Evangelical, “born-again” Christian, and I believed quite strongly in the traditional, “orthodox” ideas that nearly every member of the denomination I grew up in (the Bible Chapels of the Plymouth Brethren) assumes is taught in Scripture. At some point near the end of the 20th century, however, I was challenged to begin looking at some of the doctrines my religious leaders taught were true, eventually leading to an in-depth investigation of the doctrines we believed in order to confirm which ones were scriptural and which were really just tradition, and over time I came to recognize that many of the things we’d been taught didn’t line up with Scripture at all, ultimately leading me to write this book in order to share the scriptural interpretations and arguments that convinced me of the doctrines I now believe to be far more scriptural than many of those I grew up holding to.

And so, my challenge to you, particularly if you’re a Christian who holds to Sola scriptura over tradition, is to read this book with a mind open to the possibility that some of the things you yourself currently believe Scripture teaches could actually be based simply on traditions you’ve been taught rather than on what Scripture really says and means. I should say, after reading some of the responses from people who have attempted to critique earlier editions of this book, it’s become abundantly clear that most of them either weren’t able to maintain this mindset while reading it, or they just didn’t bother to read it very closely in the first place, likely just skimming through it quickly (and entirely ignoring the supporting links). Because of this, they sometimes tried to respond to my points by making arguments I’d already completely refuted, somehow missing those sections of the book altogether. So if you are going to read it, please do so carefully and prayerfully (and hold off on writing your refutations until you’ve read the whole thing, preferably in the order it was written rather than skipping ahead past important points, since the odds are high that I — or one of the creators of the articles, books, or videos I link to — have already responded to your point somewhere in the book or in one of the linked resources, which is why I generally won’t respond to attempted refutations or questions until one has read the whole thing), as well as with the humility to acknowledge that you could be wrong about something you currently believe. And if you find yourself immediately disagreeing with a point I make, thinking to yourself, “this can’t possibly be right because we know x is true instead,” stop to ask yourself why you’re so sure that x is the case, and then consider whether the reasons given in this book might actually prove that x isn’t really true after all.

Part 1: Doctrine

Chapter 1 – Dividing

When considering the meaning of passages in the Bible, it’s very easy to unintentionally read one’s preconceived theological beliefs into a passage (this is what’s known as eisegesis), rather than trying to carefully determine the actual meaning of the text in question without coming at it with any preconceived ideas as to its meaning (this is what’s known as exegesis). This generally occurs because one has heard people they trust tell them that certain doctrines are true, and if they assume their teachers can’t be mistaken, they’ll rarely bother to look into the context of the passages they’re told prove these doctrines. This means that when they see certain words in these passages, they’ll just assume the inclusion of these words in the text proves that the doctrines must indeed be correct, and they won’t bother to actually do any study to confirm whether this is truly the case or not. Of course, as the old saying goes, a text read out of context is just a pretext for a proof text, so this often results in people never learning the truth about what these passages really mean.

Equally unfortunately, most people will rarely bother to compare these passages to the rest of the Bible either, in order to make sure the doctrines they’ve been taught aren’t contradicting other parts of Scripture. But even when they do try to dig a little deeper, they tend to be unfamiliar with the concept of perspectives in the Bible, especially the difference between the absolute and relative perspectives (it’s important to always recognize the difference between the relative and the absolute if we don’t want to come to ridiculously confused conclusions when interpreting Scripture, although these aren’t the only perspectives, as you’ll also soon learn if you aren’t already familiar with this principle of interpretation), which means they aren’t aware that the same word or concept doesn’t necessarily always mean the same thing every time it’s used in Scripture. As an example of this important hermeneutical principle, Romans 3:10 tells us that nobody is righteous, and yet Luke 1:5–6 tells us that Zacharias and Elisabeth were both righteous. If one isn’t familiar with the difference between absolute and relative perspectives in Scripture they might end up assuming the Bible contradicts itself. At the very least, they’re extremely likely to end up confused about what a passage means. The solution to the apparent contradiction in this case is to realize that, from an absolute perspective, no sinful human has ever been truly or completely righteous on their own, but from a relative perspective, meaning compared to other people, some people can be said to be righteous, because they’re more righteous than other people around them. As another example, Ecclesiastes 11:3 tells us that the rain comes from clouds, while 1 Kings 17:14 says that God sends the rain, and we can understand that both of these statements are equally true when we recognize that God is the rain’s origin from an absolute perspective (since all is of God), even while the clouds are rain’s origin from a relative perspective.

And even when the perspective principle doesn’t come into play, words just don’t always mean the same thing anyway. Certain words (such as the word “fire,” as just one example of many) are used literally in some passages while also used figuratively in other passages, and unless you think being saved in whatever way it is you believe that Jesus saves us today is literally the exact same sort of salvation that Peter and the rest of Jesus’ disciples experienced when they were saved from drowning, that it’s the same sort of salvation the Israelites experienced when they were saved from Egyptian slavery, or that women are required to give birth in order to experience that sort of salvation, I trust you agree that the words “salvation,” “save,” and “saved” have different meanings in different parts of Scripture, and that there are various different types of salvation (although, if you don’t agree, please let me know how those are literally all the exact same sort of salvation). Additionally, the way we use words in the 21st century isn’t always the same way words were used when the Bible was translated into English (for example, the word “ass” today is used literally as a synonym for a specific part of our human anatomy, and is also used figuratively to refer to someone who is being unpleasant, while the way it was used in the King James Version of the Bible was simply referring to a donkey). So just because you see a word in one passage, don’t just automatically assume it has to be referring to the exact same thing as it does in another passage, or that you even know what it means to begin with, but instead take the time to consider whether it might actually mean something else from what you assume it’s referring to altogether.

In addition to all this, there’s one more thing we have to understand if we want to know how to properly interpret a given passage of Scripture, and this is the fact that there are entirely different sets of messages that are relevant to entirely different groups of people in the Bible (and that not all instructions are meant for everyone to follow). While every Scripture inspired by God was written for all of us, not every part of the Bible was written to or about all of us. It’s extremely common for Christians to assume that certain things in Scripture which were only about specific people in specific times apply to everyone always. Understanding who a specific passage of Scripture was actually written to and about is sometimes referred to as “rightly dividing,” and while some people will attempt to distract you from this point right from the beginning by claiming that the verse this label is taken from is mistranslated and that the Greek word ὀρθοτομέω/“orthotomeō” should be actually rendered as “making straight” or “correctly handling” or some other term instead of “rightly dividing,” this is just a red herring to try to keep you from understanding the fact that this term is simply a theological label we use for the scriptural method of determining who a specific passage of Scripture was written to and meant to be followed by. The important thing to keep in mind is that, whatever label you prefer to give this important hermeneutical principle, if one isn’t aware of the intended audience of a particular message in Scripture, they can end up thinking they have to follow commandments that don’t apply to them at all, as well as trying to claim certain experiences and benefits that don’t either (sometimes with deadly results). And really, unless you believe everyone needs to build a literal ark out of literal gopher wood, to get naked when they preach, or needs to own a sword, it‘s pretty obvious you already understand that there are things in Scripture which just don’t apply to everyone anyway.

Of course, when talking about rightly dividing, most people assume this simply means dividing the Bible up into the two sections that are commonly called “the Old Testament” and “the New Testament.” And while there are correct ways to divide the Scriptures, this isn’t actually one of them. First of all, the terms ”Old Testament” and “New Testament” refer to covenants that God made with Israel, not to books or to collections of writings (in fact, much of what we know about Israel’s New Testament, or their New Covenant, is found in the part of the Bible that most people call “the Old Testament”). A better way to refer to these sections in the Bible are the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek Scriptures, based on the languages they were originally written in.

I should also add that referring to the Hebrew Scriptures as “the Old Testament” can be considered somewhat antisemitic. Among other things, it implies that both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Mosaic law are not important or even still relevant to their intended audience members. While Israel’s Old Testament, or Old Covenant, doesn’t remain relevant forever (both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures tell us that their New Covenant is meant to eventually fully replace it), and is even now ready to vanish away (and that statement in Hebrews was written after Christ’s death and resurrection, so there’s no reason to believe it isn’t still true at this point), the New Covenant isn’t quite fully in effect for those in the house of Israel and those in the house of Judah yet, as should be pretty obvious to anyone who watches any news reports about Israel (at least as of the time this book was written). And even the Mosaic law itself won’t end until at least 1,000 years after Israel’s New Covenant begins in earnest either. Yes, at the end of the Millennium, when the heavens and earth pass away and a New Heaven and New Earth are created, the Mosaic law will have served its purpose (and Israel’s New Covenant will no longer be necessary), but at this point in time the Mosaic law is still in effect for the people it was given to.

When it comes to dividing Scripture, there are more things to keep in mind than just whether a particular book was originally written in Hebrew or Greek, however. For example, we also have to ask whether it’s applicable to those under a specific covenant or not. While heralding the good news of the impending arrival of Israel’s New Covenant, the terrestrial Jesus (meaning Jesus while He walked the earth during His three-year ministry) had an earthly ministry that was still pretty much entirely under Israel’s Old Covenant (and since Gentiles don’t have an old covenant of any sort to be replaced with by something new, because we weren’t given any covenants to begin with, it should be pretty clear that the New Covenant is only for the members of the house of Israel and the house of Judah, exactly as Jeremiah stated, rather than for Gentiles who aren’t descendants of either of those houses), and for the most part was only “a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” while He walked the earth, as Paul later explained, meaning He was sent only “unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” for this particular part of His ministry. And it’s important to note that this assertion was made by Jesus Himself, and in regards to His disciples’ request that He help a Gentile at that, so people who believe it doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means have to explain how it can instead mean His earthly ministry was directed to everyone instead of specifically to Israelites under their Old Covenant while awaiting their New Covenant, when the entire context of the verse is Jesus at first refusing to help a Gentile woman (yes, He did eventually relent and help her, as well as a couple other Gentiles on other occasions, but the Bible makes it clear how unusual this was, just as it does on the one-and-only occasion that Scripture records Peter helping certain Gentiles get saved, in the book of Acts). Despite making a couple exceptions for very specific reasons, His earthly ministry (aside from His death and resurrection, of course) was not directed towards anyone other than Israelites, and His teachings at the time were about the kingdom of heaven coming to earth rather than about the body of Christ going to heaven (as the later teachings of the celestial Christ — meaning Jesus after His resurrection and ascension into heaven — via the apostle Paul were about instead).

If you disagree with what I’ve just told you, however, and believe that every single word Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry is indeed meant for every single person to follow, it means that you’re only allowed to evangelize to Jews living in Israel, and not to any Gentiles, or even to any Jews anywhere else in the world for that matter, since Jesus made it very clear to His disciples when He sent them to evangelize that they should not go to the Gentiles, or even to the Samaritans, but only to Israelites living in the land of Israel. And yes, Jesus did later give instructions to His remaining disciples after His death and resurrection about going into all the world and preaching to every creature, but if you’re going to apply that to yourselves it means you still have to admit that not every word Jesus spoke in the books referred to as “the four Gospels” (meaning the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are meant for everyone to follow, since the first, more restrictive, set of evangelizing instructions aren’t relevant to you. And honestly, based on everything Jesus told His disciples prior to that new instruction, it should really be clear by now that these four books are primarily connected to the Old and New Covenants and the Israelites these covenants were given to, and that there’s almost nothing in them that any Gentile is meant to follow.

Of course, if neither the Old or New Covenants are for Gentiles, it means that the epistles which were later written specifically to saved Israelites looking to enjoy their New Covenant aren’t to or about us Gentiles either, meaning the epistles written by James (who was writing specifically to members of “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” meaning Israelites of the diaspora, of which Gentiles were not included), Peter (who was writing specifically “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” again referring only to the Israelites of the diaspora, living among the Gentiles), John (who was also writing to Jewish “brethren” rather than to Gentiles), and Jude (who technically didn’t specify an audience, but seemed to be writing to people who were familiar with Israel’s history, and considering the intended audience of rest of this batch of epistles, it’s very unlikely Gentiles were included among this book’s audience either — and as far as the rest of the books not written and signed by Paul go, regardless of who wrote the book, it should really be pretty obvious to anyone who pays attention to its title that Hebrews was only written to Israelites too, and even the book of Acts was primarily written so that believing Israelites could understand why the promised kingdom of heaven and their New Covenant ended up getting mostly put on hold for the time being, as should be clear to anyone paying close attention to what it says, although it is true that there are parts of it which are relevant to Gentiles too; Revelation does have parts that seem to apply to Gentiles as well, I should note, but even it’s mostly concerned with Israel), and so I trust by now that you understand there are parts of Scripture which aren’t the marching orders of the body of Christ, who are meant to avoid following the Mosaic law altogether (even if they happen to be Jewish), and as such aren’t connected with Israel’s New Covenant, which will result in those to whom it does apply keeping the Mosaic law perfectly when salvation comes to Israel and the kingdom of heaven finally comes fully into effect. As far as which parts of Scripture are meant for us, however, while the rest of the Bible is indeed still important for context, among other things, it’s only the 13 epistles written and signed by Paul that were written specifically for the body of Christ to believe and follow (and, in fact, only Paul himself ever used the label “the body of Christ” anywhere in Scripture, which should tell us something). As useful as the rest of the Bible is for us to study and learn from (and it indeed is), anything other than Paul’s epistles was primarily intended for Israelites who wanted to enjoy salvation in the kingdom of heaven to follow, as I’d think should be obvious by now.

Unfortunately, the fact that Jesus said the salvation He taught about during His earthly ministry is to be experienced in the kingdom of heaven has confused generations of people, leading most to assume it’s a reference to an afterlife location called heaven, and others to believe it’s instead referring to a spiritual state within themselves, based on the way the KJV renders Jesus’ statement that “the kingdom of God is within you” (which they often interpret that way largely because they’ve misunderstood a handful of other statements by Jesus — not seeming to realize that He generally spoke in ways that kept the masses from fully understanding what He was getting at when they were around, purposely doing so to keep them from converting and experiencing the sort of salvation He spoke about because it wasn’t meant for them, which also confirms that He wasn’t talking about the same sort of salvation Paul generally wrote about, since that sort of salvation is meant for everyone — ultimately forcing them to descend into contradiction and even outright absurdity in their interpretations of large portions of Scripture). This passage really shouldn’t be interpreted as meaning the kingdom is literally “inside our bodies,” though, since Jesus said that specifically to the Pharisees, and it doesn’t appear that they were saved when He said that to them, which means it makes far more sense to interpret this as Jesus telling His audience that the kingdom had been present within the midst of the people He was speaking to — in the Person of its Messiah and future King — for as long as He remained among them in Israel. In fact, that the term “the kingdom of heaven” (which is a label used only in the book of Matthew, indicating that it’s only relevant to Israel) is really just a reference to a part of the kingdom of God being ready to come fully into effect on the earth, specifically in Israel, is made quite clear in many places throughout the Bible.

First of all, we know that Jesus’ primary message of salvation was about the coming of the kingdom and how to get to live in it when it begins fully for certain humans, and we also know that Jesus’ messages were simply confirming “the promises made unto the fathers” (which were primarily promises for the circumcision, meaning for Israelites), as Paul wrote in Romans 15:8, and since Israelites were promised they’d get to dwell in the land God gave to their fathers (meaning the land of Canaan, now known as the land of Israel), as prophesied in the book of Ezekiel (and really all throughout the Hebrew Scriptures), this tells us that the kingdom of heaven will have to be located in Israel. The fact that the kingdom of heaven will have some pretty clear geographical boundaries on the earth (and not in heaven, or even “in our hearts,” or whichever organs in our bodies some people think the kingdom exists inside) when the promises God made to Israel are finally completely fulfilled, from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the Jordan on the east, with the northern boundary at Hamath, and the southern boundary at Kadesh (we’re told that it will contain a new temple with some pretty specific dimensions at that time as well, with a part of those dimensions carved out for priests from the tribe of the Levites, who are Israelites, not Gentiles, and I trust that nobody believes we have tiny Levites living inside of us either, which would have to be the case if this applied to us and the kingdom with its temple were literally residing within our bodies), also confirms that the kingdom of heaven is going to be on earth, specifically within those borders that will make up the nation of Israel in the future, rather than somewhere else.

We can also know that Israel has to be where the kingdom of heaven will be located in the future because Jesus taught His disciples about the things pertaining to the kingdom during the 40-day period between His resurrection and His ascension up to heaven, and yet, just before He ascended to heaven, when His disciples asked Him if He’d be bringing the kingdom to Israel at that time, Jesus didn’t correct them by asking, “Did I not just spend 40 days explaining that the kingdom will be in heaven rather than on earth?”, or, “Did I not just spend 40 days explaining that you’re already living in the kingdom?”, or even, “Did I not just spend 40 days explaining that the kingdom already exists within your bodies, which means the kingdom exists within you rather than you getting to exist within the kingdom?” (whichever of those three that somebody might happen to believe is the truth about the kingdom), but rather just said, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power,” which means He not only didn’t tell them that the kingdom was already fully in effect for Israel, He also didn’t correct their understanding that the kingdom was going to be located on earth — specifically in Israel — which are things they should have really already understood if He’d actually just spent more than a month explaining what the kingdom was about, and that it wasn’t going to simply be located in Israel, anyway.

That’s not all, though. Jesus explained that angels “shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” in his explanation of the parable of the wheat at the tares (after which, “the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father”). Now think about this carefully. If the kingdom of heaven is an afterlife location which people go to when they die, as most Christians assume, and only those who are saved can go to heaven, as most Christians also assume, this passage would make no sense, because the angels can’t “gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity” if these people are not already in the kingdom at the time of the judgement (and this doesn’t happen as each individual sinner dies, as some might try to claim in order to fit these facts into their assumptions about what the kingdom is, since the parable makes it clear that everyone involved “grew up” together in the same place, meaning on earth, and also that the judgement would involve everyone who is being judged experiencing that judgement all together at this time as well, at the “end of the world” — meaning the “end of the age,” or the “conclusion of the eon,” as more literal translations of the Greek word αἰών/“ahee-ohn’” clarify, since the KJV often used the word “world” as a synonym for “age” or “eon” — so this can’t refer to each sinner being judged in heaven immediately after each of their individual deaths). If “the kingdom” was a reference to the heavenly afterlife realm most Christians believe the saved end up in after they die, they’d have to already be saved, not to mention dead, which means this parable would be telling us that some people will become sinners in heaven some time after they die, and then be cast out of heaven into hell, presuming the “furnace of fire” actually was a reference to hell (although, contrary to what most Christians assume, the mention of “fire” in this passage is actually very figurative, and isn’t talking about hell or the lake of fire at all, but I’ll get into why that is in another chapter of this book). Or, if the kingdom was literally inside our bodies instead, it would mean that angels would have to pull tiny human sinners residing in the “kingdom” out of our bodies and cast them into some sort of furnace, leaving us behind. Since neither of those interpretations make any kind of sense whatsoever (not to mention since Jesus outright said in His explanation of the parable that the “field” refers to the world — this time actually referring to the planet itself, not a specific age, since He used the Greek word κόσμος/“kos’-mos” in this verse rather than the word αἰών — not to heaven, or even to our bodies), it should be pretty clear by now that the type of salvation Jesus and His disciples taught about during His earthly ministry (and that even the type of salvation His disciples taught about after His ascension into heaven, both in person and in their writings) primarily involved certain descendants of Isaac dwelling in the land of Israel and reigning over the earth and its people as “kings and priests” (presuming they’re included in Israel’s first resurrection, or are “overcomers” and survive the Tribulation) during the thousand-year period of time that the kingdom of heaven exists in the land of Israel, thus fulfilling a prophecy from the Hebrew Scriptures (and it seems unlikely that there would be any Israelite priests on the New Earth, since there presumably won’t be any need for them to be priests with no physical temple in the New Jerusalem the way Ezekiel prophesied there will be in Israel during the Millennium, so this salvation seems to specifically be referring to the thousand years that the kingdom exists in Israel, although it’s true that, until John wrote the book of Revelation, nobody would have known how long this type of salvation would last, and it’s also true that anyone who experiences this type of salvation will get to go on to live in the New Jerusalem on the New Earth, but at that point the specific type of salvation Jesus was teaching about would technically have come to an end, since the thousand years will have run their course), as well as finally being able to keep the Mosaic law perfectly because the New Covenant will have finally come fully into effect for those in the house of Israel and in the house of Judah, after the believing Israelites who aren’t living there at the time have been returned from their exile among the nations back to the land of Israel. Bringing His people into their New Covenant (which was inaugurated by Jesus’ death, but which has largely been put on hold until His Second Coming because most of Israel rejected Him as their Messiah during His first time on the earth) in their promised land is how Jesus will “save his people from their sins,” as the angel put it in Matthew 1:21 — letting us know that Jesus will fulfill the prophecy in Psalm 130:8 which said, “And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities,” involving both forgiveness for their sins, as well as them finally being redeemed out from among the nations and Gentiles they’ll have been living among — because pretty much any reference to “His people” in Scripture is specifically a reference to faithful Israelites. And since the promises God gave concerning both Israel and Israelites are without repentance, we know that these prophecies will indeed be fulfilled for exactly the very people that they were made to (i.e., Israelites), in the exact location He said they’d take place in (i.e., the land of Israel). (I should quickly add that everything I’ve said about the kingdom so far, along with many additional points I’ll be making throughout this and the next chapter, completely refutes the eschatological positions of Preterism and Amillennialism, because if these various points are true — and so far I haven’t heard any good evidence to the contrary — then any argument made by Preterists and Amillennialists to support their views are rendered incorrect by default; although this is no surprise, since every passage they use to defend their doctrines can be much better interpreted from a Premillennial and Dispensationalist perspective anyway.)

The type of salvation Paul primarily taught about, on the other hand, didn’t involve following the Mosaic law (in fact, Paul taught that those he wrote to should not allow themselves to be placed under the Mosaic law at all, which would have to include not keeping said law as a part of Israel’s New Covenant), and involved those believers known as the body of Christ actually going up to heaven rather than living in the kingdom of heaven in Israel down here on earth the way those who experience the sort of salvation Jesus taught about during His earthly ministry will, but before we get into that, it’s important to learn about another form of rightly dividing. One of the most important differences between the messages in what are known as the Circumcision writings (meaning the books of the Bible not written and signed by Paul, but rather written specifically to and about the Circumcision, by other members of the Circumcision, meaning the Israelites to whom the Old and New Covenants apply) and the Uncircumcision writings (meaning the books of the Bible that were written and signed by Paul, specifically to those living among the nations who aren’t under any covenants) includes salvation. At this point, it should be pretty clear that the type of salvation Paul primarily taught about is not the exact same type of salvation Jesus was talking about while He walked the earth, since they both had different end results (some ending up in heaven and others ending up in the kingdom of heaven on earth), as well as somewhat different things that had to be believed (and done, in Israel’s case) in order to end up in their respective destinations, and the specific words (and meaning of the words) in the messages of good news connected with these salvations were not the exact same as each other either. For example, the specific message of good news that Paul preached among the nations was simply a proclamation that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day (or, to be more precise — since He was technically simply laid to rest in a tomb — a proclamation that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He has been roused the third day, as the Concordant Literal Version of the Bible puts it). Meanwhile, the specific message of good news that Jesus and His disciples were preaching during His earthly ministry was simply the proclamation that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (or, to be more precise, “near is the kingdom of the heavens”), and I trust you notice that there’s nothing about His death or resurrection mentioned at all in that particular message of good news, telling us the proclamation of good news preached by Jesus and His disciples in Israel at that time wasn’t the exact same proclamation of good news about Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection that Paul was later preaching among the nations.

Of course, most Christians have been taught, or at least have simply assumed, that there’s only one Gospel in the Bible, but the fact that those two separate proclamations of good news (which is what the word “Gospel” means) which I just pointed out are not the exact same message makes it obvious that there is more than one proclamation of good news in the Bible, and that they’re each about something somewhat different from each other (one being specifically about the kingdom of heaven being near, and one being specifically about Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection), which means there’s clearly more than one Gospel in the Bible. But if that’s the case, shouldn’t the Bible tell us plainly that there are multiple Gospels, perhaps even giving each of these proclamations of good news different titles? Well, aside from the fact that what I just pointed out from Scripture should be more than enough to convince us of the existence of two separate proclamations of good news (meaning two separate Gospels) without actually needing to outright say so (Christians have inferred the existence of all sorts of doctrines based on far less detail than that), it actually does so regardless — and even tells us the names of these respective proclamations of good news — in Galatians 2:7, where we’re told that they’re called the Gospel of the Circumcision (also referred to elsewhere as the Gospel of the kingdom) and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision.

I realize that most Christians reading this, even those who were in agreement with me up until I mentioned two Gospels, will automatically disagree with that statement, even after learning about the obviously different types of salvation referred to in Scripture that we’ve already looked at and Paul’s differentiating between these two proclamations of good news in Galatians, and many will even consider not reading any further in this book, because despite what we’ve already covered (and have yet to cover), they assume there’s no possible way it could be true that Paul meant there are two Gospels, since they’re just too set in their doctrinal presupposition that there can only be one Gospel to even consider the possibility that they could have been believing something incorrect all these years. This is a really strange assumption to make, however, because there’s quite literally no passage anywhere in the Bible that outright says the words “there’s only one Gospel in existence” (and no, none of the passages that might be popping up in your mind right now actually even imply there’s only one, as I’ll demonstrate shortly). This means that, based on everything we’ve already covered, the default assumption should actually be that there’s more than one Gospel, and that they really need to stop and ask themselves why they’ve made the assumption that there’s only one, and then continue to read on, because not only do I prove quite definitively that the idea of only one Gospel actually makes no sense whatsoever when one considers all the details laid out in this chapter, I also respond to pretty much every objection to the idea of two Gospels that I’ve ever heard as well. So please do read this whole chapter carefully, because it lays the necessary groundwork to fully understand the soteriological points in the next few chapters after it as well.

When reading Galatians 2:7, it’s important to know that Paul wasn’t simply saying Peter was called to preach the Gospel to the circumcised while he himself was called to preach that exact same Gospel to the uncircumcised, as most Christians assume he meant when presented with the suggestion that he was referring to two separate Gospels there, any more so than Matthew was only saying that Jesus went around preaching the Gospel to the kingdom instead of going around preaching the Gospel of the kingdom in Matthew 9:35. Yes, as Paul pointed out in the next two verses of his epistle to the Galatians, both God and the pillars of the circumcision ecclesia did send him to the Gentiles while Peter and the rest focused on the Jews, but Paul wasn’t just being repetitive or simply recapitulating what he’d already written there. Instead, he was providing new information about what he’d just told his readers by expanding upon his previous statement in order to explain who the primary audiences of each of the two separate Gospels are, just like the verse in Matthew told us that the audience Jesus preached the Gospel of the kingdom to were the people of the cities and villages of Israel. And, in fact, Paul said that he had to go see Peter, James, and John in order to communicate to them what his specific Gospel to the Gentiles was, and this occurred at a time long after he’d already met them and even evangelized with them. If it was the same Gospel which they’d been preaching to Israelites, he certainly wouldn’t have had to explain what the Gospel that he preached among the nations was about (which is something they’d have already known, if that was the case), and there also wouldn’t have later been a dispute over it that Peter would have to resolve (this is almost certainly the whole reason the book of Acts records God sending Peter to Cornelius and his family: so that he’d be able to defend what the Gospel that Paul preached meant for its followers), because they would have already been quite familiar with both what it was and what it meant (and if they’d already been preaching the exact same message and teaching the exact same doctrines to Israel that he’d been preaching and teaching to the nations, and if the Israelites under the Gospel of the Circumcision were a part of the body of Christ, not only would the Acts 15 dispute never have occurred in the first place, James also wouldn’t have later been bragging about how zealous for the law the believing Israelites in Jerusalem were during a subsequent visit of Paul’s, since he would have known that members of the body of Christ, including Jewish members, shouldn’t be trying to follow the Mosaic law at all — which was a large part of the reason Paul wrote Galatians in the first place — and would have already taught that to the Israelites living there as well).

Now yes, it’s true that some Bible versions do render the passage as “the Gospel to the Circumcision and the Gospel to the Uncircumcision,” but that doesn’t actually support the presupposition that there’s only one Gospel. For example, if I were to serve the food of the Greeks and you were to serve the food of the Jews we’d both be serving different sorts of food (even though what both of us were providing would still be called food, and might very well have overlapping ingredients, we’d still end up with two different types of meals), whereas if I were to serve food to the Greeks and you were to serve food to the Jews, while we could theoretically be giving out the same food, we wouldn’t necessarily be doing so because it could still be two different types of food being given out to two different groups of people, which is why rendering it that way still doesn’t actually prove their viewpoint. However, for those who insist on believing that there really is only one Gospel, hypothetically speaking, if Paul was trying to get across to his readers that the different types of salvation are shared through different proclamations of good news with the titles of “the Gospel of the Circumcision” and “the Gospel of the Uncircumcision” (or even different proclamations of good news with the titles of “the Gospel to the Circumcision” and “the Gospel to the Uncircumcision,” if that’s how you prefer to translate verse 7), I need to ask you to explain what he would have needed to have written differently there in order to convince you that there are indeed two separate Gospels being referred to by two separate titles there, especially in light of the fact that there are obviously multiple different types of salvation referred to in different parts of the Bible, as we’ve already covered, and as anyone with a concordance can confirm.

I should add, I’ve heard it pointed out that the words “the Gospel” technically aren’t included in the original Greek text prior to the words “of the Circumcision” in this verse (which is true), and then asserted that Paul would have used those words there if he meant for it to be understood that he was referring to two separate Gospels, but based on the clear pattern of things that differ between the teachings Paul preached among the nations (including the exact words in the Gospel message he preached to them, and what those words mean) and the teachings that Peter and Jesus’ other disciples gave to Israel (including the exact words in the Gospel message they preached to them, and what those words mean, especially in the four books commonly referred to as “the Gospels” and in the book of Acts), it should become clear as you read the rest of this chapter that Paul being concise in that verse doesn’t detract at all from the fact that there are at least two Gospels in Scripture.

And so, as far as these two Gospels go, Jesus and His disciples taught the first one specifically to Israel during His three-year ministry, while Paul, on the other hand, became the dispenser of the second Gospel when he was singled out by the glorified Christ (the same Christ who walked the earth and died on the cross, but now in a new role and with a new message for a new audience) to teach this Gospel to the rest of the world (which means a Christian ignoring or rejecting Paul’s special Gospel, not to mention his other unique teachings and ministry, could be said to ultimately be ignoring or rejecting Christ, presuming they aren’t called by God for salvation under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead, of course), and it’s this second Gospel that’s meant for those called to join the body of Christ (although it should be noted that Paul actually did teach the first Gospel at times as well, at least when preaching to specific Jews).

But how, exactly, are we saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, which, like the Gospel of the Circumcision also goes by other labels too, such as the Gospel of the grace of God (a title that is often shortened by believers and simply called the Gospel of grace; and while this label isn’t actually used in Scripture, it’s a shorthand that does still seem accurate enough), the glorious Gospel of the blessed God which was committed to Paul’s trust, and sometimes even just called “my Gospel” by Paul (who would have been ridiculously arrogant, and would really be the Bible’s biggest egotist, for calling it that rather than just “the Gospel” if this wasn’t a distinct Gospel given only to him — not to mention the fact that one generally doesn’t call something theirs unless they’re trying to differentiate it from something that belongs to someone else, or at least trying to point out that it doesn’t belong to someone else)? Before answering that, it’s important to know how one isn’t saved under it. One can’t be saved under this Gospel by confessing and repenting of (or turning from) sin (repentance is still important, but it means something different for us than it did for Israel, and so it’s not trying to stop sinning that saves someone under this Gospel), as so many Christians assume, or by asking God to forgive them for their sins, by simply asking God or Jesus to “save them,” by “becoming a Christian” (or by joining the Christian religion), by “following Jesus,” by “giving their life to Jesus or to God,” by trying to have “a personal relationship with Jesus,” by “accepting Jesus as their personal saviour,” by making Jesus “the Lord of their life,” by “asking Jesus into their heart” or “into their life,” by being a good person (or by “doing good works”), by being baptized in water, or even by confessing that Jesus is Lord with one’s mouth and believing in one’s heart that God has raised Him from the dead, as are all common ways many religious leaders mistakenly share the Gospel. If one or more of those things are all one has done, they probably haven’t really been saved yet (relatively speaking), at least not under this Gospel.

Unlike the “gospel” that most Christians preach (which is basically a proposition), as we’ve already learned, the good news that Paul preached to the nations is simply a proclamation that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He has been roused the third day. While they think they actually do, very few Christians truly believe this Gospel because they lack an understanding what Christ’s death for our sins, His entombment, and His resurrection on the third day really accomplished, or even what all those words actually mean (those three little words — ”for our sins” — make all the difference, as does the word “entombed,” and, as will become clear as you read on, differentiates this Gospel from the one most preach, and very likely even from the one you currently believe). But if you’re someone who does understand and believe the full meaning of this good news, you’ve already been saved (again, relatively speaking, meaning you’re now a member of the body of Christ; everyone is already saved from an absolute perspective, however, by Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection, whether they believe it or not, which is the point of this Gospel, since it didn’t require any conditions to be met in order for it to already be considered 100% good news to those who hear it, even though one does have to believe that this good news is true in order to be said to be saved from a relative perspective, as will be covered in more detail later). Nothing else is required for salvation under this Gospel from an absolute perspective than what is stated in that positive proclamation (not even belief in this Gospel; believing this good news only means you’re among those who will get to experience this salvation earlier than everyone else because it means you’re in the body of Christ); no confessing or repenting of/turning from sin (repentance for those in the body of Christ means to change our mind about who we are and what Christ did for us, meaning we come to realize our sinfulness and that there’s nothing at all we can do to save ourselves — neither trying to stop sinning, nor even the act of choosing to believe the right thing, can save us, since those would both be things we do to help save ourselves, making them works — but rather we realize that only what Christ accomplished can, and indeed already did, save us, at least from an absolute perspective) or even confessing that Jesus is Lord (which is actually only relevant to Israelites when it comes to salvation), asking God for salvation (He’s already saved us all, from an absolute perspective, through Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection, and those to whom God has given the faith to believe this good news have also already been saved from a relative perspective as well), doing good works, joining a religion (religion always requires works of some sort, even if just the simple work of choosing to believe the right thing or choosing to have faith in the right Person or truth), “following Jesus” (as if that was even possible today), or “asking Jesus into your heart” (which is a completely unscriptural, not to mention meaningless, expression) is needed, nor is asking God to forgive you for your sins required, and water baptism is definitely not something you have to do to be saved under this Gospel. All one has to do is believe that this Gospel is true (after understanding what it actually means), and one can be said to have been saved (at least from a relative perspective) and to be a member of the body of Christ.

And on that note, most people assume that after you believe the Gospel you should be baptized in water. And while those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision do need to be baptized in water, this isn’t actually the case for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. Now, yes, Paul did baptize a few people in water early on, but he stopped pretty quickly (and he was careful to point out that Christ didn’t send him to baptize at all, which would be unusual if water baptism was necessary for the sort of salvation he was teaching the Gentiles about, as some Christians believe, and if he actually was trying to get them saved). That said, the body of Christ does still get baptized, and our baptism could even be said to be necessary for our salvation from a certain perspective. It’s just that we’re not baptized in water (nor are we baptized with the Holy Spirit, even though we are baptized by the Holy Spirit). Water baptism manifested Christ to Israel, and was actually connected to the law of Moses and the two covenants that God made with Israel, and those under this Gospel are not under the Mosaic law in any way (no, not even the Ten Commandments — some like to divide the Mosaic law into “the moral law” and “the ceremonial law,” claiming that the latter has been abolished while the moral law, including the Ten Commandments, has not, but they are simply making this idea up to suit their own pre-existing doctrines since, not only is there nothing anywhere in Scripture that instructs us to divide the law this way, Paul also made this quite clear by referencing the 10th commandment when he wrote Romans 7:7 as a part of his teaching about how we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be placed under any parts of the law at all; the Scriptures say“Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them,” and, in fact, Jesus said that He didn’t come to abolish the law at all, so the law is still quite relevant for Israel, but those of us in the body of Christ are not under it in any way whatsoever — in fact, as with both of God’s two covenants with Israel, only Israelites were ever under the Mosaic law anyway, since Gentiles were never given that law to begin with).

And so, instead of being baptized by a religious leader in water, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (it’s a very dry sort of baptism, not involving water at all). Remember, Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:4-6 that “there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Now think carefully about what he said in that passage. He told his written audience that there’s only one type of baptism for those in the body of Christ, and yet we know from the rest of Scripture that there are many different types of baptisms, not just one (some dry and some wet; while the word “baptism” can mean to wash something in water, the Greek word βάπτισμα/“baptisma” that we transliterate the word “baptism” from in English literally just means “submersion” or “immersion,” and not all of the immersions mentioned in Scripture are in water). I mean, just look at all the different types of baptism mentioned in Scripture:

  • Baptism into Moses (1 Corinthians 10:1-2): Paul talks about Israel’s baptism into Moses “in the cloud and in the sea.” Water was present, of course, but the people remained dry.
  • Israel’s ceremonial cleansings (Numbers 19:13Leviticus 11:25Exodus 30:17-21Hebrews 9:10): When John the Baptist started dunking people in water, they already knew exactly what he was doing and why. Nobody asked him, “What are you doing? Why are you getting all of these people wet?” This is because immersion (baptism) in water was something that was required under the Mosaic Law for the cleansing of the people, so they were already quite familiar with the concept.
  • Levitical priesthood baptisms (Exodus 29:4Leviticus 8:6Numbers 8:7): These were baptisms in water which were required in order to become a priest under the Mosaic law.
  • John’s baptism (Matthew 3:5-6Mark 1:4Luke 3:3John 1:31Luke 7:29Acts 10:37): John immersed (baptized) Israelites with water for the forgiveness of sins, so they could live in the promised kingdom when it begins on earth (specifically in Israel), and could identify their Messiah.
  • The baptism of Jesus to fulfill the law (Matthew 3:13-17Mark 1:9-10): Jesus, who didn’t need to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, since He never sinned Himself, was nevertheless baptized by John to “fulfil all righteousness” under the law.
  • Baptism with fire (Isaiah 4:4Malachi 3:2-3Matthew 3:11Luke 3:16): Jesus will baptize Israel with purifying (albeit mostly figurative) “fire” when they go through the Tribulation.
  • Pentecostal water baptism (Acts 2:38Mark 16:16Acts 22:16Ezekiel 36:25): Water baptism for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus. This was the same sort of baptism as John’s baptism, but was now being done in the name of Jesus, and was quite necessary for salvation under the Gospel the disciples preached.
  • Baptism with (or in) the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 44:3Matthew 3:11Mark 1:8Acts 2:17-18Acts 8:15-17Acts 11:16): This is the baptism with the Holy Spirit, poured out from heaven by Jesus upon the believing remnant of Israel with signs and powers following.
  • Baptism into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13Ephesians 4:5Colossians 2:12Galatians 3:27Romans 6:3-4): The immersion of a believer into the body of Christ, which identifies them with what He experienced in His body, including His death, His entombment, and His resurrection. This baptism is performed by the Spirit — not with (or in or of) the Spirit — at the time one believes Paul’s Gospel, and is immersion into the body of Christ, not immersion in water.

There are other types of baptism I didn’t include in that list as well, but that should be enough to prove there are many different types of baptism mentioned in the Bible. So how is it that Paul can say there’s only one baptism when there are clearly so many? Well, by realizing that Paul simply meant there’s only one type of baptism for those among his written audience, meaning for members of the ecclesia called the body of Christ. He wasn’t saying that there aren’t other types of baptisms which those outside the body of Christ can participate in; just that the ”one baptism” he was referring to was the only baptism for those of us in the body of Christ.

Now, some do claim that Paul just meant we should only be baptized in water once in our lives rather than repeatedly, but he preceded the words “one baptism” with the words ”one hope” and ”one faith,” and I certainly hope nobody would think we should only have hope or faith once in our lives, as would be the case if Paul meant we should be baptized only once in our lives there, so that interpretation doesn’t really fit with the rest of the passage if we’re interpreting the whole thing consistently, which tells us he’s really just saying that there’s only one type of baptism for us — one which doesn’t involve water at all. Not everyone uses that interpretation, though, since others will instead claim that 1 Corinthians 12:13 should actually be translated as saying “for in one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,” but since there is now only one baptism for those in that body (and this verse still tells us that baptism into the body of Christ is what this one baptism is), if “in one Spirit” were the best translation (and the assumption that it is a better translation is based on nothing more than their dislike of the idea that water baptism might not be meant for believers in the body of Christ today, and is not a translation that most English Bible versions I’ve read agree with, I should add), and if it did refer to that baptism with (or of, or in) the Holy Spirit which applies to those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision, then it can’t also include getting wet, because water baptism would then be a second baptism in addition to our one baptism in or with the Holy Spirit, so this doesn’t help defend the idea of water baptism for the body of Christ at all anyway. (Some might also try to point to the mention of “one faith” in that passage to defend the idea that there’s only one Gospel, but just as the “one baptism” reference means there’s only one baptism specifically for the body of Christ, even though there are various other baptisms for those outside the body of Christ, this simply means there’s also only one faith for the body of Christ, even though there are various other faiths for those outside the body of Christ as well.)

And speaking of the Gospel of the Circumcision, we need to look at how one is saved under it too. As we’ve already learned, the Gospel that Paul was preaching to the nations was the good news that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He has been roused the third day, and this definitely isn’t the Gospel that Jesus or His disciples were preaching during His earthly ministry. Instead, as we’ve also already learned, the Gospel they were proclaiming was the good news that “near is the kingdom of the heavens,” and to be saved under this Gospel (meaning, to get to live in that kingdom when it finally begins on earth, specifically in Israel) one had to repent (of sin in general, and later of killing Jesus in particular — although, to be clear, no Jew living today has to repent of that particular sin since nobody alive on the earth today had anything to do with His death) and believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God, followed up by being baptized in water in the name of the Lord (meaning being baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ rather being immersed into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, which is a whole different immersion from the baptisms I’ve already mentioned, one that doesn’t even involve water, and which won’t actually become relevant until the kingdom of heaven fully begins on earth in the future), following the commandments Jesus taught His disciples during His earthly ministry, confessing one’s sins when one slips up (then also forgiving others who sinned against them), and enduring to the end (of one’s life or of the period commonly known as the Tribulation, whichever comes first). While works on their own never saved anyone, and even though, before Christ’s death for our sins, salvation was still ultimately connected with one form or another of repentance as well as of faith (and, like ours, Israel’s salvation is even based on a manner of grace), prior to the ability to be saved under Paul’s Gospel, faith was basically always connected with specific actions, or works, since faith without works is dead when it comes to this sort of salvation (whereas, even if someone saved under Paul’s Gospel only has faith, and never performs any works at all, they’re still said to be saved), which means that works are a part of the sort of faith associated with the Gospel of the kingdom and are still required for those saved under this Gospel: works that include water baptism, confessing sins, forgiving others, enduring to the end, and following Jesus’ commandments, which includes following the law of Moses, or at least it did for those during the time Jesus walked the earth, and will again during the Millennium when believing Israelites will have the law written on their hearts thanks to their New Covenant, because it won’t pass away for those under this Gospel until the New Heaven and the New Earth begin after the Millennium ends (although it has been somewhat paused since it’s impossible to follow the law entirely now, seeing as there’s no temple, but that’s why the book of Hebrews was written). As I’ve hinted at already, it’s important that we don’t confuse the end of Israel’s Old Covenant — or even the beginning of their New Covenant, which hasn’t actually come fully into effect yet — with the end of the Mosaic law, which won’t end until the conclusion of the Millennium one thousand years later, after the current heavens and earth are destroyed (again, while Israel’s New Covenant was ratified by Christ’s death, the results of that covenant went temporarily on hold when Israel as a nation rejected Jesus as their Messiah).

And I know that many Christians reading this will want to insist that these required works are all meant to be interpreted as being the fruit of one’s faith — or, as some claim, that Jesus actually commanded His audience members do all these things so that His more humble listeners would realize they couldn’t do what He told them to do and would have faith in His death for their sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection, instead — but there’s absolutely zero indication in any of those passages that they aren’t meant to be interpreted literally (and that would also require us to have to make ourselves humble enough to be able to do this, if the passages applied to us as most Christians insist they do, which itself would be a very difficult work in and of itself). Besides, as we know, Jesus Himself said“I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” All has not been fulfilled yet (heaven and earth haven’t passed yet — unless you’re reading this book on the New Earth, long after it was first published — and there are still many prophecies yet to be fulfilled, at least as of the time I wrote this), so those for whom the Mosaic law is relevant to, namely Israelites who aren’t in the body of Christ, still have to follow it. Nobody listening to Jesus could have possibly interpreted any of His statements as meaning that works weren’t actually still required of them anyway, since not only had salvation by grace through faith, entirely apart from works — based completely upon Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection — not ever even been taught prior to Paul doing so, at the time they were preaching to the inhabitants of Israel, not even Jesus’ disciples understood that He was going to die, which means that A) the specific message of good news (Gospel) that Paul preached among the nations about Christ’s death for our sins isn’t something that Jesus’ audience members could have possibly believed is true in order to get saved, and B) Jesus and His disciples would have then spent three years preaching basically useless messages, considering this would mean they didn’t once explain how to actually be saved, and people like Zacchaeus couldn’t have been saved at the time, despite what Jesus said in Luke 19:8–9 (which was actually in response to Zacchaeus promising to do good works in the form of making up for his previously harmful actions, not for claiming to believe in Christ’s death for our sins, which is something that wasn’t even discussed in the passage). In fact, even Jesus’ disciples couldn’t have been considered to be saved until after His death and resurrection — contrary to what Luke 10:20 seems to imply — if it were a belief which was required in order for them to be saved, since not even they believed He was going to die or be resurrected until after they saw it all finally happen. This also means that Jesus’ death wasn’t something people prior to His crucifixion were looking forward to for their salvation, because despite His death being foretold in the prophecies of both Jesus and certain other prophets, there’s no scriptural basis for believing that anybody actually was looking forward in time in faith for His death to take place to save any of them, so this common assertion has absolutely no scriptural merit either (and if people could be saved prior to Christ’s death by simply believing that He’s Israel’s Messiah and the Son of God, along with performing the requisite works of faith, of course, without having to believe that His death was for our sins, there’s no good reason that I can think of to assume it couldn’t still be possible to experience the sort of salvation Jesus and His disciples taught about that way either, especially since many of His teachings about this sort of salvation and how one experiences it are connected with the future Tribulation), which means there’s no good reason to assume these commands weren’t being mentioned as actual requirements for salvation (or, at the very least, for maintaining salvation) rather than just as evidence of one’s salvation (or rather than to convince them of their inability to do what was necessary, in order to drive them to faith in a sacrifice they didn’t even know He was going to make), at least not without reading one’s preconceived doctrinal bias that there’s only one type of salvation into Scripture (which anyone with a concordance can tell you isn’t the case), and anyone who is being honest with the text will admit that works are required for this type of salvation to be experienced (it’s interesting how many Christians insist on interpreting the parts of Scripture which seem to be meant to be interpreted literally in a figurative manner, all the while criticizing us for not interpreting the parts that make more sense to be interpreted figuratively in a literal manner, but they have no choice if they want to continue believing that their doctrinal assumptions are correct). And so, while not everybody will experience this sort of salvation because, based on what Jesus said, not everyone will get to live in the kingdom of heaven during the time it exists in Israel, one day even Gentiles other than Cornelius and members of his house will be saved in this way because of Israelites and their rise to prominence in the future.

All that being said, at its simplest, followers of this Gospel just had to believe that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah and the Son of God (at least prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, although, afterwards, they obviously also had to believe that God raised Him from the dead, since a permanently dead man couldn’t be their Messiah) in order to be saved in the first place (with the required works being necessary to prove they have that faith, as well as to maintain their salvation), which means to enjoy living in the kingdom of heaven when it arrives on earth. It has nothing to do with “going to heaven” in a spiritual state after one dies (or to do with the kingdom spiritually residing somewhere within one’s body while still alive, as I already covered; while there is a spiritual element to the kingdom, few seem to know much about the physical side of it, so I’m focusing mostly on that in this book), and everything to do with the kingdom coming to them physically on earth from the heavens, either while they’re still alive or after they’ve been resurrected at the end of the Tribulation period (and if the “heaven” passages aren’t talking about what most Christians assume they are, this means the “hell” passages likely aren’t either, as I’ll discuss in more detail in the next chapter). While faith is ultimately the basis of both Gospels, nowhere was Israel told by Jesus or His disciples to trust in His death for our sins or His entombment in order to experience justification or salvation. You won’t find the Gospel of grace explained anywhere in the books traditionally called the four Gospels, not even in the famous John 3:16 passage that Christians quote so frequently. Yes, Jesus did tell His disciples about His impending death and resurrection (and His death was even prophesied beforehand), but not only did they not understand what He was telling them (which should really be all the proof one needs in order to see that they weren’t preaching His death for our sins when they were sharing their Gospel prior to His death, confirming that they weren’t preaching the same Gospel at that time which Paul later preached among the nations, since Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection is what he preached as his Gospel to the nations), Jesus also didn’t explain His death to them as being for our sins or as being something they had to trust in to enter the impending kingdom of heaven on earth either (and they certainly didn’t trust in it for salvation at that time, since Christ’s death for our sins is something Peter not only opposed during the time he preached the Gospel that he and the other disciples proclaimed during Jesus’ earthly ministry, but is something that he even tried to stop from happening — which means he was actively fighting against the events that would later become Paul’s Gospel rather than preaching that very same Gospel). And while Peter did mention that Jesus died and was resurrected in his sermons in the book of Acts, it was only brought up as an accusation against those who killed Him (the cross was bad news for those who heard him rather than the good news that it happens to be for the recipients of Paul’s message; when it comes to the crucifixion, Paul essentially tells his readers that the cross saves us, while Peter taught his audience in the book of Acts that they couldn’t be saved unless they repented of the cross), and as proof that He is the Messiah and that He is still able to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth since He’s no longer dead; it wasn’t explained as the method of salvation to those hearing the Gospel of the Circumcision in these sermons, but was rather explained as a reason for their condemnation. Similarly, Stephen didn’t preach the cross for salvation either. Rather, he simply accused those who were about to kill him of murdering Jesus on it as well (as it was with Peter’s messages in Acts, the cross was described as very bad news for Stephen’s listeners too, and not explained as good news for them at all). Simply put, nobody prior to Paul had ever proclaimed the cross as anything other than bad news, and if it’s bad news in those messages then it isn’t good news/the Gospel in those messages, which means the “message of the cross” that Paul preached isn’t the same “message of the cross” that Peter and others preached (at least not prior to Paul doing so), since in Paul’s Gospel the cross was only good news for his audience.

In addition to all that, it’s also important to remember that the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον/“euaggelion,” which we translate as “Evangel” or “Gospel” in English, literally means “glad tidings,” “positive proclamation,” or, very simply put, “good news” (telling us we can also say that the word Gospel means “news which is good”), and the word “news” quite literally refers to “a series of specific words which, when laid out in a specific order, conveys specific information about a specific subject.” This means that if you have another set of specific words which, when laid out in their own specific order, convey some other sort of specific information about that subject, you can’t say that you have the same news, regardless of whether both sets of news are good in nature, or even about the same person (for example, the news that “Joshua went to the graveyard” can’t be said to be the exact same news as “that thing you’ve been anticipating is nearby” because the two messages mean something entirely different from one another since they convey entirely different pieces of information from each other: one piece of news being about an action a person took, with the other piece of news being about something the hearer or reader had been anticipating being close by). Because they’re providing us with different sorts of information from one another, it means that they are, by definition, different sets of news (and that there are at least two different sets of news in existence). And since the news which was good that Jesus and His disciples preached prior to Paul’s conversion (which was the news that “near is the kingdom of the heavens”) didn’t contain the same specific words as the news which is good that Paul later preached to the nations did (which is the news that “Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day”), nor did it convey the same specific information (since their news which is good didn’t contain anything about Christ’s death for our sins in it, which it couldn’t have because most of the people proclaiming it weren’t even aware of the fact that He was going to die at the time they preached it, and so they certainly weren’t anticipating His death or resurrection), it should be very evident that the news which is good that Jesus’ disciples preached during Jesus’ earthly ministry simply can’t be said to be the same news which is good (meaning the same Gospel) that Paul taught, and so anyone who still insists there’s only one set of news which is good/Gospel in the Bible is simply lying to themselves at this point. Although, if anyone disagrees, I’d be very curious to hear them explain how the news which is good about Christ’s death for our sins is indeed what Jesus’ disciples were preaching when they preached the Gospel of the kingdom during Jesus’ earthly ministry.

This wasn’t just the case during the time Jesus walked the earth either though. As a good example of how this was the case even after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the statement of faith made by the Ethiopian eunuch to Philip before his baptism had nothing to do with faith in Christ’s death for our sins at all, but was instead that he simply believed Jesus the Messiah is the Son of God.

And, just as a quick but related aside, even though it’s not specifically mentioned in the text, the Ethiopian eunuch was almost certainly Jewish himself — of the diaspora — since not only was he visiting Jerusalem to worship like those a few chapters earlier in Acts 2 were, but also because no mention of his being a Gentile was made even though just two chapters later such a big deal is made of Peter talking to Gentiles (and Peter even had to defend himself for doing so to the rest of the apostles, which Philip didn’t have to do), and even afterwards those who were scattered abroad preached only to Jews (which, as another quick aside, shows us they didn’t seem to take the so-called “Great Commission” to go make disciples of all nations too seriously if it was meant for their time, although the real reason for this is because it isn’t meant to go into effect until the Millennial Kingdom begins on earth in the future), so it seems very probable that preaching to Gentiles was only done one time prior to Paul doing so (and the Gospel preached then wasn’t the same Gospel Paul preached either), almost certainly for the purpose of Peter being able to later help defend Paul.

Now yes, the eunuch learned that Jesus died (just as Cornelius later learned from Peter), but like those before him (and like Cornelius after him), he wasn’t taught that Jesus’ death was for our sins, and he definitely wasn’t taught that it was something which had to be trusted in to be saved. Instead, His death was explained to both the eunuch and Cornelius as a negative event rather than as something that saves us. And Cornelius was even told by Peter that, in every nation, he who is fearing God and acting righteously — or worketh righteousness — is acceptable to God (and it’s important to note that Cornelius was doing these works of righteousness before he’d even heard of Jesus, which is one of the reasons God sent Peter to him in the first place), while Paul said that God saves the body of Christ and calls us with a holy calling, not in accord with our acts or works, but in accord with His own purpose and the grace which is given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began, showing us that Gentiles who were preached to by Peter were given an entirely different message from the one Paul gave the Gentiles he taught. But if anyone disagrees, considering the fact that we have every word Peter said to Cornelius and his household prior to their salvation recorded in Acts 10, I’d be curious to hear where it is in Peter’s sermon there that they find him explaining that Christ’s death was for our sins and the basis of their salvation, as well as something that had to be trusted in for salvation (not to mention where Peter mentioned any of the other pertinent details they might claim a person has to understand and believe in order to be saved, such as the doctrine of the Trinity as just one possible example, at least if they’re someone who thinks a person can’t be saved without believing in a triune God and properly understanding what that even means, as I’ve heard some Christians insist is the case, which is why I mention it here).

So to sum it all up, while salvation under both Gospels is indeed connected with faith regarding Jesus (and salvation prior to Jesus’ time on the earth involved faith toward God as well), the required faith under each Gospel is different (as is the end result of each type of faith), since the faith one has to have under the Gospel of the Circumcision is simply in the identity of Jesus (and results in one getting to live in the kingdom of heaven on earth), while the faith one has to have under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision is in the work of Jesus (and results in one getting to live in heaven itself). Likewise, the cross means (and meant) something very different to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision than it does to those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision (it wasn’t something anyone was looking forward to, nor was it something anyone understood prior to Paul outside of the context of Israel’s New Covenant and the kingdom of heaven on earth).

Now all that’s not to say that somebody can’t technically be saved under whichever Gospel they happen to be predisposed, or elected by God, to follow. As rare as it might be, Gentiles can technically be saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision, as demonstrated by Cornelius, just as Jews can be saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, as demonstrated by Paul himself; these are technically just titles for specific proclamations of good news, and have nothing to do with whether one has surgery done to one’s genitals or not (although I’d suggest it’s unlikely for most Gentiles to be saved under the Circumcision Gospel, since it is primarily for Israelites, and I also suspect that most Christians are going to be extremely surprised and upset to find out who actually does end up getting saved under this Gospel, but that’s a discussion for another time). The important thing, though, is that they don’t try to combine the two of them (Paul says they shouldn’t switch between the two of them either, but rather stick with the one they’re called to).

I should also say, a few Christians today might have unknowingly been saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision as well, since God always kept a remnant of believing Israelites for Himself (although, of course, Gentiles could also become included in this remnant by proselytizing into it, and there’s no reason to believe this is no longer the case), and we know the remnant can’t refer to those Jews who are saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision and brought into the body of Christ because there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, so this must refer to those Jews and proselytes who were, and the remnant of Jews and proselytes who currently are, saved under another Gospel (although, in general, I suspect few Christians have actually been saved under either Gospel, at least from a relative perspective, which I’ll explain more about later).

As should be obvious at this point, these Gospels aren’t even remotely similar to each other, so how anybody ever concludes that they’re one and the same is quite perplexing (if someone thinks the news that “near is the kingdom of the heavens” is the exact same news as “Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead on the third day,” just worded differently, they really need to explain how these very different sounding news accounts are actually saying the same thing, as well as how the disciples could have possibly been preaching Christ’s death for our sins at a time when they didn’t even understand that He was going to die, not to mention how anyone told about the kingdom being near could have ever understood it to be referring to Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection when they heard it), but somehow the vast majority of Christians have confused them for each other and assumed there’s only one Gospel recorded in Scripture, a tragic mistake that even a few in the body of Christ have made recently as well. The fact that if one were to remove the epistles of Paul from the Bible they’d completely lose the doctrines of salvation by grace through faith apart from any works, and justification apart from the law, however, should really make it clear that Paul was teaching something very different (in fact, if Paul’s teachings aren’t different in meaning from the rest of Scripture it would mean the body of Christ is required to follow the Mosaic law — in spite of the fact that Paul taught that we not only aren’t required to but actually shouldn’t try to — since John taught that those saved under the Gospel he believed had to follow the commandments of God, which are commandments that will remain relevant to believers in Israel’s Gospel until the New Earth begins in the future), and that it’s Paul’s teachings the body of Christ should be following.

And arguing that there’s somehow one overarching Gospel in Scripture containing both the proclamation of good news made during Jesus’ earthly ministry as well as the proclamation of good News which Paul preached to the nations, but that this one Gospel has only been gradually revealed to us through progressive revelation, as some have attempted to do, doesn’t make any sense at all either when one stops to really think about it (and this is a claim you won’t actually find made anywhere in Scripture anyway, which means it’s nothing more than an assertion based on an assumption). Those who make this argument generally still believe that someone living today must believe in Christ’s death for our sins and His resurrection to be saved, so even if there somehow was only one progressively revealed Gospel, nobody prior to Paul believed that Christ’s death was for our sins, so that would have made the Gospel being preached prior to Paul pretty useless unless people prior to Paul could be saved in a different way (without believing that particular part of this supposedly progressively-revealed Gospel, in other words), but that just takes us right back to the fact that we would have to partition this one, supposedly progressively-revealed, proclamation of news which is good into two different sets of news which are good preached at two different periods of time about two different things needing to be believed (and perhaps performed) in order to be saved (maybe we could call this idea “rightly dividing”), one preached prior to Paul (or, at the very least, preached prior to Christ’s death; but since we have no scriptural record of Christ’s death being for our sins as something that was taught as something that had to be believed in order to be able to be said one is saved by anyone before Paul did, especially based on Peter’s sermons in Acts, we have no good basis for assuming it was) and one that Paul first taught, taking us full circle to what I’ve been getting at all along here.

And, just as another quick aside, some people have argued that Paul wasn’t teaching how to get saved in his epistles, since he was writing to people who were already believers, and it’s quite true that his written audience was primarily made up of believers. However, this is irrelevant because he also said in the passage where he explained what his specific Gospel consists of that it was A) the Gospel he preached unto them, and also B) the Gospel by which they are saved, so we know exactly what he preached unto them as how they‘re saved, which means that argument doesn’t actually help the way the sceptics might think it does. That said, it is also true that chapter 15 of Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians wasn’t specifically written to teach about Paul’s Gospel (although, whether he originally intended to or not, he ended up expanding on what his Gospel meant later in the chapter regardless), but was instead originally written to discuss bodily resurrection (since some of the members of the ecclesia in Corinth had stopped believing in their own physical resurrection, thinking the term “resurrection” was instead a “spiritual truth” rather than an actual future event), with the specific contents of Paul’s Gospel only being included in two verses in the chapter in order to make his point that resurrection has to be literal because otherwise it would mean that Christ Himself hadn’t even been roused from the dead. And this fact about the point of this chapter is actually important to keep in mind for when someone attempts to claim that Peter and the others were preaching the same Gospel as Paul based on verse 11, when Paul wrote, “Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” If Paul’s Gospel was the point of that chapter, that would be a valid claim, but if you read this verse in its context with the rest of the chapter, it becomes clear that Paul was simply saying that both he and the others all saw the risen Christ because He was indeed resurrected from among the dead, not that they both preached the same Gospel.

Now, some Christians also claim that because the churches of Judea had heard“That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed,” that this means Paul had been preaching the same Gospel Peter and the rest of the disciples preached. And the truth is, they’re absolutely correct, because Paul did preach the Gospel of the Circumcision to Israelites at various times, including at the time when the churches of Judea heard this report. But having done so doesn’t mean he couldn’t have also preached another Gospel to the Gentiles at other times as well, so this doesn’t actually help prove that there’s only one Gospel at all the way they might think it does. It’s also important to note that he made this statement immediately after his point about the time the apostles and Jesus’ brother James became acquainted with him for fifteen days in Jerusalem, 3 years after his experience on the road to Damascus (and the most important part of the “him” they became acquainted with would certainly include what the Gospel he believed and preached at that time was — he wouldn’t have just been sitting around discussing sports with them for two weeks — especially since he preached with them at that time as well), and that he then immediately went on to write about the fact that he later had to return to meet with them in Jerusalem again as well, more than a decade after he spent that time with them, in order to explain to them what the Gospel he was now preaching among the Gentiles was. If the Gospel he was preaching to the Gentiles was the exact same Gospel he’d already believed and preached with them during his first visit with them there, he wouldn’t have had to return all that time later to explain what it was, since they would have already been quite familiar with it from that previous visit of his.

In fact, if someone believes that the Gospel which Paul was later preaching to the Uncircumcision was the exact same Gospel that he’d already preached with Peter in Jerusalem, they need to explain how he could possibly have never heard this Gospel the entire time he was persecuting those Jewish believers. And yet, based on what he told the Galatians, he didn’t hear the Gospel he preached to the Gentiles from any mortal humans at all, but rather learned it directly from the glorified Christ (perhaps while in Arabia). It’s extremely difficult to believe that he somehow wasn’t aware of the most important teaching of those he was persecuting — one would be hard-pressed to answer the question of why he was persecuting them in the first place if he didn’t know what they believed — and it doesn’t appear that he was told it by Jesus on the road to Damascus either, yet he immediately preached the same Gospel that Peter and the rest of the apostles were preaching after being healed by Ananias, so the obvious conclusion is that the news which is good that he later preached to the Gentiles wasn’t the same news which is good that Peter had been preaching to Israel and the proselytes, and which Paul himself preached at the beginning of his ministry in Damascus, as well as in Jerusalem with Peter and James and the rest of the apostles three years later during his first visit with them.

But with it being so obvious that there are different types of salvation and at least two Gospels being taught in Scripture, why are some people so insistent that there’s only one Gospel and one ecclesia to begin with? Well, one of the major reasons for the lack of realization of the existence of two Gospels in Scripture is confusion about the warning Paul gave in his epistle to the Galatians about preaching any other Gospel to the body of Christ than the one they’d already received. Unfortunately, most Christians not only read more into this passage than it’s actually saying, they also don’t pay close attention to the specific wording of the passage either, leading them to believe a whole doctrine that wasn’t what Paul was getting at there at all. You see, Paul wasn’t saying there is only one true Gospel there, or that nobody could ever preach a Gospel to someone other than the one he taught the body of Christ (if that were the case, nobody could ever share good news of any sort with anyone if it wasn’t about Christ’s death for our sins, His entombment, and His resurrection, including good news/Gospels about births or job promotions or any other sort of positive information). Most people who base their assumption on this passage have likely only read translations of Scripture which say things like “another gospel which is not another” in the verses before his warning. The problem is, if one doesn’t understand what this poetic translation is getting at, they can easily end up very confused. Is it another Gospel or is it not another Gospel? It can’t be both another Gospel and not another Gospel at the same time, at least not if we’re reading that literally.

What most Christians aren’t aware of is that Paul actually used two distinct Greek words rather than one in the original text (which means a literal rendering of the passage would be more along the lines of “a different gospel, which is not another”) in order to differentiate between any legitimate Gospels that weren’t his but were still perfectly okay to be taught to certain people to follow for salvation (as long as it wasn’t members of the body of Christ being taught that) and any illegitimate “gospels” that shouldn’t be taught by anyone at all, speaking of both a different (ἕτερος/“heteros”) so-called “gospel,” and another (ἄλλος/“allos”) actual Gospel. The word ἕτερος basically means “other of a differing sort” while ἄλλος means “other of the same sort,” so the wording of this passage allows for the existence of another/ἄλλος true Gospel (or even true Gospels plural) in addition to Paul’s Gospel.

Simply put, Paul wasn’t saying that people who taught there are other Gospels are under a curse, since he did so himself in the very next chapter of this epistle; he was only saying that those who would preach any other Gospel about salvation to the body of Christ than the one they had already received as something they should follow were, but Peter and the rest of the apostles could preach their particular Gospel as something to be followed to anyone that they wanted to without fear as long as it wasn’t to members of the body of Christ, based on the words “unto you” in verses 8 and 9, since Paul was writing to those who had already believed his Gospel, not to those who hadn’t. In fact, the different/ἕτερος “gospel” that Paul was warning about there was actually an adulterated mix of both Gospels, which means it was an attempt to blend the two Gospels into one (those whom Paul was condemning were trying to mix the law elements associated with the Gospel that Peter preached in with the pure grace of Paul’s Gospel, resulting in a bastardized “gospel” that can’t help anyone). Unfortunately, this means that the evangelists and teachers of the Christian religion today who are also trying to force the contents of each of these Gospels into one (by insisting that there is only one Gospel) are guilty of preaching that very same different/ἕτερος “gospel” that isn’t even another/ἄλλος (completely legitimate) Gospel at all like the Gospel that Peter preached was, bringing the curse that Paul warned about upon themselves.

And on the off chance that anyone ever tries to claim that “different” and “another” actually mean the same thing, here are some sentences to consider: 1) “the word ‘different’ is different from the word ‘another,’” 2) “the word ‘another’ is another from the word ‘different,’” 3) “the word ‘another’ is different from the word ‘another,’” 4) “the word ‘different’ is another from the word ‘different,’” 5) “the word ‘another’ is another from the word ‘another,’” and 6) “the word ‘different’ is different from the word ‘different.’” Read those, then ask yourself if those sentences all mean the same thing, or if the last five even make any sense at all. And to really drive the point home, if the two words truly did mean the same thing, the verse could also be translated as “a different Gospel which is not different,” but that might be the most nonsensical one of them all. And if the words “different” and “another” don’t mean the same thing, as those examples I just gave prove, there’s literally no way to interpret the passage as meaning Paul is saying there’s only one legitimate Gospel, because he’s clearly allowing for at least three separate messages called gospels in this passage, 1) his own Gospel, 2) another Gospel, and 3) a different “gospel,” which means the only way he could have been talking about only two messages called gospels — 1) his own Gospel, and 2) a different “gospel” — with only one being legitimate, is if “another” and “different” actually did mean the same thing. (This isn’t to say that ἕτερος and ἄλλος can’t ever be used as synonyms of one another in other passages, since we already know that the same word can have different meanings in different passages, but it should be clear by this point that Paul wasn’t using ἕτερος as another word with the same meaning as ἄλλος in this passage, but that he was instead using the two words with different definitions, contrasting them with one another, in this case — and yes, I used the words “different” and “another” repeatedly in this sentence on purpose, to really drill in my point.)

Besides, Scripture tells us about other Gospels (or Evangels, or proclamations of good news — these are all translated from the same, or cognates of the same, Greek word — and all mean the same thing: “glad tidings” or “positive proclamation,” even if the “positive proclamations” aren’t always the same message, or the same news, each time the word εὐαγγέλιον or one of its variations was used in Scripture) than just Paul’s Gospel and the different “gospel” he’s warning about, and even though only two of the “positive proclamations” are connected directly to how one is saved (the Gospel of the Circumcision and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision), there’s no way Paul could be saying there’s only one message allowed to be called the Gospel in existence or else we’d have to remove those verses discussing the other positive proclamations from the Bible altogether (unless those various positive proclamations are all a part of a larger, all-encompassing, progressively-revealed “Gospel” we have to believe in so we can be saved, but I doubt anyone thinks that belief in the good news about John the Baptist’s birth is necessary in order to be saved, so right off the bat we already have multiple proclamations of good news/Gospels in the Bible even before we get to the Gospels that one can believe when they get saved).

All that being said, even if somebody somehow still hasn’t recognized that there’s more than one Gospel in the Bible after everything I’ve already covered, they should at least now recognize that this passage can’t be used to refute the idea, since the wording does allow for another/ἄλλος legitimate Gospel to exist, even if they don’t believe it’s specifically saying there is one.

That the word εὐαγγέλιον can technically be referring to different positive proclamations when it’s used also helps when Christians claim there’s only one Gospel based on Paul’s statement in Romans 1:16 that “the gospel…is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” When we take everything else we’ve already covered into consideration, it should be beyond obvious by now that this verse can’t possibly mean there’s only one proclamation of news which is good in the Bible, and so we have to look for an alternative interpretation of what Paul was talking about there to what they’re assuming it means. I’m not going to get into all the possible interpretations of this verse, because there are a number of them (while there are other possible interpretations as well, it could be that he was just speaking generally here, lumping both Gospels together in one statement, or he could have actually been referring strictly to the Gospel of the Circumcision there, as he seemed to be in the first few verses in this chapter, as well as in later chapters in this epistle too; since Paul was writing about both the body of Christ and the Israel of God in different parts of this letter, and I get the impression that he might have been writing different parts of it to members of their respective ecclesias there as well, and it could be that there was an obvious way in the original manuscript to determine which passages were specifically to which church that has now been lost to time, or perhaps it was just obvious to the members of each church which parts were primarily for them, if that is indeed the case), but the fact that there are a number of possible interpretations of this passage tells us that it doesn’t necessarily have to mean what most Christians assume it must. And combined with everything else we’ve already covered, anyone who insists it does is simply being dishonest with us and themselves.

And speaking of the Israel of God, the other major reason so many Christians insist that there’s only one Gospel and one ecclesia referred to in Scripture is their misunderstanding of a number of passages that they believe imply there’s now no difference between Jews (or Israelites, which “Jew” or “Jews” were often used as metonymy for in Scripture) and Gentiles at all anymore, or even that Gentiles in the body of Christ are now a part of Israel itself, or have really replaced Israel altogether (and this truly is the most logical end result of holding to the idea that there’s only one Gospel, based on the fact that almost no Israelites continued to believe in Jesus after the first century), now being something they refer to as “spiritual Israel,” as some Christians have misunderstood Ephesians 2:11-22 to mean. For example, they see how Paul tells us that there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, and they then go on to make a major assumption: that every Jew who believes in Christ is brought into the body of Christ (and that every first-century Jew who believed in Christ became a member of His body prior to Paul’s revealing of the body to the world). But if that were the case, this would mean they would all lose the standing above the Gentile nations that Israel was promised to be given by God one day (they don’t have it now, but they certainly will in the future, despite what some who don’t understand the difference between future events and already fulfilled prophecies seem to believe, particularly those who have fallen for the deception known as Amillennialism, as well as Preterism), and that they’re no longer under either the Old or the New Covenant, both of which were only ever given to Israelites. This is also a result of confusing the new birth, which Paul never wrote about, with the new creature or creation, which only Paul ever wrote about — the idea that these two concepts are just synonyms for one another is a major, and entirely unfounded, presupposition that is actually never stated in Scripture, and which is actually contradicted by it, as I’ll explain later, which means there’s no reason to believe they’re the same thing, outside of preexisting doctrinal bias.

This assumption reveals first and foremost that they don’t understand God’s purpose for creating “the body of Christ, the ecclesia” any more than they understand God’s prophetic purpose for Israel. It also shows that they don’t understand the difference between the “mysteries (or “secrets”) of the dispensation (or administration) of grace and conciliation, and of the prophecies that don’t apply to this dispensation at all. And finally, it tells us they aren’t aware of the fact that being a part of the body of Christ was never meant for every believer in Christ throughout history to begin with.

You see, the body of Christ has a future job to do in the heavens (among the celestials), and our true citizenship is in those heavens rather than in the kingdom of heaven here on earth (in fact, another translation of that verse tells us that our realm is inherent in the heavens, as opposed to our realm being inherent down here on earth). That can’t be said about Israel however, at least not the faithful Israel known as the Israel of God, and the verse that gives us this label for faithful Israelites makes it quite clear that there are two different, yet legitimate, sets of believers as well. The words “and upon” in that verse mean there are two separate groups of people being wished peace and mercy by Paul there, since there’s no way to legitimately read that verse in any way that implies Paul was actually saying, “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and, oh yeah, these people are also called the Israel of God,” which means there have to be two separate groups being written about there — the first group being “as many as walk according to this rule,” referring to members of the body of Christ, and the second group being those known as “the Israel of God” — and those who know how to “rightly divide the word of truth” are aware that those in these two different churches have two different destinies: with one group reigning on the earth, specifically from Israel, and with the other group reigning from the heavens.

Before I proceed with this point, however, it’s important to understand what heaven (or “the heavens”) actually even is. Nearly everyone who believes in God has asked what and where it is at some point in their lives, but the answers they’re normally given are generally vague guesses or unscriptural assumptions, unfortunately, or are simply statements insisting that we can’t know for sure. The truth, however, is that Scripture actually answers these questions for us, and the answer is so simple that I can actually show you heaven right now (or at least part of it). How? Well, let’s take a look at some of the passages of Scripture which tell us what heaven really is. First of all, Genesis 1:20 tells us, “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven,” and Matthew 24:30 says, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” which tells us that when we read the word heaven we can see that it’s sometimes referring to the sky, where the birds and clouds are (the atmosphere, in other words). In addition, Psalm 8:3 says, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained,” and Genesis 1:14–17 tells us, “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.”And so, as we’ve already determined, heaven is “above” us, but it isn’t only a reference to the atmosphere, but to outer space as well. And since Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth,” we know that there are only two overall “places” one can be: on earth or in heaven (there isn’t anywhere else one can be because God didn’t create anywhere else, at least not anywhere else that’s recorded in Scripture), and if one is in the sky or in outer space, they’re not on earth, which only leaves heaven for them to be in. And if heaven wasn’t a reference to that which is “up above” the ground we stand on, after Jesus ascended up into heaven, the disciples couldn’t have been gazing up into heaven as the angels confirmed they were (while also confirming that a prophecy of Zechariah is about Him and when He’ll one day return to the exact same spot He left from, which was the Mount of Olives).

That said, when Scripture talks about where we’ll be in the heavens, it would presumably be referring to deep space, likely beyond the reach of our current telescopes, but still in our physical universe, out among the stars and planets where most of the celestial beings reside, even if perhaps partially in higher dimensions if they’re not just somehow living invisibly on our plane of existence. And so heaven isn’t actually a place you would want to go without either an airplane or a space shuttle, or preferably a vivified body (sometimes also referred to as a quickened body, depending on your Bible version, which refers to having our mortal bodies be made immortal as happened to Jesus after His resurrection, being given life beyond the reach of death, which means being incapable of dying, as well as never being subject to the corruption and the humiliation of mortality ever again, which is something that will only happen to certain people who experience the sort of salvation that Jesus taught about during His earthly ministry, at least at the time they’re experiencing it — specifically those who are raised from the dead at the resurrection of the just — with those who are still living at the time they begin enjoying what the KJV figuratively refers to as “everlasting life” in the kingdom of heaven not being given true immortality at that point, since those who are resurrected after Jesus returns will be like the angels and will no longer marry or reproduce, and if everyone who was given “everlasting life” was vivified/made immortal right then, there wouldn’t be anyone left to fulfill the prophecies of righteous Israelites not only growing old but also having children in the kingdom, as well as later on the New Earth), and it certainly isn’t a place that anybody who is dead goes to, since only the living can go to heaven, at least in a conscious state (although those in the body of Christ will go there when Christ comes for His body), because one needs an immortal body that could survive and thrive out there if you were planning to stay long, considering the fact that you’d suffocate from lack of oxygen, or freeze to death, or die from radiation poisoning out there in the heavens without either an immortal body or some sort of vehicle or structure to protect you from death (this is at least partly why Paul wrote that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”; we know that flesh and blood will inherit the part of the kingdom of God which will be on earth, meaning the kingdom of heaven, because we know that not everyone in Israel will be immortal during the Millennium, so this was clearly only about the part of the kingdom that will be in heaven, not the part that will be sent from heaven). This also means that heaven isn’t the perfect, sinless place most people think it is, at least not yet, since the devil and his angels haven’t been cast out of heaven yet, for one thing, and not only do sinful humans spend time in airplanes and spacecraft in heaven every day, many celestial beings there still haven’t been reconciled to God yet either (and you can’t be reconciled without first being alienated, by the way — and I should also add that “reconciled” means the parties on both sides of an estrangement or disagreement are at peace with one another), although it will be pretty great for the body of Christ when we have our new bodies that can enjoy it out there with our Lord as we fulfill our impending ministry to the “fallen” celestials there. This means, by the way, that Christians who like to claim God can’t allow sin into heaven (which is not an assertion I’ve ever seen made in Scripture) seem to have forgotten that, if Satan needs to be cast out of heaven, it means sin has already been in heaven, as is also confirmed by the fact that the book of Job says he was there too. Similarly, the claim they often make that sin can’t exist in heaven because God can’t look upon sin or evil is also an unscriptural one, since the words of Habakkuk 1:13 they like to quote are actually“Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil,” with “to behold” in this verse simply being an expression in the KJV that means “to give attention to” or “to look upon approvingly.” Satan’s presence in heaven, not to mention God’s omnipresence and the fact that “the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good,” as Proverbs 15:3 tells us (with the word “evil” being translated from the same Hebrew word in both verses — the singular רָאָה/“rā’â” in Habakkuk and the plural רַע/“raʿ” in Proverbs), would make this a very problematic (not to mention contradictory) verse as well, if most Christians were correct about what that verse in Habakkuk meant.

And so, unlike the body of Christ (who will be out there working in the heavens, which means, by the way, that the term “the kingdom of heaven,” or “the kingdom of the heavens,” needs to be understood as meaning “the kingdom of outer space,” or really ”the kingdom from heaven/outer space”), the Israel of God will remain here on earth and maintain their earthly (Jewish) identity and citizenship throughout the Millennium, and will reign over the Gentile nations throughout the 1,000 years, and even beyond (the Millennium is also when the “Great Commission” to disciple all these nations is finally supposed to take place, I should add). Since only Jews who “are saved” (those known as “the Israel of God”; and Paul was reducing the scope of membership within the Israel of God in Romans 2:28–29 to include only certain Jews, not expanding it to include the Gentiles in the body of Christ as well, since “neither Jew nor Gentile” doesn’t mean “you’re all Israelites now,” considering there would then still be Jews, even if only Jews, in the body of Christ — and this same point also applies to the reference to the Israel of God in Galatians 6:16 we just covered as well, proving that nobody in the body of Christ can be called “the Israel of God”) are among this group, if “being saved” means that they’re no longer identified as Jewish and that they are going to rule far off in the heavens (which would be the case if they were brought into the body of Christ), how are they going to also be Jews (which they apparently no longer are since there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body) reigning on earth? This confusion is easily cleared up as soon as one comes to realize the difference between the body of Christ and the Israel of God, and how each of these two groups are saved (and what each of their salvations entail).

Of course, it also helps to realize that Paul was the first to be saved under his Gospel and join the body of Christ (not to mention the first to preach his Gospel), so no Jewish believer prior to him could have been a member of Christ’s body yet anyway. Yes, it’s true that there is only “one body” for us, but this is because the body of Christ is supposed to be without schism, not because other “bodies” that aren’t the body of Christ don’t exist. As an equivalent explanation, while all the provinces and territories of Canada make up one country, there’s still more than one country in the world (unless one believes the 50 states that make up the United States of America, along with all the other parts of the world, are a part of Canada too), and that’s the same passage which says there’s only “one baptism,” yet there are many different types of baptisms mentioned throughout Scripture, as we already learned, so this verse isn’t saying that there’s only one legitimate body (or only one legitimate baptism) in existence in the world, but rather that those in the body of Christ should not be divided into different denominations, just as they should not participate in any baptisms other than the one they’ve already experienced (which is immersion by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ at the time we believe Paul’s Gospel).

And so, even as Paul wrote these truths, another group of men lived for whom the truth “neither Jew nor Gentile” did not apply (since it only applies to those genetic Israelites and Gentiles who are in the body of Christ), and those men were the 12 apostles (or at least those of the 12 who were still alive by this point). Paul had forfeited his Israelite identity, but the rest of Jesus’ disciples never did — and neither were they supposed to. Jesus told His disciples that they would sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel during the Millennium (and those in Israel being judged at this time couldn’t still be a part of the 12 tribes if they were to join in the body of Christ and there was no longer a distinction between Jews and Gentiles as far as they’re concerned), a promise that did not apply to the apostle Paul (a 13th throne isn’t going to be added for him to sit on, nor was he a replacement for Judas). So while the body of Christ is indeed one body, it can be said that the Israel of God, too, is one body. But they definitely are not a part of the same body, as should be clear to anyone who isn’t blinded by the doctrinal presuppositions taught to them by their religious leaders.

Now yes, it’s true that Abraham is indeed the father of us all (the fact that Paul often quoted the law and prophets does not mean said law and prophets as a whole apply to everyone, nor does it detract from his unique Gospel, especially since Abraham wasn’t an Israelite or under the Mosaic law anyway), and both groups can be said to be “in Christ” (which is one of those trans-administrational terms — such as “baptism” or “light” or “mystery” or “grace” or “Gospel” or “kingdom,” to name just a few of many examples — that are used by both but can mean something slightly different to each; as A. E. Knoch put it, “Israel came first in time, and the divine vocabulary is based largely on God’s dealings with them. Even if our blessing does not now come through them, it can often be best expressed by borrowing their terms”), but there’s still a clear difference, because those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision are promised the earthly blessings of the New Covenant during the period of time known as the renascence (or the regeneration), the times of refreshing, or the restitution of all things (as you can see, this period of time goes by many different names, including other names that don’t start with the letter “R” as well, such as the kingdom of heaven — which is a subset of the much larger kingdom of God, being the part of the kingdom of God that will exist on the earth — and as the Lord’s Day, also known as the Day of the Lord, although perhaps better put as the Day of Yahweh, as well as the 1,000 years, the Millennium, or the Millennial Kingdom, and is something that has not happened or even really begun yet) that was promised to Israel long ago (it should probably also be clarified that, while the Day of the Lord includes both the 7 year period commonly known as the Tribulation as well as the Millennium, the kingdom of God technically exists now, in outer space, but will also exist on earth during the period of time known as the Millennium as well as later on the New Earth, and that the kingdom of heaven is primarily about Israel, specifically during the Millennium), while those saved under Paul’s Gospel are instead promised spiritual blessings and are destined for far greater things (at least at first) out there in the heavens, and are no more under the New Covenant (or under any covenants for that matter, nor would they want to be if they truly understood what that would mean for them) than they are able to be born again the way Israel needs to be, and they’re definitely not a replacement for, or a spiritual Israel, or even the kingdom of priests that Israel as a whole will finally be one day (and, just as a quick warning, one should be cautious about claiming this title since appropriating the role of a priest without actually being anointed and appointed as one by God can be somewhat dangerous, although perhaps less risky under the current administration of the Conciliation, but wisdom is still called for), because the body of Christ has been circumcised of the body of the sins of the flesh rather than circumcised of the foreskin of the heart (the latter being a spiritual circumcision which, like the physical circumcision of the male genitals, is only meant for Israel).

And yes, it’s also true — as some will point out — that while Peter didn’t teach Christ’s death as being for our sins in the book of Acts, and even taught that Jesus’ death was bad news for the Jewish people he was speaking to in the same book (rather than being the good news that it was for Paul’s Gentile audiences and that it is for us), Paul technically isn’t recorded as teaching Christ’s death as being for our sins, or as being good news, in the book of Acts either. However, the fact of the matter is that no sermon of Paul recorded in the book of Acts contains a full “Gospel message” explaining how one gets saved, which means his full Gospel message of how one is saved must have been preached “off screen,” so to speak (meaning that specific part of his messages wasn’t recorded in Acts, unless you think “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” is enough of an explanation of how to get saved for someone who wouldn’t have known what that even meant), whereas the sermons of Peter recorded in Acts are a lot more comprehensive, and in fact contained his explanation of exactly how his listeners could get saved as far as his Gospel is concerned. So this just means that the writer of Acts didn’t include the contents of Paul’s Gospel in the book, likely because it’s primarily a Circumcision writing to Israelites concerned with why the kingdom of heaven didn’t come fully into effect in the nation of Israel at that time, and not simply a general history lesson about the “early church” and nothing more, the way many assume it is.

Now, some like to also point out that Peter does mention the death and blood of Christ in one of his own epistles (in 1 Peter 1:18-19 and in 1 Peter 2:24) in a manner that was far more positive for his readers than the way he explained it in his sermons in Acts was (where it was discussed only as a negative as far as his listeners at the time were concerned). And while what Peter wrote in his first epistle technically can be considered news which happened to be good, at least as far as his written audience (which, again, consisted only of Israelites, specifically those of the diaspora, although I think it’s safe to say it would apply to all believing members of the Israel of God) was concerned, it’s important to note that it wasn’t called “the good news” (or “the Gospel”) in Peter’s epistles the way the message that Paul proclaimed in 1 Corinthians was, and also to note that we already know what the actual message called “the good news” that Peter taught his audience could be saved by following is, especially the message called “the good news” that he preached during Jesus’ earthly ministry (and that this message which he called “the good news” had nothing to do with Christ’s death for our sins or His entombment at all, as already discussed). Still, we should analyze this claim so we can demonstrate that it doesn’t actually support the assumptions some make about these verses.

The first thing to do is look at what it is that Peter’s readers were said to be ransomed from. In the first passage, the CLV translates what Peter wrote as: “…being aware that not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, were you ransomed from your vain behavior, handed down by tradition from the fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a flawless and unspotted lamb…”

This is basically saying that Peter’s Jewish readers were ransomed from their Old Covenant, meaning from having to follow the Mosaic law of their own strength, which they could never really do anyway. Instead, when their New Covenant comes fully into effect, Israelites will have the law written on their hearts, as Jeremiah prophesied, and will finally be able to keep the law perfectly through God’s power rather than their own (in)ability. The thing to keep in mind here is that, since Gentiles were never under the Old Covenant (or the Mosaic law) to begin with, we didn’t need to be (and hence weren’t) ransomed from it. Whatever the ransom that Paul referred to in 1 Timothy 2:3-6 was about, it wasn’t the same ransom that Peter was writing about here. (The reference to the “flawless and unspotted lamb” should be another dead giveaway that this is a Circumcision reference, since the lamb is connected to the Jewish perspective of Christ’s death, just as “sheep” are Circumcision imagery as well.)

So yes, while Peter eventually realized the connection between Christ’s death and Isaiah 53, there’s no indication that he ever understood the full effect that Christ’s death for our (meaning all humanity’s) sins had the way Paul did, and it seems likely he only knew the Circumcision connection to His death according to prophecy rather than the Uncircumcision connection according to the secret (or mystery, depending on your Bible translation). Because yes, Jesus did have to die in order for Israel’s New Covenant to come into effect, and also in order to be a propitiatory shelter concerned with their sins, as John wrote in 1 John 2:2, but His death accomplished so much more than that as well (and Peter and John certainly weren’t aware of any of what the cross accomplished until after Christ died and was resurrected, which means the Gospel they preached prior to that point couldn’t possibly have contained anything about it the way the Gospel Paul preached did anyway, and the parts they did eventually understand likely not being understood by them until after Paul explained it to them). As Martin Zender wrote in chapter 10 of The First Idiot in Heaven (which I highly recommend reading):

The cross of Christ reached far deeper into humanity’s need than merely giving one sad nation a new heart. Each year, the Passover lamb was not tortured; its throat was slit — that was it. Not so Christ on the cross. Jesus Christ’s six hours of torture touched an aspect of humanity’s condition that the mercifully killed Passover lamb could not reach. The Passover lamb leaves Israel intact — the cross wipes out everything and everyone in its path. The cross of Christ says:

The whole race is finished. Watch the depth of suffering; see the six hours on the Roman stake. We’re pulling humanity out by the roots here; that’s how deep this goes. Forget Abraham and David; we’re going back to Adam now. It’s that bad. When this Man rises from the grave, a new creation will have come into the lives of those believing it. Eventually, all shall come to believe it. (As Paul makes clear in 1 Timothy 4:10 — “We rely on the living God, Who is the Savior of all humans, especially of those who believe.”)

Peter never taught this; he was not a new creation. The new creation eliminates fleshly distinctions, and Peter has to be an Israelite in the kingdom — he has to be. Jesus told him he would sit on one of twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28).

Yet what does Paul say? “For whoever are baptized into Christ, put on Christ, in Whom there is not Jew nor yet Greek” (Galatians 3:27).

Peter never taught this; he couldn’t. He has to be a Jew in the kingdom. Peter was not, and is not, in the body of Christ.

Paul alone discusses how one man, Adam, affects all humanity. Not coincidentally, Paul alone boasts in the cross. Only Christ on the cross — not the Lamb sacrificed for Israel — undoes the condemnation of Adam.

No other writer discusses Adam. They speak of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Daniel. Paul alone traces our entire spiritual history to the inaugural human. Only through Paul’s message does the entire race become new. The Hebrew Scriptures demanded a new birth for Israel. Paul’s teachings are to the new birth what a well is to a tea saucer.

Now I know why Paul always seemed like Mr. Absolute to me. Why I always sensed he went deeper. Because he did go deeper. I failed to see specifically then that Paul was the only writer returning us to Adam, relating Adam’s failure to the manner of Christ’s death, and removing the old humanity by the roots.

When I was a kid, one of my chores was to pull dandelions. My dad always said: “Get ‘em by the root.”

The gospel of the Circumcision does not get humanity by the root. Rather, it remakes humanity. It takes the raw material of the present creation and fashions it anew. This is what being “born again” means. “Born again” puts God’s spirit into Israelite flesh, so that Israel can at last enact God’s commandments. Being born again merely spruces up the old humanity; it reforms it. No wonder the other writers always struck me as reformers; they were reformers. Modern so-called men of God always wanted me born again. I never embraced that. I needed more. My root was wrong. Fix me today, and I am back in a month to re-confess my sins, as the Catholic church did to me. They never extracted my sin by the root. Their fix was a Band-Aid; ten “Our Fathers” and ten “Hail Marys,” and I was back next month — back on the wheel like a gerbil. The root never left me. (Protestant churches aren’t much different. Protestants say you must confess your sins each day or you’ll be “out of fellowship” with God, and then poor, helpless God can’t bless you.)

Thus also, Israel. With Israel, flesh is still recognized. In Israel, Jew and Greek remain. As I said, these must remain, because there are twelve thrones in the kingdom, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. What about Paul’s throne? There are not thirteen thrones. I wondered about this. Poor Paul. He was the most awesome, energetic apostle of them all. Where was his throne? Now I know: Paul does not have a throne on Earth; his future is not tied to Earth. Only Paul announced the truth: “There is neither Jew nor Greek.” This was beyond radical. Peter never did quite understand. Not be a Jew? How could it be? Yet Paul, in the book of Philippians, despises his nationality and throws it away. Either this is dangerous and stupid — or else it sits at the core of the most liberating message ever to visit humanity …

Paul pronounced a curse on the message that mixed law and grace, the very message that reigns today in the modern Christian church. This mixed message confuses and disturbs, breeding fear, false guilt, and shame. Many people hearing this mixed message wonder if they are really saved. Those hoping for truth in the realm of Christianity see some light in the writings of Paul, but then they read James and despair comes. Something in Romans thrills them, such as: “There is no more condemnation in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), but then here comes Peter. Or here comes James. Or Jude. Or Hebrews. Or here come even the red letters of Christ.

What these folks fail to realize (no one has ever told them) is that the red letters of Christ, while inspired, are not the final words of Christ.

“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12).

What follows when people mix the two gospels, then, is the guilt and condemnation of religion; it’s a pseudo-grace in Israelite garb that attempts to couple “total grace” with a do-this-or-else mentality. How few people read the address on Scriptural envelopes; how few distinguish between what is theirs and what belongs to Israel.

They open other peoples’ mail and try to pay other peoples’ bills.

On the one hand, the Christian religion will say you are a new creation in Christ, and all your sins are justified. On the other hand (the hand they slap you with), they will say you’d better confess your sins and at least attempt to reform yourself before Christ returns and finds you slacking. Otherwise, how do you know if you’re even saved?

Identifying the source of this confusion will grant you a peace and security in Christ that you’ve probably never known …

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

That the Israel of God is a distinct group from the Gentiles in the body of Christ is also made extremely evident by Paul referring to Israel as the cultivated, natural olive branches in Romans 11. Remember, not all of the natural olive branches are pruned out of the tree (which itself is not a reference to Israel, by the way, since Israel is only the cultivated, natural branches of the tree, not the whole tree itself, which likely refers to certain Abrahamic blessings, now being available to the nations without having to go through Israel as Gentiles will have to do again in the future after the wild olive branch representing them is eventually removed from the tree — and remember, Abraham precedes the nation of Israel by multiple generations, so being a part of the tree and enjoying Abrahamic blessings doesn’t mean one has become a “spiritual Israelite,” which is a completely unscriptural term anyway) in that figurative explanation of present and future events, but rather some remained attached to the tree while the wild olive branch was grafted into the tree next to believing Israel/the Israel of God rather than replacing them (this should also be made obvious by the fact that branches don’t actually change species when grafted into a tree of a different kind), and we also know that the pruned-off natural branches will be grafted back into the tree eventually as well, at the time the wild branch is removed from the tree. As Paul makes clear, Israel is not thrust away, but is only temporarily cast away until the full complement of the nations may be entering, at which point Israel will become the focus of God’s purposes again (since His promises and gifts are without repentance, which means it goes without saying that Israel will indeed be brought to faith and be saved in the end, just as God promised). If this seems confusing, it helps to understand that this passage has nothing to do with the salvation of individuals, or the idea of losing salvation, which is made clear by the fact that the pruned-off natural branches were never saved to begin with and yet had to have been a part of the tree at one time in order to be pruned from it, and so if being a part of the tree means being saved, they never could have been a part of the tree in the first place. This is also made clear by the fact that it’s a singular wild branch — as opposed to the plural natural branches — and that the whole wild branch will eventually be removed from the tree, which means that every Gentile member of the body of Christ would lose their salvation if that’s what being pruned from the tree was referring to.

And so, to put it simply, Christians really need to stop stealing the covenants, commandments, prophecies, and promises (not to mention punishments) that were meant only for Israel and trying to give them to the body of Christ and the rest of the world (and, likewise, stop trying to take the blessings given to the body of Christ and trying to apply them to the Israel of God).

Unfortunately, if one doesn’t come to understand the difference between the Gospels, they’ll assume that many commandments in the Bible are meant to be followed by believers in the body of Christ today that actually aren’t (while also conveniently ignoring certain parts that aren’t meant for them simply because they don’t like them rather than because they actually understand right dividing), they won’t understand which church they’re a part of (or when it actually began), and they can even come to completely misunderstand what the Gospel the body of Christ is saved by actually is, causing Christians to present a convoluted “gospel” message to the world that doesn’t actually help anyone, and which brings an anathema upon its presenter. Many people don’t like the idea that not everything in the Greek Scriptures was meant for everyone to follow, but it’s literally impossible to follow everything in them when even within the books commonly referred to as the Gospels you have Jesus giving instructions in one place that contradict instructions that He Himself had previously given (on purpose, of course, since the time for the previous instructions had passed), so those who teach that everything in the Greek Scriptures is meant for everyone to always follow really aren’t paying attention.

The lack of understanding regarding the many differences between the Gospel of the kingdom and the Gospel of grace, as well as what parts of Scripture are written to Israel and what parts are written specifically to the body of Christ under the current dispensation of grace (not to mention the lack of understanding that the Scripture written to Israel has to be rightly divided as well, as Jesus Himself demonstrated), is also a major cause of the disagreements one finds between the many denominations within Christendom (although it should be noted that there are really only two legitimate “denominations” referred to in Scripture — the body of Christ and the Israel of God — the members of the denominations of Christianity, such as Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, Plymouth Brethren, Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterians, Seventh Day Adventists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc., on the other hand, are simply following divisions within the Christian religion rather than being actual members of the body of Christ), whereas right dividing resolves a lot of the confusion and apparent contradictions that seem to be prevalent in the Bible, especially between Paul’s epistles and the rest of the Greek Scriptures, particularly the book of Revelation and the letter that James wrote (which, despite the efforts of many well meaning but confused theologians to fit a square peg into a round hole — not to mention their adamant and repeated denials of this fact — does not line up with the teachings of Paul), but really all of the rest of the books as well.

Of course, the fact that the apostle Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles means that the 12 apostles (not to be confused with those apostles who weren’t among the 12, such as Barnabas, who did teach the same as Paul, and who were among the last group of people to be appointed as apostles everweren’t apostles of the Gentiles, and the fact that Paul was the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles means that Peter and James and John (and even Jude) weren’t ministers of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, making it extra clear that their epistles and teachings weren’t meant for Gentiles in the body of Christ, but were instead meant for those who were not Gentiles.

I admit that it can be difficult for those who have been brought up to believe that the entire Bible, including all of the teachings and instructions found therein, must apply to everybody always — or at the very least that the Greek Scriptures must — to come to realize that this might not be true (even I had difficulty with this idea when I was first introduced to it), but if one is able to consider the possibility that the tradition they’ve been taught might not be scriptural, and that the whole Bible might not all be applicable to everyone throughout history, they can then begin to notice the clear pattern of significant differences between the teachings and exhortations of Paul to the nations and the teachings and commandments found within the Circumcision writings. Some of the differences that might begin to stand out to those who realize the truth include the fact that those who are saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision will reign on earth (the meek merely inherit the earth, or, more literally, will only enjoy an allotment of the land), specifically in Israel, while those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision will sit together in heavenly places (or, more literally put, will reign among the celestials in the heavens) — the former will have an earthly or terrestrial glory while the latter will have a celestial glory in the eons to come. Or the fact that those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision were only said to be known from the foundation of the world (or the “disruption of the world,” depending on your translation, which would be the event that made the earth become a chaos and vacant, or become without form and void, in Genesis), and were in fact first called and then chosen, while those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision were said to be known before the foundation or disruption of the world, and were instead first chosen and then called. Likewise, the former will keep the law (and, indeed, must perform works or their faith will prove to be dead and useless and they won’t be said to be justified when Christ returns), while the latter aren’t under the law at all (and will still be justified even if all they have is faith without works). As an example, the former must forgive others or they won’t be forgiven themselves, while the latter deals graciously with others simply because God has already forgiven them, which is why the former is currently only hoping for grace (which will be brought to them when Jesus returns if they manage to endure to the end) while the latter is already standing in grace, and this is why we Gentiles can, in fact, be saved right now despite the fact that Israel is not yet a light to the Gentiles as they one day will need to be for Gentiles to be led to salvation, which will be at the time when the law shall go forth of Zion (which isn’t right now, since the law not only doesn’t go forth from Zion, but doesn’t even apply to Gentiles at present).

The Israel of God — the Gospel of the Circumcision/Gospel of the kingdomThe body of Christ — the Gospel of the Uncircumcision/Paul’s Gospel
Will keep the law perfectly when the New Covenant finally comes fully into effect and replaces the Old Covenant completely (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:26–27, Micah 4:2, Hebrews 8:8-12)Not only are we not under the law at all, and in fact should not try to keep any of it (Romans 6:14, Galatians 5:3), Gentiles were never under the Old Covenant — which was about Israelites keeping the Mosaic law — to begin with, so we don’t have an Old Covenant to be replaced with by a New Covenant the way Israel does anyway (Exodus 12:43-49, Exodus 19:3-6, Leviticus 26:46, Deuteronomy 28, Nehemiah 9:13-14, Psalm 147:19-20, Romans 2:14-15, Romans 9:3-5, Ephesians 2:12)
Jewish believers within this church were still zealous for the law, even after the Council of Jerusalem, and they were upset that Paul was teaching Jewish members of the body of Christ to avoid practicing the Mosaic law, including circumcising (Acts 21:17-26)Not only did Paul teach against circumcising — or any law-keeping — for Gentiles in the body of Christ, he taught against it for anyone in the body of Christ, including Jewish members, and if Paul was teaching the same thing that Peter and James and the rest of the Jewish church were, the members of their church in Jerusalem wouldn’t have been so upset at Paul for teaching against circumcising and law-keeping for Jewish members of his church when he visited them later (Acts 15:1-21, Galatians 2:1-3, Acts 21:17-26)
Spoken of by the prophets since the world began (Acts 3:21-25)A secret until Paul (Romans 16:25, Ephesians 3:8-10)
Only 12 apostles for this church — a number with much spiritual significance to Israelites — and they were all called inside of Israel (Matthew 4:18-22, Matthew 10:2-4). Even though Judas was replaced by Matthias after being disqualified (Acts 1:12-26), no others out of the 12 were ever replaced because there will only be 12 thrones for them to sit on during the Millennium, and only 12 foundations of the wall of the New Jerusalem to be named after them during the eon of the eons (Matthew 19:28, Revelation 21:14)The first apostle of our church — who is not one of the 12 apostles of the Israel of God — was called outside of Israel (Acts 9:3). This is spiritually significant because Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13)
Are supposed to eventually disciple all the nations, to baptize them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and to teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:16-20), although — outside of Peter’s visit to Cornelius — Scripture tells us this hasn’t happened yet (Acts 11:19, Galatians 2:8-9)The fact that Paul is called the apostle to the Gentiles, and that a whole new set of apostles were in fact sent to the Gentiles, is significant because it means the 12 apostles of the Israel of God were not the apostles to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13, Acts 14:14, 1 Corinthians 4:6-9, Ephesians 4:11), nor were the rest of the members of that church preaching to the Gentiles yet either, since the pillars of their church had agreed to leave the preaching to the Gentiles to Paul and to those with him, for the time being, which means Israel hasn’t even really begun her so-called “Great Commission,” as it’s often referred to, yet (Galatians 2:8-9, Acts 13:2)
Proclaimed among Israelites (James 1:1, 1 Peter 1:1)Proclaimed among the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8)
As future citizens of the New Jerusalem, which is referred to as the bride of the lambkin itself after it descends to the New earth, the saints of this church who will inhabit this city can figuratively (albeit only proleptically) be referred to as the bride of the lambkin (John 3:29, Revelation 21:9)The saints of this church are referred to as the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:30)
Racial distinctions important (Matthew 15:26, Matthew 19:28, Revelation 21:12, Zechariah 8:23)Racial distinctions irrelevant (1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:28)
Believers known from the disruption of the world (Revelation 17:8)Believers known before the disruption of the world (Ephesians 1:4)
Believers called first, then chosen (Matthew 22:14)Believers chosen first, then called (Romans 8:30)
Water baptism required (Acts 2:38)Water baptism not required (1 Corinthians 1:17, 1 Corinthians 12:13)
Many types of baptism/immersion: John’s baptism in water unto repentance, the Lord’s baptism in water — obviously not a baptism unto repentance — water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ/the name of the Lord, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and in fire, baptism into Moses, and baptism into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, 13-17, Acts 1:4-5, Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48, 1 Corinthians 10:2, Matthew 28:19)Only one baptism/immersion: not in the Holy Spirit (or in water either), but rather by the Holy Spirit, into the body of Christ, including into what He experienced in His body, such as His death (Ephesians 4:5, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Romans 6:3-4)
Must be born again (John 3:3)Are an entirely new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Must have circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16, Acts 7:51, Romans 2:29)Circumcised of the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11)
Must have works, since faith without works is dead for them (James 2:20)Even if we don’t have works, but only have faith, we are still justified, which means faith without works is not dead for us (Romans 4:5)
Must keep His commandments, and live as Jesus did (1 John 2:3-6)God’s grace motivates us to live well, not the threat of losing our salvation if we don’t, as is the case for Israel (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
Must forgive others or God will not forgive them (Matthew 6:15)Should deal graciously with others as God has already dealt graciously with us (Ephesians 4:32) — but even without works, we’re still justified, so we aren’t required to forgive others in order to be forgiven ourselves, even if it’s still good for us to do so (Romans 4:5)
Must avoid eating idol sacrifices (Revelation 2:14, 20)Are permitted to eat idol sacrifices as long as conscience permits it (Romans 14:14, 1 Corinthians 8:4)
Must be an overcomer to avoid second death (Revelation 2:11)Saved from second death by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Hoping for grace, which will be brought to them when Jesus returns to the earth (1 Peter 1:13)Already standing in grace (Romans 5:2)
Must be watching, not drowsing (Matthew 25:1-13, Luke 12:37, Hebrews 9:28)Whether watching or drowsing (1 Thessalonians 5:10)
Must be wise, not stupid, or will not be chosen (Matthew 25:1-13)Few who are wise are chosen, and most who are chosen are stupid (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
Can be put to shame at His presence if not careful (1 John 2:28)Will all be changed for the better — meaning given glorified, immortal bodies — at His presence, which is the happy expectation all of us in this church should be looking forward to (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 15:52, Titus 2:13)
Will go through day of indignation (Revelation 6:1-17)Not appointed to indignation (1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:9)
Will meet Christ on earth (Acts 1:11-12, Zechariah 14:4)Will meet Christ in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
The resurrection of the just, also known as “the former resurrection” (Luke 14:14, Revelation 20:1-6), occurs after Christ’s second coming to the earth, 75 days after His feet touch down on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4-7, Acts 1:9-12, and compare the numbers in Daniel 12:11-13 to the numbers in Revelation 13:5 to understand the 75 day difference)The dead in the body of Christ are first resurrected, then those who are still living will rise with them to meet Christ in the air together when He comes for our church, before He ever even gets close to the Mount of Olives (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Will reign on the earth as a kingdom of priests over the nations (Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:5-9, Revelation 2:26-27, Revelation 5:10, Revelation 20:6, Isaiah 61:6)Will reign among the celestials in the heavens (Ephesians 2:6-7, 2 Timothy 2:12)
Will fill earth with knowledge of God’s glory by being a light to the Gentiles and salvation to the ends of the earth (Habakkuk 2:14, Isaiah 49:6)Will dispense God’s wisdom among the celestials in the heavens (Ephesians 3:10-11)
The meek shall inherit the earth, and will live in the land God gave the patriarchs, which is the land of Israel (Matthew 5:5, Ezekiel 36:28)Our realm is inherent in the heavens (Philippians 3:20)
There will still be mortal “flesh and blood” humans living in the part of the kingdom of God that is on the earth, and they will even continue to reproduce, during both the Millennium and the eon of the eons on the new earth (Zechariah 8:3-4, Isaiah 65:17-25, Ephesians 3:21)Mortal “flesh and blood” is not able to enjoy the allotment in the part of the kingdom of God that is in the heavens. This is simply because we’d suffocate from lack of oxygen, or freeze to death, or die from radiation poisoning out there in the heavens without an immortal body (1 Corinthians 15:50-54)
The 12 apostles will judge the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28)Paul, not one of the 12 apostles of the church known as the Israel of God, but rather the first apostle of the church known as the body of Christ, will, along with the rest of the body, judge the whole world — presumably at the Great White Throne Judgement; based on how long it would take one Person to judge everyone on His own, Jesus will need a whole group of people to dispense this judgement, since it takes place on earth among the resurrected dead, not outside of time — as well as judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)
Their Gospel is also called the Gospel of the kingdom, and it was the good news that the kingdom of God was near, meaning ready to begin if Israel met the required conditions (Mark 1:14-15), which they did not, so its fully coming into effect on earth — specifically in Israel — has been pushed back while the Gentiles are temporarily saved apart from Israel (Acts 28:17-28, Romans 11)Our Gospel was also called “my Gospel” by Paul, which is why we now call it Paul’s Gospel, and it’s simply the good news that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day (Romans 2:16, Romans 16:25, 2 Timothy 2:8, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
Had to believe that Jesus is Israel’s awaited Messiah and the Son of God, as well as follow this belief up with good works such as water baptism, forgiving others, and all the rest of Jesus’ earthly commands, and even have to endure to the end — of their life or of the Tribulation, whichever comes first — in order to be saved under this Gospel (John 20:31, Acts 2:38, Acts 8:36-38, Matthew 3:8, Matthew 6:15, Matthew 24:13). The 12 did not understand that Jesus was going to die, so they couldn’t have been preaching anything related to Paul’s Gospel about Christ’s death for our sins when Jesus sent them to preach the Gospel of the kingdom while He walked the earth (Luke 18:31-34, Matthew 10:5-7, 22)Said to be saved when we believe the good news — which includes understanding what it means — that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
The cross was only bad news to those hearing the Gospel of the kingdom — at least in the sermons recorded in Acts— and a shameful thing which needed to be repented of in order to be saved (Acts 2:22-38, Acts 3:13-15, Acts 7:52)The cross is only good news for those hearing Paul’s Gospel, and is even something to glory in because it is how we are saved (1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Galatians 6:14)
From a relative perspective, Jesus gave His life as a ransom only for “many” — meaning only for those who obey this Gospel (Matthew 20:28)From an absolute perspective, Jesus gave His life as a ransom for all — meaning all humanity (1 Timothy 2:6)
Exhorted to remain in Him, and seem to be able to fall away and not be able to be renewed to repentance, so seem to be able to lose their sort of salvation (1 John 2:28, Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-27)If we died with Christ — and if we did, we can’t un-die — we will live with Him, since He cannot disown His own body. Yes, we can “fall from grace,” so to speak — which basically just means placing oneself under the bondage of religion and rules, such as the law, and, because of doing so, missing out on enjoying the freedom Christ gave us — and it might be that we can also lose out on reigning with Him by denying Him in order to avoid suffering, but either way, we still remain His body, and He won’t amputate and disown His own body parts, and body parts can’t amputate themselves either (Galatians 5:1-4, 2 Timothy 2:11-13)
Abraham being justified by works given as an example (James 2:21-23)Abraham being justified by faith rather than by works given as an example (Romans 4:2-3)
Gentiles will be blessed by Israel’s rise in the future (Acts 3:25)Gentiles are currently blessed by Israel’s fall (Romans 11:11)
Salvation will come in the future, when the kingdom comes fully to the earth, and when Israel’s sins are forgiven (1 Peter 1:5, Romans 11:25-27)We have already been saved now, and are, in fact, already complete in Christ (Ephesians 1:13, Colossians 2:10)
Please see the CLV (the Concordant Literal Version of the Bible) if the wording of some of these references seem unfamiliar to you

Now these aren’t just minor variations in terminology; these are completely different messages for two completely different groups of people. Unfortunately, if one isn’t being honest with Scripture, and insists on trying to make these major differences between Paul’s teachings and the teachings in the Circumcision writings say the same thing, because their preconceived doctrines force them to have to believe they mean the same thing, they’re just not ready to interpret the rest of Scripture, and should not be teaching anyone from the Bible. In fact, not only is this concept so extremely important for believers to grasp, it’s also so central to understanding what the Bible is saying that one can’t properly interpret much of Scripture at all without beginning from this perspective. Even something like evangelism will be a confusing task for those who don’t understand that “the Great Commission” (a label that isn’t actually even found in the Bible) wasn’t meant for the body of Christ at all. Instead, rather than discipling all nations to be observing all things that Jesus commanded His disciples, and baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (which, as I already mentioned, is a whole different baptism from the one that Peter did with water, since the baptism he’s recorded as having performed in Scripture was specifically “in the name of Jesus Christ”) as the Israel of God will be called to do in the future (when the dispensation of grace has ended and Israel has been saved and finally begins their ministry to be a light to the Gentiles and salvation unto the ends of the earth as they were long ago prophesied to one day be, and when Gentiles will in fact only come to know God by following the Jews), we have a greater “commission” and “one baptism” (into the body of Christ), and are called to be stewards of the mysteries that were kept secret since the world began (including the Mystery of the Gospel, which is a secret almost nobody knows anymore) just as Paul was, and can in fact currently help other Gentiles come to God even if we’re not Jews, which is why it’s imperative to truly understand this important topic.

That said, if someone still somehow insists there really is only one Gospel taught in Scripture after reading all that, I’d very much like to hear why they want Scripture to contain only one Gospel so badly. And it has to be a matter of wanting it to be true, since at this point they have to admit that all of the passages we’ve looked at can be interpreted in such a way that can support the existence of two Gospels (although, really, there’s no excuse for believing in only one Gospel after reading this whole chapter carefully, especially since there’s no passage in Scripture which actually outright says there’s only one Gospel). And so, my challenge to them is to tell me their answers to the various questions I’ve asked throughout this chapter, and to provide their refutations of every single one of scriptural interpretations and arguments I’ve brought up in support of the existence of two Gospels, including an explanation of how they reconcile the extensive list of scriptural contradictions that would seem to exist if there was only one Gospel (based on the comprehensive list of differences I’ve laid out in this chapter which only seem to make sense if there are indeed at least two Gospels). In addition, I want them to write down and send to me exactly what they believe this one Gospel is and what someone has to do in order to be saved under it, both someone who lived prior to Christ’s death and someone who lived after His death (leaving no details out, and including their scriptural basis for all of it). So far nobody has been able to do all of the above after reading earlier editions of this book (a few have sent attempts at refuting a few points, but they all ignored the majority of my arguments), and unless someone can, the idea of there being only one Gospel simply remains an assumption there’s literally zero excuse for making.

Chapter 2 – Judgement

As was just explained in the last chapter (and if you didn’t read the last chapter in its entirety, or didn’t bother clicking most of the supporting links, please go back and read it all now, because it’s impossible to interpret much of any of the Bible — especially when it comes to the passages related to the subject of this chapter — without first understanding the truths in that chapter), Paul’s Gospel is that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day, and to be said to be a member of the body of Christ, one simply has to truly believe this good news. But what about those who don’t believe Paul’s Gospel, and don’t end up getting saved under the Gospel of the kingdom either? What happens to them? Well, while I didn’t go into detail on it there, if you were paying close attention in the last chapter, you might have already figured out the answer to that question. But for those who haven’t, I’m going to do a deep dive into Scripture to give you the definitive answer in this chapter.

Now, as nearly everyone knows, one of the most popular doctrines within modern Christianity is the idea that anyone who doesn’t choose to “get saved” before they die will end up being punished for their sins by ending up being tormented without end in an inescapable place called hell (which most believe is also a reference to a place called the lake of fire). This doctrine is known as Infernalism, although there’s a less horrific version of soteriology that some Christians hold to called Annihilationism, which is the idea that anyone who doesn’t choose to “get saved” before they die will end up being punished for their sins by simply ceasing to exist after their judgement, never to be resurrected again.

There’s a third, and far more scriptural (not to mention far less gruesome and hopeless), soteriological perspective, however, sometimes referred to as Universalism, Universal Salvation, or Universal Reconciliation. Please note that I’m referring to Scriptural Universalism here, though, and not to the wishy-washy sort of universalism that some hold to which says “all religions are valid,” that “all paths lead to God,” or that there’s no judgement of any sort. In addition, it’s important to also note that, while we Scriptural Universalists (particularly we “Concordant” Universalists) believe that everyone will experience salvation in the end, we don’t actually believe that everyone will be saved, and if this sounds like a contradiction to you, think carefully about what we covered in the last chapter, and also consider this question: If I pointed out that, among a group of 4 people, they each had a quarter, but that at the same time only 1 of them had a quarter, and that both statements were equally true, how could this be the case? Well, it’s actually quite simple: All 4 people had a piece of a pie, each an equal-sized slice of the pie that made up the whole pie when put together, but only one of these people had a 25-cent coin in their pocket. You see, as we learned from the first chapter of this book, the same word can refer to different things, and this applies to both the word “quarter” as well as the word “saved” (not to mention “salvation“). We already know that there are multiple types of salvation, and that not everyone experiences every sort of salvation. Relatively few people will experience the sort of salvation referred to under the Gospel of the kingdom, for example, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear a Universalist agree with the assertion that not everyone will be saved, as long as one realizes that we’re referring to specific types of salvation that not everyone is guaranteed to experience when we say that.

But that aside, how can we even suggest there’s a type of salvation that everyone will experience? Well, it’s because when it comes to the type of salvation specifically referred to in Paul’s Gospel, there are a multitude of passages in Paul’s epistles which seem to plainly teach the salvation of all humanity, passages which simply attribute salvation to God and Christ apart from any contribution of our own at all (even though many Christians who don’t want to accept the possibility of Universalism will do anything and everything they can to come up with explanations as to why these passages actually don’t mean that). Of course, it’s also true that there are other passages in his epistles which say only certain people will be saved, and at first this seems like it would be a contradiction if Universalism were true, but only until one remembers the perspective principle and realizes this doesn’t have to be any more of a contradiction than the idea of Universalists agreeing that not everyone will be saved under the Gospel of the kingdom is, because any passages in Paul’s epistles which teach that everyone is saved by God and Christ without any contribution from us (even the contribution of faith) could easily just be referring to salvation under his Gospel from an absolute perspective, while passages which teach that not everyone will be saved would then simply be referring to salvation under his Gospel from a relative perspective (or referring to an entirely different type of salvation altogether, of course, such as salvation under the Gospel of the kingdom), and the fact of the matter is, this absolutely is the case. (And if this sounds confusing, don’t worry; it will all become clear as you read the rest of this chapter.)

So what are these passages which Universalists believe teach that everyone has been saved from an absolute perspective, or which teach that everyone will experience salvation in the end, apart from anything we can do to contribute to it? Well, to begin with, Paul’s Gospel itself teaches us this (and that’s really all the proof one should need). In fact, not only does it teach the salvation of all humanity, the “Christ died for our sins” element of his Gospel also means that someone who believes in Infernalism, or even Annihilationism, can’t actually be a member of the body of Christ, because they don’t believe that sin has been dealt with, once and for all, through Christ’s death for our sins, and hence hasn’t truly believed Paul’s Gospel (if anyone believes that a person can be punished without end because of their sins, they haven’t understood what it means that “Christ died for our sins,” and you can’t truly believe something if you don’t actually understand its meaning). Not only that, though, it also means that someone who believes a person can only be saved by choosing to believe something specific aren’t in the body of Christ either, because it isn’t our belief that saves us, but rather it’s Christ’s death for our sins, along with His subsequent entombment and resurrection on the third day, that saves us (this means that even some who call themselves “Christian Universalists” aren’t in the body of Christ, because many of them also believe that salvation only comes through a choice to believe something specific rather than entirely through what Christ accomplished). To believe that one has to choose to believe something specific in order to be saved is putting the cart before the horse, since faith, or belief, in what Christ accomplished is the cart bringing us into the relative form of salvation known as membership in the body of Christ, while salvation from an absolute perspective because of Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection on the third day, is the horse.

I should say, while “the salvation of all humanity” isn’t, strictly speaking, Paul’s Gospel itself — since Paul’s Gospel is technically just those combined elements that he said he taught the Corinthians (Christ’s death for our sins, His entombment, and His resurrection on the third day) — because the salvation of all humanity is the end result of Christ’s death for our sins, His entombment, and His resurrection on the third day, it means that the salvation of all humanity because of what Christ accomplished is this Gospel’s main point. And so, while there are other details that I’ll get into later in this book about his Gospel which also need to be understood in order to be considered a member of the body of Christ, it can legitimately be said that “the salvation of all humanity because of what Christ accomplished” is essentially Paul’s Gospel.

Despite all this, it’s been stated by many people that 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 was talking only about those in the Corinthian ecclesia who believed Paul’s Gospel (or at least only about people who believed Paul’s Gospel in general), and that it didn’t include the rest of humanity anywhere in its words, and, in fact, that the “for our sins” part of this Gospel was only referring to the sins of the Corinthians who believed that the words in Paul’s Gospel are true (or at least only referring to the sins of those who believe his Gospel in general). And while it is true that this part of the chapter was about what the Corinthians specifically believed (and it’s also true that what Paul wrote in this chapter about his Gospel, or Evangel — which, as translated into English in the CLV, was, “I am making known to you, brethren, the evangel which I bring to you, which also you accepted, in which also you stand, through which also you are saved, if you are retaining what I said in bringing the evangel to you, outside and except you believe feignedly” — includes a reference to a form of salvation that not everyone will experience, since those he brought the Evangel to weren’t saved if they believed it feignedly), what they specifically believed wouldn’t actually make any sense if “our sins” wasn’t referring to the sins of all humanity.

I mean, aside from the fact that he didn’t tell them something along the lines of, “Christ can have died for the sins of you Corinthians specifically, but only if you happen to believe that He died for your sins, making it so that He did die for your sins, even though He didn’t actually die for your sins if you don’t believe He did” (which would have to be the case if this passage was only about the sins of the Corinthian believers rather than the sins of all humanity), why would he have called this the good news he brought to them if it wasn’t already news which is good for his audience at the time he spoke it to them in person, before they even believed it? (This is why it’s called good news/a Gospel to begin with: because it’s good news whether someone believes it or not, or even hears it or not — it couldn’t be called good news if it’s something that has to be believed in order to avoid a never-ending punishment, since it could then only be called potential good news, or Paul’s Potential Gospel.) The statement that “Christ died for our sins” would have to already be good news to anyone Paul told this fact to before he even spoke the words to them if he wanted to be able to call it a Gospel in the first place, and not just news which can be good, but only if they happened to hear it and then also believe it’s true, somehow turning it into good news for them (although not really particularly good news, since, statistically speaking, they were still pretty much guaranteed to lose most of their loved ones to never-ending punishment in the end, especially if modern Christians are correct).

I should also say, this is where the Calvinists are at least partly correct (or at least those Calvinists who don’t say unscriptural and illogical things such as, “Christ’s death for our sins was sufficient to save all, but efficient to save only the elect,” because if something must be added to His sacrifice in order for someone to be saved — even something as simple as having to believe the right thing — then His death for our sins was, by definition, INsufficient on its own to save anyone). The consistent Calvinists at least understand that, if we can’t do anything at all to save ourselves, it can only be Christ’s death for our sins (along with His subsequent entombment and resurrection) that saves us, which means that anyone whose sins Christ died for has to be saved, since otherwise His death for our sins accomplished absolutely nothing for anyone prior to someone hearing about His death for our sins and then choosing to believe that His death for our sins accomplished something for them too, thus making them their own (at least partial) saviour by turning Christ’s ineffectual action (which, by definition, is what His death for our sins would be if it didn’t have any effect without someone else doing something, such as choosing to believe something specific, to add to it as well) into an action that finally helped accomplish something for them after all.

Where these Calvinists go wrong is in forgetting that the words Paul specifically said he spoke to the Corinthians when he first evangelized to them in person were not “Christ died for your sins” (or even “Christ died for the sins of the elect,” which is what most Calvinists believe he meant). Instead, he wrote that the words he told them in person were “Christ died for our sins.” If he only meant that Christ died for the sins of the Corinthians and himself specifically, it would mean He didn’t also die for the sins of anyone else, including the believers in Rome or Galatia or anywhere else for that matter (and that He didn’t die for your sins either). But let’s say that he just meant “the sins of the elect,” or even “the sins of believers in general” (to make this point clear to those who aren’t Calvinists as well), when he said “our sins.” Well, since it’s not like believing Christ died for our sins could then make it a fact that he died for their sins specifically, but only after believing it (since He only died once), this means He had to have at least died for the sins of anyone hearing this proclamation of good news before Paul spoke those words to anyone. And so, unless every single Corinthian Paul spoke to believed his words, if Christ’s death for our sins is what saves us, it would mean that Paul was lying to anyone who didn’t believe that Christ died for our sins when he spoke those words to them, because that statement would have to include everyone hearing him say those words rather than just the listeners who also believed those words were true (since it would mean that Christ didn’t actually die for their sins after all, considering the fact that anyone whose sins Christ died for has to be saved). Not only that, it would mean we were also lying anytime we explained that the good news includes the fact that Christ died for our sins, at least if anyone who heard us didn’t believe it either (unless, perhaps, what one actually has to believe in order to be saved is that Jesus died only for the sins of Paul and the Corinthians he spoke to — and that everyone in Corinth he preached his Gospel to got saved — and not that he actually died for you or anyone else, but then we’d have to ask what the basis of our salvation really was in the first place).

So yes, Christ’s death for our sins actually had to apply to all humanity (and hence guarantee the salvation of all humanity), as Paul also made clear when he expanded on all this later in the same chapter by writing that“just as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Of course, many Christians assume that Paul was simply referring to being resurrected here (based on the fact that a large part of this chapter is about resurrection), but we know that everyone who Paul said will be “made alive” includes those who will never die, such as the members of the body of Christ who will still be living at the time they’re caught up together in the air to meet the Lord when He comes for His body, not to mention the members of the Israel of God who will still be alive at the Second Coming and who will remain alive — thanks to the tree of life — until the time they’re finally also made immortal, so being “made alive” (which is translated from ζῳοποιέω/“zōopoieō” in the KJV, and is the same Greek word that “quickened,” or “vivified,” depending on your Bible version — which means to be given an immortal body — is translated from) obviously can’t simply be referring to resurrection (which is an entirely different word, translated from the Greek word ἀνάστασις/“anastasis” instead) since not everyone who will be “made alive” will actually die and be resurrected (yes, that the dead will be physically resurrected was Paul’s main point in this chapter, but he used his Gospel to prove this point, and in doing so ended up covering details that went far beyond just simple resurrection, including elements that apply to those who won’t be resurrected — because they’ll never actually die — as well).

And since the “in Adam” half of the verse is about the end result of his sin as it applies to everyone (and not just those people who will actually die), it stands to reason that, “even so,” the “in Christ” part is about the end result of His death for our sins as it applies to everyone as well, which can only be the vivification of our mortal bodies (since, as Paul explains later in the very same chapter, being made immortal is what we’re looking forward to as far as our salvation goes, and that being made immortal is how the death Adam brought us all is ultimately defeated, which also means that any human who is made immortal will then be experiencing salvation not only from an absolute perspective, but from yet another perspective as well, known as the physical perspective). That, combined with the fact that not everyone will end up as a corpse prior to being “made alive” — confirming that the “for as in Adam all die” part of the verse can only be referring to being made mortal, meaning being in a state of slowly dying because of what Adam did — tells us that a translation of this verse which provides the most clarity as to what Paul meant would be something along the lines of, “even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified,” as the Concordant Literal Version renders it. (And for any Preterists reading this book, the immortality here has to refer to our physical bodies being made immortal since Paul’s original reason for even writing this chapter was to make clear that those who die will be resurrected into physical bodies just like Jesus was.)

Of course, most Christians assume that one can’t be “in Christ” without first having made a conscious decision of some sort to end up there, leading them to also assume that only those who choose to be “in Christ” (or only those who are elected by God to be “in Christ”) can be saved, and they then read that assumption into this verse when trying to interpret it. But aside from what we’ve already covered about the meaning of Paul’s Gospel (which should be enough, in and of itself, to prove that everyone has already been saved from an absolute perspective, which means everyone will also have to eventually experience salvation from a physical perspective), if you read it carefully you’ll notice that, not only does it not actually say one has to make a choice to end up “in Christ” in that verse, it isn’t even talking about being “in Christ” from a positional perspective to begin with. If that’s what Paul had been getting at, he would have written, “for as all in Adam die, even so shall all in Christ be made alive.” Thankfully, that’s not what he wrote. Instead, the way he carefully worded it (“for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive”) lets us know that Paul was using a parallelism there to tell us that everyone affected by the action of the first Adam is, “even so,” also equally affected by the action of the last Adam, and completely outside of their own desire or will. The slight difference in wording might not seem important to most Christians (and those who don’t want to accept the possibility of Universal Salvation will automatically insist it doesn’t matter, without even taking the time to think about it), but it makes all the difference in the world when you realize that God didn’t simply inspire Paul to just throw words onto the page haphazardly, but rather that He made sure Paul laid the words out the way He did in order to make certain it’s clear that, just as nobody had any say in experiencing the effects of the first Adam’s action (mortality and, in most cases, physical death, aside from the relatively few people who will experience their vivification without having died), even so they also have no say in experiencing the effects of the last Adam’s action (eventual immortality) either. Basically, the order of the words God chose for Paul to use tells us that “in Adam” and “in Christ” simply mean “because of what Adam did” and “because of what Christ did,” and are not positional terms at all in this passage.

The fact that Paul wasn’t referring to being “in Adam” or “in Christ” from a positional perspective there is also backed up by what he wrote in Romans 5. Of course, in addition to assuming that our salvation is (at least partly) based on possessing a certain attribute others don’t have, which allows us to fulfill a required action we have to do for ourselves in order to be saved (such as having enough natural wisdom and/or intelligence and/or humility and/or righteousness to be able to make a choice to believe the specific thing that ultimately saves us, for example, or at least having the natural ability and desire to build up that required wisdom and/or intelligence and/or humility and/or righteousness so one can make that specific choice), rather than being based 100% on Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection (with no action taken on our part at all to contribute to our salvation, since us having to accomplish anything at all in order to ensure our own salvation — even if that accomplishment was just managing to change our minds, meaning managing to repent, and choosing to believe the right thing — would be salvation based at least in part upon something we had to do ourselves, which would ultimately be salvation by works), most Christians want to place the blame for our mortality, death, and sinfulness on each of us as individuals rather than on Adam as well, but that’s not what Paul taught. You see, in addition to what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:22 about how we’re all dying (mortal) because of Adam, in Romans 5:12 Paul not only confirmed that the specific thing Adam did to bring his descendants mortality and death was his (Adam’s) own sin, but he also went on to explain that the reason we ourselves now sin is because of that mortality we inherited from Adam: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

This is one of the most misunderstood passages in Scripture, and most Christians have assumed the word “for” in this verse means “because,” and hence have interpreted the last two parts of this verse to mean “and so death passed upon all men because all have sinned” in order to preserve their doctrine that we’re ultimately to blame for our own mortality and death (and many Bible versions have even mistranslated the verse that way). But, aside from the fact that this would render the verse literally nonsensical (I can’t see any way that the phrase “and so death passed upon all men because all have sinned” can legitimately follow “wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,” and still make any sort of sense at all, at least not based on any rules of grammar, not to mention logic, that I’m aware of), if we die because we sin, the first part of the verse would be entirely superfluous, and might as well be cut out of the verse altogether, since that part of the passage would tell us basically nothing about why we sin, making it entirely irrelevant (not to mention that it would also turn the words “and so” in the verse into a lie: the words “and so” are connecting the clause in the second half of the verse to the part of the verse that came before it, which means that what was written in the first part of the verse has to be the reason for the clause that comes after those words, yet there’s no actual connection made between Adam’s sin and our death and sin in the verse if that clause actually means “because all have sinned,” since that places the responsibility on us rather than on Adam, contrary to what the words “and so” are telling us, as well as contrary to what Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 15:22).

I mean, let’s break it all down: A) Adam sinned (“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world”), B) his sin brought him mortality leading to eventual death (“and death by sin”), C) because of this, his mortality passed down to his descendants (“and so death passed upon all men”) and D) for that reason, meaning because of that mortality, all of us descendants of Adam have also sinned (“for that all have sinned”), giving us a nice unbroken sequence of causes and effects. But if we were to instead interpret the last two parts of the verse as meaning “and so death passed upon all men because all have sinned” we’ve suddenly lost the whole narrative, since this doesn’t tell us why all have sinned the way the literal reading of this verse does. “That all have sinned” because “death passed upon all men” answers that question, but reversing the order (making sin the cause and mortality — which the word “death” is simply being used as metonymy for in this verse — the effect rather than mortality the cause and sin the effect) just makes a mess of the whole thing, leaving us with the question of why we sin, which was a part of what Paul was trying to explain in the first place with this verse (and as for why mortality leads to sin, it’s simply because, while we can have the strength to avoid sinning some of the time, being mortal makes us too weak to avoid sinning all of the time). In fact, if our sin actually was the cause, the verse should have actually been written as: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin… but wait… that really doesn’t matter at all, now that I think about it, since death actually passed upon all men because all the rest of us have sinned too, and this had nothing to do with that one man to begin with, so I don’t know why I even mentioned him in the first place.”

And for those of you who are thinking that the Augustinian concept of “Original Sin” might be the answer to that question, the only scriptural basis for even considering Augustine’s doctrine in the first place is this verse itself, which means it’s a nonstarter when it comes to this topic, since everything I just wrote already demonstrates that it couldn’t possibly work (some Augustinians do attempt to use Psalm 51:5 to defend their doctrine as well, but since there aren’t any other passages in Scripture that say we have the inherited Augustinian “sin nature” — a term not found anywhere in Scripture — they’re trying to defend with that verse, they don’t have anything to base that interpretation on to begin with, especially since there are many other possible interpretations of that verse which don’t turn Romans 5:12, not to mention 1 Corinthians 15:22, into a nonsensical lie as would be the case if “Original Sin” were a valid concept).

On top of all that, though, I’m hoping by now you’ve noticed that Paul didn’t simply write “for all have sinned” here the way he did in Romans 3:23. Instead, he wrote, “for that all have sinned.” Missing a single word when reading a passage in Scripture, such as the word “that” in this case, can change everything and make you completely miss the point of the passage. Yes, one could perhaps be excused for thinking Paul meant “because all have sinned” if he had left out the word “that” in this verse, and if one also hadn’t yet considered all of the above points we just covered. But he didn’t leave it out, and so “for that reason all have sinned” is the only thing Paul could have possibly been getting at in this part of the passage, which means the only way to use the word “because” instead of “for” in this verse is to interpret it along the lines of, “because of that [mortality] all have sinned,” which doesn’t help the idea that sin is the cause rather than the effect either. And so, I maintain that the KJV actually got this correct, and that we should simply stick with what it actually says here and interpret it accordingly, since it gives us answers to both the question of why we’re mortal, as well as the question of why we sin, and also keeps the blame for our mortality, death, and sinfulness squarely on the shoulders of the “one man” Paul meant for us to understand it belongs on: Adam. (At least from a relative perspective, even if God was ultimately the one behind it all from an absolute perspective.)

And so, contrary to what pretty much all Christians have been taught, we ourselves don’t die because we sin. In fact, Adam and Eve were the only humans who died because they sinned — or, rather, began to die/became mortal because they sinned. “In the day you eat from it, to die shall you be dying” is a more literal translation of what God said in the Hebrew Scriptures about the “forbidden fruit,” which is why the CLV translates Genesis 2:17 that way. Remember, the expression “thou shalt surely die” was used in both Genesis 2:17 and in 1 Kings 2:36-46 in the KJV — and was translated from the same Hebrew phrase מוֹת תָּמוּת/“mûṯ mûṯ“ in both passages — and yet, based on the amount of time it would take to travel from Jerusalem to Gath and back (even on horseback), there’s no way that Shimei actually died physically the day he crossed the brook Kidron, as Solomon warned he would in 1 Kings. And he certainly didn’t “die spiritually” that day either, as most Christians mistakenly assume the translation of “surely die” in the KJV means (an assumption they make because they recognize that this is obviously a figurative translation, based on the fact that Adam didn’t physically drop dead on the day he sinned), which confirms that the popular “spiritual death” idea is a complete misunderstanding of the term “surely die” in the KJV. As far as Shimei goes, it just meant that he had basically signed his own death warrant and knew that he was “as good as dead” on the day he crossed the forbidden brook. And as far as Adam and Eve go, it just meant that “to die they began dying,” meaning they gained mortality leading to eventual physical death on the day they ate the forbidden fruit.

I said “most Christians mistakenly assume” in the last paragraph, of course, because “spiritual death” is actually a completely unscriptural and meaningless term (at least outside of the fact that those in the body of Christ died with Christ when He died, but that isn’t what Christians mean when they talk about the so-called “spiritual death” of sinners) since, if our spirits could die, we’d drop dead ourselves. And if the term is simply a metaphor, then it isn’t actually “spiritual death” so much as “metaphorical death” (and if it really is just a metaphor, it can’t be a metaphor for being separated from God, as some assume, because “in Him we live, and move, and have our being,” as Paul explained, so to be separated from God isn’t even possible, since it would mean there was something “outside” of, or “beside,” God, which would make that thing the equal of God, and also mean there was a whole other universe that transcends God, which there would need to be in order for both God and someone separated from God to be existing side by side in). Besides, if Adam did only die metaphorically, then we’ll also only die metaphorically as well (and Christ would have also only died and risen metaphorically too), which raises the question of why Adam did become mortal that day, if literal mortality leading to death wasn’t his actual punishment, and why Paul says vivification from mortality is what our salvation from the consequence of Adam’s sin actually is. This also tells us that “to die” can’t possibly be a reference to being punished in the lake of fire, by the way, because Adam didn’t end up in that location the day he sinned either, so becoming mortal is the best interpretation of this warning if you don’t want to descend into the realm of contradiction and even outright absurdity, and since it lines up so well with the literal translation of Genesis 2:17, as well as with what 1 Corinthians 15:22 and Romans 5:12 say, all the more reason to interpret it this way.

Understanding this also helps explain why Jesus was able to avoid sinning, as well as why we’ll stop sinning too once we’re made immortal, by the way. Some people will say, “The reason Jesus didn’t sin is because He’s God, and only God in the flesh could avoid sinning so He could be the perfect sacrifice for sin,” but what they’re telling us when they say that, even if they don’t realize it, is that we humans could then never be free of sin, not even after our resurrection, since we aren’t going to become God, so that couldn’t possibly be the reason. Instead, the reason is because He was what I refer to as amortal rather than mortal, which means that, while He wasn’t yet immortal, which means being entirely incapable of dying — as we’ll also be when we’re vivified, just like He is now — the fact that He didn’t have a human father meant He wasn’t slowly dying the way we mortals are either, and not having mortality coursing through His veins, along with having the Spirit without measure, meant He was strong enough to avoid giving into temptation to sin (this combination of amortality and the Spirit without measure also kept Him alive, even on the cross, until He was ready to die and willingly gave up His life). This means Adam could have also theoretically avoided sinning if the circumstances had worked out that way, although he didn’t have the Spirit without measure like Jesus did, and ultimately gave in to temptation (for various reasons that I don’t have the time to get into right now, but which are explained in at least one of the books I link to in a later chapter), leading to the mortality and sin that all of us now get to experience.

That Adam is ultimately responsible for our mortality, death, and sinfulness, and even our condemnation, is also backed up a few lines later in Romans 5 as well, in verses 18–19, when Paul told us that, just as judgement to condemnation came upon all men because of the offence and disobedience of one, and not because of their own offences or disobedience, righteousness and justification of life will also come upon all men because of the obedience of one, and not because of their own obedience — which would have to include obedience towards any commands to do anything specific in order to get saved, including commands to choose to believe anything specific, at least as far as salvation from an absolute perspective goes — telling us that only two people are responsible for our current and future states, the first Adam and the last Adam, and that we’re just along for the ride. 

You see, when Paul wrote, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous,” he was using another set of parallelisms there, something he seemed to love using to prove this particular point in various epistles, where the “all” and the “many” in the second part of each sentence has to consist of no less than the exact same number of people who fall under the “all” and “many” in the first part of the sentences, or else the parallelisms would fall apart, as would his entire point. (But for those who still really want to blame our mortality and death on our own sins rather than ultimately blaming it on the first Adam’s sin, I’d be curious to know what they believe the condemnation that came upon all men because of the offence and disobedience of one/Adam actually even is, exactly, not to mention why Paul included the part about “wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin“ in verse 12, and also why he claimed that “in Adam all die” in 1 Corinthians 15:22.)

Now, some like to insist that one has to first choose to receive the free gift to be included in the second half of these parallelisms (completely ignoring how parallelisms work), based on the inclusion of the word “receive” in verse 17, but Paul didn’t actually say anything about receiving the gift being a choice in that verse at all (although, if it was a choice, then receiving the “abundance of grace” mentioned in that verse would also have to be a choice). The idea that receiving the free gift is a choice is an assumption that one has to read into the verse, since it just isn’t there in the text, and we already know that receiving something isn’t necessarily something one chooses anyway, as evidenced by how Paul told us that, on five separate occasions, he received thirty-nine stripes. Since he would have experienced those lashes whether he first purposefully chose to receive them or not (at no point did he say to his assailants, “Please whip me”; and had he instead said, “I refuse to receive these stripes,” they still would have whipped him anyway), it’s time to reconsider the idea that “receiving the free gift” is something one chooses rather than simply experiences apart from anything they have to choose to do, because, aside from the fact that this would make salvation something they gained through their own obedience rather than because of the obedience of one/Christ (thus contradicting Paul’s entire point, which is that only the first Adam and the last Adam are responsible for anything that happens to us when it comes to both our condemnation and our salvation), having to choose to receive it would also be something one had to accomplish in order to be saved, which by definition would make it a work one had to do in order to be saved, and the most difficult work one could ever do at that, based on how difficult most people find it to “choose to receive the gift” and “get saved” (at least as far as the traditional Christian understanding of what salvation is goes). And so, rather than being offered money as a gift and having the option to either accept it or reject it, which is a flawed analogy many Christians like to use when discussing salvation, it’s actually more like having money directly deposited into one’s bank account entirely without their knowledge (with evangelism being about telling people the money is there, whether or not they happen to believe it, or “choose to receive it”).

The reason most Christians insist that receiving the free gift has to be a choice (aside from simply never having considered the possibility that it might not be) is because they just don’t want to accept that salvation (especially from an absolute and physical perspective) could possibly be something we have no say in, which is why they also insist that we’re entirely responsible for our own condemnation, mortality, and death as well, contrary to what Paul wrote. You see, if our condemnation is based entirely on the action of one (Adam), as Paul said it was, then our salvation would have to be based entirely upon the action of one as well (the last Adam), as Paul also said it is, rather than based (at least in part) upon a wise decision we ourselves make to receive the free gift, and the pride of most Christians just won’t allow them to accept that as a possibility (because, although they’ll deny it — even to themselves — most of them, at least on a subconscious level, really want to be able to take the credit for having made the wise decision to “get saved,” and many definitely want those who don’t make the same wise choice they did to be responsible for not getting saved, based on the tragically large number of Christians who have asked me things along the lines of, “Are you saying that unbelievers will get the same reward as me? Even though they didn’t choose to accept Christ like I did?”, thus telling us they believe they earned, and even deserve, salvation because they were smart enough to choose to receive it, unlike all those sinners who aren’t smart enough to make the same good choice they did and hence don’t also deserve it the way they do).

I should quickly add, some will point out that 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 also talks about “receiving” the Gospel Paul preached unto them, and that the salvation referred to in that passage seems like it could possibly be said to be conditional, if we take the passage on its own without considering the rest of Scripture. But if we interpret the passage as Paul referring to receiving salvation rather than simply receiving (or hearing) the message he preached unto them, based on what we’ve already covered (not to mention still have yet to cover), it could only be talking about receiving the relative salvation that involves joining the body of Christ after hearing his Gospel there (a form of salvation that not everyone receives), not the absolute and physical salvation that’s discussed throughout the rest of the chapter (as well as that’s discussed in Romans 5), so even if someone did have to choose to “receive” salvation from a relative perspective, it doesn’t mean anyone has to choose to receive salvation from an absolute or physical perspective. (Although, as you’ll learn later on in this book, even that kind of salvation isn’t actually based on anything we ourselves choose to do or receive, but is instead based entirely on God’s choice regarding whom He’ll have receive it, and the only question in that passage was over whether or not someone had actually truly been given the faith to believe Paul’s Gospel, rather than over whether they chose to believe his Gospel of their own so-called “free will,” but that’s a topic for later.)

This all means it’s time to recognize that the idea of the salvation Paul primarily wrote about (at least from an absolute and physical perspective) being based at all upon something people have to do for themselves — even if what they have to do for themselves is something as supposedly simple as having to choose to believe the right thing — rather than being based entirely upon what one/Christ did for us, is really something one must read into the text based on one’s preconceived idea that salvation depends at least partly (even if just 1%) on us and our wise decision to believe and/or do something specific rather than depends 100% on what one/Christ did. Simply put, Paul is placing the responsibility for both our condemnation and our eventual salvation on two men, and on two men alone, rather than on each individual human who will ever have lived. The whole point of the parallelisms in each of these passages is to make it clear that one/Christ has at least the exact same level of effect on humanity that one/Adam had, meaning Christ’s action changes the exact same number of people that fall into the categories of “all” or “many” that Adam’s action did. (And if Christ’s action doesn’t change the exact same number of people that Adam’s action did, it means that Adam’s failure was ultimately more efficacious than Christ’s victory was, making Adam and his sin more powerful than Christ and His death for our sins, considering the fact that none of us had to choose to allow Adam’s sin to make us mortal the way most Christians think we have to choose to allow Christ’s death for our sins to make us immortal.)

If you’re still finding this hard to accept, Paul’s parallelism in 1 Corinthians 15:22 can also be expressed mathematically: “For as in ax die, even so in z, shall x be made alive.” The way parallelisms work means that the set (or variable, if you prefer) known as “x” has to be the exact same group (or number) of people in both clauses (with “a” and “z” being two different reasons for their two respective states at two different periods of time), not two separate groups of people who have to choose between Adam and Christ. In fact, since this is a parallelism, and because we know that nobody specifically made a conscious choice to “choose Adam” (I don’t recall ever thinking to myself, “I accept Adam as my condemner” before becoming mortal, which would have to be the case if we, “even so,” need to choose to “accept Jesus as our Saviour” in order to be saved; and if our condemnation happens without our conscious decision to “accept Adam,” then, “even so,” our salvation would also have to happen without our conscious decision to “accept Christ,” since this is a parallelism), or chose to die “in Adam,” but rather we were all simply born mortal (remember, our condemnation to mortality, death, and sinfulness was entirely because of one/Adam, and not because of anything we ourselves did, or else newborn babies who haven’t sinned yet would never die, and, at the very least, it would be extremely unlikely that third trimester abortions could even be performed), this also means that, “even so,” nobody can choose to be “in Christ” either (if this verse meant that it’s up to us to specifically choose to be “in Christ,” it would mean that it was up to us to specifically choose to be “in Adam” first, which we already know isn’t the case, since we’re all born mortal; and if these were positional sorts of states, and we could unknowingly end up “in Adam” by committing an act we didn’t realize placed us there, it would also mean that,“even so,” the only way to end up “in Christ” would have to also be by unknowingly committing an act we didn’t realize placed us there either). “All” (“x”) are mortal/dying “through Adam” or “because of what Adam did” (“in a”) rather than because of any choice of their own (our mortality precedes any choice of our own, and is in fact the reason we sin, as we just covered), and they will “all” (“x,” again) also eventually be “made alive”/become immortal “through Christ” or “because of what Christ did” (“in z”) rather than because of any choice of their own. And the same applies to when Paul uses the words “many” and “all” in his parallelisms in Romans 5 as well (go ahead and put an x in place of the words “many” and “all” in the passages in Romans 5 to see for yourself). With this in mind, the only way 1 Corinthians 15:22 could possibly mean that only some people (believers) will be vivified/“made alive” is if the verse said, “For as in Adam only some die, even so in Christ shall only some be made alive,” or if it perhaps said, “For as in Adam all die, unevenly so in Christ shall only some be made alive” (the words “even so” there basically mean “in the same way,” or “equally so,” telling us that the variable x has to be the same number of people on both sides of the words “even so”).

Unfortunately, due to a combination of the fact that most Christians misunderstand the various passages in Scripture about judgement, “hell,” and the lake of fire, especially the ones that include warnings by Jesus (which are indeed serious warnings, but they don’t mean anything even close to what most people have assumed they mean, as I’ll demonstrate later in this chapter) — and are misinterpreting these and other Pauline passages about salvation in light of their misunderstandings of those judgement passages rather than interpreting those particular passages in light of these and other Pauline passages about salvation (because they don’t realize that the salvation Jesus spoke about during His earthly ministry was an entirely different sort of salvation from the one Paul was writing about here, they mistakenly assume that, since not everyone experiences that sort of salvation, not everyone will experience the type of salvation that Paul was writing about here either; but even among the relatively few who do realize that these are different types of salvation, most aren’t aware of the fact that, outside of the cases where he was discussing Israel’s salvation under the Gospel of the kingdom, which is a type of salvation that not everyone will get to enjoy, Paul was sometimes writing about salvation from an absolute perspective, which refers to having our/humanity’s sin dealt with by Christ’s death, sometimes writing about salvation from a physical perspective, which refers to being made immortal and hence sinless, and sometimes writing about salvation from a relative perspective, which refers to joining the body of Christ and getting to experience physical salvation early, and which itself has different “levels” of rewards that not every member of the body of Christ will necessarily be included in either, and so they make the assumption that he always meant the exact same thing whenever he mentioned salvation or being saved, causing them to end up with the inconsistent and contradictory doctrines they‘ve come to believe instead) — along with the fact that this verse says “in” (“in Adam” and “in Christ”) rather than “through” or “because of” (which is what the word is talking about here), most Christians read these passages and come away with extremely confused interpretations. Since one can only be “in” one of two people at a time, positionally-speaking, this causes them to miss the fact that the word “all” is the exact same group of people in both clauses (referring to “all of humanity”). To be fair, “in” obviously can mean “inside” something, positionally-speaking (either literally or figuratively, depending on the context), but it can also mean “through [the action of]” or “because of” something or someone, and that’s clearly what Paul was getting at in this parallelism.

However, let’s pretend to forget all of the above, and assume for a moment that this passage actually is referring to being “in Christ” from a positional perspective rather than referring to our immortality being because of what Christ accomplished. Does that change anything at all about the end result I concluded it would culminate in (all humans eventually experiencing salvation from a physical perspective)? Not even slightly. To put it simply, because this is a parallelism, we’d then be forced to read it as meaning: just as every human begins dying by being “in Adam,” even so every human will end up made alive by being “in Christ.” So even if you interpret “in” positionally here, being a parallelism would force this verse to then mean that every single person will be “in” both of these two people (Adam and Christ), figuratively speaking, just at two different points of time in each of our lives. That said, when you consider the fact that the context of the chapter was resurrection and vivification, it’s pretty clear that Paul was literally telling us in this parallelism that even though “because of what Adam did all humans are mortal, even so because of what Christ did all humans will be vivified” (and to be vivified means to experience salvation from a physical perspective, finally enjoying one’s immortality, and hence sinlessness).

For anyone who might somehow still be sceptical, though, hypothetically speaking, if Paul was trying to explain in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5 that, because of what Adam did, every single human has been condemned to mortality and sinfulness, yet, equally so, because of what Christ did, every single human is guaranteed to eventually enjoy immortality and sinlessness, I’d like you to tell me what he would have needed to have written differently in those chapters in order to convince you that this is what he meant.

All that said, while Paul tells us in verse 22 of 1 Corinthians 15 that everyone who experiences mortality because of what Adam did will also eventually experience immortality because of what Christ did, he also tells us in verses 23 and 24 that there’s an order to when each person will be made fully alive.

The first order mentioned is “Christ the firstfruits,” which refers to the body of Christ being vivified at the time Christ comes for His body (this order of vivifications would not include the Head of the body Himself, though; the body being vivified in the future would have to exclude Him specifically, since otherwise verse 22 would also mean that “in Christ shall Christ be made alive,” which is a pretty meaningless statement, not to mention one which is contradicted by Peter, who wrote that Christ was already quickened, or vivified/“made alive” — past tense — by the Holy Spirit, not that He will be vivified/“made alive” — future tense, which is the tense verse 22 uses — by His own power, as though He isn’t already immortal now). The dead who will be resurrected, as well as the members of the body of Christ who are still living (the dead members of the body of Christ will be resurrected first, after which they and the remaining living members of the body of Christ will be “made alive”/made immortal as we meet the Lord in the air), will experience this immortality at the Snatching Away (which is the actual version of the event often called the Rapture that many Christians mistakenly believe will eventually happen to them, and which should also not be confused with the Second Coming), before we’re taken to our celestial destiny in the heavens. This event is God withdrawing His ambassadors from earth (as one does prior to declaring war) before the Tribulation begins, who then go on to fulfill their purpose in Christ among the celestials.

The second order is “they that are Christ’s at his coming,” referring to those in the Israel of God who are vivified after being resurrected at Israel’s first resurrection (which the CLV calls the former resurrection, also referred to elsewhere as the resurrection of the just), near the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, 75 days after Jesus returns to earth and the Tribulation period has concluded (people such as “Old Testament” saints, for example, at least from the point of Abraham onwards, as well as those who died following the teachings that Jesus and His disciples shared). I should say, for a long time I assumed that everyone who gets to enjoy the sort of salvation Jesus spoke about, both dead and living, will be made immortal at this point, but I’ve since concluded that only those who were dead and who will be resurrected shortly after the Second Coming will be made immortal at this time, and everyone else who gets to enjoy what the KJV and other less literal Bible versions refer to as “everlasting life” (which is a figure of speech that does not literally mean “immortality,” as we’ve already discussed, or even “never-ending life,” as we’ll get into more detail on soon) while living in the kingdom of heaven in Israel will simply remain alive (at least to begin with) thanks to partaking of the fruit and the leaves of the tree of life on a monthly basis, and won’t be made truly immortal until the final order of vivifications is completed much later. As for why I’ve come to this conclusion, I’ll just quickly say that if the reward for “overcoming” by some of those during the Tribulation will be to partake of the tree of life, and if one needs to continuously consume its products in order to remain healthy and alive, as Revelation 22:2 appears to say, yet the vivification of the resurrected dead happens instantaneously and is irreversible, as is demonstrated by those in the body of Christ when they’re caught up in the air to meet the Lord, it seems that there must two different methods of remaining alive on this earth and the New Earth (vivification as the first method, and partaking of the tree of life on a regular basis as the second). With that in mind, I should also say that some like to group the body of Christ in with this order as well, and believe it applies to everyone who experiences the salvation that Jesus spoke about, as well as those who experience the salvation that Paul wrote about — even if some are vivified three-and-a-half or more (likely more; in fact, almost certainly more than seven) years apart from each other — and believe the first order is just speaking of Jesus Himself. However, as I already mentioned, to do so really doesn’t make any sense, so placing the body of Christ in the first order rather than the second makes the most sense, and even more-so if I’m correct that only the resurrected dead members of those in the Israel of God will be vivified at the end of the Tribulation, which it would seem has to be the case for the reason I already explained, as well as because there wouldn’t be anyone left to fulfill the prophecies of righteous Israelites not only growing old but also having children in the kingdom during the Millennium and on the New Earth if every member of the Israel of God were vivified when Jesus returns, as I’ve also previously mentioned (and the fact that all the living members of the body of Christ are vivified when they’re caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, as well as the fact that the dead in Christ are resurrected before those who are still living when they go to meet the Him in the air, yet those who are raised from the dead at the resurrection of the just are still dead more than 2 months after Jesus’ Second Coming, is also more evidence that the body of Christ is not the Israel of God, and that our respective vivifications take place at different times). But that does bring up the question of when the rest of the members of the Israel of God will be “made alive”/made truly immortal, not to mention everyone else who might not get to enjoy “everlasting” life, and the answer to this is found in the very next verse.

Of course, most people who read this chapter assume “they that are Christ’s at his coming” in verse 23 is the final group of vivifications mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 (if they even realize that Paul was talking about vivification at all), but Paul actually speaks of a third and final (“end”) group to be vivified/“made alive” when he wrote “then cometh the end” (or “thereafter the consummation” — εἶτα τὸ τέλος/“eita to telos” in the original Greek — as the CLV put is) in verse 24. Now, this technically could be said to have a double fulfillment of sorts, since the consummation of the eons, also known as the end of the ages, is almost certainly when this final vivification occurs (and is something that the body of Christ has already attained in spirit, and will have also attained physically at their own vivification, long before the actual final eon or age ends, but that the eons/ages will end isn’t the point Paul was making), and this has caused most people to misunderstand Paul’s statement there to mean that he’d moved on from the topic of resurrection and vivification and had now begun discussing the end of the eons (or simply the end of our current world, as others assume) instead. But Paul had not even hinted at any such topics in this chapter so far, yet had just mentioned an order of different groups of people to be “made alive” in the verse immediately prior to this one (when he wrote, “but every man in his own order”), so there’s absolutely zero basis for interpreting this statement as meaning anything other than Paul telling his readers that “then the end group of men from the ‘every man in his own order’ of groups of men will be made immortal,” and then going on to explain that this final vivification will occur at a time in the future when all enemies are finally put under Christ’s feet. In fact, he even used his statement about Christ’s enemies to prove his point that all humanity will be vivified, by writing that the final enemy — death — will be destroyed, or abolished, altogether. Since death can’t be considered to have been truly destroyed as long as A) anyone remains dead, and B) anyone is still in a state of slowly dying, or is even capable of dying, meaning there are any humans left who are not yet immortal (and remember, immortality for humans is always connected with salvation in Scripture), we know that this has to include everyone else, even those who died a second death in the lake of fire, which means they’ll have to be resurrected a second time as well. It would make no sense at all for Paul to go from discussing resurrection and immortality to suddenly arbitrarily discussing an entirely unrelated topic altogether — the triumph of Christ over His enemies and the destruction of death, at a time after the vivification of “they that are Christ’s at his coming,” but with no connection to what He’d just been discussing at all — then to go right back to discussing resurrection and immortality again as he does a few verses later, so this is obviously still about the same topic, and is simply referring to the end of the order of “every man in his own order” to be “made alive.”

Now, a lot of Christians simply assume that the reference to the destruction of death in verse 26 is just talking about the salvation of “they that are Christ’s at His coming” in verse 23 (they have to, because of their assumption that not everyone will experience salvation). But aside from the fact that death somehow being said to be destroyed by that group of people being vivified (or being saved in whatever way they assume this means) when Christ returns would mean nobody after Christ’s return (including anyone born during the Millennium and on the New Earth, as well as those in the Israel of God who aren’t vivified at the Second Coming) could possibly be saved, because the final salvation via the destruction of death would then have already been said to have taken place when Christ returned (because, if salvation was figuratively referred to as the destruction of “death,” there wouldn’t be any “death” left to destroy for anyone else to get saved by it happening again afterwards, since it will have already been destroyed at that point), this also isn’t possible because verses 24 and 25 tell us that His enemies are subjected, and that death is destroyed, at a point in time after “they that are Christ’s at His coming” have been vivified rather than that His enemies are subjected — and that death is destroyed — by that group being vivified. Remember, death is the last enemy to be defeated, yet there will still be more death and enemies continuing to exist long after the vivification of “they that are Christ’s at His coming,” since, aside from any death that will occur on earth during the Millennium itself, there is also going to be a final, even if somewhat short and one-sided, battle between Him and those who consider Him to be their enemy a thousand years after the vivification of “they that are Christ’s at His coming,” which will involve the death of all those enemies who rose up against Israel in that attack.

But it’s not only the death which occurs during the Millennium that causes problems for that interpretation. The death which occurs after it does as well. You see, we’re also told in Isaiah 65 that death will continue to exist on the New Earth too, long after “they that are Christ’s at His coming” have been vivified, at least for a certain period of time after the Great White Throne Judgement (when it said, “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed”). And for those who are thinking that Revelation 21:1–8 means there won’t be any death on the New Earth, a careful study of that passage should make it clear that this only applies to those who get to reside within the walls of the New Jerusalem, at least until “the end” group of “every man in his own order” of groups is finally vivified, when death is finally destroyed altogether. Of course, the fact that some people will be dead in the lake of fire at that time also proves that death continues to remain an enemy on the New Earth, at least for a time (since a second death would still be death), and so death can’t be said to have been destroyed until everyone who is dead in the lake of fire is no longer dead.

Of course, some Christians instead assume the references to death in these verses are talking about the mythical “spiritual death” that most Christians believe in (and which some of them mistakenly assume the death in verse 22 is talking about as well, although if it was, then Jesus definitely couldn’t be included in the “firstfruits” reference, unless you believe He also “died spiritually,” whatever that means, “in Adam”; although, if He did, He would have then only been “made alive” spiritually “in Himself” as well, and wouldn’t have been physically resurrected), but if this part of the chapter is just talking about a so-called “spiritual death” rather than physical mortality, and it’s only talking about certain people being given some sort of “spiritual life” (or “going to heaven” after they die, which we now know isn’t even a scriptural concept, since only the living can enjoy life in outer space, which we’ve learned is what “heaven” primarily refers to in Scripture), the same problem that applies to those who think the destruction of death is simply referring to the salvation of “they that are Christ’s at His coming” would have to apply here as well, because the end of “death” doesn’t occur until after both “they that are Christ’s at His coming” are saved and all the rest of Christ’s enemies have been subjected as well, since it’s the final enemy to be defeated. (Although, if there were such a thing as “spiritual death,” this would mean that eventually everyone else will also become “spiritually alive” when Christ subjects His enemies and destroys death, since if “death” in this chapter was simply a reference to the so-called “spiritual death” so many believe in, there couldn’t be any “spiritual death” left once Christ destroys it, long after “they that are Christ’s at His coming” have been “made alive,” which means that everyone left who is still “spiritually dead” at that time will become “spiritually alive” when death is destroyed as well, especially based on the fact that verse 22 is a parallelism.)

So, unless someone has a better explanation of what these verses are referring to (one which doesn’t contradict the rest of Scripture, and so far one hasn’t been forthcoming when I’ve asked), it would seem this would definitely have to be referring to the final group, or the rest of humanity (including both those who are dead — meaning those whose bodies will have been burned up when they died their second death in the lake of fire at the Great White Throne Judgement, and those who happen to die on the New Earth — as well as those who are still living, thanks to having partaken of the fruit and the leaves of the tree of life to keep from dying, but haven’t been vivified yet, referring to those whose names were written in the book of life at the Great White Throne Judgement after their resurrection for said judgement who hadn’t already been vivified previously, as well as those, and the descendants of those, still mortal humans who didn’t join Satan and die during his final rebellion at the end of the Millennium), fully vivified after the final age/eon is completed (the ages, or eons, being a topic we’ll get more into shortly) and Jesus’ reign over the kingdom comes to an end because He’s placed all enemies (including death) under His feet (which ultimately just means that He’ll no longer have any enemies at that time: in some cases, such as in the case of death, because they’ve been destroyed altogether and no longer even exist, but in other cases because they’ll then be at peace with Him and God, as I’ll soon prove from another letter of Paul’s) and turns all rulership (including rulership over Himself) over to His Father.

This means, by the way, that people who use passages which seem to tell us Jesus will reign forever to prove that “everlasting torment” in “hell” (or, for Annihilationists, that destruction or annihilation) also never ends because those passages use the same English and Greek words are actually basing their argument on an obvious misunderstanding, since Paul is clear that His reign will end eventually, and that His reign actually only continues for the eons, or for the eons of the eons (or the ages of the ages), as more literal Bible translations make clear, meaning He reigns for the final two — and greatest — eons (we’re currently living in the third, and perhaps most wicked or evil, eon/age), but stops reigning after they’re over. This also demonstrates just how few people are aware that A) nearly all of the passages that are translated as “eternal,” “everlasting,” or “for ever” in the popular, and less literal, versions of the Bible have to be interpreted figuratively based on this fact, as well as that B) everyone will eventually be vivified/“made alive,” which Paul knew because he saw much farther into the future than John did in the prophecies he recorded in The Unveiling of Jesus Christ — better known by most people as the book of Revelation — since John only saw into the beginning of the fifth eon on the New Earth, when death is a much less powerful force than it is now, but still exists, since, at the very least, there will still be dead bodies in the lake of fire at that time, whereas Paul saw a much later point of time, at the consummation of the eons, when death is finally destroyed altogether, and nobody can be left dead at all if there isn’t any death left (which there couldn’t be if it’s been destroyed).

The simple truth is, the words “everlasting” and “eternal,” not to mention “for ever,” almost never actually mean “never ending,” or “without end,” when you read them in less literal translations of Scripture such as the KJV, any more than they do when they’re used in everyday speech today, but almost always have to be read as hyperbole in such Bible versions. This isn’t to say it’s impossible that these words are meant to be interpreted quantitatively rather than qualitatively in certain passages where they’re used in the KJV and other less literal Bible translations, of course (and I’m not insisting that they couldn’t possibly have ever had a quantitative meaning when they were used outside of Scripture back then either), but one has to consider each instance of these words extremely carefully when reading Scripture, looking at the context of the passage, as well as of Scripture as a whole, before deciding they are meant to be interpreted quantitatively in a specific passage, so as not to contradict the rest of Scripture (since, if Scripture contradicted itself, there would be no reason to even consider what the Bible has to say about this topic in the first place, and nearly anyone who did so would likely be wasting their time), and when one does look into Scripture in its original languages, while taking everything we’ve covered in this chapter into consideration (as well as what we’ve yet to cover, as you’ll soon discover), it becomes evident that “for ever” in the KJV has to generally be a figurative term speaking of “the age,” or “the eon” (referring to the impending age, or eon, that will last for 1,000 years when the Israel of God rules the planet after Jesus returns, also known as the Millennium), or “the ages [that are coming]”/“the [oncoming] eons” (referring to the final two — and greatest — ages/eons, including both the 1,000-year age/eon when the Israel of God will rule the world, as well as the final age/eon on the New Earth — also known as the eon of the eons — prior to the end of the ages/consummation of the eons), and that “everlasting” and “eternal” in the KJV also have to both generally be figurative terms which mean “pertaining to an age/eon or ages/eons” or “taking place during an age/eon or ages/eons” (referring again to one or both of the two aforementioned future ages/eons, depending on the context), although these three terms can also sometimes simply figuratively refer to an indefinite period of time in the present evil age/eon we currently live in, but with a definite beginning and end (similarly, looking at the Greek makes it clear that the word “never” in the KJV also has to often be a figurative translation, generally just meaning “not for the age/eon,” telling us that, whatever the passage in question is referring to, it can’t possibly happen until the impending 1,000-year age/eon known as the Millennium has ended). However, for those who are looking for even more proof of this than what Paul wrote (although the fact that Paul tells us everyone will be vivified should make this obvious enough to anyone who is being honest with themselves), all we have to do is look to the Hebrew Scriptures, which make it very clear that nearly everything referred to by these words in the less literal English Bible versions using them does eventually come to an end.

For example, in Exodus 21:6 we read about servants who choose to remain in servitude rather than going free on the seventh year, as was their right: “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” If we interpret the “for ever” there as literally referring to a period of time that never ends, it would either mean that the servant (or slave) in question can never die, or that the servant will have to remain in bondage to his master without end, even after both of their physical resurrections and judgements at the Great White Throne in the distant future (as well as in any afterlife, if one actually exists, in the meantime, even if they both ended up in different places while dead). Since I doubt anyone believes either of these options to be the case, I trust everyone would agree that the “for ever” in this verse is actually a hyperbolic translation which really means “for a specific time period, even if the end date (the time of the servant’s death) is currently unknown,” which demonstrates that when we see the phrase “for ever” in the Bible, we can’t just automatically assume it means “without end.”

Of course, some Bible versions do say things like “for life,” or “permanently,” rather than “for ever” in this verse, but at the very least, you have to admit that עוֹלָם/“olam” (which is the Hebrew word that “for ever” is translated from in this verse in the KJV) doesn’t literally mean “without end” or “never ending” (or at least doesn’t necessarily always mean “without end” or “never ending”), and this tells us that just because we see “for ever” in an English translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (or even “everlasting,” for that matter, which is also translated from the same Hebrew word), it doesn’t mean we should automatically assume it means “without end” or “never ending” either, which is really all I’m getting at here.

However, I have had people insist that, even if the word עוֹלָם doesn’t necessarily mean “never ending” in an ontological sense, the word should still always be understood as meaning something along the lines of “it’s going to be like this for as long as the thing or person in question exists.” The thing is, aside from the problems this would cause that we’ve already discussed about the servant remaining enslaved even after his death and resurrection (unless you believe the servant never exists again after his death, and there’s nothing in the text which indicates that עוֹלָם should only apply to his first life on earth if you’re going to read it this way), that assertion also ignores the fact that עוֹלָם was translated other ways which contradict this conclusion as well, such as when it was rendered as “of old” in Deuteronomy 32:7, and to insist that the word absolutely has to be rendered in a more “perpetual” manner would also mean that verse would have needed to be translated as saying something along the lines of “remember the days that never ended,” or “remember the days that we’re still experiencing,” instead.

But is there any basis for my assertion that the word עוֹלָם doesn’t necessarily mean “without end” anywhere else in the Bible, or are those the only examples? In fact, that this word doesn’t necessarily mean “never ending” when it’s used in the Bible can be seen in many places throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, Isaiah 32:14–15 says: “Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest.” Unless we’re meant to believe that Jerusalem will be left forsaken and desolate and never recover or be inhabited again, as verse 14 seems to say, we have to interpret that “for ever” as meaning a specific period of time again, just as we had to do with the previous example. And, indeed, verse 15 tells us when that “for ever” ends, stating that Jerusalem will be left deserted “for ever,” until the spirit be poured from on high.

And those weren’t the only passages to demonstrate that it doesn’t mean “never ending.” We also read about the fact that the Aaronic priesthood will be “everlasting” in Exodus 40:15 (with “everlasting” also being translated from עוֹלָם there), yet we know from Hebrews 7:14–22 that the priesthood of Aaron’s descendants is to be replaced by Jesus Christ, who will be “a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec,” and we know from 1 Corinthians 15 that even this new priesthood which is figuratively said to last “for ever” is eventually no longer going to be necessary either. That this “everlasting” priesthood will eventually come to an end is also backed up by the fact that, while the believing descendants of Isaac and Jacob will reign over the people of the earth as “kings and priests” during the thousand-year period of time when the kingdom of heaven finally fully exists on earth, there almost certainly won’t be any Israelite priests on the New Earth at all, because there won’t be any need for them with no physical temple in the New Jerusalem (and there definitely won’t be a need for them after the eons conclude and death has been abolished, since everyone will have been vivified, and hence made sinless, at that point, and so a priesthood will no longer be necessary).

Similarly, in 1 Chronicles 16:17 we read, “and hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant,” which seems to tell us that the Old Covenant can never come to an end and be replaced by a New Covenant because it’s said to be “everlasting,” but we know from other parts of Scripture that there will be a New Covenant for those in the house of Israel and the house of Judah, and that their Old Covenant in fact began to decay when Christ died (and will indeed eventually vanish away entirely, if it hasn’t already). So we can see that “everlasting” doesn’t necessarily mean “never ending” or “without end” when we read that word in the Bible any more than “for ever” does.

The translators of the KJV also demonstrated quite clearly that they didn’t believe עוֹלָם always means “without end” in Ecclesiastes 12:5, where they used the word עוֹלָם to say “his long home” when referring to the time someone who is dead spends in the grave. Since we know that everyone who dies will eventually be resurrected to face judgement (or enjoy salvation) one day, nobody could ever be resurrected from the dead if עוֹלָם meant ”never ending.” (Interestingly, though, some Bible versions actually do translate the verse to say “eternal home,” telling us that the word “eternal” can be just as figurative in those versions as it is in the KJV, unless we’re ignoring the passages that discuss the future resurrection of the dead.)

Now, I could go on and on with example after example of things that were said to be “for ever” or “everlasting” in the Bible but which eventually ended, but I trust it’s obvious by now that the translators believed those who read the KJV are able to understand figurative language, and that they never intended for anyone to assume that “for ever” or “everlasting” should be interpreted as meaning “never ending” or “without end” in the so-called “Old Testament” books, with “for ever” generally just being figurative language that refers to “an age,” or to “a seemingly long period of time with a definite beginning and end” when translated from the Hebrew Scriptures, and “everlasting” generally just meaning “eonian” or “age-pertaining” (“pertaining to an eon/age or eons/ages,” in other words), age-during (“taking place during an age or ages,” in other words), or even just “long lasting,” when translated from the Hebrew Scriptures, with nearly everything that’s said to be “everlasting” or said to last “for ever” eventually coming to an end. These words are quite clearly being used as hyperbole in most parts of the KJV and other less literal Bible versions when translated from the Hebrew Scriptures, and are not meant to be taken literally at all (and if you look עוֹלָם up in a concordance, you can see many more examples for yourself proving that this Hebrew word doesn’t necessarily mean “never ending” or “without end”).

And with all that in mind, if “for ever” and “everlasting” don’t necessarily mean “without end” or “never ending” in the parts of the Bible translated from the Hebrew Scriptures, it stands to reason that there’s a good chance they don’t necessarily mean that in the parts of the Bible translated from the Greek Scriptures either. Outside of the clear proof I’ve just provided from Paul’s epistles that they don’t, based on what he wrote everyone being vivified (at least it should be clear proof for those who are using systematic theology to interpret Scripture), this is also made obvious by the fact that עוֹלָם is translated as αἰωνίων/“aionion” in the parts of the LXX (also known as the Septuagint, which is the earliest still-existing Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) where it’s translated figuratively as “everlasting” in the KJV, and since αἰωνίων is often translated as “everlasting” or “eternal” in the books of the less literal Bible versions translated from the Greek Scriptures (although it’s not always translated that way either, even in the KJV), one would think this means that we shouldn’t just automatically assume the words “everlasting” and “eternal” were meant to be interpreted literally in the English translations of these books either (especially since, if עוֹלָם often doesn’t mean “never ending,” it makes no sense to then say that its Greek translation as αἰωνίων can only mean “never ending,” as some insist, when we already know from the LXX that it rarely means that anyway, which is why it’s transliterated as “eonian” in the CLV), and that neither should “never” or “for ever,” both of which are also translated from cognates of αἰωνίων: such as αἰών/“aion,” which literally means a singular “age,” or long period of time with a definite beginning and end (which is why it’s transliterated as “eon” in the CLV, which makes sense considering the fact that “eon” is an English synonym for “age,” in case anyone reading this still wasn’t aware), and αἰῶνας/“aionas,” which literally means plural “ages,” or multiple periods of time, each with a definite beginning and end, based on the definition of the word “age” (which is why this word is transliterated as “eons” in the CLV), and which are both translated as “age” and “ages” in different parts of less literal English translations as well — although the KJV technically uses “world” in places that mean “age/eon,” but various other less literal translations use “age” instead of “world” in those same verses — telling us that these words definitely don’t only mean “can’t ever” or “without end.”

In fact, unless we want to believe there are three eternities, including a “past eternity” (we can see from the way the KJV translators rendered 1 Corinthians 2:7 to say “before the world” instead of “before for ever” or “before eternity” that they knew better than to always translate the word αἰών in a manner that denotes a period of time which never ends; although the CLV did an even better job of translating it as “before the eons”), as well as a “present eternity“ and a “future eternity“ (which the KJV translators rendered as “neither in this world, neither in the world to come” rather than “neither in this for ever or in the for ever to come” or “neither in this eternity or in the eternity to come” in Matthew 12:32; although, once again, the CLV did a better job of translating it as “neither in this eon nor in that which is impending”), we can see that the word αἰών simply doesn’t necessarily mean “without end,” just as the KJV’s rendering of αἰωνίων as “before the world began” in 2 Timothy 1:9 instead of “before eternity began” (and which the CLV renders even more meaningfully as “before times eonian”), and as “since the world began” in Romans 16:25 instead of “since eternity began” (which the CLV more meaningfully translates as “in times eonian”), proves that αἰωνίων doesn’t necessarily mean “never ending” either (in fact, I’m not aware of a single version of the Bible that renders it as “eternity” in this verse, and really, most of them actually get close to its actual meaning of referring to eons or ages). So if anyone ever tries to claim that αἰωνίων can only mean “never ending” or some other word or phrase that denotes eternity, and that it can’t possibly refer to something more temporary, simply show them the passages I just referred to, which is all the proof one needs that this isn’t the case at all. That said, I should also point out that rendering the words αἰών and αἰωνίων as “world,” as the KJV sometimes does, when there’s already a Greek word for “world” (κόσμος/“kosmos”) can lead to some confusion as to when the word “world” means ”eon” and when it refers to a system or to the planet (at one point the KJV even “translates” both αἰών and κόσμος as “world” in the same verse), but at least it does help demonstrate that these Greek words don’t mean “without end” or “never ending” (or at least don’t only mean “without end” or “never ending”).

Basically, the mistake most people make when they read less literal Bible versions is that they see terms like ”for ever,” ”everlasting,” and “eternal,” and eisegete certain soteriological assumptions which they already hold into these words, unaware that the literal meaning of these terms is somewhat different from how they were rendered in these particular Bible translations, terms such as the Hebrew word we’ve already discussed — עוֹלָם — as well as Greek words such as αἰών, αἰῶνας, and αἰωνίων (or αἰώνιος/“aiónios”), as I already mentioned, all of which nearly always (if not always) refer to a set period of time with a definite beginning and end when used in the Bible, even if that end date is unknown and a very long time from now. At the very least, we should be considering the context of the passages these various words are being used in, as well as comparing these passages to the rest of Scripture, in order to determine whether these terms can only be literally interpreted as meaning “without end,” “never ending,” or “can’t ever” in those specific cases, but in general by considering whether a literal interpretation would contradict other parts of the Bible (telling us they should be interpreted figuratively instead, if they would).

To put it simply, the word αἰών is almost always best translated as “age” or transliterated as “eon” — at least if you want the most literal and accurate understanding of what God intended for us to learn from the passage — the word αἰῶνας (or αἰῶναν/“aiónan”) as “ages” or “eons,” and the adjective αἰώνιον (or αἰώνιος) as “long lasting,” “age-during,” “age-pertaining,” or, better yet, “eonian.” Translating them as “eternal,” “everlasting,” “for ever,“ or “never” is technically acceptable as long as the reader understands that these translations quite often need to be interpreted figuratively rather than literally (or qualitatively rather than quantitatively), but since so few people are aware of this fact, doing so has caused confusion for the majority of English Bible readers in most cases, so I do think it’s more useful to stick with the more revealing literal translations if we want to understand what God is letting us know in these passages. This also goes for when less literal translations render the Greek into redundant English phrases like “for ever and ever,” I should add (especially considering the actual grammar of the Greek sentences the phrase “for ever and ever” is based on, since the Greek word for “and” — καί/“kai” — isn’t even found between the words translated as “for ever” and “ever,” and there’s no basis for the assumption some make that this was a figure of speech which meant “without end” when it was used in Scripture anyway, especially based on everything Paul wrote about salvation). This is why the most revealing translations of the Greek phrases this translation is based on are “eon of the eon,” “eon of the eons,” and “eons of the eons” (depending on the passage). These translations also makes it obvious that some of these words are singular and some are plural in different verses, something that will go unnoticed if you’re using a less literal Bible version, which is unfortunate since these different combinations of the words αἰών and αἰῶνας are very important for doctrinal purposes (for coming to an understanding of the doctrine of the eons, the existence of which is made a lot less obvious in less literal Bible translations), and rendering all of them the same way — as the singular “for ever and ever” — causes one to entirely miss the different points that God is making in each instance.

Either way, though, if we’re reading Bible versions that do use the words ”for ever,” ”everlasting,” and “eternal,” one has to be aware that “for ever” in those versions is really just figurative language that refers to “an eon” or “age,” or to “a seemingly long period of time with a definite beginning and end” — similar to the way we still use the phrase today when we say things like, “I was stuck in that meeting for ever” — and “everlasting” just means “pertaining to an eon/age or eons/ages” or, sometimes just “long lasting,” and eventually comes to an end just like the candy we call an Everlasting Gobstopper does when consumed (and the same goes for “eternal,” which is often used as a synonym for “everlasting” in the KJV, and is almost always translated from the same Greek word — with the one exception, where it’s instead translated from ἀΐδιος/“aidios,” not causing any problem for the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation at all — which means the same point would have to apply). In most cases, these words are quite clearly being used as hyperbole in versions like the KJV, meaning they’re exaggerated expressions used for the sake of emphasis, and generally can’t be taken literally at all in those versions.

And since many Christians often make a mistake similar to the one they make about Jesus reigning “for ever” when they try to insist that, “If ‘eternal damnation’ isn’t actually never-ending, then ‘eternal life’ would eventually end as well,” I’m forced to point out that they really aren’t thinking things through when they make this assertion, since we’ve already determined that the “for ever” words in the KJV generally have to be interpreted qualitatively rather than quantitatively (or figuratively rather than literally), so we have to assume they aren’t talking about how long one lives (or how long one is punished) so much as about what the form or quality of the life and judgements they experience will be. And so, just because one’s time experiencing “eternal damnation” will come to an end, it doesn’t stand to reason that anyone with “eternal life” will eventually die (or lose their salvation, at least from an absolute perspective), because it isn’t verses about “eternal life” that promise us lives which never end anyway, but rather it’s verses about our impending immortality which tell us we’ll never die (at least after our vivification). So, when people are eventually resurrected from their second death in the lake of fire to be “made alive”/vivified (which they’ll have to be in order for it to be able to be said that death has truly been destroyed, since as long as death continues to hold anyone prisoner, death hasn’t actually been defeated or destroyed at all, but rather continues to be an enemy), members of the body of Christ will still remain alive, although not because of any passages that figuratively speak of “eternal life” but rather because of passages that tell us we’ll already have been made immortal (of course, literally translated Scripture speaks of believers having eonian life rather than “eternal life” or “everlasting life,” but for those who prefer the KJV or other less literal Bible versions, the point stands). So we know that when the eons come to an end, meaning when someone reaches the end of the figurative “for ever” or “everlasting life,” as the KJV puts it, that particular aspect of their salvation (the relative salvation that only a few will ever get to enjoy) will be over, but they’ll still never die, although not because of the eonian/“eternal” life that just ended, but rather because they’ll have bodies that can’t die (or, if they’re among those who get to enjoy eonian/“everlasting” life in Israel, or perhaps even on the New Earth, but haven’t been made immortal yet, they’ll finally be given immortality/be “made alive,” along with everyone else).

Similar to the claim about “eternal damnation” and “eternal life,” some also insist that calling God “the eonian God” (as Romans 16:26 is translated in the CLV) rather than taking the phrase “the everlasting God” (as the KJV renders it) literally would mean that God must eventually die, but this is just as misguided. As Martin Zender explained, “This verse isn’t trying to tell anyone that God lives forever. Everyone already knows God lives forever. Psalm 102:27 testified long ago that ‘His years shall have no end.’ It’s old news. The vital question is: Does God sit on high, removed from our struggles in time, or does He care what happens during the eons? He cares. Thus, He is the eonian God. This does not limit Him to the eons any more than ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ limits Him to those patriarchs.” And the same goes for passages such as Galatians 1:3-5 and Philippians 4:20, both of which say things along the lines of “to our God and Father be glory for the eons of the eons” in the CLV, rather than “unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever,” as the KJV puts it, and which doesn’t mean the literal translation is saying that God’s glory will end when the eons do any more than the literal translation means that God’s life would end at that time; it just means that Paul was simply focusing on the glory God will finally receive — which He certainly isn’t receiving now, at least not to the extent He will at that time — when the two greatest eons finally begin. Simply put, with very few exceptions, the Bible doesn’t delve into details pertaining to eternity, but is instead focused almost entirely on details pertaining to the eons (even though this fact has been mostly concealed from people who only read less literal translations of Scripture). What occurs after the consummation of the eons isn’t something that God seems to want us to know about right now (other than to know that everyone will have been vivified/saved by that time), and He appears to want us to concern ourselves with what happens during the eons instead.

This all makes particular sense when we consider the fact that, even in less literal translations such as the KJV, Jesus Himself said that having “life eternal” simply figuratively means “that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent,” which tells us that the term “life eternal” isn’t inherently referring to never dying anyway (at least for those He was ministering to during His time walking the earth). At the end of the day, though, while almost no Christian seems to consciously realize it, most of them are already interpreting “everlasting life” and “life eternal” in a qualitative, figurative manner rather than in a quantitative, literal manner, since, aside from believing what Jesus said “life eternal” means there, most of them also believe that all humans continue to live on without end after they die anyway, which means being given “everlasting life” isn’t required to have life that is literally, or quantitatively, “everlasting” (meaning a life that never ends), at least according to the theology of most Christians, and hence it can’t actually mean to never die, if they’re correct. Think about it, if we’re already “eternal” beings, as most Christians believe we are, then “life eternal” or “everlasting life” can’t literally be talking about how long we continue to exist, since we’re all going to continue existing without end regardless of whether we have “life eternal” or not, according to the most common viewpoint. And so, almost every Christian already interprets terms like “life eternal” and “everlasting life” in a qualitative sense, and understands that they’re both actually simply a figure of speech (at least in the less literal Bible translations that use the terms) connected with salvation rather than literally referring to how long one continues to exist, even if they hadn’t fully realized it until they read this.

Of course, the fact that we still have to “put on immortality” in order to fully experience the salvation Paul wrote about means we’re not inherently immortal or “eternal” beings (in fact, Paul is clear that Christ Jesus is the only human to currently have immortality — no, I don’t believe this passage was talking about the Father, since otherwise it would seem to mean that Christ Himself, as well as the angels and other spiritual beings, could die at this point, so it appears it has to be a passage about a human and how that human is the only human who is currently immortal), but few Christians ever really stop to think about these facts particularly deeply, and so they just assume we are inherently “eternal” and immortal, even if it’s just our souls which they assume are somehow naturally immortal. The simple truth, though, is that immortality isn’t something we’re born with (not even our souls are inherently immortal, as I’ll prove a little later in this chapter). We have to be given immortality, and it won’t be truly given to any of us until a very specific time in the future, which is all the proof one should need that no human can possibly suffer in the lake of fire without end, as the following points should make clear:

  • Immortality for humans is always connected with salvation in Scripture (only those who are finally experiencing salvation physically — in living bodies, with most of them having been resurrected from the dead first — will have “put on immortality,”or will have been made immortal, and whenever someone is made immortal it can then be said, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”, as far as they’re concerned, because death will have been swallowed up in victory for them).
  • Those who are going to be resurrected for the Great White Throne Judgement haven’t been saved (from a relative perspective, at least), so they’ll be raised as regular, mortal, biological humans.
  • Mortal humans who are set on fire burn up and die.
  • There’s absolutely nothing in Scripture that tells us God will keep resurrecting people in the lake of fire perpetually so they can die over and over again without end after they’ve died a second time (which would make the lake of fire also the third and fourth and fifth deaths, and so-on-and-so-forth, rather than just the second death), and to insist that He will is quite clearly eisegesis, since there’s just nothing in the text that even implies it. (This also means that those Christians who try to deny a second resurrection of those who will die a second time in the lake of fire so they can be vivified, by telling me, “Scripture doesn’t specifically say the words, ‘Those who die a second time in the lake of fire will also be resurrected a second time so they can be made immortal,’” can’t then turn around and say, “There’s a second and third and forth resurrection, and so-on-and-so-forth, so humans can suffer without end,” since they’ve already denied that a second resurrection will take place.)
  • Hence, no human can be said to suffer in the lake of fire any longer than it takes to burn up and die one time, at least not without reading one’s assumptions into Scripture, especially considering the fact that there are no passages which actually outright say that any humans will suffer consciously in the lake of fire to begin with (as I’ll demonstrate quite definitively later on in this chapter). And we also know from the fact that Paul said everyone will be vivified/“made alive,” and that death will eventually be destroyed altogether, that everyone will be resurrected from this death and be made immortal at some point in the future.

In case anyone is still sceptical about the salvation of all humanity, however, Paul also told us that Christ Jesus gave himself a correspondent ransom for all, and when a ransom is fully paid, all those who are held captive are set free, unless the one paying the ransom has been lied to (and there’s nothing in this passage with qualifies the “all” as referring only to believers, so to insist it only includes them is to once again read one’s assumptions into the text, especially in light of the fact that Paul began the chapter talking about all men alive at the time, and also said in verse 4 that “all mankind“ is included in those whom God wills to salvation, and there’s nothing in the text to indicate he’d suddenly begun referring only to believers immediately after that, but instead wrote that Christ Jesus gave Himself a ransom for the same “all” he’d been talking about already, telling his readers that every human who will have ever lived has been ransomed, even though they won’t all experience their salvation at the same time, since the testimony of each group of people to be vivified is in its own eras, or times, as we’ve already discussed).

As W. B. Screws once wrote, “Christ’s death is the exact equivalent of the need of the human family. And that need is more than to simply be restored to the Adamic ‘purity.’ We need the grace that superabounds — not grace that puts us back in Adam’s condition. Everything that is needed to affect the salvation of all mankind, (I Tim. 2:4), is supplied in Christ. It is in this sense that He is ‘the One giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for all.’ Nor would it be amiss to consider the meaning of ransom. It will secure the release of the person for whom it is paid, unless the one accepting the ransom intends to deceive the one paying it. If Christ gives Himself a correspondent Ransom for all, and any part of the human family is not subsequently released, then God has deceived His Son. In other words, since Christ gives Himself a correspondent ransom for all, all must be saved, or else God stands eternally discredited as dishonest. Perish the thought! No one can read I Tim. 2:3-6, and believe every word of it, without believing in the salvation of all humanity.”

To break it down, as Aaron Welch did:

“1. Anyone for whom Christ gave himself ‘a correspondent Ransom’ will be ransomed as a result.

2. Anyone ransomed as a result of Christ’s death will be saved.

3. The ‘all’ for whom we’re told Christ gave himself a ransom in 1 Timothy 2:6 will be saved.

4. The ‘all’ for whom we’re told Christ gave himself a ransom includes all mankind (1 Tim. 2:4-5).

5. All mankind will be saved.”

Please don’t confuse this as meaning that Christ died in our place, receiving the penalty for our sins so we wouldn’t have to receive said penalty for our sins ourselves, though, as many Christians believe He did (so long as we choose to believe He did so, they’d also claim). Of course, even if the idea that Christ paid the price for our sins in our place were a scriptural concept, it makes no sense that we would have to choose to believe He paid the price for our sins in our place in order for Him to have actually paid the price for our sins in our place (He either did or He didn’t, and our belief couldn’t change the fact either way — although, if it could, it would then be our belief that ultimately saved us rather than simply Christ Who saved us), because if those who didn’t choose to believe it then had to pay the price themselves, it would mean God was double-charging, which would be quite dishonest of Him (not to mention most unfair to His Son, Who endured beatings and the pain and humiliation of the cross before entering the death state, all in order to be a ransom for all sinners in order to save them, and God isn’t going to shortchange Him of any of the sinners He suffered and died for in order to save, regardless of whether some of them might not have been born wise enough to come to believe He did so prior to their death or His return — and those who don’t believe this good news includes all the Infernalists and Annihilationists out there as well, by the way, since they themselves don’t believe that He ransomed “all” humanity through His death for our sins either, which means they haven’t fully understood — and hence can’t be said to have truly believed — Paul’s Gospel themselves).

That said, there’s absolutely nothing anywhere in Scripture which even implies that Jesus died “in our place,” or that He received the penalty for anyone’s sins “in their place” so they wouldn’t have to pay the price for their sins themselves. However, for those who have never really thought about this, let’s consider what it would mean if He actually did pay a penalty for our sins so that we don’t have to suffer that particular penalty ourselves. If He did, and if ending up in the lake of fire without being able to leave it was the penalty for our sins (whether consciously or otherwise), it would mean that Jesus would have to still be burning in the lake of fire (experiencing the specific punishment we deserve is what paying the penalty “in our place” means, after all). But since He never even set foot in the lake of fire to begin with (He couldn’t have, since it hasn’t even begun burning yet, at least not as of the time this book was written, as I’ll explain shortly, and He wasn’t crucified or entombed there either), much less remained there for all time (which would have to be the case if that truly was the price to be paid for our sins), burning without end in the lake of fire obviously wasn’t a punishment He suffered “in our place,” which means it couldn’t possibly be the specific penalty we deserve either, at least not if He did pay the penalty we deserved “in our place.” And if the penalty He supposedly paid “in our place” was simply death instead, nobody who “got saved” would ever actually drop dead, which obviously isn’t the case (and believers have been crucified as well, so it wasn’t simply crucifixion that He endured “in our place” either, if that was the penalty He paid “in our place”). This also means the penalty couldn’t be never-ending “separation from God,” since, if it were, Jesus would also have to be separated from God at this point in time, and for all time, in order to truly “pay the penalty in our place” (and if separation from God somehow was a penalty He paid “in our place,” even if only temporarily, those who believe in the Trinity would have to discard that doctrine, since God couldn’t be separated from God). And for those who want to suggest that the penalty might be “spiritual death,” whatever that’s supposed to be, it would again have to mean that A) Christ “died spiritually” for us “in our place” (and I’m assuming nobody actually believes He “died spiritually”), but also that B) nobody can be “spiritually dead” before they die physically if Christ paid that penalty “in our place,” yet most Christians believe we’re already “spiritually dead” prior to salvation, so there’s no way He could have “died spiritually” for us “in our place” so we don’t have to ever “die spiritually” ourselves, because we’re already in this spiritual state before we get saved (or we would be if the common Christian viewpoints of “spiritual death” and Penal Substitutionary Atonement were true, of course). So no, He didn’t die “in our place,” or pay any penalty for our sins “in our place” (and if you still believe He did, please point me to any passage that says He did).

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a penalty for our sins, however. In fact, there is, and that penalty is indeed death. It’s just that Jesus didn’t die “in our place” to receive the penalty so we don’t have to, which should be obvious considering the fact that believers continue to drop dead today. And while it’s true that the reason we die is simply the mortality we inherited from Adam, the sins we can’t avoid because of that mortality also make us worthy of the death most of us will experience (meaning any believers who die prior to Jesus’ return), so any mortal humans who end up sinning (which is all of us, or at least all of us who don’t die before we’re able to sin) still need to have their sin dealt with. Because, sure, God could temporarily overlook sin, and in “Old Testament” times He did indeed pass “over of the penalties of sins which occurred” (as it’s put in the CLV), thanks to the sacrificial system under the Mosaic law. But the blood of bulls and goats could not actually take away sins (the death of these animals couldn’t actually remove the penalty of sin, nor could it keep us from sinning again), and so in order to truly be just He had to have an actually righteous basis for forgiving and justifying us, for resurrecting us in the future, and even for eventually giving anyone the immortality they don’t deserve. Thankfully, He does indeed have a righteous basis for doing all of that, which is Christ’s death for our sins. To once again quote Aaron Welch:

“Thus, apart from what Christ did for us when he gave himself up for us, it would be unjust of God (who cannot lie, and is committed to the truth) to set aside the penalty of this just statute, and regard sinners as if they haven’t sinned, and aren’t deserving of death. It is in light of this fact that God’s mercy toward sinners – which, in the past, was manifested in the “passing over of the sins which occurred before in the forbearance of God” (Rom. 3:25) – appeared to be in conflict with his righteousness, and thus required “a display of his righteousness.” This display of God’s righteousness took place through the death and resurrection of Christ.

By living a life of perfect obedience to God and then “becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8) – which involved suffering a death that he didn’t deserve (for Christ was completely sinless) – Christ became worthy of all authority in heaven and on earth. Christ’s universal authority and exalted status as “Lord of all” is, in other words, Christ’s just reward for his obedience to God. And this means that, by his sacrificial death, Christ became worthy of the authority to save all sinners from the condemnation of which their sins made them deserving, and thus vivify all and abolish death (1 Cor. 15:20-22).

Thus, through his sacrifice, Christ became more deserving of the authority to save sinners than sinners are deserving of death. And because Christ is ultimately going to use his God-given authority to save all sinners – in accord with God’s will that all mankind be saved (1 Tim. 2:4) – God is able to righteously forgive sins and justify sinners at any time. Thus, God is able to justly deal with sinners in a way that is contrary to what we deserve (which is what God does when he justifies sinners, and thus treats us as if we’ve never sinned) because his doing so is in accord with what Christ deserves because of his obedience.

The justification of all mankind (starting with believers) is, therefore, the result of Christ’s just award. Thus we read the following in Romans 5:18-19:

Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just award for all mankind for life’s justifying. For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just.

So, while He didn’t die “in our place,” or pay the penalty “in our place” (since most of us still die), Christ did die in order that the penalty could be justly set aside and everyone can be forgiven, justified, resurrected (if they’ve died), and even made free from ever being able to die (vivification, in other words). That’s not all, though. Because He died for our sinsHis death also put away sin, removing sin from the equation for all humanity altogether (thus making Him the antitype of the goat in the wilderness in the Mosaic law, among other things), and if sin has been put away, it’s no longer something anyone needs to worry about. You see, when He went down into the tomb, it can be said that He brought sin down into the earth with Him, and when He was resurrected three days later, He returned without that sin, and so sin is no longer being held against anyone anymore, regardless of whether they believe it or not, because Christ died for our sins, which is yet more proof that everyone has what is sometimes referred to as ontological salvation (meaning they’ve been saved from an absolute perspective), and will also eventually experience eschatological salvation (referring to one’s final form of salvation, including salvation from a physical perspective, at least under Paul’s Gospel) when they’re eventually made immortal (although those relative few who “come unto the knowledge of the truth” now, meaning those who understand and believe what it means that Christ died for our sins, and that He was entombed and was roused on the third day, get to enjoy a special, relative form of salvation on top of the types of salvation that everyone will experience: including freedom from religion — because they know there’s nothing they have to do, or even that they could do, in order to receive the benefits of what Christ did for us, since they’re aware that having to do any act at all would be a work performed in order to earn that gift, even if that act was simply having to choose to receive the free gift that Christ already gave us all, which is why salvation from a relative perspective is sometimes also referred to as noological salvation — and also getting to experience that eschatological, physical salvation which Christ won for us all before the rest of humanity does too).

Those passages we’ve covered so far aren’t the only proof of the salvation of all humanity, though, because Paul also wrote, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” in Ephesians 1:13. How does that prove the salvation of all? Well, if you read it in the context of the whole chapter, and are also familiar with the different kinds of salvation mentioned in Scripture, you’ll notice that this section of the chapter (verses 3 through 14) is primarily about the blessings that God has purposed beforehand to literally lavish upon those (“hath abounded toward us”) whom He chose to become members of the body of Christ. Simply put, this section of the chapter is all about how God has predestined certain people to experience certain blessings in Christ, blessings which not everyone will experience. This isn’t Calvinism, however, since experiencing the blessings mentioned in this chapter isn’t about the salvation from an absolute and physical perspective that everyone receives. It’s only those who are experiencing the salvation Paul taught about from a relative perspective that he was writing to in this passage, specifically the body of Christ.

And so when Paul wrote, “after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation,” he was saying that his readers had heard the word of truth, and, in what is essentially a parenthetical, explained what that word of truth they heard was: the good news (“gospel”) of their salvation. To put it simply, Paul wrote here that the good news they had heard was the good news of their already existing salvation, not the good news of how they could have salvation if only they did something specific (note that he didn’t write, “after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your potential salvation, although only if you actually believed that gospel,” but rather that they had heard the good news about the salvation which was already theirs — since it was already everyone’s, thanks to Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection — after which they trusted that this good news about their already existing salvation was indeed true). The point here is that, because there is no included proposition in the text connected with the salvation they heard about, the good news they heard was a proclamation that they already had salvation (from an absolute perspective, which, as we know from Paul’s other writings, is the outcome of Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection) prior to hearing about it. Simply put, Paul couldn’t tell them the good news of their salvation if they weren’t already saved from at least some perspective.

Now, most people read this verse and assume that either the first part of the verse (“In whom ye also trusted”) or the last part of the verse (“in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise”) actually is a proposition about their salvation, and that they didn’t receive their salvation until they actually believed the supposed good news about how they could attain said salvation. But this is a misunderstanding due to not being aware of what the different types of salvation mentioned in Scripture are all about. All the first part of the verse is telling us is that they trusted Christ after they heard the good news of their already existing salvation from an absolute perspective which He’d already won for all of us (including them), and all the last part of the verse is telling us is that, after they trusted that Christ had already guaranteed (ontological, and eventually eschatological) salvation for all of us because of what He accomplished through His death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection, even before they believed it, they were then sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which means they were also saved from a relative perspective (an earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession”), which doesn’t apply to all humanity the way salvation from an absolute (and eventually physical) perspective does, since not everyone is sealed by the Holy Spirit. All that is to say, Paul’s little parenthetical in Ephesians 1:13 is simply telling us that “the good news of [their and everyone’s] salvation” was already a fact for them before they heard it, and after they heard about the salvation that was already theirs from an absolute perspective, they trusted Christ and were sealed with the Holy Spirit, and hence were also saved from a relative perspective (and were then awaiting their physical salvation, meaning the vivification of their mortal bodies, referred to here as “the redemption of the purchased possession,” which they’ll receive at the Snatching Away, and which everyone else will also eventually receive, although “every man in his own order,” with each order “in its own times,” as already discussed).

But even clearer than that example, Paul also wrote that God is “the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe” in 1 Timothy 4:10, and honestly, it doesn’t get any more clear than this, with Paul telling us that God will save absolutely everyone, even if those who believe this good news will get to experience a special level of salvation on top of that (as already discussed, including freedom from religion, as well as an earlier experience of vivification than everyone else). Every Christian out there knows the definition of the word “especially” (or “specially,” which the KJV uses to translate the Greek word μάλιστα/“malista” here, and which ultimately also means “particularly,” not “exclusively”), yet somehow most of them seem to forget what it means when they get to this verse. But their apparent selective memory aside, they’d still recognize that if a teacher said, “I’ve given everyone a passing grade this year, especially Lydia who got an A+,” the teacher would have meant that, while nobody else got an A+, they still all passed, since these Christians actually do know that “especially” (and even “specially”) doesn’t mean “specifically” or “only,” even if they need to pretend to themselves that it does when considering what Paul had to say here. Likewise, if someone wrote, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith,” the way Paul did in Galatians 6:10, they’d know that they should focus most of their positive efforts on believers (“them who are of the household of faith,” the very same people Paul was referring to when he wrote, “specially of those that believe,” in 1 Timothy 4:10), but that they should still try to do good unto everyone else (the very same “all men” that Paul said God was the Saviour of) as well, and not that we should do good only unto believers. In fact, if “specially” did mean “only,” the part of the verse which tells us God is the Saviour of all men would be a lie, because it didn’t say God is “the potential Saviour of all men, but really only of those that believe” (or that God is “the Saviour available for all men, although only actually the Saviour of those that believe”), but instead plainly tells us that He actually is the Saviour of all men, and to be able to legitimately be called the saviour of someone, you have to actually save them at some point, which means that, to be able to truly be called “the Saviour of all men,” God has to actually save all men eventually. Bottom line, if even one human fails to end up experiencing salvation by the end of the eons, Paul would be just as much a liar as that teacher would turn out to be if any of the students in Lydia’s class received a failing grade after telling them they’d all passed.

And Calvinists who insist that Paul is only claiming “God is the Saviour of all kinds or sorts of men,” and that God only wants “all sorts of men” to be saved rather than actually “will have all men to be saved,” as Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:3-4, A) that’s clearly not what these passages say anyway (the words “kinds” and “sorts” aren’t there in the text), and B) they’re ignoring the second part of the verse where Paul says “specially of believers” (which can’t really follow the phrase “all kinds of men” and make any sense in this case, since “specially” would then be have to be qualifying who the “all kinds of men” are, but the word “specially” can’t actually be used that way because it means “particularly,” not “exclusively”) rather than “specifically believers,” so they’re just reading their own preconceived doctrinal bias that not everyone will experience salvation into these passages because they have no other choice if they don’t want it to contradict their theological presuppositions, just as Arminians do in their own way. And if a Calvinist ever does make this claim to you, ask them to show you one legitimate Bible translation that says anything even remotely close to the idea that God is just the Saviour of all kinds of people, or that He only desires all sorts of people to be saved, instead of saying than that He actually is the Saviour of all people and wills all people to be saved, as every legitimate Bible version I’ve ever read plainly says. I’m highly doubtful that any of them can — in fact, the only version I’ve ever found that says anything like this is the New World Translation, and I don’t think many people other than the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that’s a particularly accurate version of the Bible — which means they’re guilty of some serious eisegesis there.

However, for those who still disagree, I do have to ask: If Paul was trying to explain that God indeed will save everyone eventually, but that He’ll also give believers a special salvation on top of that in the meantime, I’d like you to tell me what he would have needed to have written differently in those passages in his first epistle to Timothy in order to convince you that this is what he meant.

All that is to say, this passage once again verifies that the doctrine of salvation taught by Paul throughout his epistles is indeed that every human who is affected by the curse and locked up in unbelief — not to mention in vanity (neither of which we’ve been locked up in because of any choice we made, but rather, from a relative perspective, because of a choice Adam made, and, from an absolute perspective, because God Himself chose to lock everyone up in that manner so we could eventually also be shown mercy and be delivered from the bondage of corruption, since if we’d never experienced evil we couldn’t have ever truly appreciated the contrasting goodness, and if we’d never experienced sin and death, we could never experience, and hence never truly appreciate, or even really understand, grace; immortality wouldn’t mean much to us either, without having first experienced mortality, I should add) — will be equally (if not even more so) affected by the cross and made immortal, even if it doesn’t happen to everyone at the same time (with believers getting a special, earlier — eonian — experience of salvation, as well as potentially getting to rule and reign with Christ in the heavens during the impending eons, or perhaps getting to rule over the earth from Israel — depending on which sort of salvation they’re experiencing — figuratively referred to as “everlasting life,” or as “life eternal,” in the KJV and other less literal Bible versions).

In fact, the verses (Romans 8:18–23) around the passage which tells us that all creation (referred to in the KJV as “the creature”) has been locked up in vanity also tells us quite definitively that all humanity will indeed be saved: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” Notice that Paul said “the creature” (meaning creation, referring to all human beings — if not all biological beings who can look forward to things — and not just those who are in the body of Christ) has the earnest expectation of “the manifestation of the sons of God” (referring to our appearing with Christ when He returns), because “the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God,” and they wouldn’t be looking forward to our appearing if they weren’t going to benefit from it, which we know they will, since Paul wrote there that they shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption and will become “children of God” (not to be confused with those of us who are “the sons of God,” which is a much more esteemed position — referring to our position as joint-heirs with Christ — although we are still technically “children of God” even as “sons of God”). In addition, verse 23 says that it’s “not only they, but ourselves also,” which means “they” (those who aren’t in the body of Christ) and “ourselves also” (those who are in the body of Christ, referring to those “which have the firstfruits of the Spirit” — telling us that there will be others after those in the body of Christ who will also have the Spirit, based on the meaning of “firstfruits”) will all enjoy “the redemption of our body” (our vivification, in other words, which is salvation; although “every man in his own order,” of course).

That said, those who will have been made truly immortal at the end of this eon aren’t the only people who will live through said eons (they’re just the only ones who will have vivified bodies during these eons). Those believers who “endured to the end” of the Tribulation, many of those born in the kingdom of heaven during the Millennium, as well as those born during the eon of the eons (again, referring to the final eon) on the New Earth, will also live through them as well (if they don’t die during them, of course, since they will have to live in either mortal or amortal bodies for the duration of the eons of the eons, meaning the final two eons), as will the “sheep” of Matthew 25 (the resurrected dead at the Great White Throne Judgement whose names happen to be written in the book of life will also live for the final eon, albeit in amortal bodies, even if they too don’t ever die again due to partaking of the fruit and leaves of the tree of life). Everyone else will go through eonian/“everlasting” judgement first instead (which doesn’t necessarily always involve death or “hell” for everyone; sometimes it just refers to a judgement while remaining alive on earth — until their eventual first death, of course — with the “goats” of Matthew 25 being a good example of this, as will be explained later in this chapter, so please don’t make the mistake of thinking that “death” and “judgement” always refer to the same thing).

But even among those who do die, by the end of it all, God justifies, vivifies, saves, and reconciles all, even if they have to go through judgement first. And when Scripture says “all” on this topic, it means “all,” and not just all humans, but all “spiritual” (or celestial) beings as well, as demonstrated by a passage where Paul used a similar sort of parallelism to the ones he used in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5, this time in the first chapter of his epistle to the Colossians. In fact, I don’t know how someone can read verses 15 through 20 of that chapter and not end up a believer in the reconciliation of all creatures who require it, although it seems most people somehow miss the fact that Paul is using a sort of parallelism known as an Extended Alternation here — likely because they probably aren’t familiar with Paul’s consistent use of parallelisms throughout his epistles to prove the salvation (and reconciliation) of all humanity — to tell us that the same “all” created in Him (or “by Him,” depending on your translation) are also the same “all” that are reconciled to Him by the blood of Christ’s cross, and that this passage tells us that not only are all humans (meaning all the things created on the earth, as mentioned in verses 16 and 20) both “created in” and “reconciled by” Him, but all the creatures in the heavens/outer space (as also mentioned in the same two verses, referring to a list of celestial, or spiritual, beings that overlaps with another list of celestial/spiritual creatures who are described in Ephesians 6 as being the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials, or “spiritual wickedness in high places” depending on your translation) are also “created in” and “reconciled by” Him, and there would be no need to reconcile spiritual beings in heaven who weren’t first alienated, so it can only be the foolish (and sometimes sinful, or even evil) spiritual beings in the heavens who are being reconciled; and if all of them are going to be reconciled, as Paul promises they will be in that passage, we know that all the creatures on the earth will be as well, as he also says they will be in the same passage.

As I mentioned in the last chapter, it’s important to remember that reconciliation means the parties on both sides of an estrangement or conflict are now at peace with one another, meaning that God is at peace with them, and they’re at peace with God, when this reconciliation occurs, which wouldn’t the case if any of them were still being tormented in the lake of fire at that time, which they would have to leave right before Christ destroys death (thus proving that “for ever and ever” isn’t meant to be interpreted as literally meaning “without end,” even when it comes to the punishment of the spiritual beings known as the devil, the beast, and the false prophet in the lake of fire, because they’d have to be included in the “all” which are reconciled to God as well), since Christ’s subjugation of all other enemies takes place just prior to the destruction of death (and if there’s a better way to put an end to an enemy than turning that enemy into a willing servant, or even a friend, I don’t know what it would be). This is also proven by the prophecy of Philippians 2:10-11 which tells us “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” because nobody can say Jesus is the Lord and truly mean it apart from the Holy Spirit leading them to do so, which means anyone who does so will possess the Holy Spirit at that time. There’s absolutely no indication in this passage that this declaration will be forced out of them the way most Christians assume it will be, especially since it’s “to the glory of God the Father,” and He’d receive far more glory from a willing confession based on the reconciliation that Paul wrote about than from a coerced concession by an enemy, so the only reason to read the idea of this confession being forced out of still-existing enemies at gunpoint (or whatever sort of threat it takes to get a spiritual being to assent to something they don’t want to assent to) rather than being made by friends and willing subjects who are now at peace with Him in their minds is, once again, preconceived doctrinal bias that not every human will experience salvation and that not every created being who needs it will be truly reconciled to God. But, if you’re having trouble with this parallelism, replace the word “all” with the variable x again in both verses 16 and 20 of Colossians 1 — in fact, do it in all the verses from verse 16 to verse 20 — and it should become clear what it means.

Now, some try to argue that verse 21 contradicts this conclusion, but that just means they aren’t reading the text very carefully, since A) it really should be obvious that the point Paul was making about the eventual reconciliation of all created beings concludes with the end of verse 20, and B) they somehow miss the fact that when Paul wrote, “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled,” he was simply stating that his readers had already experienced this reconciliation at the time he wrote the letter. But since we’re not claiming that verses 16 to 20 say everyone has currently been reconciled in their minds yet anyway, the immediate reconciliation of believers doesn’t preclude the eventual reconciliation of everyone else he promised would eventually be reconciled as well (in fact, if it did mean that, it would also mean that no humans other than those who first read this epistle some 2,000 years ago could be reconciled after that time, which would mean there’s no hope for you or me either). It’s also important to notice that it’s only in our minds that Paul says the alienation takes place prior to being reconciled, as well as to know that the alienation is entirely one-sided at this point in time, with religious humans (and foolish spiritual beings) mistakenly believing that God is still angry with them because of their wicked works, as it could be said He was, from a certain perspective, prior to the crucifixion, not realizing that God is actually already at peace with everyone because of what He did through Christ, and that He isn’t imputing the trespasses of the world unto them at all — while evil acts will be judged at the Great White Throne, sin won’t be, because sin has already been entirely taken care of by Christ — but is instead now asking those of us in the body of Christ to beseech the rest of the world to be reconciled to God (or, to put it more literally, to be conciliated to God, meaning to be at peace with God in their minds because He’s already made peace with them through the blood of Christ’s cross; conciliation is one-sided, and when all parties on both sides of an estrangement or disagreement are conciliated to one another, it means they’ve both finally been reconciled), and to believe the good news of their already existing salvation because of what Christ did (and it seems we’ll be bringing a similar sort of message to the alienated spiritual beings in the heavens, after Christ takes us up there to be with Him, as well).

Some also attempt to argue that Jesus doesn’t help angels, but only helps the descendants of Abraham, based on a certain type of translation of Hebrews 2:16 which is rendered along those lines (but which is translated in the KJV as: “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.”), in order to argue that Colossians 1:20 can’t mean spiritual beings will be reconciled to God. But even if theirs was a good translation of the verse, it doesn’t say Jesus will never reconcile angels and other spiritual beings. Just as not every human is reconciled to God at present but will be in the future, as we just covered, this translation of the verse could only mean that Jesus isn’t helping angels out at present (which does seem to be true). But since Colossians says they will be reconciled, we know that they’ll have to be in the future, and that this verse can’t mean what they’re assuming it means (although, even if we did ignore Colossians, we’d then have to also believe that no Gentiles could be saved as well, since they aren’t descendants of Abraham).

And at the risk of sounding repetitive, I have to ask yet again: if Paul was trying to explain that God indeed will reconcile every being He ever created who has been alienated from Him, I’d like you to tell me what he would have needed to have written differently in verses 16 to 20 in order to convince you that this is indeed what he meant.

In addition, I’d also like to ask you to explain what the basis of your belief that you’ve been saved even is, presuming you believe you’ve been saved. If you can honestly say that you’ve been saved because Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused on the third day, it can be said that you have faith in Christ for your salvation. But if you believe you’ve been saved because you chose to believe that Christ died for your sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused on the third day, then it can really only be said that you have faith in your faith for your salvation. Because in order to truly be saved based solely on what God and Christ accomplished (meaning based 100% on Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection), rather than based on what you yourself accomplished (meaning choosing to believe in Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection), everyone has to be saved (at least from an absolute, and eventually physical, perspective) by what God and Christ accomplished, whether anyone believes it or not, since otherwise it’s your faith that ultimately did the job of saving you, with Christ only accomplishing the first step of your salvation, but not actually completing it Himself.

The First Man: Adam = Condemnation [mortality and sinfulness] of allThe Second Man: Christ = Salvation [immortality and sinlessness] of the same all
Consequently, then… (Romans 5:18)thus also…
By the offence of oneBy the righteousness of one
judgement came upon [not in the original Greek text, but included for clarification]the free gift came upon [not in the original Greek text, but included for clarification]
all menall men
to condemnationto justification of life
For even as… (Romans 5:19)thus also…
By one man’s disobedienceby the obedience of one
the many were madeshall the many be made
For even as… (1 Corinthians 15:22)thus also
in Adam [because of what Adam did]in Christ [because of what Christ did]
all are dying [all are mortal]shall all be vivified [shall all be made immortal]
For in Him… (Colossians 1:16)And through Him… (Colossians 1:20)
is all createdto reconcile all to Him (making peace through the blood of His [Christ’s] cross)
that in the heavens and that on the earth [whether angelic or human]whether those on the earth or those in the heavens [whether human or angelic]

Most Christians believe that the “death” spoken of in the various judgement passages in Scripture is simply a euphemism for “never-ending punishment,” but you won’t find anything in Scripture that says the words “death,” “die,” and “dying” should be interpreted in such a manner in those passages. In fact, if most Christians are correct when they read their preexisting assumption that never-ending punishment is a fact into the passages that speak of “death,” instead of taking the words ”perish,” “death,” “die,” and “dying” in the popular translations literally, it would mean that all believers would actually have to suffer forever in “hell” (or be annihilated forever) before they could be saved, because Paul is recorded in the KJV as having said, “for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” not, “for as in Adam all might die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” and if perishing or death in Scripture means to suffer punishment without end, all the people made alive in Christ would have to “die” (meaning “suffer never-ending punishment”) first, at least based on that translation.

Of course, if the penalty for sin really was never-ending pain (which is taught nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures — the absolute worst penalty for breaking the Mosaic law was execution; no Israelite was ever threatened with perpetual torture after they died as a result of sinning in the law of Moses — and there’s nothing in the Greek Scriptures to suggest that this changed when Jesus or Paul talked about sin either), then Jesus would have to still be suffering, and would need to continue doing so without end as well (okay, only under the penal substitution model of salvation, which I’ve already shown isn’t a scriptural doctrine, but since most Christians assume it is, the point would still stand if it actually were a scriptural doctrine).

Fortunately, there isn’t anything in the original Hebrew or Greek that implies “hell” (which itself is a word with uncertain etymology, but which basically just means “hole,” or “a place where something is hidden or unseen,” to put it really simply, and has absolutely no inherent meaning of “inescapable torture chamber” at all, even though that’s how it’s come to be used by most English-speaking people in modern times, and which is translated from multiple different Hebrew and Greek words that actually refer to completely different places and concepts from one another, with none of them referring to the inescapable torture chamber that most people think of when they hear the word now either) never ends anyway, or that the lake of fire doesn’t eventually end either, when properly interpreted (the lake of fire being something different from at least one of the “things,” “places,” or “concepts” referred to as “hell” in the KJV — although this other “hell” is more often transliterated as “hades” in other Bible versions — since it has John saying that “hell” will be cast into the lake of fire, and it would make no sense to say that “hell” is cast into itself, which it would have to mean if this “hell” and the lake of fire were the same thing).

What few Christians seem to understand is that, when Jesus spoke about the future and about judgement, He wasn’t talking about non-corporeal, spiritual, afterlife “states” in other dimensions called heaven and hell (the reason I mention only Jesus here, even though Paul is our apostle, is because Paul never once threatened anyone with any of the words that some versions translate as “hell” anywhere in his recorded words in the book of Acts or in any of his epistles; and even in the one instance that he used the Greek word ᾅδης/“hades,” even the KJV translated it as “grave” rather than “hell,” which brings up all sorts of questions if those of us in the body of Christ are supposed to model ourselves specifically after his example and after his teachings, yet he was never once recorded as having taught that anybody will suffer without end, or even as having mentioned a place called “hell”). Rather, everything Jesus said in person when speaking about the future takes place on a planet called earth in the physical universe (albeit on two different earths; some taking place on our current planet, and some on the New Earth, or third earth, after this one has been destroyed).

However, I know that there are still a number of common objections to the idea that everyone will eventually experience salvation which you’ve no doubt heard, or perhaps even raised yourself at some point, as well as a number of so-called “proof texts” in the Bible which we’ve all been taught support the traditional doctrine of never-ending punishment in “hell” or the lake of fire. And while it should be pretty clear by now to those who have been paying attention to everything we’ve covered so far that none of these arguments or supposed “proof texts” can actually support the popular assumptions most of us grew up with when it comes to this topic, we should still take a look at them in order to learn how to respond to them when we hear them (beginning with the objections, then moving on to the supposed “proof texts”).

I should say, I’m not going to respond to every objection ever raised, but I did want to quickly go over a few of the more popular ones in order to demonstrate that these aren’t good arguments at all (and after doing so, you should be able to figure out for yourself why any other objections you might hear are equally bad).

For example, one common objection is: “If it’s true that everyone will get saved, why is that almost no churches teach this?” Well, while it’s technically a statement connected with Israel’s specific type of salvation, I would suggest that Jesus’ reference to the strait and narrow gate can be seen as a trans-dispensational (or trans-administrational) truth. Because, honestly, there’s no way that a religion with as many followers as the traditional Christian religion has — about a third of the human population of the planet — can possibly be the “narrow way” that few find, so a better question would be: “If never-ending torment in hell is true, why is it that almost all churches teach it?” (And I’d also suggest that this goes for nearly every other popular, “orthodox” teaching within the Christian religion as well.)

It’s also often asserted that, “If everyone gets saved, then Jesus died in vain.” This is a very strange, yet extremely common, claim you’ll hear from many Christians who aren’t thinking things through particularly carefully. But the truth is, if Jesus didn’t die, then nobody would get saved. Really, this assertion is no different from saying, “If only a few people get saved, then Jesus died in vain since some people will not suffer without end in hell.” Either way, we (should) all realize it’s what Christ did that saves us, and recognize that this statement is a sign of lazy thinking.

Some Christians will also claim that a sin against an infinite God requires an infinite punishment, because a sin would affect an infinite being more than it would affect a mere human; but aside from the fact that you won’t find that assertion made anywhere in Scripture, which means they have no basis for making it in the first place, Scripture actually appears to say the opposite anyway, in the book of Job where Elihu (who was the one friend of Job who wasn’t condemned by God for his words) said, “Look up at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds so high above you. If you sin, how does that affect him? If your sins are many, what does that do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him, or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness only affects humans like yourself, and your righteousness only other people.”

Others will say things along the lines of, “The justice of God demands a place in which the wicked shall be punished for their sins without end, and if people don’t have to choose to receive the gift in order to experience salvation, then His justice hasn’t been satisfied.” But no, this isn’t true at all. In fact, all that the justice of God demanded was a perfect sacrifice for sin, and that sacrifice was Christ Jesus. And for those who insist that everyone isn’t saved from an absolute perspective (and that everyone won’t eventually experience salvation from a physical perspective as well) simply because of Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection, and that, in fact, God’s justice isn’t satisfied if people don’t also choose to believe that Christ’s sacrifice was enough to satisfy God’s justice, they’re ultimately telling you that they themselves really don’t believe Christ’s sacrifice was enough to satisfy God’s justice, but that an individual’s choice to believe a specific thing is also required on top of what Christ did in order to satisfy God’s justice (even though this would mean that they want us to choose to believe something they themselves think isn’t even actually true, somehow making what they believe to be a lie — that what Christ did was enough to satisfy God’s justice — become true by choosing to believe it), which would make us our own (at least partial) saviours. And if any of them insist that God’s justice was satisfied by what Christ did, but that people still have to choose to believe it in order to experience salvation, it would mean that their objection isn’t actually about God’s justice at all, and that they’re just using claims about God’s justice as a distraction from the real issue, which is that they want people to at least have to do something to earn salvation, even if it’s something as seemingly simple as having to choose to believe the right thing.

Some also argue that teaching the salvation of all humanity undermines evangelism, saying things like, “If the salvation of all is true, it doesn’t matter whether you believe now or not, so why bother to evangelize at all?” From one perspective (the most narrow of perspectives), yes, that could be said to technically be true. But from a broader perspective there are still very good reasons to believe now, as well as to evangelize. For one thing, if it is true, isn’t it better to believe (and teach) the truth rather than a lie (especially since the Bible so heavily condemns false teachers who teach lies)? But even beyond that, belief in this doctrine helps bring serious peace of mind that almost no Christians truly have (if you look at certain Christian message boards online, or the various Christian subreddits on Reddit, you’ll see post after post on a daily basis by people who are Christians yet who are still terrified that they’re going to suffer without end in a place called hell). But on top of all that, there’s another really good reason to believe this, and this is the fact that only those who do believe it get to join the body of Christ (since, if you don’t truly understand what it means that “Christ died for our sins,” can it be said that you actually believe it, and if you don’t actually believe it, how can it be said that one has joined the body of Christ?). However, I suppose someone who says this is implying that, if it’s true that everyone gets saved, then there’s less urgency to preach the Gospel so that people become Christians. Whether this is true or not comes down to what one means by evangelism, as well as whether “becoming a Christian” is really all that important in the first place, and, really, what the Gospel about how we’re saved actually even is. From the perspective of those of us who believe what I’ve covered in this book (those of us who are sometimes referred to as “Concordant” believers, at least as far as English-speaking members of the body of Christ go), we see the idea of having to become a Christian in order to be saved as religion rather than good news. To put it simply, we see religion as anything teaching that God will only look kindly upon us if we do the right thing(s) before we die. The good news which Paul primarily taught, on the other hand (that Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused the third day), is not a religion at all, but is instead the announcement of the end of religion (it’s a proclamation, not a proposition). Religion, to those of us in the body of Christ, consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshipping, sacrificing) the religious think they have to choose to do (and then actually do) in order to get right with God, but no action (which would include choosing to believe something specific, and then actually believing it) on our part can ever take away our sins or make us immortal. Thankfully, everything necessary for salvation from sin and death has already been done, once and for all, by God through Christ. And while God calls members of the body of Christ to proclaim Paul’s Gospel to those He calls us to proclaim it to, believing it isn’t essential to one’s ultimate salvation since our ultimate salvation was already guaranteed some 2,000 years ago, and God doesn’t intend to bring everyone to a knowledge of the truth in this lifetime anyway (while He’s saved everyone through Christ’s actions from an absolute perspective, He only elects certain people to be saved from a relative perspective and join the body of Christ — or perhaps to join the Israel of God instead — in this lifetime). So if someone doesn’t believe the Gospel, they won’t have the peace of mind that those of us in the true body of Christ have, based on the knowledge that God in Christ did indeed save all of us already, and they might also miss out on living through one or two future eons, or at least miss out on eonian/“everlasting” life during those two eons, but I’d also suggest that one’s concern that they might not become believers if they think the good news I just presented is true is actually less of a concern than one might think because, if they truly believe that they don’t have to become Christians simply because of what Christ accomplished, not only have they already believed the actual Gospel Paul taught (since, if they actually believed they could avoid “converting,” so to speak, because the above is true, then they’ve technically already believed Paul’s Gospel before they even realized it) rather than the “gospel” the Christian religion teaches, but they’re now in the body of Christ as well. So, perhaps that does undermine “evangelism” from a traditional Christian perspective, but not from the scriptural perspective that those of us in the body of Christ come at things from. And, of course, there are also certain rewards to be had in heaven after Christ comes for His body, which is also incentive to evangelize. That said, wanting to share good news is human nature. There’s a reason I wrote this book in the first place and give it away for free, after all (not to mention why I share it so widely), and belief in the salvation of all humanity has never stopped any of us from wanting to let everyone know this good news, or from actually sharing it.

Another variation of that objection is, “If you’re right, then I’ll miss out on some stuff, but I’ll be okay in the end,” and some even add, “However, if I’m right, you’re going to burn in hell for eternity.” It’s interesting how some believe it’s more important to accept a doctrine because it might have a worse possible outcome than accepting its alternative might have, regardless of whether that doctrine is correct or not, but I’m far more interested in truth than I am in worrying about unfounded threats (and if we needed to choose a theology based on it having the worst possible outcome if we don’t believe or follow it, some religions have even worse end results for those who don’t follow them than the Infernalist version of Christianity does, so this argument doesn’t help their case the way they might think it does). The real truth, however, is that if I’m wrong, I’ve still believed the Gospel (since I still believe there’s nothing I can possibly do to save myself from sin and death, and that only Christ’s death for our sins, along with His subsequent entombment and resurrection on the third day, saved me), so that isn’t actually the case at all. And so, if I’m wrong, I’ve actually only been teaching that God is better than He really is, since I’m claiming He’ll actually succeed in accomplishing His will that everyone be saved; whereas if I’m right, those who make this claim have actually spoken terrible blasphemy, basically accusing God of doing horrible things to the creation He supposedly loves by torturing them in fire with no chance of escape (or at least of giving up on the majority of them, letting nearly everyone cease to exist completely, never to enjoy consciousness again). And if we’re going to worry about a “Pascal’s Wager” sort of scenario here, I’d much rather err on the side of accusing God of being too good and too loving and too successful than accusing Him of being the exact opposite.

Some also like to say, “Those who believe everyone will be saved just want an excuse to sin,” but if someone truly understands and has believed what I’ve written in this book then they’ve already believed the good news that Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused the third day, and has hence already been saved, so it makes no more sense to say this about us than it does about any traditional Christian who believes they’ve been saved themselves (especially to a Christian who believes in OSAS, meaning “Once Saved, Always Saved”).

On a similar — yet somehow even worse — note, some Christians claim that, “If there isn’t a place of never-ending torture in a place called “hell” for sinners, then there’s no point in being good in the first place,“ and some even go on to assert that, if they believed that Universalism was true, they’d be out there robbing and raping and murdering people. (Seriously, I’ve actually had multiple Christians make this confession to me.) I have to hope they’re just using hyperbole there, although if they’re being serious, and the threat of never-ending torment in a place called “hell” is the only thing keeping them civilized, then perhaps it is a good thing that they don’t believe the truth about this topic, because that’s a seriously disturbing admission about who they really are and what they wish they could be doing. But regardless of their sincerity in making these statements, they really aren’t thinking things through. I’ll start with the second claim first, which is to point out that very few Universalists are out there committing the crimes these Christians are telling us they apparently wish they could — and, if they believed Universalism was true, supposedly would — indulge in. However, presuming they aren’t actually being honest about how their belief in Infernalism is keeping them from acting out some twisted desire to steal from and hurt others, perhaps the bigger admission that Christians who resort to these sorts of arguments are making is that they don’t trust grace at all. This is actually a bigger topic than just how it applies to the topic of the salvation of all, and I don’t have the time to really get into all the problems connected with this fact right here, but the bottom line is that most Christians really don’t trust grace in the slightest and are always trying to add at least a tiny bit of law to it (just to be safe), even though mortal humans trying to perform religious law always leads to more sin, not less (and not just the Mosaic law, but any religious rules at all, which is what law ultimately is), and so this ends up with the exact opposite result of what they’re hoping to achieve through their attempt to shoehorn religious rules into salvation by grace through faith. And as far as the first claim goes, for those Christians who haven’t forgotten that salvation isn’t based on “being good” anyway, since our good works can’t save us, and in fact have nothing to do with the sort of salvation Paul primarily taught about at all, this statement is about as logical as saying, “If criminals eventually get out of prison, then there’s no point in avoiding crime in the first place.” Aside from the fact that the threat of life sentences in prison (and even the death penalty, depending on where you live) doesn’t deter the criminals who commit major crimes from the actions that result in these sentences, you don’t find most Christians out there living lives of crime (or, if they are, most of them are hiding it pretty well), so we can assume they’re just not thinking things through when they say these things (and, just as with the last objection, any Christian who believes in OSAS and makes these claims forgets that they could then be out there committing the horrific crimes they tell me they wish they could be committing, since they’re guaranteed to still remain saved regardless, according to their own soteriology, so they aren’t being consistent with these assertions at all). Besides, almost no Christian actually believes someone should remain in prison for the rest of their life over a petty crime like shoplifting or jaywalking, so the idea that people should then be tortured without end in “hell” for the same — or even lesser — infractions of the secular law really makes no sense at all (and if someone really believes that sin is actually so serious that it requires someone to be tortured in fire without end, the idea that “the punishment should fit the crime” would be an entirely erroneous idea when it comes to their take on the judicial system as well, since they already believe that every wrong — which includes breaking the secular law, in most cases — does deserve a much worse punishment than just a fine or a period of time in prison, even when it comes to extremely minor offences, so they should really be arguing for life sentences, the death penalty, or maybe even torture, for every crime, if they wish to be consistent, since they believe that we all deserve far worse consequences than that for committing these actions).

And while there are many more objections that I’ve heard over the years, I’ll wrap this list up with a classic I’ve heard many times from Christians who say things like, “God is a gentleman who won’t coerce people into salvation, or force anyone to go to heaven against their will” (some even go so far as to compare the idea Him saving people without them first specifically choosing to be saved to rape; and it’s odd how many Christians seem to have this obsession with using sexual assault in their objections to Universalism, and so perhaps they’re telling us something about themselves there and actually are as interested in participating in this crime as many of them who make last objection we just covered seem to imply). Well, if you’ve read everything I’ve written in this book up to this point, you already know that we believe only members of the body of Christ will end up living in heaven (with everyone else eventually being resurrected to live on the New Earth), so right off the bat that’s a straw man argument. But regardless, we don’t believe God will force anyone to be saved against their will anyway, but rather that He gives people the will to want to be saved. And since Paul told us that everyone is going to experience salvation in the end, He’ll certainly make sure that everyone is willing to enjoy immortality and sinlessness/perfection by the time the eons run their course. And those who still insist that God just wouldn’t force someone to experience salvation without having to specifically choose to experience it, aside from the fact that this isn’t an assertion found anywhere in the Bible (this is just an unfounded assumption certain Christians make in order to try to hold on to their preferred soteriological doctrines), most of these people do believe that God will instead force people to suffer without end in a place called “hell,” even though nobody would choose that either. This means that, at the end of the day, it seems as though these Christians don’t actually care if God forces people to experience something against their will at all, so long as He doesn’t let them enjoy what’s to come against the will of the Christians who want people to have to choose to do something specific in order to avoid experiencing suffering instead, the way they think they did.

And with all that being said, let’s move on to the so-called “proof texts” that we’ve all heard used to support the doctrine of never-ending punishment in hell, in order to finally determine what they’re actually talking about once and for all.

Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. — Matthew 18:8–9

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. — Mark 9:43–48

These two parallel passages are among the most commonly quoted in order to prove that anyone who doesn’t choose to “get saved” before they die will end up being punished by ending up in an inescapable place called “hell” (which most believe is also a reference to a place called the lake of fire, as mentioned previously). There are a couple factors here that almost nobody ever considers when reading these two passages, however. First of all, there’s nothing in the text which tells us anyone will actually remain in the hell fire Jesus warned about in those passages. Yes, they say that the fire is “everlasting” in less literal Bible translations such as the KJV (although we’ve already learned that this isn’t a word we should just automatically assume means “never ending” when we see it in less literal Bible versions), but they don’t say that the time spent in said hell fire will be never-ending, and insisting that these two passages mean any humans will be trapped in said fire without the possibility of ever leaving it requires one to read their doctrinal presuppositions about never-ending punishment into the text (and to ignore everything we’ve already learned about Paul’s Gospel as well, of course). That’s not all, though. Jesus also didn’t say that anyone would even be conscious or suffering while in this hell fire. Of course, the fact that He didn’t say anyone would be conscious or suffering doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be. It simply means we can’t determine these things based on these two passages alone, since they just don’t say one way or the other, but we can look to other passages in Scripture to find out. And this is where the passage in Mark comes in handy, because it gives us the key to finding the answer to this question (the mention of the “undying” worm and unquenchable fire gives it away). You see, these warnings by Jesus were actually referencing a prophecy in Isaiah 66:23-24, which said: “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” Few people who read this prophecy ever seem to notice it, but there’s a word in there which tells us that Jesus wasn’t talking about ghosts who are suffering consciously in an ethereal afterlife realm called “hell.” Why do I say that? Because, in that prophecy, Isaiah wrote about carcases — meaning corpses, or dead bodies — being looked upon with abhorrence (meaning contempt or aversion) by all flesh (meaning any living human) that sees them either being consumed by worms or by fire on a physical planet in the future (keeping in mind that the worms would burn up and die if they were in the fire too, so this means that the entire location won’t be on fire, but will have portions which will burn corpses alongside portions where corpses that aren’t on fire will be eaten by worms).

Of course, the fact that Jesus was referencing a passage from Isaiah about carcases tells us that these passages aren’t talking about anyone who is alive or suffering consciously, at least not if we’re taking the passage in Isaiah that Jesus was calling back to in that warning at all literally (and I see no reason not to, especially since there wouldn’t be new moons and sabbaths in the ethereal afterlife realm that most Christians assume this “hell” is referring to, nor would there be anyone with flesh in an afterlife realm, as Isaiah said there would be in the location this punishment takes place in), which means we have no reason to believe that anyone suffers in this particular hell fire at all (since dead bodies don’t have functioning nervous systems; and while it’s said that there will be “worms” that won’t die there, there’s little reason to believe these “worms” are a reference to anything other than maggots — especially when you consider the fact that Isaiah wrote “carcases,” not “ghosts” or “souls” — and maggots are simply larval flies which go through a process known as pupation and grow into adult flies, so they won’t die while still in their larval, “worm” form, but will instead grow up and lay eggs so that there are then more “worms” to consume more of the dead bodies in this location). So if there actually is a place called “hell” that people end up in as conscious beings after they die, we have no good reason to look at passages which talk about this particular “hell” to describe or defend its existence. And neither can we look to these passages to prove that anyone will remain in any version of “hell” without end either, since these two passages just don’t claim anything of the sort.

Now, I have heard it claimed that, while the majority of the passage in Isaiah 66 actually is referring to what happens on earth (although verse 22 suggests that this might actually take place on the New Earth after the Great White Throne Judgement rather than on our current planet after the Tribulation), the passage all of a sudden begins talking about an afterlife state of souls when we get to the part about the worm and the fire (or, perhaps, that the worm and fire part of the prophecy have a double-fulfilment, both on a physical planet and in an afterlife realm), and that this means whoever ends up in this particular “hell” will be dead, but will then continue on as a conscious soul in an afterlife realm to be tormented by “fire” of some sort (however that’s supposed to work without matter to combust), and by a “worm” (whether referring literally to an actual spiritual being that will somehow gnaw on their soul, or perhaps referring figuratively to simply being tormented by guilty memories of past sins, as I’ve heard it asserted by some who want to pick and choose for themselves which parts of this prophecy are literal and which parts are figurative rather than interpret the whole passage consistently) in another “hell” one enters in the afterlife. But since there’s absolutely nothing in the text that anyone reading it at the time it was written could possibly have interpreted as meaning it isn’t simply physical carcases being consumed by actual fire and worms (especially since there hadn’t been anything written in the Hebrew Scriptures that outright spoke of a conscious afterlife punishment), this is clearly an assumption they’ve read into the passage based on a pre-existing doctrinal bias, and so to insist that this is what the passage definitely has to mean without first considering everything else I’ll be covering in this chapter would be pure eisegesis (and while what we’ve already covered from Paul’s epistles proves that everyone will eventually experience salvation, so we know that nobody could possibly suffer without end in this afterlife version of “hell,” if that’s where these people actually ended up, if you read the rest of this chapter you’ll soon learn why it couldn’t possibly mean what they’re assuming it does there anyway).

But what was Jesus warning us about, then? Well, He wasn’t warning us about anything, because He wasn’t talking to us to begin with (unless, perhaps, you’re Jewish). As we’ve already learned from the first chapter of this book, His death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection on the third day aside, Jesus’ earthly ministry and messages were technically to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (and, as we’ve also already covered, He was primarily speaking about the kingdom of heaven, which will be an actual, physical 1,000-yearlong kingdom here on earth — specifically in Israel — sometimes referred to as the Millennium or Millennial Kingdom, which comes into being after the Tribulation period at the end of the third eon ends and the fourth eon begins, and not speaking about an ethereal afterlife realm at all), which tells us that He was warning His Jewish audience here about the possibility of missing out on enjoying eonian life (or, as the KJV figuratively refers to it as, “everlasting life”) for a thousand years in Israel, pointing out that they might instead end up as a corpse in a valley outside Jerusalem, referred to in the Hebrew Scriptures as the valley of the son of Hinnom, to be burned up and devoured by worms in rather than being buried under the ground as pretty much all Israelites would prefer to be the way they’re interred.

And while it could be that, because the kingdom of heaven didn’t come fully into effect on earth at the time (since Israel largely didn’t accept Jesus as their Messiah and as the Son of God back then), His warnings are now more applicable to the generation of Israelites who will be alive at the time of the Tribulation, with it turning out that Jesus’ audience was more at risk of ending up in “hell” after the Great White Throne Judgement instead, presuming this “hell” and the lake of fire are the same thing, of course (nobody Jesus spoke to could have known their type of salvation would be put on hold prior to Paul revealing it was being removed from them, at least until the final Gentile enters the body of Christ, at which point the prophecies about Israel’s salvation will begin coming into effect again, and, in fact, will finally be fulfilled), I’ve also heard it suggested that “unquenchable fire” is actually always used figuratively as a symbol of destruction as a form of national judgement in the Hebrew Scriptures (such as in 2 Kings 22:17; 2 Chronicles 34:25; Isaiah 1:31 and 34:10; Jeremiah 4:4, 17:27, and 21:12; Ezekiel 20:47; and Amos 5:6 — and just as a quick but relevant aside, it’s important to note that a fire being said to “not be quenched” in Scripture doesn’t mean it never goes out, but please read this linked article for more on that particular point, since I don’t have the time to get into that topic here). This second option would include the 587 BC fall of Jerusalem, if it is indeed the case, but it would have also found a more literal fulfillment in AD 70, at least as far as Jesus’ warnings using the term go, considering the fact that the whole city of Jerusalem was burned, and the corpses in the valley of the son of Hinnom outside the city apparently ended up incinerated in that fire (or consumed by worms in the valley) as well. And if that latter option is the case, it means that Jesus’ warnings about “hell” likely aren’t even relevant to anyone alive today (although the lake of fire after the Great White Throne Judgement is still something to be concerned about, of course, even if that second option is what He meant, and also presuming there isn’t a double fulfilment for certain people after the Tribulation ends as far as that warning goes, if that’s the case).

It’s important to remember that Jesus wasn’t speaking English, so when He gave these warnings, His listeners didn’t hear the English word “hell” come out of His mouth, but rather literally heard Him say “the valley of Hinnom” in their own language, as the name of this geographical location had been shorted down to by the time Jesus walked the earth (technically the word they heard Him speak in Greek was γέεννα/“Géenna,” which is why it’s sometimes transliterated into English as Gehenna, depending on your Bible version, and which itself is a transliteration of the Hebrew גֵיא־הִנֹּם/“Gēʾ-Hīnnōm,” which means “the valley of Hinnom” in English, but which is translated as “hell” in most less literal English Bible versions, presumably at least partly because a valley is a long depression, or elongated, uncovered hole in the ground, although probably also partly due to a lack of awareness of the salvation of all, along with certain translators’ misunderstandings of what the English word “hell” actually means, thanks to their own doctrinal biases), which they would have — or at least should have — known was said to be a place of future judgement, and those who understood Scripture would have realized that Jesus was connecting the warning of judgement in the book of Jeremiah to the warning about corpses in the book of Isaiah, letting them know where Isaiah’s prophecy would take place (at least prior to the creation of the New Earth). The worst punishment a Jewish person expected to experience after dying was to be denied a proper burial (there couldn’t be a worse consequence than that in their minds since most Jews believed that one ceased to exist consciously after death, as Scripture also teaches and as will be proven shortly), which is why cremation is forbidden for Jews to this day for the most part. In fact, Jews are basically obligated to bury any and all corpses, even if it’s the body of a criminal who had been put to death, so to be told that they not only might be kept from living in the kingdom of heaven when it begins on earth, but that they could potentially be left unburied and might instead have their cadaver unceremoniously cast into the most unholy place in all of Israel when the Millennium begins as well (the valley in which certain ancient Israelites burned their children to death as a sacrifice to the god Molech) would be the most humiliating indignity Jesus’ audience could have been threatened with. Jesus wasn’t threatening that anybody would be tortured in the valley of Hinnom; He was simply giving a warning that certain sins would result not only in death so that one couldn’t enjoy life in the kingdom of heaven when it begins on earth (and perhaps that certain sins during the Millennium might result in the same punishment as well), but also that they risked losing out on a proper burial so that their corpse would instead be seen burning up or being eaten by worms by everyone who looked upon it as well, which would be (and will be) a great source of shame to know before they die that this would happen.

I should also say, some people claim that Jews refer to the valley of Hinnom in a figurative manner to speak of a realm in which people will be tormented consciously after they die, so as to support their argument that Jesus was using this particular “hell” as a warning about what those who don’t get saved before they die will experience while dead, but there are a couple problems with using this argument. First, whether or not the valley of Hinnom was actually sometimes used figuratively to refer to a negative afterlife realm during Jesus’ time on earth (and I’m not familiar with any proof that it actually was used in this manner at that time), there’s nothing in the Hebrew Scriptures to indicate it should be used that way, so to claim Jesus meant it that way wouldn’t be an argument based on what Scripture actually says so much as it would be an argument based on extrabiblical Jewish mythology, which isn’t something anyone should be basing their theology on, nor does it seem like something that the One who corrected people for teaching extrabiblical theological concepts as truth by saying things like “have ye not read…?” and “it is written…” would do. And secondly, we already know that the only humans who end up spending time in this particular “hell” will be carcases, which means it has to be referring to that actual valley in Israel, so it really wouldn’t matter if some Jews in Jesus’ time were ignoring the Hebrew Scriptures and referring to the valley figuratively in that manner anyway, since this fact tells us that Jesus wouldn’t have meant it that way at all.

Everyone Jesus spoke to desperately wanted to enjoy living in Israel when the kingdom of heaven finally begins there, and the idea that Jesus’ audience members might be dead during that thousand-year time period, or that they might even have ended up weeping and gnashing their (quite physical) teeth because they’d been forced to live in figuratively “darker” parts of the world instead, if the kingdom had fully begun while they were still alive, would have been a grave threat for them indeed. The fact that Jesus said many will be coming from the east and the west to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven also confirms that the kingdom of heaven will be on earth, after those patriarchs have been resurrected from the dead, rather than in an afterlife realm called “heaven” (which is something that we now know isn’t even a place the dead go), I should add, as does the fact that one could “enter into the kingdom of God with one eye,” as Jesus stated. And so the “outer darkness” can’t be referring to hell, at least not the hell we’re discussing now, because that particular hell will be within the borders of the kingdom of heaven since it will be in a valley inside Israel, so it makes sense that being cast into the outer darkness would simply refer to being exiled from Israel, if one happens to be alive at that time, and missing out on getting to live in the kingdom of heaven during those thousand years. However, for those who are somehow still sceptical, if Jesus was trying to get all of the above across, I’d like you to tell me what He would have needed to have said differently in order to convince you of this.

Before moving on, though, I also need to ask, if we’re to believe that encountering a fiery judgement means being tortured, or even just punished, without end, why did Jesus then wrap up this warning with a statement that “every one shall be salted with fire” in the very next verse, and why do so many of the references to fiery judgements throughout the Hebrew Scriptures refer to fire purifying the nation of Israel and making things right, and never to any Israelites being tortured without end in said fire, as well? (And the odd passage which could theoretically be interpreted as referencing individuals being burned up don’t say they’ll be suffering, but rather that there won’t be any part of them left after the fiery judgement is complete, also contradicting the popular doctrine of Infernalism.)

But still, if this “hell” is a reference to the lake of fire, as most Christians believe it to be, wouldn’t that mean the people who end up in it will have to be suffering in it without end, contrary to what Isaiah wrote? I mean, the Bible says that unrighteous sinners will be tortured consciously in the lake of fire, and that none of them can ever leave that location, doesn’t it? Well, let’s take a look at what the Bible says about the lake of fire to determine whether that’s actually the case or not.

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. — Revelation 20:7–10

This is the only passage in the Bible which suggests that anyone will suffer without end in a location specifically referred to by name as the lake of fire, and I trust you noticed that it’s only the devil, the beast, and the false prophet who are said to be tormented there “for ever and ever.” Yes, Revelation 20:15 does say that “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” too, but you’ll notice that it doesn’t say how long these people will remain in it for, or even that they’ll be alive while they’re in it (much less that they’ll be suffering), and to insist that the humans who are cast into it will “not surely die,” as mortal humans normally would when set on fire, but that they’ll somehow remain alive, even though there’s nothing in the text which even implies this will happen, is the epitome of eisegesis (especially in light of everything we’ve already covered from Paul’s epistles about the eventual salvation of all humanity). This also means that “the beast” and “the false prophet” in this passage can’t be references to humans, since the beings who will go by those titles will be cast alive into the lake of fire, which means the lake of fire is going to exist here on earth, not in another dimension that ghosts exist in, and there’s nothing anywhere in the Bible to indicate that the humans who will go by these titles will be immortal (which they couldn’t be anyway, since immortality for humans is always connected with salvation in Scripture), so the reference to “the beast” and “the false prophet” who are being tormented in the lake of fire pretty much have to be talking about the spirits who possessed them rather than talking about the actual humans who will also go by those titles (presuming “the beast” and “the false prophet” who deceive the world during the Tribulation aren’t simply spiritual beings the whole time, and that no humans will actually go by those titles at all). Simply put, presuming there are humans who will go by those titles, they’ll be cast alive into the lake of fire, at which point they’ll die and burn up, leaving behind only the evil spirits who empowered them during the Tribulation, to be bound to the lake of fire for a very long time as a punishment (for the duration of the eons of the eons — as we’ve learned is one of the meanings of the figurative translation “for ever and ever” — and that they won’t be set free until the time they’ve been reconciled to God, at the consummation of the eons), similar to the way other spirits are currently bound in another version of “hell” (and if they’re simply spiritual beings the whole time, with no possessed humans involved, then they themselves will be cast alive into the lake of fire for the duration of the eons of the eons).

This also means that if the warnings by Jesus about the hell we covered were a reference to the future location of the lake of fire (which I actually agree that those passages were indeed referring to), since Isaiah told us that only dead bodies would be spending time in there (at least as far as its human inhabitants go), we can say with quite some certainty that no humans in the lake of fire will be alive or suffering in there, at least not for any longer than it takes for someone to die after being set on fire (and this would fit perfectly with what we know anyway; the lake of fire is called the second death for a reason — if the “second death” could somehow be interpreted as being a reference to some form of never-ending torture, with one’s supposed “spiritual death,” which we’ve already learned is an unscriptural concept, actually being a prior “death” to this one, it should actually be called the “third death” since everybody who ends up there will have also died physically at some point prior to experiencing this fate, and if one’s “first death” is actually a reference to their biological death prior to being physically resurrected for the Great White Throne Judgement, the second death would just be more of the same as the first death, which is biological death — which tells us there’s no good reason at all to interpret the “second death” as referring to being tortured in fire without end, but rather that it should simply be interpreted as meaning to literally die a second time in said location).

As for why I personally believe that the lake of fire will be located in the valley of Hinnom (at least during the thousand-year period of time that the kingdom of heaven exists in Israel), there are a couple reasons. The first is because I’ve noticed that the passage almost immediately prior to the reference in Isaiah to the “undying” worms and unquenchable fire is a statement that implies this will probably take place at least partly on the New Earth (although we have to keep the “mountain and valley” aspect of prophecy in mind — see the below image at the end of this paragraph for a demonstration of this if you aren’t familiar with the concept — since we know that Jesus’ warnings were about the period of time when the kingdom of heaven will exist in Israel on our current planet, even if Isaiah himself may not have been aware of that fact), and it seems unlikely that there would be two places for burning corpses on the New Earth (a place called “hell” and a place called the lake of fire) after the Great White Throne Judgement takes place. And similarly, we know that “the beast” and “the false prophet” will be cast into the lake of fire at the end of the Tribulation, 1,000 years before the New Earth is created, and the similar point that it seems unlikely there would be two places for burning corpses in the kingdom of heaven when it’s located in Israel on our current planet would apply here too, and so it does make sense that the valley referred to as “hell” in the KJV will indeed be the future location of the lake of fire (the fact that the lake of fire will apparently exist during the Millennium is also why I suspect the “unquenchable fire” prophecy might have a double fulfillment after the Tribulation, presuming it was referring to corpses being burned up in the valley of Hinnom after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70).

For a good example of this concept, notice how, in Luke 4:14–21, Jesus stopped reading Isaiah 61:1–2 before the end of the sentence in verse 2, since the part of that prophecy about “the day of vengeance of our God” hadn’t begun at that time yet. This demonstrates how there can be “valleys” (or events taking place during extended periods of time not explicitly mentioned within a specific prophecy, but which are later revealed in other prophecies) between the “mountains” (meaning between the events that actually are foretold within a specific prophecy) which were unseen by the prophets themselves, with some of these gaps even sitting between events mentioned in the very same sentence within a prophecy.

Before moving on, however, I should also point out that, in addition to the fact that we have no basis for believing any humans will be conscious or suffering in the “hell” that the lake of fire will be located in, or even for believing they’ll never be resurrected from their second death to go live on the New Earth (which is also not a reference to an afterlife state, since nobody going to live on the New Earth will die a second time the way those cast into the lake of fire will, but is just a reference to a whole new planet to replace ours after our current planet is destroyed) at some point, there’s good reason to believe that not every human judged at the Great White Throne will even end up in the lake of fire to begin with. This might sound odd to some Christians, but John’s statement about those whose names aren’t written in the book of life ending up in the lake of fire would seem to be entirely unnecessary if there weren’t going to also be some people judged at that time whose names are written in the book of life, especially if the judgement itself were going to prove that they deserved to end up in the lake of fire, as most Christians assume will happen. And remember, this judgement isn’t about whether one has “gotten saved” or not. Instead, John tells us in Revelation that the judgement people will face at the Great White Throne is going to be solely about their works (this also means that they’ll be judged based on whether their evil acts “outweighed” their good deeds rather than whether their actions were sinful or not, since not only are “evil” and “sin” two entirely different things — unless you believe that animals can sin — but also because all sin was taken care of some 2,000 years ago by Christ), and that only “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Most Christians will claim that “the unbelieving” being the second category of people who are said to end up there proves that anyone who doesn’t “get saved” before they die will end up in the lake of fire, but since John said this judgement is based on works, if “the unbelieving” referred to those who didn’t “get saved,” it would also mean that believing is a work, which I doubt most Christians agree is the case. The fact that “the unbelieving” is the second category rather than the first — in a list of different categories of people who end up there — also tells us just how unlikely it is that John was simply referring to those who didn’t choose to “get saved” before they die, since if everyone who fails to “get saved” is guaranteed to end up in the lake of fire, the rest of the list would seem to be entirely unnecessary to begin with (although it’s true that, while those in the body of Christ can’t lose their salvation, those Israelites who are given the sort of salvation Jesus and His disciples preached about while He walked the earth do seem to be able to lose their type of salvation, so perhaps the rest of the list technically applies strictly to them, but either way, “the unbelieving” can’t simply refer to those who didn’t get saved prior to their death, because otherwise it wouldn’t even need to be included on the list to begin with, since it would go without saying based on the fact that they were being judged at the Great White Throne in the first place, and the rest of the list would also then be quite redundant). The fact that he also says “all liars” will end up in the lake of fire, when every single human who has made it to the age where they can communicate has lied at some point in their life, also makes the rest of the list entirely superfluous, I should add, if it means that everyone who has ever told a lie will end up in the lake of fire, as most Christians claim (it stands to reason that this simply refers to those who make a lifestyle out of habitual lying, such as politicians and religious teachers, for example, since otherwise the rest of the list just wouldn’t have been necessary at all). Anyway, at least as far as Gentiles go, Jesus Himself seemed to imply that certain non-Israelites will be resurrected for this judgement yet not end up condemned themselves, but rather will condemn certain Israelites who missed out on the resurrection of the just (and they won’t have been saved the way the body of Christ or the Israel of God are, or else they would have been resurrected much earlier and missed this particular judgement altogether). And so, I would suggest that it’s probably only the worst of the worst who will end up in the lake of fire, with everyone else, likely including most of your loved ones, continuing on to live on the New Earth, even if not in immortal bodies (at least to begin with). But don’t worry, this interpretation isn’t teaching salvation by works for those who might get to avoid the lake of fire after being judged at the Great White Throne (especially not as far as the sort of salvation Paul taught about goes), because those who would avoid the lake of fire at this judgement won’t actually get saved at that time, since A) they missed out on the salvation which involved living in Israel during the thousand years, and B) they aren’t going to be vivified when they go live on the New Earth — at least not right away — so this isn’t the sort of salvation which Paul taught isn’t by works, because that particular salvation is all about being vivified. All that being said, even if everyone who gets judged at the Great White Throne does end up in the lake of fire, we already know that it’s only the spiritual beings known as the devil, the beast, and the false prophet who are said to remain in the lake of fire “for ever and ever” (which, again, is just a figure of speech that simply means “for the eons of the eons,” or for the final two eons, in the passage that speaks of their fate), or who are said to be tormented in it, so there’s no reason to believe that any human whose name isn’t written in the book of life will be alive or suffering in the lake of fire, or even that they can’t ever eventually be resurrected from their second death the way they were from their first death, and then go on to live on the New Earth (whether in a vivified body or otherwise).

A picture of the valley of Hinnom, which is the “hell” that Jeremiah and Jesus warned about (and which is where the lake of fire will be located in the future, at least to begin with), as it exists in Israel today. [Photograph of “hell” taken by Deror avi. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.]

But even if humans can’t suffer in the “hell” that the lake of fire will be located in, if we’re “eternal” beings, as most Christians assume, we must still be able to suffer in another version of “hell,” which the unsaved will experience as ghosts after they die (whether after their first death, prior to their resurrection for the Great White Throne Judgement, or even if just temporarily after their second death in the lake of fire, until they’re resurrected again for their promised vivification), right? This is what most Christians believe, anyway. And because of this, while “ye shall not surely die” might be the first recorded lie the devil told, it’s now being taught as truth by many people in the Christian religion who are trying to convince us that death isn’t actually death at all, but is instead actually life (“eternal life,” even), and that it’s really a friend bringing us to finally be with the Lord rather than an enemy that needs to be destroyed.

Based on all the sermons where I’ve heard preachers say things like, “When your heart stops beating, you won’t actually die; instead, you’ll pass on to the next stage of your life, the place where you’ll spend the rest of eternity, and the location you’ll end up in from that point onward depends on whether or not you choose to accept Christ before you pass on to that final destination,” it’s clear they’ve forgotten that nobody remains dead, since there’s still a resurrection of the dead in the future, prior to the Great White Throne Judgement. But in addition to this, it also demonstrates that they’re unaware of the fact that the Hebrew Scriptures tell us the dead know nothing, meaning they aren’t conscious at all (many Christians will do all sorts of theological and mental gymnastics trying to prove that these assertions made in Ecclesiastes don’t literally mean what they say, but there had been no passages in Scripture prior to those which said the dead are conscious, so there’s no basis for the idea that anyone who read these statements at the time they were written could have possibly understood that the writer instead meant the dead actually do have knowledge — although, for those who believe in the immortality of the soul, if Solomon was trying to get across to us that the dead don’t have knowledge, I’d like you to tell me what he would have needed to have written differently there in order to convince you he actually did mean that they indeed don’t have knowledge). Even in the Greek Scriptures, death is compared to sleep, not to being awake in an afterlife existence (outside of one very misunderstood story in the book of Luke, which I’ll discuss shortly). The book of Acts didn’t say Stephen died and went to heaven, for example. While his spirit was returned to God — not as a conscious being, though, because our spirit is just the breath of life that generates a conscious soul while in a body and isn’t conscious itself, since it’s actually our soul that is our consciousness, and spirits and souls aren’t the same thing — the book of Acts says that he himself went to sleep, not that he remained awake.

Scripture says that David and others fell asleep — referring to their actual persons being asleep or unconscious in death — not that just their bodies decayed while they themselves remained conscious (when Scripture speaks of a person dying, it doesn’t just say their body died while they themselves continued to live; instead, it says that they themselves have died, and that the location of their very person is now “in the grave” or “in the dust,” in the very same place that everyone ends up, including all animals as well, in fact, and there’s no scriptural basis for reading these verses in any other way, at least not that I’m aware of). Similarly, bodily resurrection is likewise compared to waking up from sleep in Scripture, and not to a person being returned to their body to continue to be awake as they supposedly still were while they slept as well.

It’s important to keep in mind what E. W. Bullinger explained when he wrote: “When the Holy Spirit uses one thing to describe or explain another, He does not choose the opposite word or expression. If He speaks of night, He does not use the word light. If He speaks of daylight, He does not use the word night. He does not put ‘sweet for bitter, and bitter for sweet’ (Isaiah 5:20). He uses adultery to illustrate idolatry; He does not use virtue. Thus, if He uses the word ‘sleep‘ of death, it is because sleep illustrates to us what the condition of death is like. If Tradition be the truth, He ought to have used the word ‘awake,’ or ‘wakefulness’ – but the Lord first uses a Figure, and says ‘Lazarus sleepeth,’ and afterwards, when He speaks ‘plainly‘ He says ‘Lazarus is dead.’ Why? Because, sleep expresses and describes the condition of the ‘unclothed‘ state. In normal sleep, there is no consciousness. For the Lord, therefore, to have used this word ‘sleep’ to represent the very opposite condition of conscious wakefulness would have been indeed to mislead us. Yet all of His words are perfect, and are used for the purpose of teaching us, not for leading us astray.”

All that being said, it should really go without saying that consciousness, at least for biological beings such as humans, can obviously cease to exist anyway, since one can be rendered unconscious, either by going to sleep, by fainting, or by being knocked out (and when someone is unconscious, they are no longer conscious, meaning they are no longer aware of themselves and their surroundings, which means their consciousness has temporarily ceased to exist, which is something I can’t believe I have to explain, but somehow many people I’ve discussed this with seem to miss this fact, so here we are), and if we can lose our consciousness under those common circumstances, with it ceasing to exist while we’re alive (which means we aren’t in a never-ending state of consciousness), there’s no reason to believe our consciousness could return after we die without a living and active brain to bring it back into existence the way our brains do when we awaken from unconsciousness, thus regaining consciousness. To make this really clear, let’s say that somebody was sleeping, and hence had no consciousness existing at that point (and before someone brings up REM sleep and dreaming, the subconscious processes of a physical brain that cause us to dream while asleep aren’t the same thing as the consciousness we have while we’re awake, nor is there any reason to believe the neurological processes that generate dreams can occur without a living, biological brain; and one doesn’t dream the whole time they’re asleep anyway — in fact, we only dream about 20% of the time we’re asleep at night, so for approximately one third of our lives we aren’t conscious at all), or was even knocked unconscious with a hard object. If they were to suddenly die right then while unconscious (and this hypothetical person is not in a state of REM sleep, and hence isn’t dreaming in this scenario, just to remove any doubt), would their consciousness just snap back into existence at the point of their death? There’s absolutely no reason to think it would, and the idea that death can recreate a consciousness that had stopped existing (as would be the case if this happened) really makes no sense at all.

But getting back to Scripture, it’s also important to remember that the first time those in the body of Christ are said to meet the Lord is going to be in the air in our newly vivified bodies (while living members of the Israel of God will do so at the Second Coming, and dead members of the Israel of God will do so at the resurrection of the just, 75 days after the Tribulation ends), which is the point from when we’re said to finally “ever be with the Lord” (and not from a previous point such as our physical death, which would be when those in the body of Christ actually began to “ever be with the Lord” if the immortality of the soul were true). In fact, the blessed hope we’re told to comfort one another with isn’t that the dead get to live happily with the Lord as ghosts in another dimension called heaven — which we now know is actually a reference to outer space — but is rather the expectation that the dead in Christ will eventually be resurrected, and that all of us in the body of Christ (both those still living and those newly resurrected) will then be vivified and caught up together in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, which is when we’ll finally be in the heavens. (And the reference to “them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” in verse 14 is just talking about the spirits of the dead members of the body of Christ that had “returned to God” now coming back to rejoin their bodies, and isn’t meant to imply that they were already enjoying being “ever with the Lord” in heaven, since our spirits aren’t actually conscious; it’s our souls that are our consciousness — the word translated as “soul” is ψυχή/“psuchē” in the original Greek, which should be enough explanation in and of itself for those people who recognize the word that our English word “psyche” is based on — generated by a brain in a body which is being kept alive by our spirit, and our soul can’t exist so long as our spirit is not residing within our physical body, keeping our brain alive.) It’s important to remember that the reason Paul even brought this up to begin with was to comfort those who had lost loved ones to death. If the immortality of the soul were true, he would have instead needed to have written something more along the lines of, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus are with Him now, enjoying the bliss of heaven, which is where you’ll go to ever be with the Lord when you sleep as well. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

Of course, Paul also makes it quite clear that the immortality of the soul can’t be true when he wrote“For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,” as well as when he talked about all the dangers he faced while evangelizing, and pointed out that there would be no reason for him to do so if there were no resurrection from the dead, because if there was no resurrection then nobody could be saved, in which case he might as well just go live life without worrying about evangelizing. This wouldn’t be true if those who are saved go to another dimension called heaven when they die. The fact that we don’t is why he could make that claim: because without the physical resurrection we would have absolutely no hope at all, since we would cease to exist for good (we wouldn’t even have the hope of continuing on as ghosts in another dimension called “heaven” with God, since those who died in Christ would have “perished,” meaning they’re no longer existing at all, and have no hope of ever existing again either, according to this passage), which was basically the entire reason Paul wrote that chapter in his first epistle to the Corinthians to begin with.

In addition, we know that not only has David himself not gone to heaven, at least not as of the time Peter made that speech recorded in the book of Acts (which was after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, which means we also have no reason to believe he’s ended up there since then), but that nobody other than Christ Himself had either as of the time John wrote that assertion in his commentary in the book of John, which was also written after Jesus ascended into heaven (Jesus’ “red letters” quote should really end at verse 12 based on the fact that verse 13 says the Son of man was in heaven at that point, which we know Jesus wasn’t at the time He had His discussion with Nicodemus, so everything from verse 13 to 21 presumably had to have been John’s personal commentary on the topic, written after Jesus had left the earth; it’s important to remember that the book of John was a theology book rather than a history book and, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, used historical quotes of Jesus to prove theological points instead of primarily being a historical record in and of itself the way the three Synoptic Gospels were, and that John often added his own commentary to the book, even though this commentary would have indeed been inspired by God), so it seems pretty obvious that heaven is only for those who have been vivified (aside from people who fly in aircraft, and certain astronauts who visit it for a short period of time in their space shuttles, but they all return to earth relatively quickly) and isn’t for those who are currently dead.

In fact, if people were to remain conscious after death, God would cease to be their God while they waited for their physical resurrection, since He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, which would make things strange for people in the supposed afterlife if they no longer had a God (although, if the immortality of the soul were true, that would be a good explanation as to why the dead do not praise God, or even remember that He exists, since He’d no longer be their God while they were still dead). Strangely enough, though, some Christians actually try to use this statement to support their view that the dead remain conscious, mistakenly thinking that Jesus’ statement meant the dead aren’t actually dead, but are actually alive. If they just took the time to examine the context of the whole passage in Luke 20, however, they’d discover that it was really about how the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in a physical resurrection in the future, were trying to trip Jesus up with a question about who a hypothetical person would be married to after being resurrected from the dead during the impending kingdom in the next “world” (referring to the next eon, when the kingdom of heaven exists in Israel for 1,000 years) here on earth. They weren’t asking about a ghost in an afterlife dimension and whether or not she’d have to be polygamous in that imaginary realm, but were asking their question about her various marriages in order to make the idea of resurrection seem ridiculous. However, Jesus corrected them by not only pointing out that those who are resurrected from the dead at the beginning of that “world”/eon will be immortal like the angels and hence will not be married anymore at that time (because procreation, which was normally done by married people in Israel, isn’t something immortal beings are meant to do, as we know from Genesis 6), but also by using the fact that the Lord could not legitimately claim the title of “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” as Moses revealed Him to be, if the dead weren’t going to be physically resurrected someday, because He’s technically not the God of those who are currently dead, but is rather actually only the God of the living (Jesus was using prolepsis in that statement — which is a figure of speech meaning “the representation or assumption of a future act or development as if presently existing or accomplished,” calling what is not yet as though it already were, in other words  —  to prove that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will definitely be resurrected someday, because otherwise that statement about them would have been a lie since it would mean they’ll never exist again, when in fact “all live unto him” already, since, as far as God’s concerned, they’ve already been physically resurrected from His timeless perspective).

The passage just can’t be read as saying they were actually still alive at that time. Verse 37 of Luke 20 (“…that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush…”) makes it very clear that Jesus is talking about the fact that these three patriarchs would eventually be physically resurrected, not that they’re actually still alive in another dimension (He didn’t say, “that the dead are living in another dimension”; He said, “that the dead are raised,” referring to a future resurrection). Jesus’ whole point is that, if they aren’t going to be raised from the dead to live again, God could not be said to be their God, because He isn’t the God of the dead but of the living. If they were actually still alive in some afterlife dimension, God would have still been their God from a literal perspective rather than just a proleptic perspective at that time (and they could still thank and praise Him, contrary to what the book of Psalms says), but Jesus’ whole point was that, without a physical resurrection, He couldn’t be their God, since they’d be dead and would never exist again. Because they will be resurrected, however, God actually can be said to be their God, even if only from a proleptic perspective at present.

There’s just no way to read verses 37 and 38 as meaning anything other than Jesus saying that those who have “gone to sleep” are indeed dead and unconscious until their resurrection, because the only way that Moses’ statement about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could possibly be used as proof of the resurrection of the dead is if the three of them have ceased to live and consciously retain knowledge for the time being. If the three of them are actually still alive in an afterlife dimension somewhere, and if Jesus’ statement about God being the God of the living rather than the God of the dead was actually Him trying to prove the idea that God is still their God because they’re actually still alive somewhere, then the resurrection of the dead would be entirely unnecessary for God to be their God, and Jesus’ argument couldn’t possibly help prove a future resurrection at all, which means they have to no longer exist as conscious beings for now or else Jesus’ entire argument proves nothing. (Of course, the parallel telling of this discussion in Matthew 22 makes it even more obvious, since Jesus is recorded in that book as saying, “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” making it even more clear that this statement about God not being the God of the dead, but of the living, is entirely about the resurrection; when Jesus said, “the living,” He could only have been referring to living in a physical body in the future, as this particular rendition of the discussion makes clear.)

However, before moving on, if you still believe in the doctrine of the immortality of the soul after reading about Jesus’ discussion with the Sadducees, I’d like you to explain how, exactly, Jesus’ argument about God not being the God of the dead, but rather of the living, could possibly still prove the resurrection if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob actually are still alive in an afterlife realm somewhere. Because, unless you can do so, this statement by Jesus seems to be definitive proof that the dead aren’t actually conscious, which means that no other passage in Scripture one might believe teaches a conscious afterlife can possibly actually be intended to be interpreted that way unless one can first explain that.

And speaking of dead “Old Testament” saints, some people also try to use the appearance of Moses and Elijah on “the Mount of Transfiguration” to try to argue that the dead are conscious. But aside from the fact that this would make Jesus guilty of the sin of necromancy if He was talking to the ghosts of these two dead men (and Jesus never sinned, so it’s clear that this couldn’t have been what was happening there), we know that this was simply a vision to fulfill the prophecy made immediately before this passage that they would “see the Son of man coming in his kingdom,” or “be perceiving the Son of Mankind coming in His kingdom,” as the CLV puts it, because Matthew 17:9 outright tells us that it was simply a vision. (It’s also important to note — for the sake of Preterists, who know why I’m pointing this out — that Jesus didn’t say in Matthew 16:28 that they themselves would be entering His kingdom at that time, but rather that they’d only be perceiving the Son of Mankind coming in His kingdom at that time, which is exactly what happened when they had that vision of Jesus in the glorified form He’ll exist in when the kingdom of heaven comes fully into fruition in Israel in the future.)

And before someone tries to use Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor to prove the immortality of the soul, whatever the witch saw (remember, Saul didn’t see anything here), she described it as “gods ascending out of the earth,” so this was far more likely to have been a spiritual being of some sort than actually being Samuel (although the way this sort of thing was performed back then, from what I’ve been led to understand, involved a witch looking into a pit and pretending to speak to the dead in the pit, so I suppose it’s possible that God temporarily resurrected Samuel from the dead in that pit, but that wouldn’t prove the immortality of the soul either since he wouldn’t have been dead while in that pit).

Those aren’t the only passages they misuse, though, to try to prove the immortality of the soul. For example, many like to also claim that Paul said, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Aside from the fact that this isn’t actually what Paul said at all (his actual words — at least as translated in the KJV — were, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord”), if you look at the context of what he said in the previous verses, and also remember that a physical resurrection in an immortal, glorified body is what Paul was, and the living members of the body of Christ currently are (or at least should be), looking forward to, you can see that he was figuratively comparing our current mortal bodies to earthly houses, and saying that he was looking forward to no longer being “at home” in his mortal body, but instead wanted to be at home in his glorified “house not made with hands.” When Paul talked about “houses” and “homes” in these verses, as well as when he referred to being clothed there, he was talking about physical bodies, with the “house not made with hands” being a reference to his future immortal body, not to him existing as a ghost in another dimension after he dies. And so, when he wrote that he was “willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord,” he couldn’t possibly have been talking about hoping he’d die so he would be with Jesus, since he specifically wrote in verses 3 and 4 that he was not hoping for death at all (when he wrote that he wasn’t looking to be “naked” or “unclothed”), but rather that he was hoping to be given an immortal body, or to be “clothed upon” (“with our house which is from heaven,” as he explained in verse 2) so that “mortality might be swallowed up of life,” confirming that this whole passage is about mortal bodies vs immortal bodies rather than about existing as ghosts in an ethereal afterlife dimension, and that he simply meant he was desiring to trade in his mortal body for his future immortal body, which won’t happen until the Snatching Away (at least for those of us in the body of Christ).

This is similar to the way they misuse Paul’s quote that, for him specifically at that particular time (it’s important to note that this verse isn’t talking about believers in general, but was about Paul’s unenviable circumstances at the time he wrote these words), “to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” to try to prove that he believed his death would bring him immediately to be with Christ in heaven, once again ignoring the context of the verses before these words, not to mention the verses after them as well, and the context of the surrounding verses make it pretty obvious that the “gain” Paul was referring to there would be a gain to the furtherance of the message he was preaching while in bonds, which his martyrdom would surely accomplish (the idea that the “gain” referred to going to heaven as a ghost is reading one’s presuppositions about the immortality of the soul into the passage). I’ll admit, verses 22 and 23 in the KJV aren’t the easiest for people today to understand (17th-century English isn’t something 21st-century people always find easy to grasp), and some people will assume that by, “yet what I shall choose I wot not,” Paul meant he hadn’t yet decided which option he was going to select, as if it was up to him. But whether he lived or died wasn’t actually up to him at all — it was up to the Roman government (at least from a relative perspective, although it was ultimately up to God from an absolute perspective). Literally all Paul was saying there is that he wasn’t going to let it be known whether he’d personally rather continue living as a prisoner in bonds, which seemed to be helping the word to be spread more boldly, or whether he’d prefer to die and let his martyrdom help the cause even more than his state as a prisoner was doing, and that he was pretty much “stuck between a rock and a hard place” either way (which is basically all that “in a strait betwixt two” means in modern day colloquialism), since his only options at that point appeared to be equally undesirable for him as an individual, which is why he then went on to say that he’d prefer a third option over either of the seemingly available two options, which was “having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better,” because if Christ were to come for His body while Paul was still alive, he wouldn’t have to suffer through either of the two likely options, but would instead get to depart the earth without dying, to “ever be with the Lord” in the heavens in an immortal body, which is a far superior option to living as a prisoner in a mortal body or to being put to death. He couldn’t possibly have been referring to dying and being with Christ in an afterlife when he wrote, “having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ,” since he’d just finished telling his readers that he wasn’t going to say whether he’d rather live or die, and that neither of the two likely options were particularly desirable. Now, some Bible translations make it look like he simply couldn’t decide whether he’d prefer to live or die, but he outright said that his desire was “to depart,” so those translations don’t actually make any sense if “to depart” meant “to die.” Besides, he’d already told the Corinthians that he didn’t want to be “unclothed,” meaning he didn’t want to die, but instead wanted to be “clothed upon” with the immortal body that he’ll only receive when he’s vivified, so either way, the traditional interpretation of this verse just doesn’t work. Bottom line, there’s just no excuse for interpreting it in a way that contradicts the rest of Scripture, which the teaching that Paul would live on after his death and “ever be with the Lord” from that point rather than from the time the body of Christ is caught up together to meet the Lord in the air does in spades. It’s easy to get confused about verses like this if you ignore the context (of both the surrounding verses, and of Scripture as a whole), but once someone comes to realize the truth that death is actually death, and that “ye shall not surely die” is a satanic lie, they can then begin to interpret these passages in ways that are consistent with the rest of Scripture.

Christians don’t only misquote Paul in order to try to prove the immortality of the soul, however. Many also misquote Jesus as well, making Him out to have said, “If you die in your sins, whither I go, you cannot come.” This isn’t what Jesus said at all, though. He actually said“I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.” This was a proclamation of fact, not an if/then proposition, as many misunderstand it to be (it helps to notice the plural “ye” in Jesus’ statement, since He was talking to, and about, all the unbelieving Pharisees at the time, prophesying that all those Pharisees hearing that statement would indeed die in their sins and miss out on eonian life in the kingdom when He returns). Now, yes, in a follow-up statement, He did say, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins,” but aside from what I already pointed out (that the Pharisees to whom Jesus made the first prophetic statement definitely would die in their sins), this doesn’t help prove the immortality of the soul either. All it proves is that certain people would die in their sins.

Likewise, they misread passages such as Revelation 6:9–11 to defend the idea of the immortality of the soul as well, but if this passage were meant to be read literally it would mean that martyred ghosts are all trapped underneath an altar rather than enjoying life in heaven, and that these ghosts can wear physical clothing. This passage is obviously meant to be interpreted symbolically, with the “souls” of the martyrs no more literally talking to God than Abel’s soul was talking to God from the dirt in Genesis 4:9–10 (which would have been just as unusual a place for a soul to reside, if the immortality of the soul were true, as it would be for a soul to reside underneath an altar until its resurrection), especially when taking everything else we’ve just covered into consideration.

Some also attempt to argue that the reference to the Gospel having been preached to them that are dead, as 1 Peter 4:6 mentions, means the dead must be conscious. At this point it should go without saying, based on all the passages we’ve already looked at, that there’s no question the dead are unconscious, so any passages one brings up to try to argue that they remain conscious have to be interpreted in light of the facts we’ve already covered, which means that the people mentioned in this passage who had a Gospel preached to them had to have still been physically alive at the time it was preached to them, meaning a Gospel was preached to them, and they then died at a later point.

However, the main passage they try to use to defend the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is the story of the rich man and Lazarus, in Luke 16:19–31, which has been interpreted in a number of different ways, but which almost nobody seems to understand is not describing an actual event or the geography of an afterlife dimension. This passage uses the word “hell” in the KJV (although many English Bible translations use the transliteration “hades” instead), but it’s obviously about a whole other “hell” than the one where the lake of fire will be located, since that one is going to be a physical place in an actual valley here on earth, and this one appears to refer to an afterlife realm of some sort (at least if one takes this story literally), which means it doesn’t seem like much about that “hell” can be applied to this one, and vice versa (although there actually is a small connection one can make between the two, at least as far as this passage is concerned, which I’ll explain shortly). And so, even if this passage were meant to be taken literally, it couldn’t be used to prove never-ending torment in hell the way some Christians try to use it, since Revelation 20:13 tells us that anyone who is in this version of “hell” will eventually leave it when they’re resurrected from the dead so they can be judged at the Great White Throne, and then possibly cast into the version of “hell” known as the lake of fire to die a second time, and since this particular “hell” is also said to be cast into the lake of fire, according to Revelation 20:14 (which I believe is referring figuratively to being the only place people will die, or at least the only place where the dead will be located, from then on), and because something can’t be cast into itself, figuratively or otherwise, we know that this “hell” and the lake of fire can’t possibly be the same thing.

At the end of the day, though, all the passages we’ve already covered make it quite clear that the dead can’t be conscious, which means there’s absolutely no way Jesus could have possibly meant for this story to have been interpreted literally, at least not without contradicting the rest of the Bible (not to mention basic common sense about how consciousness works, as we’ve also already discussed), since to do so would mean the rich man and Lazarus actually were alive while dead, contrary to what all the passages we just looked at say. Besides, unless one believes that Lazarus was sitting inside Abraham’s chest, that there’s actually physical water and fire that ghosts can interact with (not to mention gravity that they’re subject to, somehow keeping them from floating over a chasm even though there’s no matter there to be affected by gravity) in this supposed afterlife dimension which Jesus is apparently unveiling to Israelites for the first time (remember, no passage of Scripture prior to Luke 16 had ever revealed such an afterlife — in fact, until Jesus told this story, anyone who based their theology entirely upon what the Scripture which was available to them at that time said would assume nobody is even conscious when they’re dead, as we’ve already learned — and, as I mentioned when I discussed the supposedly figurative usage of the valley of Hinnom to describe a fiery afterlife realm, it seems extremely unlikely that the Person who corrected people for teaching extrabiblical theological concepts by saying things like “have ye not read…?” and “it is written…” would suddenly turn around and teach a concept of an afterlife that is not only found nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures, but which also seems to contradict everything the Hebrew Scriptures said about the state of the dead, as well as what he told the Sadducees about God being the God of the living rather than of the dead, a few chapters later, as we’ve already discussed, which would mean God couldn’t have been the God of Lazarus while he remained dead, if the “events” in this story actually took place), they’re already not interpreting this story particularly literally. Not to mention, if we did take it literally, we’d have to believe that the rich all go to a place called hell when they die, while the poor all get saved, since there’s literally zero indication in this story that Lazarus was a believer. The reason Jesus said Lazarus went to “Abraham’s bosom” seemed to be entirely because of his suffering as a beggar, not because He’d accepted Christ as his Saviour or anything like that — and likewise, the reason the rich man was said to be suffering in “hell” was because he got to enjoy good things during his life, and not because he rejected Jesus (there was no indication in the story that either Lazarus or the rich man had ever even heard of Jesus). The fact of the matter is, no Christians actually believe any of that, which means they’re already basically interpreting the story entirely figuratively to begin with, so they should really just finally acknowledge that it’s 100% figurative, since they already read it that way anyway (even if they haven’t realized that they’re doing so), meant to convey a message that had nothing to do with an afterlife at all, and everything to do with potentially missing out on getting to enjoy life in the kingdom of God when it begins in Israel, just like most of Jesus’ other warnings were about, especially in light of everything else we’ve covered about the state of the dead. Jesus was basically just using this figurative story to let his audience know that the kingdom of God would be taken from the religious leadership in Israel, meaning the covetous Pharisees who were listening to him tell this story, as well as the chief priests, which the purple and fine linen on the rich man tells us he represented in this story, and that it will be given to other, “lesser” Israelites — meaning Jesus’ “lowly” disciples, along with other Israelites who are among “the least of these,” currently scattered among the Gentiles, possibly not even realizing they’re actually Israelites — who will form “a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” in the land of Israel at the time they’re resurrected from the dead at the resurrection of the just, or if they’ve “endured to the end” and survived the Tribulation, especially if they’re among the 144,000 Israelites who will be sealed at that time (and the fact that some Israelites will miss out on enjoying life in the kingdom at that time is the connection between the two “hells” I mentioned earlier, since this is a story meant to convey the fact that the religious leaders will miss out on enjoying life in the kingdom when it begins in Israel, with ending up dead in the “hell” known as the lake of fire for a time being at least one of the possible things that will keep them from it). Please note that I’m not insisting this is a parable, however (even though it almost certainly is one), because if I did, some Christians would argue that it can’t be a parable based on the fact that Jesus mentioned someone by name in the story, and because He’d never done so in any other parables before. And while this is a really weak argument, rather than get into that whole debate I’ll just say, since we know that basically nothing Jesus said in this passage can be taken literally anyway, parable or not, it’s still entirely figurative, and leave it at that.

So, rather than going to literal afterlife realms called heaven or hell after we die, Scripture instead tells us that death is a return:

  1. The body returns to the dust, meaning to the ground.
  2. The soul returns to “hell” (the phrase “is turned into” in Psalms 9:17 in the KJV is simply a poetic expression meaning “is returned to,” telling us that one’s soul does a U-turn back into some place or state referred to as “hell” in the KJV, also transliterated as “Sheol” from the Hebrew שְׁאוֹל/“sheh-ole’,” or sometimes even translated as “the unseen,” depending on your Bible version; this verse just tells us that our consciousness returns to the nonexistence from whence it came, which is all that most of the passages in the KJV which talk about people going to a place called “hell” after they die are referring to — and before someone brings up the fact that this verse is talking about “the wicked,” keep in mind that it still tells us they’ll return to “hell,” which means they had to have come from there to begin with, so regardless of who this particular verse is talking about, it still means that the “hell” the dead end up in can’t be what most Christians assume it is because it means they’ve already “been there” before, figuratively speaking, meaning they didn’t exist at one time, and will return to that state of nonexistence again in the future, with their soul, meaning their consciousness, being “hidden or unseen” at that point, which is why it’s said that one’s soul is in “hell” when one dies).
  3. The spirit returns to God Who gave it, although not as a conscious entity, since our spirits aren’t conscious on their own without a body (soul, or feeling and consciousness, is an emergent property of combining a spirit with a body, just like combining the colours yellow and blue creates the colour green — the human spirit is our “breath of life,” but it doesn’t experience consciousness when it’s not inside a physical body).

This presents quite a dilemma for the popular view, of course. If the soul of a dead person were existing consciously in an actual place called hell and the spirit were with God, would the soul of an unsaved person suffer in a fiery location while the spirit enjoyed being with God in heaven? Remember, Scripture doesn’t discriminate between “saved” and “unsaved” spirits when it says they return to God upon death (to claim that only the saved spirits return to God is to read one’s presuppositions into the text). And what does that say about us if our spirit and soul can go to separate places but are both conscious (are we made up of two conscious beings that can be split up when we die, yet only one will be punished for sin in hell while the other is in heaven with God)? This is just one more reason why the common view makes no sense. Instead, it’s better to believe what Scripture actually says: that souls can actually die. On top of that, if those who are saved (relatively speaking) “go to heaven” as soon as they die, then death isn’t really an enemy to be defeated (and, really, destroyed) at all, as Paul told us it is, but is instead actually an ally finally bringing us to God (and causing us to “ever be with the Lord” before the time Paul said this would actually occur), with our eventual resurrection just being icing on the cake rather than being the actual cake itself that it’s supposed to be (the resurrection and vivification of our human bodies has become nothing more than a small side note in most of Christendom, when it’s what we’re actually supposed to be looking forward to).

There’s an even more important reason to reject the idea of the immortality of the soul, however, and that’s the fact that one can’t join the body of Christ while truly believing in the doctrine. You see, when Paul explained what the Evangel (or Gospel) was that his readers believed when they were saved (and hence were immersed into the body of Christ), he wrote that not only did they come to believe that Christ died for our sins, but also that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day. Now, every Christian out there will claim to agree that these words are true, but few of them actually understand what they mean, and can you really believe something you don’t understand? Yes, all of us who call ourselves Bible believers agree that the words “Christ died for our sins” and “He was entombed” are true, but how many of us actually agree that “He was entombed”? Most believe that His body was entombed, but they also believe that He Himself went somewhere else altogether (meaning they believe He went to another dimension called “hell” — or hades, depending on their preferred Bible translation — as a conscious being for those three days, even if it was in a part of “hell” known as “Abraham’s bosom,” which they also believe is referred to as “paradise” — παράδεισος/“paradeisos” in the Greek — based on a misunderstanding of another passage that I’ll discuss shortly). The problem is, Paul didn’t say that only Christ’s body died, he said, “Christ died”; and he didn’t say that only Christ’s body was entombed while He Himself went somewhere else, he said, “He was entombed,” which means that He Himself was placed in the tomb, not that He Himself went somewhere else while His body was placed in the tomb (“He was entombed” is a passive statement as far as Christ’s person goes, so even if you believe that Christ Himself actually ended up in the tomb temporarily as a ghost, the wording of that passage can’t be interpreted to mean He followed His body to the tomb from the cross as a ghost, then went somewhere else from there after His body was laid to rest, or even just remained in the tomb as a ghost for three days, because the way it’s worded tells us He had no involvement in being entombed at all, other than passively having it happen to Him; so unless his pallbearers also had some sort of mystical object or magical spell which they used to drag Him into the tomb as a ghost after He died — which wouldn’t fit with what John 19:30 says, since it tells us He “gave up the ghost,” not that He became a ghost — it can’t legitimately be said that “He was entombed” unless He was His body and nothing more at that point). Paul didn’t just randomly include the words “He was entombed” in this passage for no reason (all Scripture is inspired by God, and every word God inspired to be written down is meant to be there, which means every word is there for a reason, rather than just being arbitrarily thrown in there by the human writer as would be the case if those who believe in the immortality of the soul were correct). If Christ’s (and not just His body’s) entombment wasn’t a crucial part of the Gospel Paul said his readers believed when they were saved, he would have just written that “Christ died for our sins and was roused the third day,” and left those particular words about His entombment out altogether, since mentioning that fact would have then been entirely superfluous (not to mention deceptive, at least to anyone who takes the words written there seriously). There’s a reason that Paul included the words “He was entombed” as something he claimed those who experience the sort of salvation he wrote about have to believe, and the reason is that we have to believe (which means we have to first understand) what those specific words actually mean. (And for anyone who might still be sceptical, if Paul was trying to tell us it’s important to believe that Christ actually did lose consciousness when He died — just as He would have every time He went to sleep, unless you believe He remained aware of Himself and His surroundings when He slept as well — and that He Himself was entombed rather than just His body while He went elsewhere, I’d like you to tell me what Paul would have needed to have written differently there in order to convince you of this.)

And before someone tries to protest, saying that Jesus had the power to resurrect Himself, which means He must have been conscious, pointing out Jesus’ claim in John 10:18 that He had power to take His life again, the word “power” here — ἐξουσία/“exousia” in the original Greek — just refers to the sort of right that someone in authority has to have an action they wish to be completed actually be performed. Just because a king is said to have the “power” to tax the citizens of his country doesn’t mean he personally goes to every single citizen of the country and forces them to give him the money directly; it just means that he has the legal authority to expect they’ll pay their taxes. Likewise, Pilate had the “power” to crucify Jesus (the same Greek word was used here as well), but that doesn’t mean he physically performed the actual crucifixion himself, but instead had his soldiers do the actual deed under his legal authority (and so what Jesus said just meant: “I have the right to lay [my life] down, and I have the right to receive it again,” and He did receive it again, when He was woken from His sleep by His Father). Likewise, when Jesus said in John 2:19 that He would raise His body three days after His death, it’s important to remember the fact that “He was entombed,” and that any passage we read about His resurrection has to be interpreted in such a way that it doesn’t contradict this crucial part of the Gospel that Paul said his readers believed when they were saved, which means that Jesus could only be referring to raising His body in the sense of getting up off the slab in the tomb after His God and Father resurrected Him from the dead (which is Who the Bible says actually raised Him from the dead anyway, and which is also confirmed by the “He has been roused the third day” part of Paul’s Gospel, since, in addition to proving that Jesus was resurrected into a physical body, Paul also tells us with those words that His rousing/waking from the “sleep” of death was done to Him, not by Him). The context of this passage in John wasn’t about His ability to resurrect Himself to begin with; if you read the whole passage, you’ll see that it was simply about how the fact that He wouldn’t remain dead would be a sign to the people who heard Him.

Of course, some will now ask, “But doesn’t 1 Peter 3:19 say that Jesus preached to spirits in prison while He was dead?” Well, no, it doesn’t. He didn’t preach to the spirits until after His body was vivified, or quickened (which obviously couldn’t happen to His body until after He was resurrected from the dead), as we can see from the verse before that one. But regardless, Peter said He was preaching to spirits, not to souls. Since the spirits of dead humans return to God in heaven (just as Jesus’ spirit did when He died, unlike His soul, which instead was said to have figuratively gone to “hell,” demonstrating that human spirits and souls are not the same thing), the spirits He was preaching to couldn’t have been humans, which means they must have instead been spiritual beings, exactly as Peter said they were. They weren’t the spirits of humans, but rather were the spiritual beings who sinned in Noah’s time by breeding with humans (and creating the giants who became mighty men of renown, also sometimes referred to as the Nephilim), and who were then locked up in yet another “hell” from the ones we’ve already discussed (this one sometimes also referred to as “Tartarus” in some Bible translations, being transliterated from the Greek ταρταρόω/“tartaroō”), because of their sin. Besides, all passages have to be interpreted in light of Christ’s entombment anyway, so it goes without saying that any attempts to argue that Jesus was actually conscious while He was dead are nonstarters because of that fact alone, and that any passages we think might imply He was actually still alive have to be interpreted accordingly.

But is it really so important that we should care what Paul meant when he wrote that Christ died and was entombed? Well, yes, very much so! It’s only when we realize that Christ actually died and was entombed that we can truly appreciate His faith in going to the cross. You see, He knew that, unless His Father resurrected Him, He would have remained dead, and, as Paul explained in Romans 3:21–23this is the faith that ultimately saves us: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ [not “by faith in Jesus Christ”; this is all about Christ’s faith, not our own] unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” Unfortunately, because most Christians don’t actually believe that Christ truly died for our sins and actually was entombed, instead believing that only His body did and was (and that His death for our sins was entirely useless if we don’t contribute something ourselves — such as our faith — in order to make it save us, as most Christians also believe) while He Himself lived on and went somewhere else altogether, none of these particular Christians can be said to have been baptized into the body of Christ yet, since they haven’t truly believed the Gospel that Paul said those who experience the sort of salvation he wrote about will believe at the time they’re saved (at least from a relative perspective).

This, of course, raises the question of where people got the idea that the dead go to places called heaven or hell from in the first place. There are a few reasons for this. Their misinterpretation of Luke 16 largely explains why people think dead sinners end up suffering consciously in a place called “hell,” but as far as the dead ending up in heaven goes, the main two are verses that refer to God being in heaven, as well as a misunderstanding of the word “paradise.”

Since we know that the body of Christ will go to the heavens, and also that people will be living with God in the New Jerusalem, most Christians have assumed that these references must be talking about a place the dead go, not realizing that these things both take place within the physical universe, experienced by living people, rather than in an ethereal afterlife dimension experienced by the dead (the body of Christ goes to the heavens to complete a ministry there, but not until after they’ve been resurrected from the dead and/or vivified; and the New Jerusalem later descends from the heavens/outer space to the New Earth rather than being a place anyone who is dead goes to). That said, yes, God indeed is in heaven. He has a throne room (which can also be referred to figuratively as “heaven”) with a throne in it somewhere out there in outer space, presumably in the city that will one day be called the New Jerusalem, while it waits to descend to the New Earth, and it also seems likely that He manifests a part of Himself in some sort of manner that the spiritual beings there can perceive, but He ultimately transcends the whole universe at the same time.

As far as the second misunderstanding goes, paradise is a reference to a future state of the earth (or, more specifically, a future state of Israel, with the Hebrew word עֵדֶן/“ay’-den,” translated as “Eden” in this verse in Isaiah, being translated as παράδεισον in the same verse in the LXX, which is what the word “paradise” is translated from in the Greek Scriptures) where the tree of life will be, both after Jesus returns and also later on the New Earth, which makes sense considering there would be no need to eat from the tree of life in an ethereal afterlife dimension as a ghost. This means that Jesus’ statement to the thief on the cross about being with Him in paradise couldn’t mean what most Christians assume it to mean, because paradise doesn’t really even exist yet, at least not outside of the Jerusalem which is currently above as it waits to descend to the New Earth, I suppose (and anyone who wants to insist that Jesus was speaking about something other than a future state of the earth will need to provide some scriptural references with solid exegesis of those passages to prove that assertion, not to mention explain away all the proof we’ve already covered that the dead really are unconscious — and before someone brings up 2 Corinthians 12:4, in light of everything we’ve just covered, this being a reference to Paul having a vision of the future splendours of the New Jerusalem on the New Earth, and not a reference to the supposed afterlife dimension we’ve now learned there’s no basis for believing exists anyway, makes far more sense than any other interpretation I’ve ever heard). Since we have to interpret this verse in light of everything else we’ve just covered, based on the way it renders Jesus’ statement, if someone believes that the KJV translated this verse well, we’re then forced to interpret it figuratively, meaning that, from the thief’s perspective, it would feel like the same day when he woke up from his sleep and began to live with Jesus in paradise, either in Israel after Jesus returns, or on the New Earth (and for those who think it would mean that Jesus was being less than truthful by speaking figuratively here, ask yourself if He was also then being untruthful when He spoke figuratively to call Himself a door?). This is also confirmed by Jesus’ statement that He hadn’t ascended to the Father yet in John 20:17, not to mention the fact that we’re told His soul went to “hell” when He died (which we now know is a figure of speech that simply means His consciousness ceased to exist when He died), not to heaven (or paradise), and if Jesus did not go to paradise on that day, the thief could not have been with Him there either, verifying that this could only be a prophetic statement about a time in the distant future when paradise begins on this earth or the New Earth. (And yes, I know that Jesus had been resurrected when He made that statement about not having ascended to the Father yet, but it’s still not a statement He could have made honestly if He had ascended as a ghost, which we know He Himself didn’t do anyway since His body was in the tomb and His soul was figuratively “residing” in “hell” while He was dead.)

Now, there are those who understand what death and paradise are, but who think this passage should be translated differently. You see, there are no commas in the original Greek, and so many prefer to translate Luke 23:43 as saying something more along the lines of, “Verily, to you am I saying today, with Me shall you be in paradise”(just like Paul used similar expressions in Acts 20:26 and Acts 26:2, not to mention all the times expressions like this were used in the Hebrew Scriptures, such as in Deuteronomy 4:2639–405:16:67:118:111199:3, and so-on-and-so-forth), simply meaning the thief would be with Jesus in paradise, either in Israel after Jesus returns, or on the New Earth, in the future (lining up exactly with the malefactor’s request that Jesus remember him when He comes into His kingdom — something we already know will be here on earth in the future; but even if the kingdom were an afterlife location, which it isn’t, we know that Jesus went to “hell” rather than to heaven when He died anyway, so He certainly didn’t “come into His kingdom” during those three days — telling us that he was expecting Jesus to either escape the cross or to be physically resurrected after he died, something even Jesus’ disciples didn’t believe was going to happen at that time, which means he might have been the first convert to believe in the resurrection if that was the case, and to inaugurate the kingdom of heaven on earth in the future regardless of whether He died or not, which makes sense considering the fact that no Israelite back then would have been expecting the kingdom to be anywhere other than in Israel). That said, regardless of where the comma should be located, we still have to interpret this verse in light of the rest of Scripture, which means that whether we move the comma (as some translations do) and interpret Jesus’ statement literally, or leave it where it is in the KJV and interpret Jesus’ statement figuratively, the end result is still the exact same no matter where the comma ends up (at least if we’re taking the rest of Scripture into consideration), with the thief not ending up in paradise with Jesus until he’s resurrected from the dead to live either in Israel or on the New Earth, so I’ll leave it at that. (Of course, you already know I’m going to ask it, but for anyone who might still be sceptical, if Jesus was trying to tell the thief that he’d be with Jesus in paradise when it begins in Israel or on the New Earth in the future, I’d like you to tell me what He would have needed to have said differently there in order to convince you of this.)

The fact of the matter is, nobody mentioned anywhere in the Bible was ever recorded as looking forward to an afterlife in a place called heaven, or as being afraid of being punished consciously in an afterlife realm called hell, nor had any Scripture prior to the story of the rich man and Lazarus ever even suggested that people would go to an afterlife realm to live happily or to suffer in while dead either, and the fact that the concept of an afterlife realm for ghosts wasn’t ever taught in the Hebrew Scriptures should really tell you everything you need to know about the idea. Now, yes, there is a certain type of passage which some Christians who don’t want to let go of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul will read their assumptions into in order to claim they do teach it, such as Genesis 15:15, for example, which says, “And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace,” and if one weren’t aware of everything we’ve just covered, and they assumed that there is an afterlife realm which the dead end up in, it’s easy to see how somebody could read that assumption into this statement, concluding that Abram’s (Abraham’s) ancestors are in this afterlife realm, and that he would eventually join them there as well. However, there isn’t anything in the verse that actually says his fathers were in any sort of afterlife realm at all — the idea that an afterlife realm is where they were located is nothing more than an assumption one has to read into the text based on doctrinal presuppositions — and based on what we’ve now learned, they couldn’t possibly have been in one, since we now know that the dead are simply unconscious in the grave. And this fact is confirmed in the second half of the verse, which tells us that the grave is exactly where they were, giving us the location of his fathers which Abraham would eventually go to, when it says, “thou shalt be buried in a good old age.” What most people don’t realize is that this verse is using a figure of speech known as a Synonymous Parallelism, which is where the second part of a passage in Scripture confirms, and even clarifies, what the first part is saying, using slightly different wording, in this case by telling us that Abraham would end up being buried with his ancestors after he’d lived to an old age, which means that these sorts of passages are simply talking about physical death and burial, and that they can’t be used to defend the doctrine of the immortality of the soul at all.

And so, as I said, nobody mentioned anywhere in the Bible was ever recorded as looking forward to an afterlife of any sort. What they were looking forward to was a physical, bodily resurrection in the distant future, so figurative passages such as the one in Luke 16, and symbolic statements such as those in the book of Revelation, have to be interpreted in light of this fact (when Job said“But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost,” and then asked, “and where is he?”, Job wasn’t wondering where the dead are residing while remaining in a conscious state, as some mistakenly assume, but was just speaking rhetorically to point out that the hypothetical dead man no longer exists, since he made it very clear in the next few verses that he believed the dead are gone until their future resurrection by answering his own question, saying, “As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands”). The story in Luke 16 wasn’t a new revelation to replace the scriptural doctrine of unconscious death until resurrection, so one has to figure out what it means without creating an entirely new theology that not only hadn’t ever even been hinted at prior to it in Scripture, but that would also contradict other parts of Scripture, which also means that any scriptural references to the version of “hell” that dead souls are in can’t be talking about a place any human will actually suffer in, and neither can any passages that talk about the lake of fire (at least they won’t be able to suffer there any longer than it takes for a mortal human to die in that fire). And so, the simple fact is, every single person who dies goes to “hell” (meaning the “hell” used as a figure of speech for the state of being unconscious because one is dead), whether they’re a believer or not. And only those who do understand and believe what it is Paul meant when he wrote that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day, will get to go to heaven, but not until after they’ve been resurrected and/or made immortal, because the only way for someone who is dead to go to heaven would be to put their corpse on an airplane or space shuttle, but they wouldn’t enjoy it particularly much (although this does mean that someone who has died can technically be in heaven and hell at the exact same time, not that they’d know they were in either “location”).

This also means that Enoch and Elijah didn’t go to live in heaven rather than dying either (at least not the same “level” of heaven that Jesus is now living in, which is presumably the Jerusalem which is above), contrary to the way Christians assume they did, since whatever happened to them can’t contradict what you’ve already learned from this book. Genesis 5:24 is not an easy verse to understand, but based on everything we‘ve covered so far, we know that Jesus is the only human living in heaven (at least in the part of heaven outside of earth’s orbit where certain humans will go to live eventually), so they couldn’t have, which means that Enoch had to have gone somewhere other than heaven when he “was not” and was “taken by God.” The most probable explanation is that he was simply “caught away” from a dangerous situation where he would have been killed, to live out the rest of his life in safety somewhere else, similar to the way Philip was “caught away” after baptizing the eunuch, which seems to line up with the fact that the book of Hebrews includes Enoch in a list of people who lived by faith while also saying that everyone in the list died. And it’s recorded that King Jehoram received a letter from Elijah after the time that Elijah was caught up in the whirlwind to heaven, so, again, based on everything we now know about who is in heaven, this means that Elijah pretty much had to have been deposited somewhere else on earth to live out the rest of his life in safety too, just like Enoch, and that he then also eventually died, just like Enoch.

So no, Jesus wasn’t promising an existence in a spiritual realm called heaven for the supposed ghosts of the righteous when He spoke, nor did He ever offer anybody literal everlasting or eternal life either, since eventual everlasting life (at least from a literal perspective) for everyone is already a given thanks to His death for our sins, and subsequent entombment and resurrection, which is actually what the good news that is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision is proclaiming. Likewise, neither was He warning anyone about never-ending torture in a spiritual realm called hell for sinners (or even just permanent non-existence for sinners). Instead, He was A) teaching the people of Israel how to be sure to enjoy eonian life on earth during the next eon or two in the messages He gave during His earthly ministry, and teaching those elected for the body of Christ about the fullness of salvation — including eonian life in the heavens among the celestials during the next two eons — in the messages He gave Paul after He physically left the earth (while everyone eventually gets literal everlasting life, meaning immortality, only a relatively small number of people will experience figurative “everlasting life,” or eonian life as it actually refers to), and B) warning the people of Israel how to avoid weeping and gnashing their teeth because they’ve been forced to live in the “outer darkness” (meaning they’re not allowed to live in Israel, possibly having to live as far away as the other side of the planet), or even how to avoid being killed and suffering the humiliating sentence of having their dead bodies displayed and destroyed in public in the valley of Hinnom (also on earth), both of which would result in missing out on the joys of the Millennial Kingdom in the fourth eon (and quite possibly the next eon after that as well) because they’d either be living outside of Israel or possibly even be dead for the remaining eon or two.

And, again, since the Hebrew Scriptures never threatened never-ending torture while dead as a punishment for breaking the Mosaic law, or even for sin in general — at most it threatened physical death for certain capital crimes — but did speak of the earthly valley of Hinnom (aka Gehenna) as a place where the physical (not spiritual) bodies of the dead lawbreakers would be burned in the future (they couldn’t be spiritual bodies since “spiritual bodies” are only given to someone once they’ve been quickened (or vivified), and are, in fact, very physical themselves), and since Jesus didn’t ever correct these beliefs Himself when He spoke of judgement and the valley of Hinnom in Israel (when read without a preconceived bias, it’s completely clear that He was teaching the exact same thing the Hebrew Scriptures said about the topic), there’s literally zero reason to interpret these things the way most Christians have.

To put it simply, most Christians are assigning the earthly rewards and punishments that Jesus taught are meant for Israelites (and for those who bless them or don’t bless them during the Tribulation) to a supposed afterlife state meant for everyone, attempting to spiritualize physical and geographical places and events when there’s absolutely no good reason to do so. Even the Great White Throne Judgement — which does apply to people other than Israel — and any of its resulting sufferings will likely happen on earth (at the very least, it happens to those who are physically alive in this universe, having just been resurrected into regular human bodies, and not to ghosts in an afterlife dimension), prior to the bodies of those who don’t enter the New Earth at its beginning being physically (not spiritually) cast into the lake of fire just like the dead bodies of previous sinners were physically cast into the valley of Hinnom on earth during the Millennium, or at least on the New Earth itself, by those whose names are written in the book of life but who still have some wrongs to right, meaning some “debt” to others to repay (which is a whole other topic that most Christians aren’t familiar with at all, but which has nothing to do with “earning salvation,” as some think would be the case if it means what I believe it means, because nobody gets saved by paying off “the uttermost farthing,” since that doesn’t gain anyone any of the types of salvation we’ve already covered).

Aside from being completely unscriptural, the horrible doctrine of never-ending torment in the lake of fire is also probably the biggest cause of religious evil. How so? First, it’s caused millennia of psychological torture for children (and even adults). Somehow, religious parents have rationalized the idea that instilling the fear of this mythological torture chamber into their children is a good thing (hoping that it will keep them from sinning, as if the threat of “hell” has ever kept anyone from sinning), but all it does is cause sleepless nights for millions of kids who are terrified that they or their loved ones will suffer horrific agony for eternity with no chance of escape if the wrong decision or action is made, and ultimately also causes many of these children to reject God when they get older since many of them still have a conscience and know just how wrong unending torture would be if it actually happened. Perhaps worse, though, is the fact that, once this doctrine has been completely absorbed into the psyche, it makes emotional empathy an extremely difficult thing to maintain, causing religious people to think it’s okay to reject family members who believe differently from them (sometimes ejecting them from their own homes), and discriminate against, or even be violent towards, people who don’t follow their religion or who might not think certain actions are actually wrong (“If God is going to torture people without end in the afterlife for even the smallest infraction, what’s a little temporary violence in this life?” is what it seems many religious people believe).

And with all that being said, let’s get back to the rest of the supposed “proof texts”:

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. — Daniel 12:1–3

Now, the events of this passage do take place at least partly around the time of the Great White Throne Judgement (at least the negative part of it), but all it says is that some people will be resurrected to shame and “everlasting” contempt (this also means that nobody is dead in this passage, at least not at first, since they’ve just been resurrected), and shame and contempt aren’t even remotely close to the same thing as torture in fire. Besides, aside from the fact that “everlasting” has to be meant to be interpreted figuratively rather than literally here anyway, based on everything we’ve already covered about the salvation and reconciliation of all humanity, as well as what we’ve covered about how the word is generally meant to be read qualitatively rather than quantitatively in the KJV, it’s also only the contempt that is said to be “everlasting,” not the shame, and the word translated as “contempt” here is the Hebrew word דְּרָאוֹן/“der-aw-one’” and is used only one other time in Scripture, in the aforementioned passage in Isaiah about dead bodies being looked upon with abhorrence by living humans (with “abhorrence” being translated from this same Hebrew word), so the contempt/abhorrence is being experienced by others rather than by the ones being judged in this passage themselves. This tells us that, when they’re resurrected, many people will feel shame while being judged at the Great White Throne, and then, after they die a second time in the lake of fire, their corpses will be looked upon with “everlasting” (meaning eonian, or for the duration of that final eon) contempt or abhorrence by those who see their dead bodies being consumed on the New Earth.

Before moving on, though, this seems like a good time to remind you yet again that not once did the Hebrew Scriptures ever threaten never-ending torture (much less torture in fire), either while dead or after one is resurrected, as a punishment for breaking the Mosaic law (or even for sin in general). At most, they threatened physical death for certain capital crimes, as I’ve previously mentioned. And even if this passage in the book of Daniel had actually said that certain people will be tortured in fire without end while they’re dead (which isn’t what it says at all), or even after they’ve been resurrected, there’d never been a threat of a never-ending conscious punishment before that passage, so there’s no good reason to assume it was suddenly being proclaimed here, centuries after the giving of the Mosaic law when no Israelite had ever heard of it before, and when the readers of Daniel clearly couldn’t have possibly understood it to mean that prior to Jesus’ statements about “hell” anyway (presuming we ignored the context of those warnings, which we learned from Isaiah and Jeremiah, of course). You’d think that, at the very least, God’s chosen people would have been given a warning about something as horrific as never-ending torture (in fire, no less), not to mention be told who would be experiencing such a thing or why, or how to avoid it, for that matter, prior to Jesus (or even prior to Daniel) supposedly doing so. The fact is, not only was no Israelite ever warned about it (at least not that we see in Scripture, and we need to base our doctrines on what Scripture says), nobody prior to Israel was ever warned about it either, at least that we’re told of. Not even Adam and Eve were warned about suffering without end in a fiery place if they sinned, much less anyone who lived from their time to the time Daniel was supposedly warned about it.

Besides, as I already mentioned, the passage in Daniel is talking about a physical resurrection on earth anyway. It wasn’t referring to a spiritual existence in an afterlife realm while dead at all. The negative part of this passage is referring to those resurrected to life at the Great White Throne Judgement before they’re either sent off to their second death — when they’re tossed into the lake of fire to die a second time for a while — or to their time paying off “the uttermost farthing” on the New Earth, so it seems safe to say that this isn’t actually talking about what most people have read into it, and that we should move on to the next passage.

Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. — Isaiah 14:9-11

The word “hell” in this passage is obviously not referring to the inescapable place of conscious torment that most Christians believe in (as many other Bible versions make clear by transliterating the Hebrew word שְׁאוֹל as “Sheol” in this passage), since, as we just discussed, nothing in the Hebrew Scriptures had ever threatened never-ending torture (much less torture in fire), so there’s no way anyone who read it when it was written could have possibly interpreted it that way. Instead, it should be pretty obvious that the English word “hell” here is being used as metonymy for “grave” (at least in Bible versions that use the word “hell” in this passage), as the inclusion of the word “grave” in verse 11 (which the KJV also translated from the same Hebrew word שְׁאוֹל that it translated “hell” from in this passage), not to mention the references to worms — which are creatures that consume corpses — should also make pretty clear. This passage was simply using the figure of speech known as personification (something done multiple times in Scripture, including in this very book by the same prophet) to taunt the king of Babylon, pointing out that even someone as proud and powerful as him ends up in the same place that nearly everyone else ends up in (the grave, or “the unseen”). And since we already know that the dead are unconscious, the reference to the other dead kings speaking to him is just more figurative language, letting this king know that he’d end up in the same place as them (unless you believe these dead kings are sitting on literal thrones and ruling over an afterlife realm, but I’m trusting that you can see just how figurative this whole passage is).

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. — Matthew 5:29–30

This is just an earlier telling of the same warning Jesus gave in Matthew 18 that we covered at the beginning of our consideration of the so-called “proof texts.” The reason I didn’t include it along with that passage is because this one doesn’t refer to the duration of one’s time spent in “hell” (or, more accurately put, the duration of the existence of this particular “hell,” since the other passage technically didn’t mention the duration of one’s time spent there either), but everything I already said about that passage applies to this one too, so there isn’t really much to add to those comments here, although perhaps I should point out that Jesus said “thy whole body” could be cast into this particular “hell,” so His warning here can only be referring to something that happens to physical bodies in a geographic location here on earth rather than to ghosts in an afterlife dimension, which lines up perfectly with what we’ve already learned from that prophecy about carcases in the book of Isaiah and from that prophecy about the valley of Hinnom in the book of Jeremiah that Jesus was referencing with this warning (especially since the word “hell” was translated from γέεννα in the KJV in this passage, which we already know is the Greek name for that particular valley in Israel).

Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. — Matthew 5:21–22

Jesus said this shortly before the last passage we just looked at, but you’ll notice that he didn’t say anything about being conscious in “hell,” or being there without end, so the same comments apply to this warning as well.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. — Matthew 18:6

This passage doesn’t actually mention either “hell” (γέεννα or ᾅδης) by name, but it precedes one of Jesus’ suggestions that people amputate body parts in order to avoid the “hell” known as the valley of Hinnom, so I wanted to mention it because these verses all seem to suggest that if people either kill themselves (or allow themselves to be killed) after committing a certain type of sin, or mutilate their bodies in order to avoid committing certain types of sins, they can avoid being punished in “hell,” which really doesn’t seem to fit with the traditional Christian doctrine of salvation, at least not that of most Evangelicals and other Protestants. And if they aren’t taking the methods of avoiding being punished in “hell” in these passages literally (or at least interpreting the methods figuratively to mean that one must do whatever they can to refrain from sinning in order to avoid “hell,” which also doesn’t fit with the popular doctrine, because most Protestants would insist we can’t avoid the version of “hell” that most Christians believe in by avoiding sinning, considering the fact that by the time anyone had heard or read these warnings they’d already have sinned at least once in their life, guaranteeing them a one-way trip to their version of “hell,” if they were right, and so these warnings would have come far too late to be useful to anyone if most Protestants are correct), they can’t really use these passages to defend their assumptions if they want to remain consistent.

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. — Matthew 12:31–32

Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. — Mark 3:28–29

And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. — Luke 12:10

These are parallel passages that are all talking about the same thing, the supposedly “unforgivable” or “unpardonable” sin. The first thing to note is that none of these passages mention either “hell” or the lake of fire, so any assertion that not being forgiven for this sin means ending up in the lake of fire is simply an assumption one is reading into these passages based on their presuppositions rather than based on what Scripture actually says. It’s also important to note that the passage in Matthew tells us how long the figurative “never,” as mentioned in Mark’s account, will actually last, which is this “world” and the “world” to come. This is another case of the KJV using the word “world” as a synonym for “age,” or “eon” (which is why other translations render it more literally as “it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is coming,” or even as “it shall not be pardoned him, neither in this eon nor in that which is impending”), and there are at least two ages, or “worlds,” to come still, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:7 (note the plural “ages” in this verse). This means that, while someone who is guilty of this sin won’t be forgiven in this “world”/age, or even the next “world”/age, they could theoretically be forgiven during the “world”/age after that (which, as those who are familiar with the doctrine of the ages/eons believe, will be the final “world”/age/eon on the New Earth, prior to the time Christ destroys death), not to mention after the final “world”/age/eon has concluded (as all eons will have to do, based on the definition of the word “eon”).

Not only that, none of those parallel passages actually mention what the sentence or punishment actually is. You see, “damnation” only means “condemnation,” and is simply the verdict, not the sentence; time spent in the lake of fire is not implicitly meant by the word “damnation” — all it means is “a verdict of guilty” — and since neither hell nor the lake of fire are mentioned in any of these passages, to read punishment in the lake of fire into those passages without a good reason to do so is simply eisegesis. But even if we did eisegete the lake of fire into these passages, we already know that there’s no basis for believing any human is conscious in the lake of fire, much less that they’ll remain there without end, anyway, so that doesn’t help the traditional interpretation either. Besides all that, though, even if “hath never forgiveness” was meant to be taken literally and meant they wouldn’t eventually be forgiven, people don’t necessarily need forgiveness (although the passage in Matthew tells us that this is almost certainly a figurative translation in the KJV, since it explains how long “never” actually lasts here, as we’ve already covered, and a more literal translation also makes it clear that Jesus simply meant “yet whoever should be blaspheming against the holy spirit is having no pardon for the eon,” referring to the impending thousand-year eon known as the Millennium). That might sound like a strange statement, but there are two factors to consider here. The first is simply that someone who is condemned doesn’t require forgiveness in order for a punishment to end, because even today when someone is sentenced to a certain number of years in prison, they still leave the prison once they’ve served their time, even if they are never forgiven or pardoned (and to assume that the sentence of those who commit the so-called “unforgivable sin” is without end is also nothing more than eisegesis, especially since we already know it only lasts until the end of the next “world,” or age/eon, and that there’s a “world”/age/eon to come after that one ends). But the second thing to consider is that there’s actually something even better than forgiveness, and that’s justification. Forgiveness implies guilt, and just means that the forgiver is overlooking the guilt of the one being forgiven by not implementing a penalty for their crime (and said forgiveness can be revoked as well), whereas justification means “not guilty” to begin with, or “declared to be righteous” (it’s sometimes well explained as, “just as if I’d never sinned at all”; and it’s important to note that justification can’t be revoked the way forgiveness can be — at least not the sort of justification Paul wrote about, anyway — and there’s no reason to believe that a “not guilty” verdict by God could suddenly become a “guilty” verdict), so even if somebody does miss out on forgiveness entirely, justification is far superior to it anyway, and that passage doesn’t even hint at the idea that they won’t eventually be declared justified (which it seems they eventually will be, based on everything we went over from Paul’s epistles).

But if the actual sentence for the damnation isn’t specifically spelled out in those passages, what is the punishment for the condemnation that these passages are referring to? Well, there were various reasons one might end up experiencing this sentence, but there was basically only one ultimate punishment that Jesus ever threatened His Jewish audience with: missing out on getting to live in Israel when the kingdom begins in earnest there (regardless of whether the cause of missing out on life in the kingdom is because one is dead at the time — either in the lake of fire or otherwise — or because one has been exiled from the kingdom at that time, missing out on living in Israel during that thousand-year period was basically the bottom line when it came to the punishments Jesus spoke about). But as big and bad a threat as that was for Jesus’ audience (and it was a pretty major threat for them), missing out on getting to enjoy life in Israel for that thousand-year period wasn’t the end. Jesus said that “the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you” to the chief priests and the elders of the people, but that doesn’t mean the chief priests and elders won’t ever go into the kingdom of God. In fact, they indeed will, just not until a point in time after the first group has already done so (He said “before you,” not “instead of you”), and since both groups are currently dead, with the first group not even having enjoyed life in the thousand-year kingdom yet, the only time and place left for the second group to possibly enter the kingdom will be on the New Earth, after the Great White Throne Judgement has ended (since they won’t be resurrected until after the thousand years are over), which proves that people who miss out on the salvation Jesus spoke about can still make it to the New Earth. Please note that I’m not saying they’ll have been forgiven at this point, though. In fact, I’m willing to concede that there’s a good chance they won’t have been forgiven when that time comes, and they certainly won’t have been saved at that point (at least not when it comes to the sort of salvation Jesus primarily spoke about, since they’ll have been dead during the thousand years, or at least for most of that period of time; and they won’t be made immortal at that time, so they won’t have experienced the salvation Paul taught about either, at least not from a relative or physical perspective). But that’s okay because, as we’ve already covered, one doesn’t need to be forgiven once they’ve paid the penalty for a crime, and the penalty for this particular crime was simply to miss out on life in Israel for the thousand years that the kingdom of heaven will exist there, at least based on every other judgement passage that quotes Jesus talking about Israelites missing out on salvation (simply put, forgiveness is only necessary for getting to live in the kingdom of heaven during the thousand-year period of time it exists on this planet, or for getting to live in heaven itself during the same time period, although the forgiveness that the Israel of God experiences is conditional, whereas the “forgiveness” that those of us in the body of Christ experience was given to us by God without us having to do a single thing to enjoy it, simply because He chose to bless us more than anyone else, and the word “forgiveness” when it comes to us is mostly just referring to being dealt with graciously by God, but that’s a much bigger discussion than I have the room to get into here, although it really should be pretty evident based on everything else I’ve covered about our salvation in this book).

To reiterate all that, there are people who will get to enjoy the kingdom of God when it begins on earth shortly after Jesus’ Second Coming, in the next “world”/age/eon (this would include the tax collectors and prostitutes Jesus spoke of, among others). But after the Great White Throne Judgement, during the final “world”/age/eon (which will be the “world”/age/eon after “the world to come”), the kingdom will be located (at least to begin with) in the massive city known as the New Jerusalem, and it’s during this “world”/age/eon that people such as the chief priests and elders, as well as those who are said to “hath never forgiveness,” will get a chance to enter the kingdom (which refers to getting to enter the New Jerusalem; it isn’t a reference to simply living on the New Earth, since there will be plenty of people living on the New Earth who aren’t living in the New Jerusalem). Not everyone will get to do so until they’ve paid off “the uttermost farthing,” however. But when they have, they’ll also get to enjoy life in the kingdom of God (even if they missed out on the salvation Jesus spoke about, since they didn’t get to live in Israel when Jesus first returned). This doesn’t mean salvation is through works for them, though, because this has nothing to do with salvation at all. Nobody who goes to live in the New Jerusalem after paying off their debt on the New Earth will be made immortal at that time, which is what the salvation Paul wrote about was largely referring to (although they’ll remain alive, thanks to the fruit and leaves of the tree of life, but it seems they’ll need to continue consuming the tree’s products regularly in order to remain healthy and alive — presumably on a monthly basis, based on Revelation 22:2 — and so while they won’t technically be mortals at this time, since the tree’s produce will protect them from death by aging or illness, they’ll be amortal rather than being truly immortal, since true immortality refers to being incapable of dying, which means they wouldn’t need the produce of the tree of life to remain alive, and hence this isn’t the salvation Paul wrote about).

The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? — Isaiah 33:14

I’m sure it should go without saying, by this point, that the “devouring fire” and “everlasting burnings” can’t be referring to “hell.” For one thing, as we’ve already covered, nobody who heard or read this warning at the time it was given could have possibly interpreted it as referring to any version of “hell,” since no location referred to as “hell” in any English version of the Bible had ever been described that way in Scripture yet, and this verse doesn’t mention any of the “hells” either, so there’s no way anyone could have made a connection between this particular “fire” and any version of “hell” back then. So what was this talking about? Well, the first thing to note is that it’s a reference to specific sinners in a specific location — Zion — telling us that this is a judgement specifically meant for Israel, and the fire is simply a figure of speech for certain judgements of God against Israel. Why does God use fire as a symbol of judgement? Because the judgement comes directly from Him, and God Himself is referred to as a consuming fire (and I hope you don’t believe that God is “hell,” or the lake of fire, Himself, which He can’t be since we already know that that the lake of fire will be located in a valley in Israel). Similar to all the references to “unquenchable fire” being used as a symbol of national judgement coming upon Israel as a whole, the Hebrew Scriptures are also full of examples of this particular symbolism being used to refer to judgements of Israel as well, so to assume this one verse is a reference to the lake of fire is just reading one’s preconceived doctrinal bias into the text. But the question does remain, who among Israel shall be able to dwell in the “fire” when God judges Israel? Well, the answer to that question is given in the very next verse“He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil.” Those Israelites who walk righteously will be able to dwell among the fiery judgements themselves without being devoured, yet we know the righteous won’t be cast into the lake of fire (only certain extremely unrighteousness people are said to end up there), so it should go without saying that this verse was never talking about the lake of fire to begin with. This also serves as a good reminder when reading the rest of the Bible that just because you see the word “fire” in a passage — even if it’s a passage about judgement — doesn’t mean it’s necessarily referring to the lake of fire, but rather that it might simply refer figuratively to someone being judged in some way without ending up in the version of “hell” known as the lake of fire (especially if you don’t specifically see the words “hell” or “the lake of fire” in the passage in question, at least in the KJV and other less literal Bible translations).

For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion. And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. — Isaiah 34:8–10

This is, of course, typical figurative, prophetic language, just like in the last passage we looked at (which was in the chapter immediately before this one), and aside from the fact that neither “hell” nor the lake of fire are mentioned anywhere in this chapter either, the reference to the dust becoming “brimstone” and the land becoming “burning pitch” which “shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof” which “shall go up for ever,” not to mention the part of the passage saying, “from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever,” isn’t even talking about people burning at all, but rather is talking about land. This passage is basically a prophecy about the judgement awaiting the land the nations live in during the Day of the Lord’s Vengeance, as the passage says, which is referring to the Tribulation. And since we know that the rest of the world which isn’t Israel isn’t going to be a desolate, burning wasteland for the entire 1,000 years that the kingdom of heaven exists in Israel (because we already know people will be living out there in the “outer darkness” during that time period, or else nobody would exist to rise up against Israel at the end of the thousand years one last time, as Revelation tells us will happen), not to mention the fact that this entire planet is going to be destroyed after the thousand years ends and will be replaced with a New Earth, we know that this isn’t meant to be taken any more literally than the “everlasting burnings” in chapter 33 are meant to be, since the smoke which is going to “go up for ever” would have to eventually stop rising, if it were literal smoke, because there won’t be any land left to burn after this earth is destroyed and replaced with by the New Earth, and that the “for ever and ever” of this entire judgement takes place for no longer than 1,000 years, give or take. This is all just telling us that the land the nations live in will be judged harshly, but we know that the “burning” language in this prophecy is purely figurative based on what else we know about the state of the rest of the world during the thousand year period of time that the kingdom of heaven will exist in Israel. But either way, there isn’t anything in this passage which even implies that any humans will suffer without end.

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. — Matthew 13:24–30

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. — Matthew 13:47–50

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. — Matthew 25:31–46

I’m covering all three of these passages together because I believe they’re talking about similar judgements which occur around the same time. And since pretty much every Christian I’ve ever spoken with also believes these are either similar judgements which take place around the same time, or are referring to the same exact judgement, it seems safe to do so (although, if you believe these are actually referring to separate judgements that don’t take place around the same time, I’d be curious to learn how you interpret these passages).

If someone reads those passages over without taking the time to break them down, and ignores the fact that neither “hell” nor the lake of fire are mentioned by name anywhere in any of these parabolic prophecies, it’s sort of easy to see why someone might assume they’re talking about true believers going to heaven and non-believers ending up in the lake of fire. But whatever the cause of the outcome mentioned in these passages is, I hope it’s obvious by now to anyone who has made it this far into the book that Jesus’ main point here had to be about getting to enjoy life in the kingdom of heaven on earth vs not getting to do so, just as pretty much all of His judgement teachings were about. As I mentioned earlier, at the end of His explanation of the first parable, Jesus says the angels “shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth,” and we now know that the kingdom of heaven is going to be here on earth, not in an afterlife realm, which means the identity of the “righteous/just/sheep” and the “wicked/them which do iniquity/goats” likely isn’t what most Christians have assumed either. Of course, most Christians assume that the sheep, or the righteous, represent true believers, and that the goats, or the wicked, are everyone else, and while neither “hell” nor the lake of fire are actually mentioned by name in any of these passages, if people are being judged and going into fire for eternity, as the passages seem to imply when one doesn’t consider the context and recognize the figurative language (or understand that everyone will eventually experience salvation, per Paul’s epistles), most also assume that it must be talking about the Great White Throne Judgement and the lake of fire. Of course, as most Christians are aware, but seem to forget when they read these passages for some reason, there won’t be any true believers being judged at that particular judgement (those in the body of Christ will have already been “judged,” so to speak, over 1,000 years earlier, at the dais of Christ — sometimes also referred to as the judgement seat of Christ — and will have been living in the heavens for all that time, while those in the Israel of God will have been living on, and reigning over, the earth that they inherited for the thousand years before this occurs, and there’s no reason to think that either group would be judged after that period of time ends, especially since most of them will have been made immortal at this time, and immortality for humans is always connected with salvation in Scripture; besides, believers within the body of Christ will likely participate in judging those at the Great White Throne Judgement — Christ is the judge at that judgement, and it would take a very long time for one person to judge every single human being who ever lived, even if one excludes all those who have been saved, relatively speaking, so it makes sense that the rest of His body will assist Him here — and no, this judgement doesn’t take place outside of space and time, but rather takes place in our physical universe after the dead have been physically resurrected into mortal bodies, which should be more obvious than it is to some, considering the fact that it’s technically impossible for anyone who isn’t God to be outside of space and time anyway, as well as that nothing can move or change without space and time, so nobody could experience being judged if they weren’t existing within space and time), which means the sheep can’t actually represent true believers at all. Not to mention, there’s no reference to a resurrection in any of these passages, which would be necessary to occur if these are about a judgement of everyone who has ever lived. Instead, all one needs to do is take a look at the verse in Matthew 25 which says it takes place “when the Son of man shall come in his glory,” and look at the context of the rest of the chapter, as well as the chapter before it, which makes it obvious that it’s talking about the time immediately after Jesus returns to the earth at His Second Coming, telling us that these passages must be talking about a judgement which takes place on earth shortly after the Great Tribulation ends, rather than the Great White Throne Judgement which takes place a thousand years after Jesus returns.

Of course, if “life eternal” and “everlasting punishment” literally meant that every single human living on earth were going to be judged and sent to afterlife realms called heaven or hell for eternity, as most Christians have always assumed would happen at the time the judgement in these parables takes place, that would cause other obvious problems. For example, it would leave nobody living on the earth for the next thousand years to reproduce, as Scripture says will happen in Israel when the kingdom begins there (as well as on the New Earth, after the Millennium ends and our current planet is destroyed). As I’ve mentioned before, the Bible teaches that those who have been made immortal will be like the angels and will no longer marry or reproduce at that time, and if all the non-believers are going to be sent to the lake of fire to die a second time at that point, with everyone else being given their immortality at that time, that doesn’t leave anybody else to fulfill the prophecies about the New Covenant, or even the New Earth, that are supposed to take place after the Tribulation ends. Not only that, it also wouldn’t leave any Gentiles to fulfill the many prophecies about the nations during the thousand years, not to mention the fact that no Gentiles would be left to rise up against Israel at the end of the Millennium one last time, as Revelation tells us will happen, if all the non-believers are cast into the lake of fire at this point.

Hopefully you’ve also asked yourself why there’s nothing in there about the sheep “asking Jesus into their hearts” or “accepting Jesus as their Lord and Saviour” in these passages, if you’re still assuming this is talking about the salvation Paul wrote about (not that either of those are actually scriptural ways to be saved), or even about them believing that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day, and why it seems like the positive outcome in these parables appears to be dependent upon being just or doing good works rather than being said to be by grace through faith. Most people just brush those concerns aside, of course, because they “know” these passages have to be talking about what they’ve always been taught by their religious leaders that they are, and decide to believe, even though it doesn’t actually say so in the passages, that the reason for the reward in these passages (especially during the judgement of the sheep and the goats) has to be figurative and has to be talking about works as the fruit of faith rather than good works being the actual cause of the sheep’s reward as that passage says they are when taken literally (and then push the thought that “many non-believers do the very things Jesus seemed to say would result in ‘everlasting’ life while many believers don’t” to the back of their minds and try to forget that fact as well), because if one were to read it literally it would become obvious pretty quickly that it just can’t be talking about what one has always assumed it is at all (although one is then also forced to push the thought that, “if the cause of salvation and damnation is figurative, then there’s no reason to believe that the actual reward and punishment, or even their durations, aren’t also figurative,” to the back of their mind as well, but most successfully do so). But even if this could all somehow be twisted into meaning the sheep are true believers who will go to heaven, and the goats are non-believers who will go to the lake of fire, we already know from what we’ve previously covered that there’s no basis for believing that any human is going to remain in the lake of fire without end (and that there’s no reason to believe any human is conscious in it either), and we in fact know that everyone who dies a second time will have to be resurrected and vivified in order for death to actually be destroyed, so mangling the passage in such a manner doesn’t actually help defend the traditional doctrine anyway.

But as for what these passages are actually talking about, in order to figure this out, one needs to first be aware of certain passages in the Hebrew Scriptures which are the key to understanding the true meaning of being in a furnace, because this isn’t talking about the lake of fire at all. Instead, if you look at passages such as Deuteronomy 4:20, which says, “but the Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day,” or Jeremiah 11:4, which says, “which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God,” it should be obvious what it’s referring to. And those are only two of the many references in the Hebrew Scriptures to being judged in a figurative furnace, as well as to being “refined in a furnace,” none of which refer to spending time burning in literal fire in an actual furnace made of iron, but are basically talking about time spent in parts of the world that aren’t Israel (no Christian believes the “furnace” part of the parable is literal anyway, and if the “furnace” in the warning isn’t a literal structure with fire burning inside of it, it stands to reason that the “fire” in the figurative “furnace” in this warning isn’t literal fire either, but is simply a symbolic reference to judgement, as we’ve learned that mentions of “fire” very often are in the Bible). And so, what the first two parables are actually saying is that there will be righteous Israelites and unrighteous Israelites when Jesus returns, and some will wail and gnash their teeth because they’ve been forced to live in parts of the world that aren’t the kingdom of heaven/Israel (these parts of the world being referred to parabolically as “the furnace of fire,” also referred to in other passages as the “outer darkness,” which we’ve already learned can’t refer to the lake of fire, since it will be located in a valley inside the kingdom, and since Israel is where the kingdom of heaven will be located when it begins on the earth, those parts of the world far from the light of the King and His kingdom will be in “outer darkness,” also referred to in Isaiah 34 as a figurative “burning pitch” which “shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof” going up “for ever”), unlike the righteous Jews who will get to live in the kingdom of heaven/Israel at that time (which is where everyone who heard Jesus when He spoke wanted to live when the kingdom fully arrives on earth in the future). It’s actually very simple to grasp once you come to understand who Jesus’ audience was and what His message was all about, especially when you also take all of Paul’s references to the salvation of all humanity in his epistles into consideration. But when you assume He was talking about an afterlife for ghosts in another dimension rather than the life and death which physical bodies on this planet will go through, and think that Jesus was directing His message to everyone rather than specifically to Israelites, it’s easy to get extremely confused about all of His sayings.

As for the parable of the sheep and the goats, this judgement simply refers to certain Gentiles of the nations (based on Jesus’ statement that “before him shall be gathered all nations”being cursed for not being a blessing unto the least of Jesus’ brethren during the Tribulation period, which this judgement takes place immediately after (Jesus’ “brethren” obviously being a reference to certain faithful Israelites, presumably those who will be taken into captivity among the nations during the Tribulation, and not simply to random people who are suffering today), by being forced to reside outside the kingdom of heaven, as well as to other Gentiles of the nations getting to live in the kingdom in Israel at that time as a reward for blessing the faithful Israelites who were persecuted during the Tribulation. We know from Zechariah 14:16–21 that there will be Gentiles not living in the kingdom of heaven at this time, consisting of “every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem” at the end of the Tribulation, meaning the Gentiles who didn’t support Israelites during the Tribulation and hence won’t get to enjoy 1,000 years of “life eternal” (meaning life eonian) in Israel at that time, but who didn’t die at Armageddon since they presumably weren’t a part of the army that gathered against Jerusalem there, so we know from this passage that the goats definitely won’t actually be killed in the lake of fire at this judgement, because if they were, there wouldn’t be anyone left to fulfill that prophecy, especially since it appears from those prophecies, as well as from elsewhere in Revelation too, that every nation will be involved in rising up against Israel at that time. This, of course, also means that the fire prepared for the devil and his angels isn’t any more literal than the “furnace of fire” is, but rather that it’s simply a figurative reference to the parts of the planet outside the kingdom of heaven where these people are sent to live as their punishment (the parts of the planet that are referred to as a “furnace” for exiled Israelites at that time, or, again, as the land which was referred to as a figurative “burning pitch” which “shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof” going up “for ever,” which makes sense, considering the fact that what we’ve seen so far tells us that “fire” rarely, if ever, speaks of the “hell” known as the lake of fire when either that specific location isn’t also referred to by name in a passage using the word, or the word “hell” itself isn’t used in the passage), since people living in those parts of the world — or at least their descendants who don’t get saved during that time, one thousand years later — will give in to temptation by Satan to rise up against Israel one last time at the end of the thousand years, having been “prepared for the devil and his angels” to tempt them to do so. (Which means that the urban legend many Christians repeat, that “God created hell for the devil, not for humans, but humans sinned so He had to punish them in hell too,” is based on a complete misunderstanding of this passage, and actually has no scriptural basis at all, since this passage isn’t even talking about hell to begin with.)

And don’t worry, this interpretation isn’t teaching salvation by works for us either, because this passage isn’t actually talking about the sort of salvation Paul taught about, since the “sheep” aren’t going to be vivified when they go live in the kingdom, at least not right away (since they’ll be a part of the “end” group of the “every man in his own order” of groups to be “made alive,” and so they won’t be vivified until the time that death is finally destroyed completely, at the consummation of the eons), so this isn’t talking about the sort of salvation which Paul taught isn’t by works either (in fact, it isn’t really talking about salvation at all, but is just talking about a reward for blessing Israelites).

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. — 2 Thessalonians 1:7–10

This passage is obviously also talking about Christ’s Second Coming (compare the details of verse 7 here to the details mentioned in Matthew 25:31 if there’s any doubt in your mind), which means that what I’ve already written about “fire” in the parables we just looked at applies to this passage as well. Paul was simply pointing out the sort of punishment some of those who will be alive at the time Jesus returns will have to endure, and it’s just as figurative as when Jesus spoke about it (referring to not getting to live in the kingdom of heaven when it begins on earth, including both “them that know not God,” meaning the Gentile “goats” of Matthew 25, as well as them “that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” meaning Israelites who are not a part of the Israel of God). Besides, almost no Christian takes the word “destruction” in this verse literally (since most somehow manage to interpret this word as a figure of speech referring to being tortured in the lake of fire without end), and if that word is figurative and not literal, there’s no good reason to believe that the word “everlasting” before it is any more literal than it is.

(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) — Philippians 3:18-19

We know that anyone who experiences “destruction” (whether literally or figuratively) will still eventually also experience salvation from a physical perspective (and has already been saved from an absolute perspective, even if not from a relative perspective), based on what Paul taught in the rest of his epistles, as already covered. This means that the “end” which the enemies of the cross of Christ that Paul is condemning here can only be an “end” from a relative perspective, since we know the “end” they’ll experience at the end of the eons will be salvation.

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. — Matthew 10:28

Notice the word “destroy” there, which, just like the word “destruction” in the last couple passages, we have no basis for interpreting figuratively in the manner most Christians do (in the sense that to be “destroyed” somehow figuratively refers to suffering without end in the lake of fire). Even if we didn’t know about all of Paul’s teachings on the eventual salvation of all humanity, I’d still argue that it would make far more sense to interpret it in a way that lines up with what Jesus was actually teaching throughout His earthly ministry: about the kingdom of heaven beginning in Israel in the future, and how to either get to live there when it begins, or end up missing out on it at that time. With that in mind, I’d suggest that this verse is simply saying that Jesus’ Jewish audience at the time He gave the warning (along with those Israelites who live through the Tribulation) should not fear men who might kill them for their faith, because God will still resurrect them to live in the kingdom of heaven when it begins on earth if they’re martyred. But if they die without that faith, on the other hand, or have rejected Jesus in order to temporarily save their lives, God will not resurrect them at that time, and they’ll presumably even die a second time in the lake of fire, which means they’d miss out on the greatest desire of their soul (this is what the figurative language of having one’s “soul destroyed in hell” means, or at least this is a far more scripturally consistent interpretation of the phrase than what most Christians assume it means, as should be obvious by this point), which for anyone listening to Jesus would have been (or at least should have been) to get to live in that kingdom when it begins in Israel in the future. Like Judas, it would have been far better for them to have died in the womb or in childbirth than to have been born at all, since babies who die in childbirth will at least be resurrected at the Great White Throne Judgement so they can grow up on the New Earth, while Judas will likely end up in the lake of fire when he’s resurrected, at least prior to the time Christ destroys death (yes, even Judas will finally be resurrected and vivified at that time, but he’ll have missed out on so much in the meantime).

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. — Matthew 10:32–33

This statement almost certainly has to do with who will get to be resurrected to live in Israel when the kingdom begins there vs who won’t be, based on the last passage we just looked at (which was stated just moments before this one), and doesn’t tell us anything about what happens to anyone after the thousand years come to an end, so it doesn’t really help support the popular doctrine.

When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever. — Psalms 92:7

Just like the other passages referring to being destroyed that we’ve looked at, we know that being “destroyed for ever” in this verse can’t be referring to never-ending torment in “hell” without reading one’s doctrinal bias into the phrase, and we also know from everything we’ve learned from Paul’s epistles about the salvation of all that nobody remains dead (or even dying) at the consummation of the eons, so the “for ever” here has to be as figurative as it is in any other passage we’ve already looked at, and by now it should be clear that this just means they’ll miss out on getting to live in the kingdom of heaven, but not that they won’t eventually experience salvation at the consummation of the eons, when “for ever” comes to an end.

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? — Matthew 23:33

All this verse says is that the Pharisees to whom Jesus was speaking at the time were condemned to “hell” (the “hell” known as the valley of Hinnom, in this case), but Jesus didn’t say they’d be in this particular “hell” without end, nor did He say they’d be conscious while in it (and we know from what we’ve already learned that they couldn’t be), so this really isn’t a helpful verse for anyone trying to teach never-ending torment in “hell.”

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. — Matthew 7:13–14

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. — Matthew 7:21–23

Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last. — Luke 13:23–30

Of course, there’s nothing about “hell” or the lake of fire in these passages, but they’re quoted so often to defend never-ending punishment that I thought I should include them regardless. That said, based on everything we’ve covered so far, you should really be able to interpret these for yourself by now. But for those who do need an explanation, Jesus is simply talking about certain people who won’t be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven after He returns, because they’ve continued to live particularly sinful lives (this also makes it clear that this isn’t a warning for members of the body of Christ, because there is no condemnation for us, and nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even sin, since where sin abounds, grace much more abounds). He obviously isn’t talking about ghosts not being allowed to live in an ethereal afterlife realm called heaven when they die, based on everything we’ve already covered, and He likely isn’t even talking about unbelievers (I’d think that anyone who can do the things in His name that the people He was condemning were able to do are probably believers, but it wasn’t lack of belief He condemned them for anyway; rather, it was for their iniquity). Jesus’ statement that many “shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God” in the passage in Luke also confirms that this all takes place on earth. So, in answer to the disciple’s question, yes, there are relatively few that will be saved, at least when it comes to the sort of salvation Jesus preached about during His earthly ministry. This doesn’t mean they can’t later experience the sort of salvation Paul taught about, though (especially from a physical perspective), because it’s an entirely different sort of salvation, as I’ve already explained.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. — John 14:6

Like the last passage, this one doesn’t mention “hell” or the lake of fire either, but I thought I should quickly cover it as well. Aside from the fact that Jesus was talking to Jews in this verse, which tells us that it’s technically about the sort of salvation Israelites were looking forward to (which, again, involves getting to live in Israel after He returns, not “going to heaven” as ghosts after one dies), if anybody comes to the Father after the thousand years are finished, as Paul promised everyone eventually will, it would still be “by” (or “in,” meaning “through,” or “because of”) Christ.

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. — Acts 4:12

Once again, there’s nothing about “hell” or the lake of fire in this verse, and this statement was made by Peter to the religious leaders of Israel, so we already know it can only refer to the sort of salvation that pertains to Israelites (getting to live in the kingdom in Israel after Jesus returns, in other words), and has nothing at all to do with the sort of salvation Paul later taught about to the nations.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. — John 3:16

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. — John 3:36

He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. — 1 John 5:12

Every single Christian out there already interprets basically every part of these passages extremely figuratively, reading “going to heaven” into the word “life,” and “suffering without end in hell” into the word “perish,” for example. Based on everything I’ve written above, though, it should really be quite clear by now to anyone who has been paying attention that these verses are simply saying that those Israelites who don’t “believe on the Son” won’t get to enjoy life in Israel after Jesus returns (and since it’s a Circumcision writing, references to “the world” in the writings of John that aren’t talking about specific ages are generally, if not always, referring to “the world” of Israelites, not the whole planet or every human to ever live, but that’s a much bigger discussion). And what does it mean for an Israelite to believe on the Son? Well, it simply means to believe that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah (or Christ) and the Son of God, as John also wrote in John 20:31 (and I trust you noticed the lack of having to believe that “Christ died for our sins in that verse which tells John’s Jewish readers exactly what they have to believe in order to have “life through his name,” and have figured out that this is because that particular belief wasn’t necessary to experience the sort of salvation Jesus spoke about during His earthly ministry, realizing that John certainly would have included it in that list of things they have to believe in order to experience the sort of salvation John was writing about if it actually was a necessary thing for his readers to believe in order to experience the sort of salvation he was writing about, since it wouldn’t make sense for him to leave out such a crucial detail of what his readers needed to believe to have life if that was the main reason he wrote the book, as he claimed it was in that verse, especially since he wrote it after Jesus’ death and resurrection).

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. — John 3:1–7

Modern-day Evangelicals are obsessed with this passage, insisting that everyone has to choose to be “born again” if they want to experience salvation. Unfortunately, just like Nicodemus, they have absolutely no idea what Jesus meant by the term. To get the obvious out of the way first, nobody can choose to be born a first time, and this second birth is no different since it happens not “of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

But equally important to know, unless you’re an Israelite, you can’t be “born” a second time, because you haven’t been “born” a first time, at least not when it comes to the sort of “birth” that Jesus was talking about there. Remember, Jesus wasn’t talking about the same sort of salvation Paul primarily wrote about (in fact, throughout Paul’s epistles, he never even once spoke about a new birth; instead, he taught about a whole new creation altogether — or “a new creature,” as the KJV puts it — which is even better than being “born” a second time), but was referring to getting to live in the part of the kingdom of God that will exist for 1,000 years in Israel, so from that fact alone it should be obvious that this statement is only relevant to Israelites and not to Gentiles. But to make this even more clear, Jesus’ question (“Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”) in response to Nicodemus thinking that any of this was about biological childbirth tells us that this Pharisee should have already known exactly what Jesus was talking about, based on the Scripture available to him at the time. This tells us that we have to look to the Hebrew Scriptures to determine exactly what Jesus meant (and we know there’s nothing in the Hebrew Scriptures about “asking Jesus into your heart,” as most Evangelicals explain being “born again” as meaning when they share their “gospel,” or really anything else they use to try to explain the meaning of being “born again” either, for that matter).

So what was it in the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus was referring to here? Well, Jesus was talking about a nation that was figuratively said to have been “born” a first time by Moses in Exodus 4:22 when he said, “Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn” (along with similar statements he made in Numbers 11:12 and in Deuteronomy 32:18). That would be the first “birth” of those whom Jesus was referring to in this passage, telling us that it only applies to the nation of Israel. As for the second birth, this also has to be something spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures if Nicodemus should have known this already as “a master of Israel,” so we have to look to passages that refer to Israel being born another time, and this would be Isaiah 66:8 which asks, “shall a nation be born at once?”, prophetically referring to something that will happen to the nation of Israel in the future. Simply put, Jesus was talking to Nicodemus about Israelites experiencing their New Covenant (which never applied to Gentiles, since we didn’t have an old covenant to be replaced with by a new one to begin with), and the rebirth of the favoured nation of God when they’re returned to their land and sprinkled “with clean water” (this is why Jesus said they need to be born not just of the Spirit, but also of water), which will take place at the end of the Tribulation, when Jesus returns and the thousand-year kingdom begins.

This is also why Jesus specifically said, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” Unfortunately, people who aren’t using the King James Version are unlikely to be aware of this, because most other Bible versions don’t use the precise grammar in their translations of that passage the way the KJV does (and even many people who do use the KJV won’t realize it, since few today know about 17th-century grammar), but “ye” is a plural word in the KJV, which means Jesus was simply saying: “Marvel not that I said unto thee [Nicodemus], Ye [the nation of Israel] must be born again.”

Now, it is true that Jesus also said“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and combined with the fact that they make the same mistake Nicodemus made in assuming the first “birth” was biological (which is what led him to ask his question about entering “the second time into his mother’s womb”), this has led Evangelicals to assume that individual Gentiles today have to choose to be “born again” or they won’t be able to go to heaven, but we already know that going to heaven is only for the body of Christ, so this can only be referring to getting to live in the part of the kingdom of God that will exist on earth for 1,000 years rather than in the part of the kingdom of God that will be in heaven. Simply put, Jesus was just referring to the specific Israelites God chose to be a part of Israel’s second birth when it occurs (since Jesus didn’t specify that He was referring to or including the nations in this statement the way He did in Matthew 25:32, and because we know that His teachings were pretty much only relevant to Israelites — not to mention the fact that Gentiles weren’t “born” a first time in the manner that Jesus was referring to there, so there’s no way they could be “born” a second time that way either — it should be pretty obvious that His statement should be understood as meaning: “Except a [Jewish] man be born again…”), including a few who can be said to have (at least proleptically, if not literally) experienced the second birth earlier than the rest, such as those Peter wrote to in his first epistle (where he called back to prophecies about this from Exodus 19:6 and from Psalms 22:30–31). And even then, we know that an Israelite only needs to be “born again” to “see the kingdom of God” during the first thousand years of its existence on earth, since the Mosaic law (and hence the New Covenant) will be irrelevant after those thousand years have been completed, after the current heaven and earth have passed away, which means the “born again” figure of speech will no longer be relevant either. This tells us that Israelites who missed out on getting to enjoy life in the kingdom of heaven (which refers specifically to the part of the kingdom of God that will exist in Israel for 1,000 years) will finally have an opportunity to enter the kingdom of God on the New Earth (when it will be centred within the New Jerusalem). Some will try to argue that Jesus’ “except a man” statement means this has to apply to all humans, of course, but they’re ignoring the context of the passage. This is just like Paul’s “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” statement, which we know is only referring to the part of the kingdom of God that will be in outer space, since we know that flesh and blood will inherit the part of the kingdom of God that’s going to exist on earth during the thousand years (since not everybody who gets to live in the kingdom will have been vivified at that time), as well as on the New Earth (at least until the consummation of the eons), and there’s no reason the word “man” can’t be just as context-defined here as “kingdom of God” is in that passage (and, based on the scriptural references I linked to in this paragraph, as well as the other arguments I presented, it should be obvious that it is).

So no, unless you’re a member of the Israel of God, you haven’t been “born again,” and neither can you be (since you weren’t “born” a first time in the manner Jesus was speaking about), nor do you need to be, since the salvation of those in the body of Christ won’t be enjoyed in the same part of the kingdom of God that Israel is looking forward to living in when it begins in earnest on the earth.

I realize that Evangelicals and other Christians have various ideas about what it means to be “born again,” but if their ideas can’t be shown to be laid out in the Hebrew Scriptures, they have no basis for the claims, because otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have criticized Nicodemus for not knowing what He meant by the term. And I’m sure you’ve heard “testimonies” by certain Christians about how they were “born again” and became a whole new person, walking away from a life they considered to be sinful thanks to God changing them when they “got saved” (and, in some cases, it’s true that they were leading particularly sinful lives, although it’s also true that most Christians misunderstand even more of the Bible than just the topics we’ve been discussing, and misinterpret large parts of it to be teaching that many things are sinful which actually aren’t sinful at all, as I’ll discuss in a future chapter). And yes, God was indeed behind the change, at least from an absolute perspective, because God is behind absolutely everything that happens (since all is of God). But from a relative perspective, their changed lifestyles had nothing to do with being “born again” at all, since we know from what we just covered that being “born again” is only for the Israel of God (and that’s not to say the lives of Israelites who are “born again” won’t change drastically, but that’s because they’ll finally be able to keep the Mosaic law perfectly when it happens, which isn’t something Gentiles are meant to keep anyway, and members of the body of Christ certainly aren’t either, whether they’re Jewish or Gentile, which is another clue that being “born again” isn’t for us).

So when you hear a Christian’s “testimony” about how getting “born again” changed them, and are tempted to think it means you should remain a member of (or return to) the Christian religion (or to join it, if you’ve never been a member), remember that many people who have hit rock bottom have realized how destructive their lifestyles were and dramatically changed their lives for the better without becoming Christians at all (and that people who join other religions have similar “conversion experiences” to the ones Christians talk about as well), so joining this religion isn’t proof of anything. (And for anyone who is wondering, yes, members of the body of Christ might have been called Christians at one time, and while this label does seem like it might have been used by members of the Israel of God, there’s no indication that any believers in the body of Christ used it for themselves, but rather it appears to be a label applied to them by others outside the body, and as such most of us avoid the label — so as to not be confused with those in the religion that uses the label today, which some of us suspect began with people such as Phygellus and Hermogenes and others who turned away from Paul creating the adulterated “gospel” of the Christian religion by merging parts of each of the two legitimate Gospels into one — and simply call ourselves members of the body of Christ, or sometimes just “believers.”)

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. — Romans 10:9–10

Similar to the above passages written by John, misunderstanding what Paul wrote in this passage has caused a lot of confusion and consternation among many people, and has also led to some pretty bad doctrines (such as “Lordship Salvation” for the body of Christ, as just one example). As I’ve already explained, however, there are different types of salvation, and different ways of experiencing eonian life. By now you should be well aware that anyone to whom God has given the faith to truly believe that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that was roused the third day will experience eonian life in the heavens (rather than in Israel, which is where those who experience the salvation Jesus preached about during His earthly ministry will enjoy their eonian life). This means that, while it isn’t the choice to believe in Christ’s death for our sins, or His subsequent entombment and resurrection, that saves someone (our relative salvation to eonian life is based on God’s sovereign election of those of us in the body of Christ long before we were even born, and has nothing to do with any decisions we make at all, with belief, or faith that Paul’s Gospel is true, being gifted to those God chose at the time He calls them), if someone does truly understand what it means, and also believes, that He did die for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day, they are among those whom God has elected for membership in the body of Christ, and will get to enjoy eonian life in the heavens after they’re caught up together in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. One thing you’ll notice that Paul didn’t say his readers did when they were saved (relatively speaking), however, is confess Jesus as Lord (or “confess the Lord Jesus”), and yet verse 10 of Romans 10 seems to make it clear that the salvation written about there is at least partly based on confession. Now, this doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t Lord to us, of course, since we’re told elsewhere that He is, but His Lordship isn’t something Paul said his readers confessed at the time they were brought into membership in the body when he explained what they did when they were saved (nor did he say it’s something that they or we have to confess in order to be brought into the body; in fact, it’s simply having faith that he considers to be the important thing we do, as he makes clear all throughout the rest of his epistles, so there’s no good reason to take this one reference to confession being necessary for salvation that happens to be sitting in the middle of a series of chapters which were primarily about Israel and their salvation and applying it to us, especially when it would contradict everything else we know about our salvation).

Likewise, while Romans 10:9–10 says that someone who experiences the salvation that confessing the Lord Jesus and believing God raised Him from the dead brings will indeed believe God resurrected Jesus (just as those in the body of Christ believe), which means they would obviously also have to believe that He died (just as those in the body of Christ also believe), there isn’t anything in that verse about His death being “for our sins,” which is a crucial part of what we believe when we’re saved (there’s nothing about His entombment there either, I should add, which was also an important element of Paul’s Gospel). The most important part of the belief connected to the sort of salvation Paul is talking about in Romans 10 is Jesus’ resurrection, not His death for our sins. It might not seem like it to most, the first time they read this passage, but these are important distinctions between these two different sets of belief connected with two different types of salvation.

As I’ve already alluded to, something we need to keep in mind is that Romans chapters 9 through 11 are primarily about Israelites (they aren’t 100% about Israelites, but a focus on Israelites is a large part of those chapters, including in the passage in question), and Paul’s point about confessing and believing in that passage was connected to what Israelites have to believe in order experience the sort of salvation John wrote about, which is that Jesus is the Christ, meaning Israel’s Messiah, and that He’s the Son of God. This sort of salvation/eonian life has nothing to do with the salvation Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, nor does it have anything to do with residing in the heavens during the impending eons, but is actually about getting to live in the part of the kingdom of God that will be on planet earth, meaning living in Israel after Jesus returns. Belief that Christ’s death was “for our sins” wasn’t a requirement for salvation in any message that Jesus or anyone else preached prior to Paul proclaiming that it was necessary to be believed to be considered a member of the body of Christ, as we’ve already discussed (it couldn’t have been, since even Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand that He was going to die or be resurrected until after it had all taken place, which means they also couldn’t have known all that His death would accomplish prior to Paul trying to explain it to them — although I don’t believe they ever understood the full extent of it the way Paul did, and were happy to basically only — or at least primarily — apply it to the Israel of God as some of them did in their own epistles), and Jesus’ resurrection was only an important part of what they had to believe inasmuch as it proves He’s still able to be their Messiah because He’s no longer dead (with the confession part being connected to Him being the Son of God).

Of course, most Christians mistakenly assume that the whole Bible is to and about everyone, but by now it should be pretty clear that there are two different sets of messages for two entirely different groups of people in the Bible (one for the body of Christ and one for the Israel of God), as well as multiple different types of salvation written about in there, so don’t worry if you haven’t verbally spoken the words “Jesus is Lord,” or “confessed the Lord Jesus” with your mouth (especially if you have a disability making it so you physically aren’t able to speak and, as such, can’t verbally confess anything). One day you, and everyone else, will, of course. But in the meantime, the only way to experience the salvation Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 15 (at least from a relative perspective; everyone has already experienced it from an absolute perspective, whether they realize it or not, and will experience it from a physical perspective in the future) is for God to choose you for membership in the body of Christ; and if He has, He’ll give you the faith to understand and believe what it means that Christ died for our sins, that He Himself was entombed, and that He was roused the third day, at some point prior to your death or to the Snatching Away.

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. — Romans 9:1-5

I’m including this passage because I’ve heard it asked, “How could Paul be willing to give up his salvation in exchange for the salvation of his kinsmen, if it were possible to make such a trade, if everyone will be saved?” Of course, based on everything we’ve already covered, we now know Paul believed and taught that everyone has already been saved from an absolute perspective, and that everyone will eventually be saved from a physical perspective, so this can only be referring to salvation from a relative perspective, meaning he’d be willing to give up his position as a member of the body of Christ if it meant all Israelites could join the Israel of God (remember, this is in Romans 9, which is largely about Israelites and their sort of salvation, as we just discussed when looking at the last passage), because he cared about his kinsmen that much, and we already know that not everyone will be saved from a relative perspective, so this passage isn’t actually problematic at all when it comes to the salvation of all. But on top of that, few seem to consider the question of, if Paul actually did believe in never-ending torment, do you actually think he’d really wish to lose his salvation, even if it meant that every other Israelite would be saved? Can you imagine anyone would be willing to suffer fiery torture without end for any reason at all whatsoever? Anyone who has burned themselves even for a moment would know the answer to that question is a resounding “no,” but they might be willing to trade their future glorified position in heaven for the benefit of those they care about, knowing that they’d still experience physical salvation eventually, and so this passage actually tells us quite definitively that Paul did not believe in the idea of never-ending torment. And since it’s also pretty unlikely that someone would give up their existence altogether, never to be resurrected again, this is yet another passage supporting the idea that Paul believed in the salvation of all (from an absolute and physical perspective anyway, even if not from a relative perspective).

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. — 1 Thessalonians 4:13

I’ve heard Christians use the line about those who have “no hope” here to try to prove that these people without hope can’t ever be saved, but Paul was referring to people having no expectation in their minds of a future resurrection and salvation, not to having no possibility of resurrection and salvation, and he was referring to the sorrow of living people due to not expecting their dead loved ones to be resurrected, not to the sorrow of people who were already dead (which is why the CLV renders it even better when it says: “Now we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are reposing, lest you may sorrow according as the rest, also, who have no expectation”), so anyone who tries to use this verse to prove never-ending punishment isn’t reading the text very carefully.

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 18:3

Just like all the other passages we’ve covered, there should be no reason for me to point out that there’s no mention of “hell” or the lake of fire in this verse either, and I shouldn’t have to repeat that Jesus was simply talking about not getting to live in Israel after He returns when He said certain people would not enter the kingdom of heaven unless they’ve been converted, so I’ll just leave it at that.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Romans 6:23

This verse is extremely misunderstood, and is almost always taken completely out of the context of the rest of the section that it’s in, but just like the last few passages we covered, this verse doesn’t mention “hell” or the lake of fire directly, so one has to read the idea of never-ending torment in “hell” into the word “death” here if they want to continue believing in such a thing, which by now should be obvious that there’s no basis for doing, since the concept doesn’t even exist in the Bible to begin with, at least not in any of the passages we’ve looked at so far (and is clearly contradicted by Paul’s writings about the salvation of all humanity anyway). As for what the verse is talking about, it would take a long study of Romans chapter 2 all the way through chapter 8 to really get into it, but to put it very simply, Paul is basically using this as a metaphor for the ongoing results of his readers continuing to allow Sin to reign over themselves (Paul anthropomorphized “sin” at times in Romans, although you might not be aware of that if you don’t use the CLV, which capitalized the “S” to make it more obvious) while they’re alive (and the English word “wages” in the KJV is just as metaphorical as “death” is here, which is something that most Christians already agree with me on, even if they aren’t aware of what either word is actually referring to — it’s really referring more to a ration than to a payment, but that’s too big of a tangent to get into here, although you can click that link if you want to learn more about this word). What’s important to note is that Paul wasn’t talking about unbelievers in this part of Romans, but rather about members of the body of Christ who haven’t fully reckoned themselves to be dead to Sin yet, meaning they’re still allowing Sin to reign over them because they’re still having confidence in the flesh and are actively trying not to sin using their own strength — which is what it means to “obey it in the lusts thereof” (the 21st century definition of the word “lust” isn’t what was meant by the word when it was originally written, just as is the case with many words in our English Bible translations that have been similarly misunderstood by modern Christians, such as “modesty,” “fornication,” and “adultery,” for example, but that’s a topic for a later chapter), since walking after the flesh is compared to allowing Sin to have dominion over you because you’re still following the law, with walking after the spirit being compared to being free from law, which would include being free from any of the religious rules that some Christians insist we follow as well (the reason we don’t follow the Mosaic law isn’t because there’s anything wrong with the specific rules in the law themselves; the commandment against murder is not a bad rule, which means that it isn’t simply the specific rules in the Mosaic law we aren’t supposed to follow, but rather it’s religious rules in general that we aren’t supposed to follow, because trying to follow religious rules like the Mosaic law simply leads to more sin and death, and yes, this definitely includes the 10 Commandments, as Paul made clear by referencing the 10th commandment when he wrote Romans 7:7 as a part of his teaching that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be placed under any parts of the law at all) — rather than simply trusting that Christ will live the life He wants us to live through us, and will have us do the things God wants us to do and avoid the things God wants us to avoid Himself through us (Sin — anthropomorphically-speaking — is just as happy when we purposely try not to sin as when we purposely do sin, because it likes any focus we can give it, since it takes our focus and trust away from Christ). Of course, he also contrasts this metaphorical “death” with the freedom of “eternal life” that one can experience instead, and this “eternal life” is just as figurative as the “death” in this verse in the KJV is, literally referring to eonian life, as should also be obvious by now.

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. — Acts 16:31

A common question I’ve heard asked is, “How can the salvation of all humanity be true if someone has to ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’ in order to be saved?” Of course, by now it should be obvious that Paul had to have been referring to salvation from a relative perspective there (which involves being a member of the body of Christ), and not salvation from an absolute perspective (the salvation which all humanity will experience because of Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection on the third day), so this verse doesn’t actually cause any problems for the doctrine of the salvation of all humanity at all. (And for anyone who thinks Paul’s statement there was meant to be instructive to anyone reading the book as far as salvation goes, imagine only telling someone who didn’t even know who Jesus really was to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” with no further explanation of what that even means, and then ask yourself if that could possibly be enough for them to do in order for them to be considered saved; as I mentioned earlier, it’s important to remember that the book of Acts was a Circumcision writing primarily concerned with letting the Israel of God know why the kingdom temporarily ended up getting put on hold, and that Paul’s Gospel was never fully fleshed out anywhere in the book since it wasn’t meant for the book’s audience to believe, which is why the writer left the full explanation of what Paul meant, which he would have later given to the Philippian jailor when they arrived at his house, out of the book.)

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. — 1 Corinthians 6:9–10

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. — Galatians 5:19–21

Inheriting the kingdom of God in these passages should not be confused with salvation, at least not salvation from an absolute or physical perspective. Paul was writing to members of the body of Christ who were already saved, and who couldn’t lose their salvation no matter how hard they tried, so the inheritance here was simply about reigning with Christ. It couldn’t have been about salvation for those in the body of Christ, because our salvation isn’t based on our actions — even if we stop believing in Him for some reason, He’ll remain faithful to us from a salvation perspective since He can’t disown, or deny, Himself, and the body of Christ is now a part of Himself. Now, it might be that we can lose out on reigning with Him by denying Him in order to avoid suffering, but either way, we still remain His body, and He won’t amputate and disown His own body parts, and body parts can’t amputate themselves either. Besides, we know that these “whom He designates beforehand, these He calls also, and whom He calls, these He justifies also; now whom He justifies, these He glorifies also,” which means that if you’ve been called for membership in the body of Christ, it’s guaranteed that you will be glorified also (which is referring to the glory we’ll receive in heaven after the Snatching Away; this isn’t talking about the salvation that everyone will eventually receive), so even if a member of the body of Christ doesn’t “inherit the kingdom of God” (or “shall not be enjoying the allotment of the kingdom of God,” as it might be better put) — likely referring to reigning over the celestial beings in a particular sector of heaven/outer space — they’ll still experience salvation from a physical perspective in heaven at the same time the rest of the body does. (Everything I wrote about Romans 6:23 also applies to these passages too, I should add, and reading the surrounding verses helps explain the context of these passages, but I’ll leave it at that since this is a much bigger discussion than we have the space to get into here.)

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. — Philippians 2:12

This verse is used not only to try to defend salvation by works, but also to claim that, if someone has to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, the possibility exists that they might end up not being saved in the end. My personal suspicion as to what this verse means is that Paul was instructing his readers to make sure (or to work out in their minds whether) they’ve truly believed his Gospel and hence really are saved (referring, of course, to the special “eternal life” sort of salvation which is only for the body of Christ, not the general salvation that everyone will experience). However, whether or not this is the actual meaning of the verse, whatever it does mean, just as it can’t be telling people to do works in order to be saved, because that would contradict all the passages where Paul explained that salvation under his Gospel isn’t based on works (and that anyone who does try to be saved by works under his Gospel will be accursed), it also can’t mean that anyone will miss out on the general salvation he taught about, because that would contradict everything else he taught about his Gospel we’ve already covered in this book.

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. — Revelation 3:14–19

A lot of people worry that they’re a “lukewarm” believer, and that God will “spue” them out of His mouth, sending them to hell to suffer without end. Of course, we already know what “hell” refers to in Scripture now, and that it isn’t what most people have always assumed it is, but something else important to note is this passage is referring to a whole local church, not to any individual, so it’s that local church itself that’s at risk of judgement (and I personally believe it’s a local church that will exist during the Tribulation, although that’s a discussion for another time), and isn’t talking about any individuals being at risk of “hell” to begin with.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. — Hebrews 9:27

While the context of the chapter this verse is in has nothing to do with what most Christians assume that particular statement means, the statement is still made, and Christians who believe in never-ending punishment love to quote it to prove their beloved doctrine for some reason, so it has to be discussed. The problem with using this verse to prove never-ending punishment is we already know that many people will die a second time in the lake of fire, after they’ve been resurrected from their first death (and many people were resurrected throughout the Bible, as recorded in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, who later would have died a second time as well, unless you believe that Lazarus and everyone else raised from the dead throughout the Bible are still alive today), so whatever this verse means, it can’t be interpreted too literally. Also, just like many other passages we’ve covered, there’s no mention of “hell” or the lake of fire in this verse, and while we know that some people who are judged at the Great White Throne will end up in the lake of fire, not only do we now know that nobody will be conscious in it, we also now know that there’s no basis for asserting that anyone will remain in it indefinitely. And remember, being judged doesn’t imply that someone will be punished without end anyway (or even that they’ll be punished at all). First of all, judgement can be a good thing, as many of the judgements of Israel mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures reveal (and as the judgement of the body of Christ at the dais of Christ should make clear). But second of all, many of the punishments based on negative judgements throughout the Bible eventually ended (or were promised to be reversed in the future), so we’d have no basis for simply assuming that doesn’t apply to the judgement referred to in this verse either, even if we didn’t already know what Paul wrote about the salvation of all humanity.

These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. — 2 Peter 2:17

I’m not going to get into all the details of this particular passage, because it’s enough to point out that the sinners in question aren’t literally wells, nor are they literally clouds, so the “for ever” here should be taken about as literally as the rest of the verse (and about as literally as the other times it’s used in judgement passages in the KJV that we’ve covered as well), which means we can’t really use this verse to prove any particular soteriology.

I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. — Jude 1:5–13

The “everlasting” chains in this passage don’t help defend any doctrine of salvation either, because this passage tells us they only lock up the fallen angels until (“unto”) their judgement. And the reference to Sodom and Gomorrha suffering the vengeance of “eternal” fire doesn’t help either because neither of these cities are currently still burning, and we already know that Sodom will also eventually be returned to her “former estate” anyway (and if Jude was just referring to the citizens of the city, Ezekiel 16:55 would then likely also have to be referring to its citizens). And as far as the “wandering stars” go, the lake of fire doesn’t seem like it could be described as a place of “blackness of darkness” (aside from the fact that it will be in a valley in the open air in Israel, underneath the sun and moon, the lake of fire would be anything but dark unless we aren’t taking the “fire” part of its title literally, and if one chooses to interpret the “fire” part figuratively, there’s no reason to interpret the supposed duration of the punishment literally either), and I’m assuming I don’t have to point out that they aren’t literally clouds or trees or waves or stars, which means we’re outside the territory of literalism to begin with here, telling us that we once again have no basis for interpreting “for ever” any less figuratively than we would these words either (and reminding us that, at least based on everything else we’ve covered so far, we seem to have no reason to ever interpret “for ever” as literally meaning “without end” in the Bible versions that use the phrase), nor do we have any way to use this passage to support any particular doctrine of salvation.

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. — Revelation 14:9–11

This passage is obviously extremely figurative. It can’t simply be about being cast into the lake of fire because the lake of fire will be located in a valley down here on earth after the Tribulation ends, not up in heaven where it would presumably have to be in order to be tormented in the presence of “the holy angels” and the Lamb, if we were taking it literally. And for those who would suggest it’s about those who worship the beast during the Tribulation getting cast into the lake of fire after the Great White Throne Judgement, the lake of fire will be outside the New Jerusalem on the New Earth, not inside it where it would have to be for those words to make sense (plus, we know from Isaiah that no humans will be alive in the lake of fire anyway, so the reference to torment here tells us it can’t be about suffering consciously in the lake of fire, but that it must be referring to something else altogether). As for what it means, considering everything we’ve already learned about the word “fire” when it’s used in passages that don’t also specifically refer to “hell” or the lake of fire by name (and this passage doesn’t use either of those names), it makes far more sense to interpret this as simply being extreme hyperbole (since Revelation is an extremely figurative book) about the judgement of those who take the mark and worship the beast, and the intense suffering they’ll go through while still alive during the Tribulation for doing so, as described just two chapters later.

Either way, though, that was quite literally the only passage we’ve looked at which even suggests that any human might be conscious while being punished “for ever and ever” (since the only other passage to mention a judgement of sentient beings for that particular “duration” in the KJV was referring to the punishment of spiritual beings, not humans, and we now know that even those particular beings will have to be set free in order to be reconciled to God the way Paul said they will be, so there’s no reason to assume the “for ever and ever” in this passage in the KJV is any more literal than the one that talks about how long their punishment will last, not to mention any longer than the limited number of years the judgement of the nations we looked at in Isaiah 34:8–10 will last in the future; and unless one decides to read their theological assumptions into the text, in order to apply it to more people than are actually mentioned in it, this passage can really only be applied to humans who worship the beast and take his mark anyway, which is an extremely small percentage of every non-believer to ever live, so it doesn’t help support the idea that anyone else who doesn’t choose to get saved will suffer without end either), and this is quite problematic for the popular doctrine of never-ending torment in hell, because that’s it. No other passage I’m aware of that one might think is talking about the “hell” known as the lake of fire implies that they’ll actually be alive and suffering while in said location, so they don’t actually help defend the commonly held doctrine (although please correct me if I’m wrong and missed one, but please also first consider whether anything I wrote in this article would apply to it as well), and to interpret this extremely figurative reference to the judgement that a very specific — and relatively small — group of people will experience as referring to suffering consciously in the lake of fire makes no sense either.

In fact, prior to reading this single passage in John’s book describing his vision on Patmos, nobody would have ever had any scriptural reason to interpret any of the other passages we’ve looked at as meaning that any humans would be conscious in the lake of fire — especially in light of what Isaiah wrote about carcases — or even that their corpse could never be resurrected from their second death and be vivified (and hence saved) after burning up in it, since no passage which mentioned either “hell” or the lake of fire by name said anything of the sort. And so, somebody studying the Bible carefully from beginning to end who had never actually heard of the doctrine of never-ending torment in hell for non-believers couldn’t possibly come to the conclusion that any humans would be conscious or suffering while in the lake of fire, at least not before reaching this particular passage more than halfway through Revelation. And if they’re being honest with themselves and taking the rest of Scripture into consideration when they get to this passage, they’d realize it would make no sense to think it was referring to that either, since no other passage we’ve looked at even hinted at such a fate, and because it would contradict everything else they’d already learned as well, which means that to use this one extremely figurative passage located near the very end of the Bible to reinterpret all the references to judgement that came before it in Scripture into meaning all unbelievers (or really anyone at all) will be suffering without end in the lake of fire ignores basically every hermeneutical principle I’m aware of, and would contradict too many other things in Scripture we’ve already looked as well, so there’s just no good scriptural excuse for doing that. And so, even though some people will miss out on eonian life, and might even end up in one of the various types of “everlasting”/eonian “fire,” we now know that they, and everyone, will eventually leave any “hell” they might end up in (if the “fire” they end up in happens to be “hell,” and not all of the “fires” are referring to “hell,” as we’ve now learned), and finally experience salvation, thanks to God and Christ.

Unfortunately, because of bad presuppositions and interpretations (as well as a lack of basic logical analysis of Scripture), most Christians are under the horribly mistaken impression that, while God tried to save everyone through Christ’s sacrifice, He will ultimately miss the mark when it comes to 99% of humanity because He just isn’t powerful enough to convince them to choose the right religion, probably because He didn’t make most people smart enough or wise enough or humble enough or righteous enough to come to the right decision in the first place. Those who believe this aren’t aware that God’s purpose for the eons was never about hoping people will choose the right religion so they can be among the lucky few who escape never-ending punishment, but rather that He saves those who are helpless to save (or even participate in saving) themselves (although, again, each in their own order, or in their own times).

These facts, combined with the fact that Scripture (although it needs to be understood that really only Paul) is quite clear that everyone will eventually experience reconciliation and immortality, makes it pretty obvious that the only reason for the morally and spiritually depraved followers of religion to continue believing in a demonic doctrine like Infernalism (or even Annihilationism) after learning these truths is because they want to believe it (and continuing to believe and teach it tells the rest of us just how hardened their hearts and cauterized their consciences are, as well as just how little they understand about God’s character and His purpose for the eons and dispensations, which are not the same thing as one another). Sadly, most Christians only seem to want good news as long as it’s not too good (really, their basic doctrine is bad news — which is why I like to call them malangelists rather than evangelists — since one could hardly call the teachings that “sin wasn’t actually completely taken care of by Christ some 2,000 years ago,” and that “the majority of people throughout history, probably most of your family members and friends included, are almost certainly going to be tormented, or at least destroyed, for eternity,” to be anything even remotely resembling good news). Some malangelists like to say that it’s necessary to be taught the bad news first so that the good news has context, but everybody is already completely familiar with the actual bad news as Scripture defines it — that everyone is mortal and has failed to be perfect — so it’s really not something that anybody needs to be reminded of. And the so-called “good news” they’re teaching isn’t good news at all either, since their supposed “gospel” is that your friends and family members can be saved, but only if they happen to be moral enough or wise enough or humble enough or lucky enough to happen to choose to believe and/or do the right thing(s) before they die (or if they happen to be among those whom God has elected to avoid never-ending punishment if the Calvinists are correct), which really can’t be called good news, either for those who weren’t born righteous enough or smart enough to make the right choices (or lucky enough to be elected for salvation, if Calvinism is correct), or for those of us who are going to miss them if they don’t.

So, while everyone will eventually enjoy immortality, those who aren’t predestined for eonian life will first go through judgement (not to be confused with punishment or with death), and some will even experience the second death. However, at the consummation of the eons (after the final eon has ended, as all eons, by definition, must), “the grave” or “the unseen” will have no victory and death (all death) will have no sting because it will have been destroyed (and anyone still dead will have to be made alive for death to be truly abolished), and God will be “All in all” (yes, in all; not just in a lucky few — If Paul had not pointed out that the “all” he was writing about doesn’t include God, people could then turn around and say that “all” doesn’t actually mean “all” because it obviously couldn’t include God so it could then also exclude people who die as non-believers as well if it doesn’t actually mean “all,” but because Paul does point out that God isn’t included in the “all” but doesn’t mention anyone else as being excluded from the group, we know that everyone other than God is included in the “all,” even those who die as non-believers — and for those who like to argue that “all” in this verse can’t actually mean everyone because of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:6, what I just wrote about “all” including everyone other than God tells us that it has to be referring to all sapient creatures other than God in chapter 15 regardless, but that aside, there’s no good reason to assume that the “all” in chapter 12 isn’t talking about everyone anyway, and based on what the Bible says about God’s sovereignty, it very well could be).

This truth is lost on those who are lost, thanks to their slavery to the demonic teachings of the Christian religion, but if this weren’t the case (if most of humanity were to suffer consciously in the lake of fire without end), all this judgement would do is torture the majority of people who ever existed nonstop, which would serve no purpose at all (and don’t try to bring up satisfying God’s justice as a possible purpose, because we’ve already determined that Christ’s death was all God’s justice required, and for Him to require anyone else to suffer too wouldn’t be about justice at all, since His justice was satisfied by Christ’s death regardless of whether someone believes it before they die or not) other than to stand as an never-ending reminder that Satan, death, and “the grave” won the ultimate victory after all (a Pyrrhic victory though it might be for Satan, a defeat of God in the battle over souls it would remain nonetheless — and the same goes for if Annihilationism or Conditional Immortality is true as well, by the way; it would mean God still lost to Satan, death, and “the grave” in the struggle for souls), and that God was a failure in ridding creation of evil (simply quarantining evil to a small corner of the universe does nothing to eliminate evil from existence, and the only thing it would really change is to add infinitely more suffering to the universe than it currently has, just in a more compressed area, which would actually be worse than what we have today), ultimately making Him and Jesus A) monsters (only the most horrific of monsters could force, or even allow, someone to be tortured without the possibility of escape; the worst person to ever live could never do anything like that, but many religious Christians want to accuse God of doing something that would make Hitler look like a saint in comparison, or at least make God out to be no better than Hitler if one is an Annihilationist, because they believe He’ll permanently kill the majority of humanity a second time in the largest holocaust ever known), and B) the biggest sinners of all for “missing the mark” (חָטָא/“chata’” in Hebrew, and ἁμαρτία/“hamartia” in Greek, which we translate as “sin” in English, is a word that means “to miss the mark” — for example, to not hit the bullseye on a target with an arrow or a target with a stone thrown from a sling — as the book of Judges made clear when it mentioned 700 lefthanded men who could sling stones at an hair breadth and not miss, with the word “miss” there being the same Hebrew word that is translated as “sin” in other verses) by failing to accomplish their goals.

Thankfully, that’s not the case. Most Christians think the best idea God could possibly come up with is never-ending incarceration and torture (or permanent destruction, in the case of the Annihilationists) as a backup plan after failing to achieve His originally-intended universe, locking the majority of His creation up to suffer forever, but this just shows us that they don’t think very highly of God and His abilities to make things right (or accomplish His ultimate intentions), which is what judgement really means (again, judgement shouldn’t be confused with punishment — the ultimate end result of judgement is righteousness). Rather than failing, as most Christians insist He will (and, really, already has), in the end, God will succeed in completely destroying evil, sin, “hell” (really, “the unseen” or “the grave”), and death (again, all death, which would have to mean even the second death), because He actually is God and is fully capable of doing so.

While understanding the above should be more than enough to convince anyone with an open mind that everyone will eventually experience salvation and reconciliation, understanding the character of God is also important. In fact, teaching never-ending torment in “hell” seriously slanders God and Christ, and not only because it accuses them of being the world’s biggest sinners since it would mean they’ve failed to achieve their goals, not to mention their purpose for the eons (a missing of the mark on God’s part that Annihilationism also teaches). God has many attributes, but perhaps the most important way to understand God is to remember that, while it tells us that God has wrath, the Bible also tells us that God is love (and not the other way around). Most Christians will claim to agree with this statement, of course, but they completely fail to understand what love is (among all the other things that Paul tells us love is, he tells us that love always perseveres and never fails), and will insist that the God who is love Himself will fail to save the majority of His earthly creation, despite their salvation presumably being His greatest desire, persevering only long enough for someone to reach their physical death before giving up on them completely, even though He could easily save them after they’ve been resurrected (which those of us in the body of Christ know He will eventually do; and for those who would suggest that He couldn’t do this because their salvation would then be based on sight rather than solely on faith, it would also mean that nobody born during the Millennium or on the New Earth could be saved, since their salvation would also be based on sight rather than solely on faith if that were the case). Paul also tells us that love is kind in the same passage, but while few people could actually do something as unkind as to torture someone (or simply let someone be tortured) for even a few minutes, much less without end, most Christians insist that God is far less kind (which would mean He’s not loving) than us mere humans who would never do such a horrible thing to anyone. Yes, those whom God loves He chastens, but the purpose of this is to help, not hurt; it isn’t simply an end in itself. And since He loves the whole world, He’ll chasten the whole world, even if in different ways at different times for different people (the case of how God treats the inhabitants of Sodom, both in the past and in the future, is a great example of this).

The important thing to remember here is that God’s attributes, such as justice, can never conflict with His essence, which is love. If love is His very essence, everything He does must ultimately be beneficial for (and work out in the best interests of) all sentient creation in the long run, which means His love can’t ever take a back seat to an attribute like His justice, but rather His justice will always have to be influenced by His love (which always perseveres and never fails) for all of His creation. And since allowing any of His creation to suffer in a lake of fire with no hope of escape could not be said to be an expression of His love for said creation (except in the most horrifically twisted of religious minds), we know that His justice could not allow this to happen since it would conflict with His love towards all of His creation. And, just as a quick aside, some will try to claim that God might define words such as love differently than we do since “His ways are higher than ours,” but A) God already defined love for us in Scripture, and B) if we aren’t using words in a way that we can actually all understand them, there’s no point in using these words at all in the first place, and we might as well just stop studying Scripture altogether . And honestly, if “love” can somehow really include never-ending torture for some of those it’s directed towards, I don’t even want to begin to think about what the love we’ll experience in heaven might actually be like for those of us who are headed there, but to say it might not be pleasant would likely be an understatement.

Of course, what most Christians always forget is that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, so if one wants to truly understand the character of God, all one has to do is look at what we’re told about His Son, Who insisted on extreme forgiveness (seventy times seven, and even forgave those who killed Him), and ultimately sacrificed Himself to save every sinner ever born. When you want to interpret Scripture, you have to do so using a hermeneutic that begins with Christology. If you don’t do that, it’s easy to misunderstand the passages about judgement, and just as easy to forget that everything in Scripture needs to be read with Christ’s character and His purpose in mind. If you really want to understand God’s character, you don’t go looking to the Hebrew Scriptures. You’ll find bits and pieces of information about His character there (and you’ll certainly learn about His power and sovereignty there), but to truly understand who God is and what He’s actually like, you have to look at His Son and who He is. And if you believe that Jesus died for the sins of every human, but that He’d then turn around and torture anyone He died for (or even allow anyone He died for to be tortured) without end just because they weren’t naturally wise enough or righteous enough to choose to “receive” His death (however that’s even supposed to work), it means you really don’t understand Jesus (or the God He’s the image of) at all.

For those who still have trouble with the idea that God truly is the Saviour of every human who will have ever lived, as Paul told us He is, however, I have one last thought for you to consider. I once asked a scholar of Koine Greek (one who knows far more about the language than I can claim to) who did not believe in Universal Reconciliation, but rather believes that most of humanity will be tormented without end in the lake of fire, to tell me what he thought the writers of Scripture would (or, really, what God would have inspired said writers to) have written differently than they actually did if my conclusions about Universal Reconciliation (from eonian salvation and judgement, to avoiding having one’s dead body burned in the valley of Hinnom, to everything else about the topic) were correct (and I challenge you to find someone who knows Koine Greek well and ask them the same question, or to ask yourself the question if you yourself are well versed in the language), and his response was that it wouldn’t have been recorded any differently at all because the Greek text technically could mean everything I’ve written so far without any contradictions (even though he personally believed it meant what most Christians traditionally think it does), which tells me that belief in everlasting torment for non-Christians really is just a matter of wanting it to be true.

Chapter 3 – Choice

Despite the fact that no Christian has been able to refute the interpretations of Scripture and arguments I’ve laid out in this book since its first edition (and I’ve asked hundreds of Christians to do so since I first wrote it, many of whom promised they would, but then never actually got back to me afterwards), most of the Christians who are reading this book have already rejected nearly everything I’ve written, but there’s a very simple reason for this: God has made sure they aren’t able to see the truth. This might sound strange to most people. “Doesn’t God want everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth?”, most will ask. And the answer is, yes, He does, but “each in their own order,” and that order is decided by Him. In fact, Jesus Himself stated that He spoke in such a way so as to keep the truth concealed from those who weren’t meant to know it at that time (those who were not predestined by God to believe the truth and be saved) when He explained in Mark 4:10-12 that He spoke in parables so that “seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” This tells us that not all of God’s truths are intended for everyone to understand just yet. This is also backed up by what He said in John 12:36-40, which is that “they could not believe” because “He [God] hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” This tells us that the truths Jesus taught while He walked the earth (and I would argue that the same applies to the truths He later taught through the apostle Paul) are so blatantly obvious that God has to actually blind people and harden their hearts, since otherwise they’d see the truth and be converted, also telling us that only certain people are predestined for noological salvation in this lifetime.

Of course, many people are uncomfortable with the idea of predestination, and so they like to say things along the lines of, “God doesn’t want robots,” and teach that God gave us something called “free will” (even if they might also say that “free will” is perhaps somewhat limited, not realizing that “limited free will” is a contradiction in terms). These people don’t understand that “free will” is a complete impossibility from a purely logical and scientific perspective, however, and that it can’t actually exist in reality at all. You see, while everyone agrees that we can make choices, most people who teach the importance of “free will” also believe that the choices we make can’t be predetermined ahead of time in any way (although a choice is simply the act of selecting between two or more existing options, regardless of whether the selection that’s made was predetermined or not, which is why the ability to make choices isn’t the definition of “free will” in-and-of-itself). This ignores reality, however, since every choice has to be predetermined, by our nurture and/or nature (meaning our life experiences and/or genetics), and/or by influences outside the sphere of the physical universe (such as by God). You see, even though it might feel like our choices are independent from any cause, it’s important to remember that an event has to either have a cause or not have a cause. There’s no way for any event (even an event such as selecting a specific option) to be anything other than caused or uncaused, and if it’s caused, it means it’s predetermined by that cause, while if it’s uncaused, it means it’s random (which I doubt any Christian would think is better than being predetermined, or qualifies as “free will” either), and nobody has ever been able to provide a third option that works within the limits of reality (although, if you disagree, please let me know what that third option is).

When Christians talk about “free will,” though, what they’re almost always really getting at is that they believe the fault for not choosing to believe and/or do the same things as them when it comes to matters of salvation lies entirely with the one making the choice, and that the choice couldn’t possibly have been predetermined in any way whatsoever (and this goes for their views on why one sins in the first place as well). There are other reasons too (such as self-righteousness and pride), but one of the big reasons Christians want to insist that “free will” exists is to make sure that God doesn’t receive any of the blame for a person’s refusal to choose to “get saved,” and to make sure it’s clear that the sinner in question is entirely to blame for whatever negative consequences this might result in (to put it simply, it’s largely because they want to make sure God is absolved of any responsibility for someone who doesn’t choose to “get saved” ending up suffering without end in the unscriptural version of the lake of fire they tend to believe in).

Since everything has to have a cause, however (because otherwise the thing happening would be uncaused, or random), the questions that really matter when discussing the topic of who deserves the credit or blame for a particular choice are:

1) “What is the cause of the choices that people make?”

2) “Taking all the variables that were present at the time a choice was made into account, could the person making that choice have actually made a choice other than the one they did; and, if so, how, as well as why would they have chosen differently if they did?”

In discussions with Christians on this topic, when asked those very questions, they’ll often deflect by saying things along the lines of, “Nothing causes the choice except for the chooser.” Of course, even if this non-answer were true (which it certainly isn’t; it’s really nothing more than an assumption with no foundation, but one which they’re forced to believe — pun intended — in order to continue holding on to the idea of “free will”), it tells us absolutely nothing about what really matters, which is why a particular choice is made, and it also ignores the second question altogether. (On purpose, I’m fairly certain, even if just on a subconscious level, likely in order to avoid thinking about the topic from this perspective so that they couldn’t possibly end up discovering that they might be wrong about it.)

But even if we were to ignore all the passages in Scripture that tell us God is ultimately responsible for our salvation (including everything we covered in the previous chapter of this book), and put the credit and blame for choices entirely on “the chooser” instead, we’d then have to ask, “What is a chooser?” Well, a “chooser” is simply a person whose brain selects between available options, and one’s brain is made up of (among other things) neural connections which are wired differently in each person by a combination of their life experiences and their genetics (our nurture and nature, in other words). The different layouts of the neural networks in each of our brains results in different choices made by each of us, and none of us gets to choose the way our brains are wired, because we didn’t get to choose the life experiences and genetics that caused our brains to be wired the way they are at the time an option is selected. This means that, at the end of the day (presuming God or other spiritual beings don’t interfere), it’s ultimately our life experiences and our genetics that determine what choices we make, which means our choices are, at the very least, predetermined by our nurture and nature. And so the answer to the question of whether, in a hypothetical duplicate parallel universe — with every particle being in the exact same state as it was here when a specific choice was made, including the particles that the atoms which make up the wiring of the brain of the person making the choice consist of — they could have chosen something different, has to be no, they couldn’t have. But if you believe they could have, I’d like to know not only how they possibly could have, but also why they would have (meaning, what would be different in this hypothetical parallel universe, which was identical to ours up until the point they selected the different option they did, that would result in them selecting a different option from the one they did in our universe).

Although there’s no scriptural or logical reason to do so, at this point some will try to evade these facts by claiming that our mind isn’t actually generated by our brain, but instead somehow exists on a deeper, “spiritual” level (some will also get into pseudo-scientific talk about quantum realities as well, although I can guarantee you that few to none of them have any idea how quantum mechanics actually works). The problem is, aside from the fact that this is clearly both unscientific and unscriptural (as we covered in the last chapter, consciousness, or “soul,” is generated by an unconscious spirit powering a biological brain, and can’t exist separately from a living body), even if this idea were true, it couldn’t actually help support their ideas so much as simply push the problem back a level. A supposedly “spiritual mind,” whatever that’s supposed to actually be, still has to be “made” out of something (out of whatever it is that spirit, or whatever it is they’re claiming a mind comes from, consists of) and still has to make decisions or choices based on what its “neurological structure,” so to speak, would then be made up of, and so the questions of why a particular option was selected over another, and whether another option could have actually been selected instead (and why it wasn’t), are still the relevant questions that need to be answered, even if this were the case. Basically, to simply stop at the level of “the chooser” without finding out what “the chooser” consists of and why “the chooser” selects the particular options they do is essentially to say that a specific “chooser” is simply either naturally good or naturally bad (or perhaps naturally intelligent and/or wise, or naturally unintelligent and/or foolish).

In fact, along those lines, other Christians have said things like, “It isn’t about the ability to choose something else, but about the inner motives of the heart. Some people choose to not get saved because they are lovers of themselves and not of God. They don’t want let go of their way of life, and so they don’t want to believe and be saved. It’s a choice that reflects the inner motives of the person.” This assertion is actually very close to the truth because, yes, most people do prefer to love themselves over God, and don’t want to let go of their current way of life. These facts don’t help the common Christian arguments either, though, since it’s still getting down to a matter of the nature of “the chooser” while ignoring the question of why the nature of “the chooser” is what it is (basically, why “the chooser’s” biological brain, or even “spiritual mind,” if you prefer, is “wired” the way it is at the time an option is selected), with the ultimate blame (again, presuming God doesn’t interfere) being on that particular selfish and/or evil nature. And if it comes down to just that nature, it means they still couldn’t have ever made any other choices than the ones they did since that would go against their nature, which means the choice was ultimately predetermined by that preexisting selfish and/or evil nature which they had no say in being given to them, because said nature was generated by their life experiences and genetics.

I’ve also heard some Christians suggest that, while God doesn’t predetermine everything Himself by manipulating every particle in existence (including the particles that ultimately make up our brains) in order to control every detail of the universe that way, He still gets all of His will fulfilled because He’s smart enough to be able to manipulate events within the universe to ensure people do His will. How He’d do this without controlling the very particles that make up the physical universe, though, I’m not sure. Perhaps He only manipulates certain particles, to make sure certain things happen, but stops short of controlling the particles that ultimately make up the human brain. But even if He isn’t directly controlling the particles that ultimately make up the human brain, if He’s controlling enough details in the rest of the universe to ensure His will is done, He’d still technically be manipulating the brain, even if from the outside, and if His will ends up being done (as the people who suggest this idea believe happens), then He’s still making sure that the brain of the person making the choice does end up making the choice He wants them to make (since otherwise His will wouldn’t end up getting fulfilled). And so, at the end of the day, the end result of this idea is still predestination by God, and regardless of how the action that God wants completed ends up happening (whether it be via direct control of the brain or via manipulation based on events happening outside the brain), the action would still end up being predetermined by God.

This all means that there are two options and only two options, which are that either A) our choices are predetermined — by one’s nurture and/or nature, and, perhaps, by outside influences such as God — or B) our choices are random. As I already said, nobody has ever been able to give a third option, and until they do, those remain the only two options available for us to work with, which means that even though we do all have a will, our wills can not be said to be free (particularly before we’re saved — can a slave to sin be said to be free?), and so it’s time to recognize that “free will” is not only a completely illogical and unscientific concept, but that it’s entirely unscriptural as well, which means that it’s time to throw the idea away and accept that God is fully in control. And don’t worry, this doesn’t mean we’re robots. Because, honestly, that would actually give us too much credit.

All that being said, though, even if something labeled “free will” could hypothetically exist, as we learned in the last chapter of this book, our condemnation is based entirely upon the action of the first Adam, and our salvation is based 100% upon the action of the last Adam, with us as individuals contributing nothing to either our condemnation or our salvation in any way whatsoever, which means that the existence of “free will” is completely irrelevant, at least when it comes to salvation from an absolute (and eventually physical) perspective. However, whether “free will” could exist or not, it can still be asked, do we choose to get saved from a relative perspective?

Well, in answer to that question, the apostle Paul (who didn’t choose to become an apostle himself, but instead, as he said in the beginning of five of his epistles, was an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God rather than by his own will) taught that faith is not out of oneself, but rather that the faith which leads to the salvation he primarily taught about is a gift of God (it isn’t only the salvation and grace that are referred to as being a gift in Ephesians 2:8-9; the faith clearly is as well, especially since there’s no way anyone could think the salvation or grace could possibly be “of yourselves,” considering the definition of grace and the fact that nobody can save themselves, not to mention the fact that receiving salvation would be a transaction rather than a gift if we had to produce faith on our own in order to receive said salvation anyway, so the reference to the gift has to include the faith — besides, if it didn’t, we could then glory in producing our own faith and boast about our wise choice to get saved), and that only those few people God has elected (or predestined/chosen) for eonian life in the heavens will be given the gift of faith and be reconciled to God in this lifetime. Only those relative few will get to live through all of the eons to come in vivified bodies, because only they have been granted by God to be repenting and to be believing the truth, since only they have been been ordained to “eternal” life, meaning predestined to — or set for — life eonian, although for a specific purpose (for those of us in the body of Christ, God not only chose us, but prefers us from the beginning for salvation, at least from a relative perspective). And since everyone will eventually experience salvation from a physical perspective, predestination is actually simply about when someone experiences eschatological salvation rather than about if they experience eschatological salvation (although I suppose it could also be said to be about whether one experiences salvation from a relative perspective and joins the body of Christ or not, if you prefer to put it that way).

Being predestined for salvation isn’t just for members of the body of Christ, though, I should add. As far as the Israel of God goes, Peter told his written audience that it is “by Him” (Christ) that one believes in the true God and not “by ourselves,” which is something he’d been proclaiming (that faith was “by Him”) from the very beginning of his ministry, although this is no surprise since he’d been taught firsthand by Jesus Himself that one can’t choose to believe without God first choosing them, and that he himself (along with the rest of the disciples) indeed didn’t choose Jesus at all, but rather Jesus chose him (and the rest of the disciples) instead (although it couldn’t be any other way, since becoming sons of God by receiving Him and believing on His name is not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God). That said, I’ll be focusing primarily on the salvation connected with Paul’s Gospel in this chapter.

The simple and sad truth is, because most Christians believe that people can choose to believe Paul’s Gospel (or whatever gospel they believe is true) on their own, and in fact believe that one’s choice determines where they will spend eternity (ignoring everything we learned in the last chapter about the salvation of all humanity), they’ll go to extreme lengths to try to ignore the face-value meaning of all the passages in Scripture about predestination and election, using all sorts of theological gymnastics in an attempt to prove that, because God knows everything that’s going to happen, He simply predestined, or elected, the specific people He foresaw would choose to believe the truth in the future for membership in the body of Christ (or the Israel of God, as the case may be). The problem is, aside from the fact that there would then be no reason at all for any of the writers of Scripture to even have discussed predestination or God’s sovereign choice in those passages in the first place, this idea is also essentially salvation by works or salvation by self, and is really nothing more than humanism dressed up in religious garb.

Of course, I realize the idea that “choosing to believe the Gospel on one’s own in order to be saved is actually salvation by works or salvation by self” goes against what most religious leaders have taught, but if you need to stop sinning and decide to choose Jesus as your Lord and Saviour in order to be saved (as most Christians teach that one must), how could it be anything else? The first part of that should be obvious enough, since forcing yourself to stop sinning in order to be saved is obviously a works-based salvation, but even having to choose to believe is a work. If you don’t agree with me, try choosing right now to truly believe in Thor as your lord and saviour. Can’t do it, can you?

Forcing oneself to believe something that one hasn’t already organically come to believe (or that God hasn’t given them the faith to believe) is one of the biggest mental works a person could do, and it seems unlikely that anybody is actually capable of it (outside of, perhaps, a regimen of strong drugs and extreme brainwashing). And if someone has been given the faith to believe the truth, it means they already believe and have already been saved; this is a very binary concept with no middle ground: one either truly believes (which means they have been given the gift of faith by God to believe the good news) and is saved, or they don’t (which means God hasn’t gifted them with the faith necessary to believe the good news) and aren’t. Now, one might try to argue that there isn’t compelling evidence to believe that Thor is our saviour, but pretty much all non-believers would argue that they don’t see compelling evidence to believe that Jesus is either (for that matter, most Christians don’t believe He is our Saviour any more than any atheist does, but instead believe He’s only our potential Saviour, and only becomes our Saviour if we choose to let Him save us, which means they haven’t believed Paul’s Gospel yet either — Calvinists might object to being included here, but while they can sort of claim to believe that “Christ is our Saviour” by redefining the “our” in “Christ died for our sins” as “the elect’s,” as they misunderstand the term, rather than “all humanity’s,” they still aren’t in the body of Christ because “our” really means “all humanity’s” in that verse, as I demonstrated in the last chapter, so they also aren’t in the body of Christ while believing that), and we have to believe they’re telling the truth because, if they were lying and actually did see the evidence, they’d have already believed the truth about Christ and salvation, which would mean they were already saved.

Regardless, even if someone could somehow brainwash themselves into believing something they really didn’t previously believe (although, if they didn’t already believe it to be true, they’d have no reason to try to brainwash themselves into believing it in the first place), it would still be an action (even if just a mental action) they had to accomplish to save themselves (or accomplish to participate in saving themselves), which means it would, by definition, be a work. Pretty much every Christian denomination and cult out there teaches salvation by a combination of Christ’s sacrifice plus our own choice to believe in, and even somehow “receive,” Christ’s sacrifice (aside from some Calvinist denominations, who at least sort of understand God’s sovereignty), but if salvation is by grace plus something else, it’s not by grace alone. (And yes, I know it’s by grace through faith, but that faith, just like the grace and the salvation itself, is not out of ourselves but is, instead, a gift of God, as I already explained; and if we already had the faith that the Gospel is true, it would mean we were either born with it or were given it, but either way, it would mean we were already believing the truth and hence were already saved — although I should say, this passage is technically referring to salvation from a relative perspective, since Paul was talking about a form of salvation not everyone experiences in this chapter, meaning membership in the body of Christ, but even salvation from an absolute perspective is based 100% on grace with 0% of that salvation based on anything we do, including choosing to “receive” it, as we’ve already covered.)

Basically, most Christians actually reject the free gift of salvation (despite mistakenly calling the transactional salvation of their so-called “gospel” a free gift) because they don’t truly believe that it’s what Christ did that saves us (since otherwise they’d have to admit that everyone will be saved) or that salvation really is a free gift that has been given to all (okay, a few Christians will agree that He did give the gift to everyone, but they also teach that He’ll later take it back from people who don’t appreciate the gift enough before they die, although this strange understanding of salvation is believed by very few, thankfully), but rather most believe that Jesus saved absolutely nobody through His death and resurrection. Instead, they believe that His death for our sins, along with salvation itself, is nothing more than an offer rather than an already existing fact (and that Paul’s Gospel is a proposition rather than simply a proclamation of good news about that fact). They think that Jesus only made it possible for people to save themselves by making the right choice with what He did there (although they’d feign humility by claiming to still give the credit to God and Christ somehow, pretending to believe that salvation is no merit of their own, all the while condemning others to “hell” for being too unmeritorious to choose to believe the specific thing they think saves people), and that it’s actually one’s acceptance of the gift of potential salvation that saves them.

But if you happen to be someone who does still believe that salvation depends on a choice we make ourselves, then please ask yourself (and let me know) which of the following options it is that exists within you that made you able to choose to get saved that’s missing from everyone who doesn’t choose to get saved:

  • If you were saved because you were smart enough to do so, it’s the intelligence you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that finally saved you, which means that we’re ultimately saved by intelligence (what Christ did was only step 1, while we have to complete our salvation through step 2: making the right choice to believe the right thing, making us our own, at least partial, saviours).
  • If it’s because you were wise enough to do so, it’s the wisdom you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that finally saved you, which means we’re saved by our wisdom.
  • If it’s because you were righteous enough to do so, it’s the righteousness you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that finally saved you, which means that we’re saved by our own self-righteousness.
  • If it’s because you were humble enough to do so, it’s the humility you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that finally saved you, which means that we’re saved by naturally having the right amount of humility.
  • And if it’s because you were simply lucky enough to happen to do so, it’s the good luck you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that finally saved you, which means that we’re saved by good luck, or simply by random chance.

Although, if you don’t believe the reason you were able to choose to get saved was listed among of the above options, please let me know what it was you have, which the unsaved don’t have, that happens to be the actual reason you were able to choose to get saved while they aren’t able to do so. Whatever the reason is, though, it means that your superior nurture and/or nature is responsible for you making the right choice (presuming it isn’t just the luck of the draw, as would be the case if Calvinism were correct), and those who don’t choose to get saved must have an inferior nurture and/or nature because something inside them keeps them from making that right choice, ultimately making salvation a moral accomplishment we do for ourselves, completing our salvation through our righteous decision to seek after God after we understand the truth and believe in Christ, with Christ Himself merely accomplishing step one of our salvation by giving us something to believe in (His death and resurrection) so we can be saved. Or at least it would mean that if salvation was based on a choice we have to make for ourselves.

Of course, Christians who believe that salvation has to be based on a choice we make don’t quite seem to grasp the irony of their belief that God won’t force anybody at all to bow the knee to Christ and confess Him as Lord in this lifetime, yet that He will supposedly force everyone who doesn’t choose to worship Him now to do so in the future (they’re forced to believe this because they don’t like the idea that Paul’s prophecy that everyone eventually will do so will be voluntary and done out of love and thanksgiving, but rather that this obeisance will be forced out of them at “gunpoint,” so to speak, even though just two verses later Paul said that it was God working in them to even will to do anything good at all, not to mention the fact that nobody can even acclaim Jesus as Lord and mean it apart from having the Holy Spirit within them to allow them to do so). Likewise, they fail to recognize the contradiction inherent in their belief that He won’t force anyone to go to heaven, because that would be unloving of Him (as some claim), while at the same time also believing He’ll force these very same people to go to an inescapable torture chamber called “hell” if they don’t make the right decision before they die, not considering the question of why our supposed “free will” only seems to matter while one is alive when it comes to avoiding never-ending torment in “hell” (unless one believes anybody would actually choose to be tortured in literal fire and want to continue to remain there without end, or even just choose to be burned up in actual fire in order to cease to exist, which seems highly unlikely to anyone who has ever burned themselves even for a fraction of a second).

You see, if those who do believe that salvation depends on a choice we have to make for ourselves accepted that it was actually 100% what Christ did that saved them rather than their own good and wise and humble choice, they’d also have to accept that Christ’s death for our sins, and subsequent entombment and resurrection, saves everyone, regardless of whether everyone chooses to believe it or not, which is just unacceptable to most of those in the Christian religion. To be fair, yes, you do need to “accept that Jesus is our saviour” (please note that I didn’t say “your saviour”) if you want to experience eonian life during the next two eons (which is limited to those who actually do accept the existence of the free gift, and believe the good news that everybody will eventually receive said gift because of what Christ accomplished, at least for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision). However, accepting Jesus as our saviour doesn’t mean choosing to allow Him to save you (which would mean you would have a role in your own salvation, even if just the small role of making the right decision). Rather, it’s accepting that He has already saved you (and everyone else), after you’ve been given the gift of faith to believe the good news of our (meaning everybody’s) already existing salvation because of His death for our (again, meaning everybody’s) sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection. Basically, as I said in the last chapter, most Christians put the cart before the horse, thinking they first had faith and were then saved because of this faith. Believers in the necessity of making a decision for salvation might not realize it, but they ultimately believe it’s their faith that saves them, when it’s actually by grace we are saved, through faith, rather than by faith we are saved, if we accept grace. These people, in fact, have faith in their own faith for their salvation rather than simply have faith that it’s what Christ did for all of humanity that actually saves us all (our faith on its own can’t take away our sins or make us immortal; grace is the horse and faith is the cart). So it’s actually that they were first saved (from an absolute perspective) by what Christ accomplished, and (if they were also elected for eonian life under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision) were then given faith by God to believe the good news of everybody’s already promised impending immortality and sinlessness (which is what salvation will be from a physical perspective), giving these believers the promise of eonian life, and membership in the body of Christ (which is what salvation is from a relative perspective), as well.

As should be obvious at this point, most Christians actually teach that God and Jesus don’t really save anyone, but instead teach that it’s up to us to save ourselves, despite using scriptural-sounding language to disguise this fact (trying to make it look like they’re actually giving the credit to God and Christ, often even lying to themselves about it), making salvation — from an absolute, relative, and physical perspective — rely on us rather than on God. But in order for one to be saved from a relative (or even physical) perspective, one has to already be saved from an absolute perspective, and entirely apart from any action on their part (at least under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision; under the Gospel of the Circumcision, salvation is more of a joint effort, with works indeed being required or else one’s faith would prove to be dead and useless, but that’s a whole other sort of salvation which we’re not talking about right now), including the act of believing, otherwise their salvation wouldn’t be real to begin with, and it would be their faith bringing a non-existent salvation into existence rather than what Christ did that brings salvation. “For instance,” as Martin Zender put it, “what is the use of me asking someone to believe that I deposited a small fortune into his or her bank account if I haven’t actually done it? Would the person’s affirmative confession add money to an empty account? Neither God nor Christ would ever ask unjust God-avoiders to believe a fairy tale, let alone insist that such belief could change fairy tales into realities. In fact, why ask unjust God-avoiders to believe anything unless You were prepared to provide the necessary faith Yourself? This is just what God does: ‘[He] imparts to each the measure of faith’ (Romans 12:3). It’s the only way that anyone can believe. Is salvation real, or isn’t it? Or is it not real until human belief makes it so? But how can human faith make an unreality real simply by the act of believing? I may believe with all my heart that the moon is made of cheese, but it doesn’t make it so. This is madness. Only just people can do something so noble as seek God, but no one is just, not one. Thus, all avoid Him. These are Paul’s words under the inspiration of the holy spirit. Unjust God-avoiders believe and confess nothing concerning God, and even if they could, why pitch them a fable? The question then arises — Did Jesus save me, or didn’t He? If He didn’t, then what am I supposed to believe, even if I could believe? Am I supposed to believe that Jesus didn’t save me? What would be the use of believing a falsehood? If Jesus did save me, then I’m already saved and my subsequent belief — however it comes — affirms a truth, not a fable. Because honestly — who affirms a fable? Lies are to be denied, not affirmed. You Christians laud Jesus Christ in all your colorful brochures, heralding His death and resurrection as though it actually accomplished something — up until the time I must ‘believe or burn,’ at which time salvation turns from a done-deal wrought by a spectacular Savior into a job-op proposed by a Wanna-Be Hero. Jesus didn’t save me after all; it was false advertising. What you mean to tell me is that Jesus merely provided me the opportunity to save myself if I could somehow break through a God-enforced, Adamic stubbornness. Is that the exercise? Then present salvation as an exercise, not a grace. You misrepresent it. You’re hypocrites. You idiots really ought to make up your minds about salvation: is it real or a put-on? If it’s real, then present it that way. Stay true to your spectacular Savior brochures. Tell me what Jesus Christ did, and not what He hopes to do if only I can cooperate with Him. Tell me that I’m saved, and mean it. Do that, and my belief will become the caboose on the train of salvation that it truly is, rather than the engine. Jesus Christ on the cross is the engine, is He not? Unless, of course, I’m really not saved. If I’m not saved, then quit telling lies such as ‘Jesus saves.’ Jesus doesn’t save squat if I’m in the same position after the cross as before it. Before the cross I’m doomed, and after the cross — according to you — I’m still doomed. What the hell did Jesus actually do on the cross then? At best, Calvary is a proposition. If it’s merely that, then quit saying, ‘Jesus saves.’ Say instead, ‘Jesus tried.’ If I am saved, then tell me I’m saved and I’ll believe it, because why would I deny a fact? It’s not my habit. I’m into truth, not pretense, and certainly not duplicities. Give it to me straight, you deceitful people who say one thing and mean another.”

And so, even though Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused the third day, most Christians teach that you still have to help yourself before God will help you, because there’s still something specific you yourself have to do in order to get saved, which is choose to believe a very specific thing (because what Jesus did wasn’t enough on its own to save you without your belief in that specific thing, and if you can’t help yourself by bringing yourself to choose to believe that specific thing, you’re out of luck and God just won’t help you, since God only helps those who help themselves, it seems). Of course, some will also add certain actions — such as repentance of sin, confessing Jesus as Lord, and even water baptism, among other things — to the requirements for salvation, but for now let’s keep it simple and just leave it at having to choose to believe something very specific in order to get saved, especially since adding additional requirements on top of believing something specific won’t actually change anything about my point that the common belief is Jesus’ death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection, just wasn’t enough to save anyone without them having to add to what He did by choosing to believe something specific. (Please note that I’m not claiming faith is a work here, by the way, as some people misunderstand me to be teaching, but rather I’m saying that having to choose to have faith would be a work.)

What is that specific thing we have to choose to believe, though, in order to be saved? Well, it can’t be that we have to believe Jesus is our Saviour, or that Jesus saved us, because we’ve already determined that He isn’t our Saviour (since otherwise we’d already be saved) and that He didn’t save us yet, so to believe He did save us when He didn’t actually do so yet would be believing a lie, and I hope no Christian would claim that we have to believe a lie in order to get saved (or that believing a lie somehow turns said lie into the truth).

If there is anything we have to choose to believe in order to be saved, I would suggest that it’s simply the good news that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day. But even if choosing to believe that good news is what saves us, we still can’t legitimately say that it’s Jesus who saved us. We can say that He contributed to our salvation, and even that what He contributed was a crucial component of our salvation, but at the end of the day we could only claim that we ultimately saved ourselves (or at least participated in saving ourselves) by choosing to believe the right thing.

If this still isn’t clear, remember that we weren’t saved prior to our choosing to believe the good news (at least according to the traditional Christian perspective). Up until we hear the good news, Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection, accomplished absolutely nothing (at least for us) because we’re still not saved yet. (Think about it: if the traditional Christian perspective is correct, at the time that Jesus walked out the tomb, nobody could have possibly been saved yet, which means His death for our sins, His entombment, and His resurrection had accomplished literally nothing for anybody yet; so, at that point He wasn’t anybody’s saviour because nobody had been saved yet, since nobody even knew about — much less believed in — His death for our sins and His resurrection yet, which means that even His disciples couldn’t have been saved at that point — contrary to what Luke 10:20 seems to imply — because they didn’t even believe in His resurrection yet, nor were they aware that His death was for our sins.) What actually can save us, according to most Christians, is our choice to believe the good news that He died for our sins and was entombed and was roused the third day, after we hear this good news. If we hear it and don’t choose to believe, we’re still not saved. If we hear it and do choose to believe it, we get saved (with your belief in what He did somehow being a sort of divine alchemy making it so that what He did actually did save you, even though it apparently didn’t actually save you up until the point that you chose to believe it actually did). So what is it that makes the difference as far as our salvation goes? Obviously, it’s our choice to believe. This ultimately means that, even if Jesus contributed a vital element of our salvation by doing the thing we need to choose to believe in so that we can be saved, it’s our choice to believe that message which ultimately seals the deal and saves us, meaning that we are our own saviours, and that we save ourselves by choosing to believe something specific. Which also means that Jesus Christ is not your saviour, but only a contributor to your salvation (or at least this would be the case if the traditional Christian idea that we can’t be saved if we don’t choose to believe the Gospel were true).

The reality, however, is that the choice isn’t about getting saved vs not getting saved to begin with (at least from an absolute and physical perspective). The actual choice (as far as Paul’s Gospel goes, anyway) is about experiencing salvation early vs experiencing salvation at the consummation of the eons. The confusion arises because most Christians assume that people have to decide between “accepting Jesus as their personal saviour” or being damned for eternity, when the choice is actually between A) believing that God has saved everyone from an absolute perspective and will save everyone from a physical perspective because of what Christ accomplished, and getting to enjoy that salvation early if you believe this good news, or B) not believing this good news and having to wait until a later time to experience salvation from a physical perspective.

As we previously covered, the good news which Paul taught isn’t that you can avoid an inescapable torture chamber called “hell” if you believe their “gospel” now, as most Christians have mistakenly assumed it to be. The good news (well, the end result of the good news) is that you will experience salvation because of Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection. And if God happens to gift you with the understanding of what this good news means — and the faith to believe that it’s true — now, you’ll get the special salvation Paul wrote about in 1 Timothy 4:10, which is an early experience of that immortality and sinlessness which everyone will eventually experience.

To put it another way, the good news isn’t that you can escape never-ending punishment if you happen to choose to believe the good news that you can escape never-ending punishment. (Think about it, that’s what the traditional Christian message actually is: believe the good news and you’ll be saved from “hell,” with the good news you need to believe being that you can be saved from “hell” if you believe the good news that you can be saved from “hell” — it’s an entirely circular doctrine, if you really break it down, although almost no Christian ever does.) In actuality, the good news is simply that you will be made immortal and sinless because Christ died for our sins, and because He was entombed and resurrected; and if you happen to believe this good news, you’ll even get to experience said immortality and sinlessness earlier than everyone else will (but they will still experience it eventually). Simply put, in order for anyone to be saved at all, absolutely everyone has to be saved.

This means, I should add, that very few Christians have been saved yet, at least from a relative perspective, even if everyone can be said to already be saved from an absolute perspective, thanks to what the Gospel means. Because you can’t believe something without understanding what it means, and because very few Christians have actually understood what the Gospel really means, we have to conclude that most Christians haven’t actually believed the Gospel at all, which means they haven’t been saved from a relative perspective at all (and have not actually joined the body of Christ, despite thinking they have). This is, of course, because faith in the good news which tells us everyone will be saved is a gift God only gives to a relative few, and if one isn’t among the elect, then judgement is still a part of God’s sovereign plan for that person, and they couldn’t possibly believe Paul’s Gospel and experience the eonian life he wrote about, no matter how hard one tries to get them to (yes, the light that is Christ might illuminate all men — note the word “might” there, since this is a Circumcision passage that technically might only be talking about “all men” who are born as Israelites, as tended to often be the case in the writings of John when he mentioned “men” and “the world,” although that’s a much bigger topic than I have the room to get into here; however, there’s a decent chance this could be a trans-administrational principle which applies to everyone, and the next point definitely is, so I’m still using it here — but all will fail to perceive that light unless God opens their eyes since their minds have been blinded to it; and this passage does apply to everyone, at least everyone who hasn’t been elected by God for eonian life). One can’t simply build up true faith on their own to believe the actual good news while their minds have been blinded to the truth (and if God has given them the faith to believe the good news then they’ve already been saved, relatively speaking, because if they have the faith that the good news is true then they already believe the good news and hence have already been saved). Everything we have, including our faith, we ultimately received from God (otherwise we could boast about our good decision to believe the Gospel, when the truth is that the moment we are given faith to believe the good news, we have already been saved from both an absolute and a relative perspective). This doesn’t mean that those who don’t believe the good news haven’t also been saved from an absolute perspective, however, of course. They’ll still be given immortality at some point in the future thanks to what Christ did for them some 2,000 years ago. They just won’t also get eonian life the way those to whom God chose to give faith will, and so they’ll miss out on some things that the few who are saved from a relative perspective will get to enjoy because God, in His sovereign will and preference, decided to let certain people enjoy salvation earlier than others.

The complete sovereignty of God and His purposes for creation from before it all began is one of the most important factors in the Bible, and is taught throughout it (and while most Christians would claim to believe in His sovereignty, not very many actually do), yet so few people are aware that He has a reason for everything that has happened in creation, and has had very specific plans for the eons (and those in each eon) from the beginning. In fact, thanks to certain less literal translations of Scripture, most Christians aren’t aware of the concept of the eons at all (or they confuse the eons with dispensations, which are something else altogether; an eon is a specific period of time that can contain multiple dispensations, or administrations, sometimes with more than one of these dispensations occurring at the exact same time as each other). Instead of knowing (and glorifying) God as God, which would involve them understanding that He is completely in control, placing everything where He intends it to be and subjecting all to His will, nearly all Christians believe that God really hoped Adam wouldn’t actually sin, but that God is now on Plan B because Adam did end up sinning. They just don’t believe Paul when he said that God works all things after the counsel of his own will and not just some things. But the fact is that He really does, which means that everything about creation — be it good and evil, righteousness and sin, pleasure and suffering, faith and unbelief, even the devil and the crucifixion — was all intended by God from before the beginning of creation (God is not only able to see the future, He declares what is going to be done from the beginning, and what He desires to be done will be done).

Yes, from a relative perspective, God does ask people to accept the truth and believe the good news, but one has to recognize the fact that God is still 100% in control from an absolute perspective, and that Scripture is using a figure of speech called “Condescension” in places that appear to make it look like things are ultimately up to us. Not recognizing the difference between the absolute and relative will of God (or, perhaps better put in this case, His preceptive will and His providential will, which means His public will — or commandments — and His hidden intentions) also leads Christians to believe that God never intended for people to disobey Him in the first place, when the truth is that He secretly intended for people to rebel against His commandments all along. Perhaps the best example of this is in His commandment against murder. God made murder a sin, yet He had the murder of Christ planned from the foundation (or disruption) of the world, knowing full well when He gave the commandment against murder to Moses that without murder there would be no salvation for anyone. A less obvious, yet no less helpful, example would be His order to Adam and Eve to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When one considers the facts, that while He told them not to eat of it, He all the while placed it right in the centre of the garden with nothing to make it difficult to get at (when He didn’t have to place it in the garden at all — or even anywhere on earth, for that matter — if He really didn’t want anyone to sin), and made it look like good food and pleasant to the eyes and to be desired to make one wise, and even placed the serpent right there to tempt them (it’s important to remember that nobody is anywhere that God didn’t specifically place them), not to mention the fact that without eating of it humanity would not only not understand evil but would never truly understand good either (it wasn’t called just “the tree of the knowledge of evil,” it was called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”), it becomes obvious that God actually intended for them to disobey Him so that death could enter the world (and, again, had already intended to have His Son killed prior to this, which would be a strange plan if He didn’t also intend for sin and death to exist — God doesn’t make contingency plans; each plan He makes is something that He fully intends to take place and that will indeed happen, which means the death of His Son wasn’t just something He had in mind to do if humanity happened to sin, but was instead the original plan that He fully intended to implement long before Adam ever sinned, and in fact the reason Adam sinned was so that a mortal race could exist in order that He could implement the plan). And, of course, the entire reason He even gave Israel the Mosaic law at all was so that they would sin all the more. It might seem hard to believe, and some even try to deny it by making the assertion — one that is not only found nowhere in Scripture but that is actually contradicted by it — that “God is not the author of sin,” but the Bible actually tells us that God has not only purposely locked up His human creation in unbelief, but that He has also purposely locked us up in sin, locked us up in vanity, and locked us up in corruption (meaning in decay, humiliation, and death), all in order that He can later set us all free (He can’t free us if we aren’t first locked up).

So, while sin is still sinful, it’s not something that surprised God or that He didn’t actually secretly intend to come into existence in the first place (for the purpose of revealing grace, as I mentioned in the last chapter; contrast is often necessary to truly understand and appreciate things, and knowing this helps us come to understand that sin was actually necessary for God to complete His purposes). Remembering that the word “sin” means “to miss the mark” might also help make this seem a little less blasphemous to those who are still horrified by the idea of the necessity of the existence of sin, however. Yes, Adam missed the mark by failing to avoid eating the forbidden fruit, but God hit the bullseye when Adam sinned because that was His secret plan for Adam all along, which means that even though He’s responsible for it from an absolute perspective, God didn’t sin by ultimately being behind it all, because He didn’t miss the mark since sin and death entering the world through Adam’s sin was His intended “mark” from the beginning (this also means that if Adam hadn’t sinned then God would have been the sinner instead, because it would mean He had failed to accomplish His intended goal of Adam sinning and bringing mortality and sinfulness to all humanity so He could save us — and for those who want to insist that God’s intended goal was a world where humanity never sinned, that would also make God a sinner because Adam did sin, which means that God would have missed the mark if that sin-free world was actually His intended goal; and if His plan was simply to give Adam “free will,” whatever that’s actually supposed to even be, and to then sit back and watch what happens, as some seem to believe, having no goal at all for the world, and the death of Christ simply being His backup plan to use if Adam did happen to sin, that would make God an extremely irresponsible deity, and His sovereignty would be a lie, as would be all the passages of Scripture that tell us He’s completely in control).

Of course, many people dislike the idea of predestination since it would mean God decides that certain (indeed most) people will suffer without end in a literal lake of fire (or at least decides that most people will be burned up and permanently cease to exist, depending on their soteriology). It’s only when one realizes that God has a specific reason for electing only certain people to be saved in this lifetime and for choosing others to miss out on eonian life, and that nobody remains in the lake of fire, but rather that God actually had a plan all along that works out for everyone in the end, that one might come to understand that predestination is ultimately in our best interests. Of course, if we don’t accept that predestination is a fact, we’re giving the responsibility for not “accepting Jesus” to those who don’t, which also means we’re giving the credit for “accepting Jesus” to those who do (because you can’t have it both ways), again, making them their own (at least partial) saviours and giving them reason to boast about their good decision. But that aside, the Bible tells us that God takes credit for both the good and the evil (and, from an absolute perspective, even the sin) that exists in the world anyway (even Satan was created the way he is for a specific purpose), as well as for who ultimately experiences reconciliation first and who has to wait until later, so we should really give Him all of the credit rather than boasting in our so-called “free will” and righteous acts (even if it’s just one simple righteous act consisting of a single righteous decision to believe a specific thing) for our salvation.

Others dislike the idea that God might “coerce” people into salvation, claiming (without any scriptural justification, I might add) that God is a gentleman and that He would never force people to spend eternity with Him against their wishes, saying things like, “God won’t drag anyone kicking and screaming into heaven,” not seeming to realize that absolutely nobody is actually claiming this is something He’ll do anyway (and also seeming to ignore the fact that their so-called “gospel” is far more coercive than the straw man they’re arguing against, with its threat of never-ending punishment if one doesn’t choose be with God). These people seem to have forgotten the conversion experience of someone named Saul who was entirely opposed to the true God, and was in fact on the road to Damascus to kill those who did want to spend eternity with Him, when God overwhelmed him with grace and showed him mercy so that he could become a pattern of those who are about to be believing on Him for life eonian, or life age-during (this pattern including the fact that those who are saved, relatively speaking, are made to believe, or are given faith, rather than choosing to believe, even if it isn’t always as obvious in our cases as it was for the man who became our apostle). When God gives a person the faith to believe that the good news is true, this isn’t forcing that person to be with Him against their will (especially since they’re still alive here on earth when it happens; it isn’t like He suddenly drags them off to heaven to be with Him at that point) but is rather giving them the will to actually want to be with Him in the future. And nobody at the consummation of the eons is going to complain that God dragged them out of the oblivion of death kicking and screaming. By that point everyone will be happy to get to exist again, and will be quite willing to enjoy their newly vivified bodies with Him on the New Earth.

But while predestination isn’t coercive, it is absolute, and is based entirely on God’s sovereign choice rather than on our own, and I truly don’t understand how anyone can read Romans 9 and come away thinking otherwise. The idea that either our decision to sin or our desire for salvation (or even our faith that the good news is true) is based entirely on ourselves or on our supposed “free will” is completely contradicted by this chapter, despite the efforts of various Arminians and other Christians to hand-wave away the actual meaning of the chapter by claiming that Paul is simply talking about Israel there. I mean, they are partly right; Paul does talk about Israel in that chapter (as well as in the next two chapters, where he’s pointing out that Israel hasn’t been replaced by the nations), but he’s also talking specifically about Israelites as individuals in this chapter as well, discussing which ones will get to experience salvation (under the Gospel of the Circumcision, I should add) and which ones will miss out on the Millennial Kingdom. On top of that, he not only uses Gentiles as examples of God’s sovereignty and election in this chapter (note that he doesn’t say Pharaoh hardened his own heart in this chapter; his whole point here is that it’s God who is the one who hardens hearts — any hardening of the heart that Pharaoh himself did was from a relative perspective, with God being the absolute source of the hardening, as Paul points out here and as God Himself claims in Exodus — the idea that Pharaoh was ultimately responsible is just reading one’s own desire for human “free will” to be the reason for one’s damnation or salvation into the passages, and it means one is not paying attention to how these passages are actually worded or what the main point of these passages actually are), he also discusses how Gentiles are called as well, so to insist that this chapter is just about Israel as a whole is to ignore large portions of the chapter. Really, a major point he’s making in this chapter is that salvation is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy,” meaning that neither our own will nor our own efforts have anything to do with our salvation at all, but rather that it’s entirely based on God choosing to show mercy to whomever He decides to show mercy (from a relative perspective, of course; from an absolute perspective, He shows mercy to everyone, even if we don’t all experience it at the same time). In fact, when Paul’s “hypothetical” audience-member tries to “argue” that Paul’s point about God being ultimately responsible for those whose hearts are hardened can’t be right because it would then make no sense for God to blame people for their sins if this were true, asking, “Then why does he find fault? For who has resisted his will?”, Paul doesn’t then admit he was wrong and agree that his opponent must be right. If he had, the next line in the chapter would have been, “You know what? That’s a good point. I must have been mistaken. It must actually be our own fault, because of the decisions we made with our own free will, so I guess God isn’t ultimately responsible after all.” But instead, Paul simply continued in the same vein by saying“Who are you, to be sure, who are answering again to God? That which is molded will not protest to the molder, ‘Why do you make me thus?’ Or has not the potter the right over the clay, out of the same kneading to make one vessel, indeed, for honor, yet one for dishonour?” Paul’s answer there tells us that he isn’t conceding the point at all, but is sticking to his belief that, while God does hold us accountable for our actions, He is still ultimately responsible for those actions. Now this admittedly might seem harsh, particularly to a Christian who believes this would mean that those whom God hardens and makes into vessels of dishonour will be punished in fire without end; but when we realize that even the vessels of dishonour will eventually recognize it was all necessary for the fulfillment of God’s plans, and that even they will eventually experience salvation, it turns out to be a lot less harsh than one might originally think.

Chapter 4 – Deception

Never-ending torment in “hell” (as well as Annihilationism, among those Christians who have enough of a conscience to reject the idea of torture without end but still can’t see the full truth) and salvation based on a “free will” choice to believe the right thing are two of the various “orthodox” traditions that Satan made sure were taught in the Christian religion to keep one from eonian life under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. If someone believes that anybody at all is still “dead” — be it actually dead or only figuratively dead — at the consummation of the eons, they don’t truly believe Christ actually died for our sins (which is referring to the sins of everyone, not just the sins of Christians, completely taking care of all of our sins Himself some 2,000 years ago), but rather believe that we still have to do something about our sins ourselves today. And if we have to do something about our own sins, even something as supposedly simple as making the right decision, it was we who finally dealt with our sins at the end of it all rather than Christ taking care of it all through His death, entombment, and resurrection. He only performed the first step; we had to complete the final step ourselves by making the right choice, making us our own saviours, or at least partial saviours. These weren’t the only traditions he made sure were taught, however. He also tried his best to convince those in Churchianity (which is what some of us call the Institutional Church and the “orthodox” religion known as Christianity — as opposed to the religionless/”heretical” doctrines that I now believe the Bible teaches are meant for the body of Christ) of the immortality of the soul. But if the soul is immortal, that means Jesus didn’t truly die, nor was He truly entombed, which would mean we are still in our sins and have no hope, because the Gospel of the Uncircumcision which tells us that Christ died for our sins, and that He was entombed, is a claim that would not actually be true if the immortality of the soul were correct.

Of course, coming to understand that Jesus actually fully died brings one to the realization that, in addition to misunderstanding the character of God, Christians have also misunderstood “the nature of God” (for lack of a better term), thinking that Scripture teaches God to be three people rather than one Person. Within Christianity it’s incredibly common to assume that one can’t be a true Christian without believing in the “orthodox” tradition known as the Trinity, which is ironic because not only is the Trinity a tradition that is completely contradicted by Scripture, but because belief in the Trinity actually keeps one from eonian life (since it means one hasn’t fully understood or believed Paul’s Gospel). The Bible teaches that, while there are many gods out there in the universe — it would be difficult for the Father to be the God of gods if there were no other gods out there to be the God of — there is only one Almighty God (who created all the other gods), who has no equals or co-equals. Can Almighty God have a God above Him? Nearly everyone I’ve asked this question to has immediately and rightfully answered “no,” but Scripture tells us in many places that Jesus has a God — His Father — which means that, while as God’s icon He can use any title His Father has when representing God to us or when speaking on His Father’s behalf, He can’t actually be the Almighty God like His Father is since the Father is above Him, and nobody is above — or even beside, meaning equal to — Almighty God. And while it now (post-resurrection and vivification of Christ) might be technically accurate for certain people to call Jesus “God” (at least from a relative perspective, when He’s acting as God’s icon), or even for the rest of us to call Him a god, as far as those in the body of Christ are concerned we have only one God, the Father (in the passage where he tells us this, Paul is careful to differentiate Jesus Christ from God by saying Jesus is Lord for us instead, and by telling us that only the Father is to be understood as God, at least by those of us in the body of Christ), but not in all men is there this knowledge — in fact, practically not in all of Christendom is there this knowledge.

But even beyond the fact that the Trinity is simply illogical and unscriptural, as I mentioned already, the bigger problem is that one can’t even join the body of Christ while truly believing in this doctrine (because, again, it means they don’t believe Christ actually fully died for our sins, and was entombed, but that only His body did and was; God can’t die, so if one believes that Jesus is God, they can’t believe that Jesus truly died, nor can they believe that Jesus Himself was entombed), so I would posit that the reason it’s become one of the most important ideas in the Christian religion is because Satan wanted to make sure as few people as possible could become a part of the body of Christ and take his reign from him during the future eons, and so when he created this counterfeit religion in order to keep people from believing the truth of the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, he made sure it was one of the primary doctrines.

In addition, it’s likely that belief in the Trinity keeps one from enjoying the sort of eonian life that one experiences under the Gospel of the Circumcision as well, since belief that Jesus is the Son of God is required for salvation under that Gospel, and the Trinity teaches that Jesus is “God the Son” (really nothing more than a title for a certain part of God; and yes, logically, that is what it has to mean, despite any protestations to the contrary by Trinitarians who might be familiar with the Christian creeds and the “orthodox” heresies declared by the supposed leaders of the religion) rather than the actual Son of God (Jesus can’t be both God and the Son of God at the same time, because that would make Him the Son of Himself). Scripture speaks of the Son of God and the Spirit of God, but never “God the Son” or “God the Spirit.” Sadly, the true deity of God, and what this actually means, is a doctrine that has been lost to pretty much all of Christendom. It’s important to remember that Scripture puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, and on how one must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (particularly those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision), so much so that claiming He has an identity not found in Scripture — “God the Son” — is teaching another Jesus.

Now, some like to claim that the Trinity is “a mystery” that isn’t meant for us to understand, but nowhere in Scripture do we find this assertion made, so they have no foundation on which to lay this claim. Besides, if the Trinity is a “mystery” that can’t be understood, what basis do we have for believing it in the first place? Was the idea that God is a Trinity prophetically told to be true to the trinitarians at Nicea (yet with how the concept is supposed to work, exactly, never actually being explained, as is made clear by the fact that nobody seems to be able to do so without resorting to teaching Modalism or other ideas that are considered heretical to “orthodox” Christians)? I don’t recall that claim ever being made by any Christians. In fact, the reason the doctrine of the Trinity came to be accepted by the Christian religion as truth is because the position won in a vote, not because any actual prophets at the Council of Nicea revealed the doctrine to be true, which means that trying to defend the doctrine by calling it a “mystery” doesn’t help the position at all. (Although, before moving on, I should quickly say that Trinitarians are right about one thing, which is that the Oneness doctrine, also known as Modalism, is incorrect; although not for the reasons they claim, but rather for the most important reason listed above that Trinitarianism is wrong: because it also denies Christ’s actual death and entombment.)

Ultimately, belief in any of the traditional “orthodox” doctrines seems to mean one hasn’t fully believed Paul’s Gospel and has not joined the body of Christ. Basically, if something is an important teaching or practice (or is considered to be an “orthodox” tradition) among the majority of the followers of the Christian religion, it’s generally safe to assume it’s a doctrine of demons and that the opposite is true instead (particularly if it’s a major tradition, doctrine, or practice taught by Rome — for whom never-ending torment, salvation based on a “free will” choice, the immortality of the soul, and the Trinity are all extremely important doctrines). While Jesus’ statement that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” was technically referring specifically to the Gospel that Jesus was teaching to the Israel of God, it is still true that very few people, including Christians, ever join the body of Christ, so it likely still counts as a trans-administrational truth, which means that there’s no way a religion with as many followers as the Christian religion has  — about a third of the human population of the planet — can possibly be the “narrow way” that few find, as I’ve mentioned before. Really, when it comes right down to it, there’s relatively little that the Institutional Church gets right about God or Scripture. Although some denominations do occasionally stumble upon parts of certain truths seemingly accidentally, it’s extremely rare, and no one denomination within Christianity ever seems to get more than a few things at most somewhat right — and even then, they rarely understand even a small portion of the full implications of the parts they sort of appear to grasp. It’s questionable whether one single member of the Institutional Church could ever give a satisfying, or even remotely biblical, explanation as to why God created humanity and allowed — or, really, arranged for — sin and evil to enter creation (when one studies the Scriptures concordantly, they discover that sin and evil didn’t derail God’s original intentions for the universe at all but are actually 100% necessary for the completion of His purposes, and that this is, in fact, exactly how God always operates). It seems (from a relative perspective, at least) that Satan works hard to keep people in these denominations from joining the body of Christ, and also to use these churches to keep the rest of the world from learning spiritual truth as well. Paul’s remonstration against Israel in his epistle to the Romans that, because of them, “the name of God is being blasphemed among the nations,” is today almost better applied to those in the Christian religion who give the world contradictory messages about God that keep people who think about these things from believing in such an apparently confused deity, telling people that God loves everyone unconditionally, as long as they meet certain conditions; that you are saved by grace alone and not by any actions of your own, as long as you act now and choose to become a Christian before you die; and that God is the Saviour of all humanity, yet will fail to save most of the humanity He’s supposedly the Saviour of, who will actually be tormented in hell without end (or will at least be burned up and permanently cease to exist if the Annihilationists are correct) rather than be saved. Thanks to these false expressions, those who are able to recognize the hypocrisy hear these things and think, “The god of the Christian religion says one thing but apparently means something else altogether, so why would we want anything to do with this seemingly dishonest deity and contradictory religion?”

That’s not to say everyone who uses the label of “Christian” and who believes in salvation from never-ending punishment based on a choice we make will definitely miss out on eonian life, however (although a pretty large number of people who call themselves Christians very likely will). A few of them might still experience life in the kingdom of heaven. It’s just that, due to their ignorance, they are unknowingly under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead of the Uncircumcision. (Alternatively, they might end up in the kingdom based on how they treated believing Israelites during the Tribulation instead.)

In fact, while they’re definitely in harmful, authoritarian cults, and it’s doubtful that their leadership will be included in this based on that factor alone, there’s a possibility that certain lay-members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — more commonly known as Mormons — might actually end up living in the kingdom of heaven on earth (although they should still leave their cults if they can, since 99% of the doctrines their religions teach are still entirely unscriptural), because they do seem to qualify for salvation under the Gospel of the Circumcision as far as Romans 10:9-13 goes, and because they aren’t disqualified based on a Trinitarian belief, they might actually be believing in the true Jesus (yes, I know about the “pre-incarnation” beliefs about Jesus they hold to, but they believe He’s now actually the Son of God, which almost no actual Christian does), and do also follow up their faith with works, so while I’m not dogmatic about this, I personally suspect that a lot of Christians are going to be surprised when they find out who actually ends up living in the kingdom of heaven (as well as who ends up living in heaven itself, of course).

So, while “true Christians” aren’t a part of the body of Christ and will miss out on celestial blessings in the next eon (and even in this eon), an extremely small number of them (along with the aforementioned cult members that “true Christians” don’t consider to be Christians at all) might still get to enjoy the impending eon here on earth if they follow the requirements of their particular Gospel and don’t try to mix their Gospel with Paul’s Gospel, since it’s either one or the other. Just as the body of Christ is not Israel, those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision aren’t the bride of Christ (and, in fact, the term “the bride of Christ” isn’t even a biblical one), and those under the Gospel of the Circumcision weren’t and aren’t a part of the body of Christ either. The justification of those in the body of Christ is quite different in nature from the justification of those the “Circumcision letters” were written to is as well. As Cornelius demonstrated in the book of Acts, even Gentiles can be saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision (no, he wasn’t saved under Paul’s Gospel, contrary to the assumptions that many who still don’t truly understand how to rightly divide mistakenly hold to, although it’s sometimes easy to understand why some might be confused). However, they might not experience the full blessings that Israelites saved under it will, so if they are able to believe the Gospel given to us by Paul instead, they’ll be much better off (and can stop trying to base their theology and churches on the Circumcision teachings). But as far as those of you who have now learned how to rightly divide the word of truth go, and know what salvation actually is (both sorts of salvation), you’re ready to also dig deeper into the rest of Scripture with a framework that will make it that much more clear what else the leaders of the Institutional Church might not have taught you thanks to their pre-existing assumptions about what Scripture says.

Before moving on to the next chapter, though, while their viewpoint won’t keep one from eonian life the way believing some of the other doctrines I mentioned above will, you should be aware that there is another deception leading even certain members of the body of Christ astray recently, some of whom I do link to in places in this book (because otherwise their teachings are pretty sound), and this deception is known as the Acts 28:28 movement (also known as Acts 28 Ultradispensationalism). Sadly, this teaching has caused no end of confusion among the body of Christ, and has also stolen the blessed hope of the Snatching Away from many, so it’s important to recognize it when we see it and realize that the dividing line is indeed mid-Acts (the correct view generally being known as Mid-Acts Hyperdispensationalism) rather than Acts 28 (or Acts 2, as most traditional Dispensationalists believe), so please read the articles linked to in this paragraph to learn why this doctrine is incorrect as well.

Part 2: Practice

Chapter 5 – Morality

There’s probably no better example of where the leaders of the Christian religion make incorrect assumptions about what the Bible teaches than the ideas they hold on the topic of morality. Because many are under the mistaken impression that the Mosaic law is applicable to the body of Christ, and also because they themselves have been taught that certain things are sins that Scripture never actually calls sinful, they’ve got all sorts of mixed up ideas of what is right and wrong today. This causes them to teach others to try to be more “moral” than God Himself, acting just like modern-day Pharisees, becoming morality police who teach that any number of actions, many of which are never even mentioned in the Bible, are forbidden.

Before getting into some of the specific actions that the religious mistakenly think we need to avoid, it should first be noted that the Bible does tell us plenty of things that God actually would prefer people not do without us needing to add to it (even if the list differs depending on which dispensation one is living under; it’s perfectly fine for members of the body of Christ to eat a BLT, for example, even though it would be a sin for others). In fact, Scripture even provides a list of things that God hates. But there’s nothing at all about most of the things the morality police dislike on that list, including some of the biggest hangups religious conservatives have (although there are a number of things on that list which many of them do seem to enjoy). What He does hate, however, is dishonestly (which is brought up twice in that list, after all), and I suspect that religious lies are the worst sort of dishonesty since they’re lies about God Himself. Basically, if a particular action isn’t on one of those lists, insisting that it’s sinful and making new rules that God Himself never made is really lying about what God wants, just like the religious leaders in Jesus’ time did. And remember, it was those very same people who opposed Jesus, and who conspired to have Him (and, later, His followers) killed. That’s right, it wasn’t the pagans, atheists, or liberal theologians who tried to eliminate Christ and His followers. Rather, it was the religious conservatives of His time who tried to squash Him and His teachings (and any others who taught them as well), just as they do today (as it was then, the greatest enemies of Christ and His true followers are still religious conservatives, but these “ministers of righteousness” call themselves Christians now instead).

All of that aside, though, worrying about morality (at least the way conservative Christians understand morality) is a huge red herring. What followers of Churchianity don’t seem to realize is that all of the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” causes them to completely miss the point of Paul’s teachings to begin with (since, again, it’s Paul’s teachings that the body of Christ is supposed to concern itself with in the dispensation of grace). Starting with a flawed presupposition about doctrines like sin and grace will cause one to think that they’re supposed to be concerned with religious rules, when being a member of the body of Christ is actually about something else altogether. Basically, as I’ve now pointed out repeatedly, Paul’s Gospel isn’t a religious proposition (“do this or else!”); rather, it’s a proclamation (“it’s already been done by Christ, so why not believe this good news and stop trying to please God yourself?”).

While most religions are a set of rules that people need to follow in order to A) live an enjoyable life, B) avoid suffering negative consequences (either imposed by followers of said religions in this life or by God or other beings in an afterlife, or by being reincarnated to live another mortal life again on earth after death), and C) make God happy, Paul promised that A) believers of his teachings are less likely to have a fun life than those who don’t believe his message since they’d be persecuted by those who do prefer religion (including the Christian religion) to the truth, B) explained that we don’t have to do anything to avoid suffering a negative afterlife since we’ve already been justified regardless of what we do, and C) told us that God is already happy (“blessed” literally means “happy” in the original Greek). Instead of following a bunch of rules the way followers of various religions (including the Christian religion) do, members of the body of Christ don’t have to actively try to avoid sinning by their own strength at all (and, in fact, should actually not ever try to), since they are justified (and living) by faith (although it’s not their own faith but the faith of Jesus Christ that they’re justified by), and are walking according to spirit and not according to flesh.

To hear most Christians talk about it, you’d think that sins are something we should actively be trying to avoid committing. Following rules is basically the foundation of their entire religion, and so when they read Paul teach about walking according to spirit rather than according to flesh, they’ll tell you Paul was explaining how we need to try to do good, spiritual acts while trying to avoid “fleshly,” sinful acts.

But, while Paul is indeed telling his readers they shouldn’t be walking according to flesh — and what the consequences of doing so might be — in some of those passages, that he isn’t telling people to try to actively avoid sinning should be very obvious to anyone who considers the context of the passages. Unfortunately, most Christians are so obsessed with religious rules that they’ve actually made Sin their lord, which keeps them from being able to grasp what Paul actually taught about the topic of sin at all.

So what was Paul talking about in those passages? Well, if you ask any Christian who has studied Paul’s epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians, they should be able to tell you that a large part of both books is about how we’re not under the law, and how we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be placed under it at all. The problem is, when they get to passages that talk about ”the flesh,” most Christians immediately forget this fact and proceed to completely ignore the context of the passages, reading their love of religious rules into the passages instead. Following religious rules isn’t even close to what Paul was talking about when he wrote warnings about walking in accord with the flesh, however. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Even though the context of those passages should make it obvious, it can help to read an entirely different passage written by Paul, one which can serve as the key to understanding the other times he writes about the flesh. In Philippians 3:1-11, Paul is warning his readers against having confidence in their flesh — by which he means trying to be righteous by following rules — telling them they should instead be trusting in the faith of Christ for their righteousness rather than in their own actions (or even in their own faith, as discussed in a previous chapter).

This, along with the context of not being under the law, should make it clear that Paul was actually telling people to stop trying to follow (and enforce) any religious rules at all, because trying to follow religious rules is what it actually means to walk according to flesh, not to mention letting Sin be reigning in your mortal body, and obeying its lusts. So if you are actively trying to avoid (or even trying to do) specific actions in order to please God, you’re actually walking according to flesh, and hence allowing Sin to reign over you, obeying its lusts, since trying to purposely avoid sinning is putting just as much of a focus on Sin as purposely committing sins would be (Sin doesn’t care how you place your focus on it; all it “lusts” for is that you do put a focus of some sort on it). Paul then contrasts the concept of walking according to flesh with the concept of walking according to spirit. But what does it mean to walk according to spirit? Well, if walking according to flesh means trying to follow religious rules, walking according to spirit must necessarily mean we aren’t trying to follow religious rules. Those who are walking according to spirit are instead trusting that Christ will live the life He wants us to live through us, and will end up doing the things God wants us to do and avoiding the things God wants us to avoid Himself through us. It’s only when we start walking according to flesh, meaning we start worrying about religion and trying to follow rules and prohibitions, that we begin doing the very things that God doesn’t want us to do, because trying to follow religious rules (including the Mosaic law) only leads to more sin.

At this point most Christians will protest and say that, while we aren’t under the Mosaic law itself, there are still other rules in the Bible we need to follow, but in making such claims they’re ignoring everything Paul taught throughout his epistles. You see, the reason we don’t follow the Mosaic law isn’t because there’s anything wrong with the specific rules in the law themselves. The commandment which says “thou shalt not murder” is not a bad rule. Which means that it isn’t simply the specific rules in the Mosaic law we aren’t supposed to follow, but rather it’s religious rules in general that we aren’t supposed to follow, instead letting Christ in us keep us from sinning through us.

Which brings us to the next protestation most Christians will make. “What about the long list of sins Paul mentioned in some of those passages? Wasn’t he telling his readers to do their best to avoid those specific actions?” The answer to this will shock most people, but no, he most certainly wasn’t. If walking according to flesh means trying to follow religious rules, how could Paul possibly then turn around and say, ”but make sure you don’t break these specific religious rules”? Instead, if you look at the context, it becomes clear that he’s warning his readers what will happen if they try to avoid sinning. Instead of becoming the holy, righteous people they hope that avoiding those specific actions will make them, those actions are instead exactly what they’ll end up doing. Just as positive attributes like love, joy, and peace are the fruit of walking according to spirit, the various negative actions Paul listed there are the fruit of walking according to flesh, meaning those actions are the fruit that will come forth from trying to follow religious rules.

And so Paul’s condemnation in Romans 10:2-3 can equally be applied to Christians today: “For I am testifying to them that they have a zeal of God, but not in accord with recognition. For they, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, were not subjected to the righteousness of God.”

Bottom line, never trust a teacher who tells you to avoid the appearance of evil, or that the “natural man” is evil. And if you hear someone espousing “traditional family values” or telling you to follow the Mosaic law in any way (at least if you’re in the body of Christ), don’t walk; run! It means that they are very likely a wolf in sheep’s clothing, trying to lure you into their religious trap. At the very least, they are extremely confused and likely have nothing useful to teach you (at least from a spiritual perspective). Remember that, while not all things are a good idea, all things are technically permitted, and also that to the pure all things are pure (but those unbelievers in Paul’s Gospel who are pretending to be believers — likely lying even to themselves about their faith, telling themselves that there’s really only one Gospel while also completely failing to understand what Paul’s Gospel actually means in the first place — have a defiled mind and conscience that causes them to consider pretty much nothing to be pure). Yes, if someone doesn’t have faith that something is allowed, then it would be a sin against their own conscience to do it (although not because the action itself is necessarily actually sinful in and of itself), but the corollary of this verse must be true too: if that which is not out of faith is sin, then that which is out of faith is not sin. It is true that Paul used food and holy days as specific examples, but the principle still applies to everything.

Remember also that we should think of our “old humanity” as dead, and that we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin, which means that sin has no more power over us. To reckon isn’t to try make something a fact, meaning to try to avoid sinning in this case, but rather it means to simply look at it as if it’s already a fact and stop letting Sin reign over you by trying to avoid it or by trying to “crucify your flesh,” which is something that’s already been done once and for all time for the body of Christ rather than something that has to be done again and again anyway. When Paul said, “I die daily,” he didn’t mean he died to sin daily, which would be a ridiculous thing for him to be implying since he’s told us to consider ourselves as already being dead to sin. The context of that passage was physical death, and was simply speaking of how he risked physical death regularly thanks to the various persecutions and perils he faced in his ministry. Similarly, Jesus’ command to “take up one’s cross daily” doesn’t refer to this either. Aside from the fact that this was directed specifically to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead of to the body of Christ, even if it could be considered a trans-administrational truth, it wasn’t talking about avoiding sin, but rather about being willing to face death like He was about to do.

To be fair, the Bible does seem to teach that those believers who happen to be saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision do have to be careful to avoid rejecting what they’ve believed and falling back into sin so as to not “lose their salvation,” so to speak, or they’ll miss out on the Millennial Kingdom, if not more (although the “more” just refers to living in the New Jerusalem during the eon of the eons, not to the immortality that everyone will eventually experience by the consummation of the eons). But as far as those of us in the body of Christ go, while we might not all get to reign, we are safe, as far as our salvation goes, regardless of what we do, because we’ve been justified from Sin rather than just forgiven of our sins (which isn’t to say that we aren’t necessarily also “forgiven,” but our “forgiveness” or “pardon,” just like our justification, isn’t conditional the way it is for those in the Israel of God, so it can never be lost). In fact, from an absolute perspective, it can be said that everyone has actually been justified from sin, since everyone is said to have died in Christ (at the very least from a proleptic perspective, if not in actuality at present). And since Christ died for our (meaning everybody’s) sins, we know that sin has been taken care of for everybody already anyway, but since not everyone has been conciliated to God in their own minds yet, most won’t come to a realization of this truth until the very end of the eons (and judgement for one’s works or actions can still occur, of course, with “payment” for each act or work performed, but this is referring to “payment” for evil rather than “payment” for sin — one should never make the mistake of thinking sin and evil are the same thing — since sin has already been “paid for” by Christ).

Now please don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to think I’m telling you to commit sins here (at least not actual sins; I’m not talking about the innocent actions that many Christians confuse for sins), or that we shouldn’t walk worthy of the Lord (although it’s imperative to remember that the pace at which we walk is entirely in God’s hands). I’m the last person who would want to encourage anyone to actually sin (although, if you aren’t accused of encouraging people to sin, you probably aren’t teaching the same things Paul taught about sin and grace, since this false accusation was also levelled against him, and those who aren’t accused of being a “hyper-grace” teacher or an antinomian, probably aren’t either). The problem is that, while nearly everything conservative Christians think is sinful actually isn’t anyway, almost all of the actions and attitudes that they live by are extremely wrong (and often quite evil, all the while calling their actions and teachings righteous and good). As anyone looking in from the outside could tell you, greed, fear, paranoia, hunger for power, peer pressure, envy, hypocrisy, arrogance, prejudice, intolerance, anti-intellectualism, malice, spite, and all manner of other actual sins are the hallmarks of most of Churchianity. That said, where sin increases, grace superexceeds, so even Christians can technically experience God’s grace (but as far as those who don’t embrace His grace go, I really wouldn’t want to be a conservative religious leader at the final judgement, and those who willingly follow these leaders are in for a world of sorrow at that time as well; yes, it’s likely that most Christians will actually end up at the Great White Throne Judgement due to their believing a false “gospel”). If the citizens of the cities that rejected Jesus’ disciples are going to be judged more harshly than those of Sodom because they had the light revealed to them, how much more severely are those in Christendom who have the completed Scriptures going to be judged for ignoring, and even rejecting, the truth found therein, following the myths of their religious leaders instead because they prefer to have their self-righteous ears tickled?

Still, while worrying about sin is not something those of us in the body of Christ are meant to do, it can be helpful to know why some of the activities that conservative Christians think are sinful really aren’t, and how one responds emotionally to what they read in the rest of this chapter is a good test of whether one is walking according to spirit or walking according to flesh. Those who aren’t walking according to spirit will feel their pharisaical flesh crawling, and their self-righteous souls getting stirred up against some of the things that are about to be covered. And, as such, they would be wise to consider reevaluating themselves, spiritually-speaking, and also question whether they’re more interested in holding fast to the traditions they’ve been taught by their denominations and religious leaders, or in what Scripture actually says.

Perhaps the best examples of unscriptural traditions when it comes to sin are the twin topics of sex and lust. You’ve almost certainly been taught that premarital sex is a sin, and the primary reason that most conservative Christians are so against premarital sex is one little word: fornication. Depending on your English Bible translation, you’ll find fornication criticized as a very bad thing that one should flee from, and if you look fornication up in an English dictionary you will indeed find that it can mean sexual intercourse between unmarried partners (although that isn’t its only, or even its original, meaning). The thing is, the word translated as “fornication” in some English versions of the Bible is the Greek word πορνεία/“porneia,” which does not literally mean “premarital sex” at all (that’s not to say that premarital sex by certain people can’t fall under the umbrella of πορνεία under very specific circumstances, but that isn’t what the Greek word itself actually means).

Of course, some English Bible versions use the term “sexual immorality” to translate the word πορνεία instead, but you have to be just as careful with this translation, since it’s really just a broad and general term that doesn’t tell us anything on its own about what sexual acts would actually be considered to be immoral, and to assume “sexual immorality” means “premarital sex” is obviously eisegesis, since it isn’t based on the original Greek at all, considering the fact that πορνεία just didn’t refer to the act of simply having sex outside of marriage at the time the Greek Scriptures were written. And it isn’t what the Hebrew word translated as “fornication” — זָנָה/“zānâ” — meant either, since that word literally just meant “prostitution,” very often referring specifically to temple, or cult, prostitution when used in Scripture, which is why πορνεία and זָנָה are often translated as “prostitution,” or “whoredom,” depending on your Bible version.

In fact, even the English word “fornication” itself originally meant something similar, since the word literally meant “to meet a prostitute under an arch” (the word originated from the Latin word “fornix,” which means arch or vault; prostitutes used to wait for their customers in ancient Rome under vaulted ceilings where they’d be safe from the elements, and “fornix” became a term for brothels, with the Latin verb “fornicare” referring to a man visiting a brothel). And so, if your English Bible version uses the word “fornication” (or even “sexual immorality”), it’s important to avoid assuming that the term is referring to premarital sex the way most Christians do, since it’s often referring to prostitution of some sort instead. That said, one has to remember to be careful here too, because the words πορνεία and זָנָה don’t necessarily just refer to the concept of trading money for sex as practiced by regular sex-workers, but generally imply a more illicit affair taking place when used in Scripture (it’s important to keep in mind that sex work on its own — not to mention paying for sex — wasn’t always considered to be the shameful act that it’s considered to be by most people today), which is backed up by the fact that it’s generally agreed upon by scholars that the most literal meaning of πορνεία is closer to “illicit sexual intercourse” than anything else.

If we take the term “illicit sexual intercourse” literally, it means sexual intercourse that breaks the law. Generally, here in the western world at least, premarital sex doesn’t break the law, and it certainly wasn’t against the law among the Gentiles Paul wrote to when he told believers to avoid πορνεία either (and this tells us that πορνεία simply can’t be referring to premarital sex on its own, at least not when it’s used in Paul’s epistles; remember, he was primarily writing to Gentiles when he used that word, which means that whatever the Jewish uses of the word might have been at that time was mostly irrelevant in his epistles, outside of very specific cases where he referred to actions performed by certain Israelites as an example of forms of πορνεία to avoid when he used the word). But even if one does dig into the Mosaic Law, they’ll see that it wasn’t ever spelled out as being illegal there either. While there were potential civil consequences for men who had premarital sex with female virgins back in Bible times (note that there’s no indication that the premarital sex itself in that passage was considered to be a sin, and the woman in question isn’t actually punished at all, as she would have been if premarital sex were a sin, because this was simply a property violation against the woman’s father, since fathers would get less money for selling their daughters to husbands if the daughter wasn’t a virgin; sadly, women were considered to be property in ancient cultures, including that of Israel, and were often basically sold from one “owner,” her father, to a new “owner,” her husband, through marriage), and deceiving someone into thinking a woman was a virgin when she wasn’t could also result in harsh penalties, premarital sex on its own was never specifically forbidden or called sinful in the Hebrew Scriptures. Of course, premarital sex (or sex outside of marriage) technically could fall under the broad label of πορνεία in some parts of the world (and still can today), but it could (and can) only legitimately do so in regions where this actually was or is considered to be illegal (such as in parts of the Middle East today, for example). Outside of those more conservative regions of the planet, however, it wouldn’t be considered to be wrong by the law and hence wouldn’t be a sin to do so since it wouldn’t be a crime.

So what sexual acts would be considered illicit when the word πορνεία was used in Scripture? Well, it would, of course, cover the specific sexual prohibitions that actually were mentioned in the Mosaic Law, or at least it would for those who were required to follow said law (specifically, members of the Israel of God). And without even having to go any further, the passages I just linked to prove that premarital sex is not a sin all on their own, because if it were a sin, God wouldn’t have had to have gone to the trouble of forbidding sex with animals — or even with other people’s wives — since all He’d have to have said is, “Don’t have sex with anyone you aren’t married to,” something He never actually said anywhere in Scripture. (I should also quickly point out that you won’t find masturbation, enjoying the way someone’s body looks, or fantasizing about someone in a sexual manner listed anywhere in that list of sexual prohibitions either, which is something important to keep in mind as well.) The fact that God also never forbade men from having concubines, who were not wives but who were women that men had sex with, and in fact never once condemned the many men in the Bible who were considered to be righteous (relatively speaking) yet had concubines, also makes this quite clear, since sex with those concubines would have been “premarital” sex (or really “extramarital” sex, but that’s basically what Christians mean when they refer to “premarital” sex, since otherwise they’d be okay with a divorcee having sex with someone they’re not married to). It also makes it obvious that those Christians who claim having sex with someone means one is automatically married to that person haven’t thought things through particularly well either, I should add, since concubines would have then been called “wives” in Scripture instead, if that was the case, considering the fact that God considered polygamy to be acceptable and men to legitimately be said to have multiple wives in the Bible.

As far as those of us in the body of Christ go, however (since we aren’t under the Mosaic law), while the word πορνεία literally means “illicit sexual intercourse,” we have to look at context to determine what sort of sexual activity is being called illicit in Paul’s epistles (and not just automatically jump to the conclusion that it’s premarital sex being referred to, the way most Christians do), and the Hebrew Scriptures actually do help us here because they reveal that it largely referred to sexual idolatry (meaning sleeping with temple — or cult — prostitutes) when Paul used the term, as demonstrated by 1 Corinthians 10:8 where Paul used the word to refer back to the cult prostitutes of Moab mentioned in Numbers 25:1-9 (who used sex as a part of worshipping other gods since, in Bible times, Satan used sex to lure people into idolatry, although, now that cult prostitution is basically no longer a thing, he now uses sex as the new circumcision instead; and just to quickly get the supposed discrepancy between Paul’s 23,000 in 1 Corinthians 10 and the 24,000 in Numbers 25 there out of the way, it’s simply that Paul chose not to include the “heads of the people” of verse 4 who were hung — amounting to 1,000 people — but referenced only the 23,000 common people slain with the sword, as mentioned in verse 5). Paul would presumably have also been speaking against the rape of the women forced to participate in temple prostitution in his time when he spoke against πορνεία, not just the idolatry aspect of it (or at least one would hope so), but the connection to idolatry was a large, if not the largest, part of it.

That said, it could also be used in reference to sexual practices that actually were considered illicit by the culture in question, practices such as incest, for example, which Paul also spoke against in 1 Corinthians 5:1 using the same Greek word. This particular instance of πορνεία also demonstrates quite conclusively that premarital sex was not considered to be a sin. If it were, the Corinthian believers would never have even considered letting things go this far; they would have stopped long before accepting, and seemingly even taking pride in, this relationship happening among their church members if Paul or anyone else had previously taught them that sex outside of marriage fell under the category of πορνεία-based sins, and he also apparently forgot to tell them it was a sin in this epistle as well when he was telling them to avoid such forms of πορνεία, so anyone who claims it is sinful is just eisegeting their own preconceived moralistic bias based on their religious traditions into their interpretation of the word πορνεία in this and other parts of Scripture rather than exegeting what Scripture actually means by the word.

Of course, some try to argue that Paul did tell them to avoid premarital sex a couple chapters later when he apparently tells them, “And concerning the things of which ye wrote to me: good [it is] for a man not to touch a woman, and because of the whoredom let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her proper husband,” supposedly telling them to get married rather than have premarital sex, but that’s not what he’s actually trying to get at there at all. It would take a much longer study to get all the way into the full meaning of this chapter, but along with actually taking the context of the passage into consideration, there are also idioms in the original Greek text that aren’t obvious if you’re not aware of them (for instance, the phrase “not to touch” was a figure of speech that literally meant “not to have sex with,” and the word “have” was euphemistically referring to having sexual intercourse in that passage as well), so a more informative paraphrase of the first couple verses of that passage, which is more in line with the actual meaning of these verses, would be, “Now, regarding what you wrote to me, you said: ‘It is ideal for a man to avoid having sex with a woman.’ Whether or not that’s true, in order to avoid the temptation that would almost certainly arise to have sex with temple prostitutes instead, let every man continue having sex with the wife he’s already married to, and let every woman continue having sex with the husband she’s already married to.” Basically, this passage is talking about Corinthian believers who had come to the conclusion that it would be more righteous or holy to avoid sexual intercourse with their spouses altogether (quite possibly because of outside Gnostic influences), but Paul warned them that they should not stop sleeping with their already existing spouses or they could end up inadvertently committing idolatry, as their biology would very likely lead the men to sleep with temple prostitutes instead (because they were the easiest people to find sex with aside from with one’s spouse, since people generally didn’t have romantic relationships back then as we do today; marriage was more of a business arrangement until very recently, so outside of marriage and adultery, the easiest and most common way for a man to have sex in that time and place was with a temple prostitute), and the women could even end up committing adultery. Yes, avoiding marriage is honourable if one can handle it (the reason for this isn’t because sex is somehow dirty or less than righteous and something that should be avoided in general, however; it’s simply because it helps one hold lightly to the things of this earth so one can focus solely on the things of God instead of the concerns of one’s spouse), but as the writer of Hebrews put it (even if this is a Circumcision writing, this is one of those trans-administrational truths that applies to those under both Gospels), marriage (and sex in marriage) is just as honourable, and one shouldn’t defile their marriage bed by sleeping with temple prostitutes or by committing adultery (both of which would be temptations if a married couple stopped sleeping with each other in an attempt to keep each other and themselves pure).

Contrary to what most have been taught, Paul wasn’t telling single people to find marriage partners rather than commit the supposed sin of having premarital sex in this passage (they generally didn’t have boyfriends and girlfriends like we do today anyway, so the idea of unmarried, romantic “couples” having sex probably wouldn’t have even crossed Paul’s mind); the context of this chapter and the previous chapter makes it pretty clear in the original Greek that he was talking to people who were already married in the first seven verses, telling them that the husbands risked going to temple prostitutes if married couples stopped sleeping with each other, which would result in idolatry since sex with temple prostitutes would necessarily involve worshipping other gods in the process.

As for those who were once married and wished to remarry (even if this might also be perfectly valid advice for those who haven’t ever been married yet, it’s clear that the word “unmarried” in this passage actually refers specifically to widowers, not only based on the patterns throughout this chapter in the original Greek text, but also because to say, “the unmarried and the widows,” and to be referring to everyone who is currently unmarried would be entirely redundant, making about as much sense as saying “the dogs and the beagles,” so obviously that isn’t what Paul meant; and if it simply referred to those who have never been married, then widowers would have been left out of this instruction, so the only logical way to read this is as meaning ”the widowers and the widows”), while he’d prefer for them to remain unmarried like him rather than get re-married, so they can focus on the things of the Lord rather than on a spouse, he does still say that getting married is better than burning with the desire to be married if they can’t control their desire for marriage (it’s unlikely that he was talking about burning with sexual desire here; based on the context of the topic of marriage in general throughout this part of the chapter, and the fact that he was saying it would be good for them to remain unmarried like him, it seems far more likely that he would have simply been referring to the desire to be married — particularly since sex outside of marriage hadn’t actually been condemned anywhere else in Scripture prior to his writing this, at least as long as it wasn’t illegal or idolatrous, and there’s no reason to believe Paul would have been suddenly adding a new sin that had never been mentioned previously in Scripture to the list of already existing sins mentioned there, although even if he was talking about burning with sexual desire, remember that they didn’t have romantic relationships back then, so sex with a spouse or sex with a temple prostitute were the two main ways to have sex at the time Paul wrote to this particular audience, and Paul certainly wouldn’t have wanted them to choose the latter option). And as far as those of us in this day and age go, at least here in the western world, there are other ways for unmarried people to have sex without resorting to visiting temple prostitutes, although if they are “burning” to get married, they certainly should.

In addition to these more literal interpretations of πορνεία, there was also a figurative meaning to the word (and its Hebrew equivalents in the Hebrew Scriptures), having nothing to do with physical sex at all, but simply being a metaphor referring to outright idolatry. The one thing it never meant, however, is premarital sex, or at least by now it should be obvious that there’s quite literally zero scriptural basis for claiming it did, despite the fact that your parents and pastor might prefer you believed it did. Of course, they likely only think they want you to. If they understood just how many STIs and unwanted pregnancies this teaching is responsible for, they might change their minds (unless they’re the vindictive sort who want those they consider to be sinners to be punished physically for defying their rules; there are Christians out there with this mentality). The idea that premarital sex is sinful causes many parents to actively make sure their kids don’t learn about protection and birth control, but since pretty much an equal number of Christians have premarital sex as non-Christians (the religious can’t fight nature and biology any more than the rest of the world can), only without any knowledge of how to minimize the potential risks, young people in conservative areas or with religious parents tend to end up with more diseases and unwanted pregnancies than those who don’t, and if you’re going to judge a doctrine or religious teacher by its or their fruit, it’s easy to see that the conservative Christian view on sexuality is rotten to the core.

Even with all that being said, many Christians will try to defend their indefensible claims about premarital sex based on Jesus’ comment about “lust” and “committing adultery in one’s heart,” attempting to convince us that this makes premarital sex sinful by default since you wouldn’t have sex without sexual desire (they like to use this argument to condemn masturbation and pornography too). However, because so few understand right division, not to mention what Scripture says in its original languages, they don’t realize that He was actually speaking about something else altogether in that passage from what most people assume. In fact, when you discover what “lust” really refers to in Scripture you’ll realize that it’s actually often encouraged, and that it’s also time to reconsider your thoughts on porn as well (and, really, anyone who cares about women at all should actually be encouraging the spread and consumption of pornography because, contrary to the claims of the morality police who, as it turns out, appear to be wrong about basically all of their assertions about sexuality, when porn usage increases, sexual assault decreases — unless they don’t actually care about reducing sexual assault, which would be quite sad, yet telling).

To put it plainly, to “lust” in Scripture, in its original languages (חָמַד/“chamad” in Hebrew, with ἐπιθυμέω/“epithymeō” being the verb form of the word in Greek, and ἐπιθυμία/“epithymia” being the noun), doesn’t simply mean to have sexual attraction to someone, but is rather a synonym for “coveting” something, or “strongly desiring” to own or obtain something or someone, and sometimes lusting/desiring is a good thing (the Lord’s statutes and judgements are to be lusted for/desired more than gold, and even Jesus “lusted/desired” according to Luke 22:15; in fact Paul himself encouraged ἐπιθυμέω at times as well, such as in 1 Timothy 3:1, for example). What Scripture does condemn when it comes to ἐπιθυμία is desiring to take something that already “belongs” (so to speak) to someone else, such as someone else’s property (or wife, since, again, women were considered to be property back then, unfortunately), which is what the 10th Commandment is all about. But to enjoy the way someone looks, or even to fantasize sexually about someone, isn’t what is being criticized when ἐπιθυμέω actually is spoken against in Scripture; intent to take someone else’s “property” without permission also needs to be there for the coveting to be wrong (otherwise, accepting something you desire as a gift, or even finding your own spouse sexually appealing, would also technically be wrong). So for ἐπιθυμέω over a woman to be considered “committing adultery in one’s heart,” in addition to needing to have intent to actually possess her, she would have to also belong to someone else already, which is, thankfully, not possible in the western world today since women are no longer considered to be property. And, of course, that passage only applied to Israelites, and even then only to some of them (it was a part of the Sermon on the Mount, which was all about elaborating upon the Mosaic law, something that never applied to Gentiles, and doesn’t apply to Jews saved under Paul’s Gospel either, so even if Jesus did mean what most Christians assume He did here, it wouldn’t apply to most people anyway).

But even if those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision did somehow fall under this particular point in Jesus’ sermon (which they don’t, but for the sake of argument, let’s pretend they do), the word “adultery” in that passage really tells us everything we need to know about the context of the passage. By definition, a man (even a married man, which should be obvious by the fact that Scripture allows for Jewish men to have concubines) couldn’t “commit adultery” with a woman who wasn’t married (or at least betrothed) back then, since in Bible times the word translated as “adultery” in our English Bibles (μοιχεύω/“moicheuō” in the original Greek, and נָאַף/“nā’ap̄” in the original Hebrew) didn’t have the same meaning as the English word “adultery” does today, and was actually a property violation rather than a purity violation back then (which is why Jesus didn’t condemn women for lusting after men in that verse, sexually or otherwise, because a woman couldn’t own a man through marriage since a wife was always the property of a husband and never the other way around at that time). In fact, while “adultery” by its modern, English definition is certainly possible to commit (and is something one should avoid, since it isn’t a loving action), it’s quite impossible for anyone today in the western world to ἐμοίχευσεν (“commit adultery” in the manner the Bible uses the term) because women are no longer considered property. So no Gentile (or Israelite in the body of Christ) has to worry about even accidentally committing this particular sin here in the western world, or anywhere else that women are no longer considered to be property, today. (Just as a quick but related aside, this also means that, in most parts of the world today, married couples with “open marriages” technically aren’t committing the sin of μοιχεύω either, since the wives in a modern marriage aren’t “owned” by their husbands, and so as long as it’s completely consensual for everyone, and also not against the secular law where they live, of course, there’s no scriptural reason to say it’s forbidden.)

Few Christians seem to remember, especially when reading passages about sexuality and lust, that it’s extremely important to interpret a passage of Scripture using the definitions of the time it was written rather than basing our interpretations on modern definitions of English words (using modern definitions rather than the definition of a word at the time it was written is how we ended up with all of the confused and unscriptural doctrines of the Christian religion in the first place). It’s also important to remember that, prior to this sermon, neither sexual fantasy nor enjoying the way someone looks (sexually speaking) had ever been condemned anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures (or anywhere else in the Greek Scriptures either, for that matter; and before someone brings up Job 31:1, they need to remember that this was spoken during his defence of his self-righteousness, which isn’t an example anyone should be following). When one realizes all this, it becomes apparent that Jesus wasn’t creating a new law for Israelites to follow (or informing them of a sin that God had somehow forgotten to inform them of until that point), but was simply expanding on on a rule His audience was already familiar with (the 10th Commandment), pointing out that for a Jewish male to covet his neighbour’s wife with the intention of having her would basically be the equivalent of breaking the 7th Commandment as well, but there’s absolutely no reason to believe He was even hinting that finding other people sexually appealing, or admiring their bodies (or even fantasizing about them) was at all wrong.

In fact, those who do try to force sexual desire out of their (and others’) lives are actually demonstrating a symptom of a far more pernicious form of lust than any mentioned already, one which affects (and infects) Christianity to a fatal degree. This, of course, would be the religious lust known as self-righteousness. So if a religious leader tries to convince others that simple sexual attraction and fantasy (or even premarital sex) is sinful, it would be wise to question any and all of their teachings since they’re demonstrating how little they likely know about Scripture, and it seems unlikely that they’ve even been saved yet (relatively speaking, of course), since they probably don’t even understand what it means to rightly divide the word of truth. Of course, another reason that religious conservatives are so opposed to “lust” (and anything even related to premarital sex) is simply basic erotophobia. Thanks to the horribly harmful purity culture that conservative Christianity has inflicted upon the world, too many people grow up with the idea that sexuality (anything from simple sexual desire to any form of sexual activity itself) is inherently dirty and shameful. Most Christians will deny this and claim that sexual thoughts and acts are only “dirty” or sinful when they’re outside the context of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage, but they themselves don’t realize just how deeply the effects of purity culture have rooted into their subconscious, eventually blossoming into full-blown erotophobia, which in turn forces them to have to believe that their misinterpretations of Scripture are true because anything else could allow the sexuality they so fear to enter their lives.

It’s also important to keep in mind that something generally has to be spelled out as a sin in the Hebrew Scriptures or else it’s very unlikely to actually be a sin. Neither Jesus nor Paul (nor anyone else writing any of the Greek Scriptures, for that matter) were adding new sins to the list of sins when they wrote or spoke about these topics, so these passages in the Greek Scriptures have to be interpreted in light of what came before (and while the cultural context at the time does need to be considered as well, aside from the fact that Paul wouldn’t have been adding new actions to the definition in the first place, especially not without explaining exactly what the precise actions were and why they were sinful, it’s not like premarital sex was considered wrong by the Gentile culture of those he was writing to anyway, so there’s literally no reason to assume it was suddenly being included in the definition of πορνεία in Paul’s epistles). And since the Hebrew Scriptures didn’t call premarital sex a sin, but did call idolatrous sex and incest sins, it stands to reason that one or more of these have to be what Paul was actually talking about (especially since, for Paul to suddenly add new sins that had never been included in the definition of the word πορνεία into its definition would mean he’d have to be very careful to explain what these new sins are, exactly, that were now being included in its definition, if he expected anyone to understand that these actions were now considered to fall under its definition and be sinful, which is something he didn’t do in any of his epistles). Likewise, Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and since we know that A) “lusting” the way religious conservatives interpret the word (enjoying the way someone looks, and even fantasizing about them sexually) had never been condemned in the Hebrew Scriptures, and B) there’s no way that avoiding “lusting” in the manner that religious conservatives understand the concept could ever be considered to be easy, or a burden that is light in any way whatsoever (anyone who isn’t asexual or doesn’t have a hormonal imbalance — and no judgement to anyone who is or does — who is being truly honest with themselves knows I’m right), it has to mean something else than what most people assume (which it does, as I’ve already covered). This also means that those who try to avoid — as well as try to convince others that they need to avoid — their completely normal biological drives are perverting not only what Scripture actually teaches, but the natural instincts God gave us as well, and this is why those who teach the conservative religious perspectives on lust and sexuality are the true perverts.

There is a lot more that can be said about this complex topic (which has admittedly been simplified a great deal here), but the bottom line is that modern conservative Christians are following in the footsteps of the fourth century Institutional Church (so many of the errors of the Christian religion find their roots in that time period) and are making the same mistake of reading their own biases into the original text just as those so-called “Early Church Fathers” did, although it’s even worse today since so much time has passed and most Christians are now unaware that, in the first century, sex among the people Paul taught almost never took place between people who were considered equals, and this included sex within marriage. As already mentioned, the idea of a boyfriend and girlfriend, as we understand them today, in love with each other and sleeping with each other probably wouldn’t have ever entered into Paul’s mind since that wasn’t how relationships between the sexes generally worked back then, but there’s literally no reason to think he’d have a problem with consensual sexual relations between a couple in love today as long as no worship of other gods was involved, and it wasn’t actually illegal where they lived.

Premarital sex isn’t the only thing religious leaders have insisted that people shouldn’t participate in, however. There are so many other traditional religious ideas that aren’t in the Bible but that you’ve no doubt been told you must abstain from as well. For example:

• Modesty means not revealing too much skin or the outline of your body. Modesty is the opposite of vanity, not nudity. Nudity was extremely common in Bible times, yet never called a sin in the Bible. God did not condemn Adam and Eve for being naked (in fact He created them naked and saw them as “very good,” and if nudity wasn’t inherently sinful before the fall then there’s no reason to claim it suddenly became sinful after the fall), but rather asked them who told them they were naked after they sinned and realized they were. He didn’t say, “Oh no, your nakedness has been exposed! How could this have happened?!” since He made them that way and left them to enjoy the garden that way. The reason they sewed and put on clothing was because they were suddenly ashamed, not because they were suddenly naked (and the reason God made new clothes for them out of animal skins was because the dead animals covering them were a type of Christ covering sin, not because they suddenly needed clothing — they already had clothing at that point, after all). The truth is that sin distorts our perceptions and makes people feel ashamed of their bodies, just as it makes them feel guilt and shame over all sorts of innocent things. Puritanism over our physical bodies is not a scriptural virtue, but it is a form of gnostic dualism, which is enough to tell us we should be avoiding that kind of prudishness. In fact, God even sent Isaiah out to prophesy naked, so obviously nudity just can’t be considered sinful or else God would have been commanding Isaiah to sin. Modesty is still important, but it’s about not showing off, not about not showing skin or curves. When Paul called for modesty in the ecclesia, and asked women to dress modestly, he meant to dress “with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” It had nothing to do with their bodies and everything to do with their attitudes. Basically, he was telling them not to wear fancy outfits that would make them appear more important than those who weren’t able to appear as wealthy as them. Similarly, Peter wrote that “beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Nobody in their time would have looked twice at somebody showing a bit of skin, or even at being completely naked, and Scripture certainly didn’t condemn it, so neither should we. But Scripture is clear that we should not try to make ourselves look better or more important than those around us with expensive clothing and lavish hairdos, so true modesty (humility) is something we should certainly aim for. And as for the concern that not dressing like a prude might cause men to lust, we’ve already covered what “lust” really means, and that the idea of “lust,” as religious conservatives understand the concept, isn’t actually a problem at all. So if someone tries to use that argument, they need to go back and learn that.

• Homosexuality is forbidden. Homosexuality is definitely never forbidden in Scripture. In fact, Scripture says nothing about the topic of being gay at all. That might seem like a strange statement, since I’m sure you can think of plenty of verses which you believe talk about the topic, but like many of the things discussed in this book, this is an assumption based on a misconception. Remember, “homosexuality,” or “being gay,” is simply the state of being attracted (sexually and/or romantically) solely to members of the same sex, and doesn’t inherently have anything to do with actually having sexual intercourse with — or even touching in a romantic or sexual manner — someone of the same sex at all (someone who is gay might never have sex with anyone of the same sex, and someone who is heterosexual or bisexual very well might — in fact, I’ve been told that a lot of gay porn is actually filmed with straight actors, who do it not because they have any attraction whatsoever to people of the same sex but rather do it for the money), and simply being attracted to somebody isn’t a sin in and of itself (even if same-sex relations were sinful, temptation itself is not a sin). That said, as far as same-sex relations go, the absolute most one could possibly argue is that the Hebrew Scriptures might forbid anal sex between males outside the context of rape and/or idolatrous prostitution (which is always wrong, and quite possibly what it’s actually forbidding according to many scholars, although there are other possible interpretations of the passages generally interpreted as forbidding it too), but even if so, this would only apply to those who are under the Mosaic law since the Hebrew Scriptures are the only part of the Bible where it might have forbidden it on its own outside the context of rape and/or idolatry; it’s never forbidden on its own anywhere in the Greek Scriptures, as I’ll discuss shortly. And regardless of whether it does forbid anal sex between men, it doesn’t say anything about love, romantic relationships, or other forms of sexuality between males. The passage about a man lying with a man in Leviticus would have to be strictly referring to anal sex — presuming it’s referring simply to sexual intercourse between men at all, and not referring to temple-prostitution or something else altogether, as many believe it does (for those who disagree with me here, if it were including other forms of sexuality, such as oral sex, for example, there would have also been a verse forbidding women from lying with other women or from performing oral sex on other women, and since there isn’t, there’s literally no good reason to believe it’s including that particular act between men either) — and it should also be pointed out that just because something is forbidden, or even called “an abomination,” in the Hebrew Scriptures doesn’t make it wrong in and of itself, or else we Gentiles wouldn’t be allowed to eat bacon or shrimp or play Pick-up Sticks on Saturdays. Many of the “abominations” and other prohibited (and even required) actions in the Mosaic law were there simply to make sure Israel was set apart from the other nations, and had nothing to do with something being inherently right or wrong at all. On top of that, the Bible definitely never says anything anywhere about love, romantic relationships, or sexuality between females. The passage in Paul’s epistle to the Romans about idolatry that some mistakenly use to argue against homosexuality does not actually condemn women lying with women as many believe, and may in fact be talking about women lying with animals (an action that actually was forbidden in the Hebrew Scriptures) when the context of worshipping the creature in that passage is taken into consideration, although it could also be argued that it instead refers to women participating in a certain sort of shrine prostitution. Either way, the idea of women lying with women had never previously been forbidden in Scripture, so there’s no justification for claiming it was all of a sudden being forbidden at that point (again, Paul didn’t make up new sins that were never previously mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures). And, of course, there’s also the fact that the actions mentioned here were actually negative “consequences.” Paul’s point in this passage wasn’t that he was telling people to avoid certain sexual sins, but rather that the sin of idolatry would lead, or more likely led (past tense, quite possibly referring to “sacred orgies” that included same-sex intercourse performed in worship of Baal-Peor in “Old Testament” times), certain people to certain negative consequences, such as performing acts that went against their nature. And the fact that the passage talks about men going against their nature is very telling as well. The phrase “the men likewise gave up natural relations with women” implies that these men were, by nature, heterosexual. You see, the word translated as “gave up” is ἀφέντες/“aphentes” in the Greek, which means to leave behind, forsake, neglect, or divorce. Simply put, the men in question divorced themselves from their own heterosexual nature when they were consumed with passion for one another. “Passion” for other men is the nature of a man who is already gay, so this passage can’t possibly be talking about men who were already gay prior to this act or else it would have said they were consumed by passion for women instead when they gave up their “natural relations.” The only way one can use the phrase “natural relations” in order to declare that same-sex relations are unnatural is to ignore both the Greek and the context of the passage and simply assume that one’s preexisting doctrinal bias has to be correct because it’s too difficult to let go of. As far as the rest of the passages in the Greek Scriptures that people normally use to argue against same-sex relations go, those passages are also horribly misunderstood. I don’t have room to get into all the details here, but when Paul wrote about same-sex relations in his other epistles, it’s very likely only idolatrous prostitution between males that he’s specifically condemning (much like the πορνεία issue between men and women was in many cases when he wrote about it). Most versions say things like“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind … shall inherit the kingdom of God.” That translation makes it somewhat confusing if you aren’t aware of the Greek words it’s translated from, since the word “fornicators” there is πόρνος/“pornos” in the Greek, referring simply to a man who has illicit sex with a woman, specifically a man who has sex with a female temple prostitute (a πόρνη/“pornē” in the Greek) in this particular case, based on the context of the latter part of the chapter (the context of a passage is always extremely important when trying to determine the meaning of a part of Scripture, or even of a specific word within it), which is men committing idolatry and worshipping other deities by joining themselves with a temple prostitute (or a “harlot,” which is what the KJV translates the word πόρνη as, actually getting it pretty right in this case, as long as one realizes that Paul wasn’t referring to simple sex-work apart from idolatry). With that in mind, and based on the fact that sexual intercourse on its own was never forbidden between unmarried men and women, apart from specific circumstances primarily involving idolatry, as we learned earlier in this chapter (which tells us there’s basically no reason to assume there’s something wrong with sex between just men either, and definitely not between just women), it stands to reason that the two Greek words that are used for same-sex relations in this passage are also referring to an idolatrous form of same-sex relations. When we again consider the context of the rest of the chapter, it suggests that the two words are almost certainly referring to temple prostitution, just like πόρνος and πόρνη are. The first word is μαλακός/“malakos,” likely referring, at least in this case, to a male temple prostitute (the word can technically be used to mean other forms of same-sex relations as well, which is likely why it was translated as “effeminate” in the KJV, but based on the context of the passage it seems pretty likely to be what Paul meant when he used the word in his epistles), and the second word being ἀρσενοκοίτης/“arsenokoitēs,” which the KJV rendered as “abusers of themselves with mankind,” and is a word some people believe that Paul actually had to make up (it doesn’t appear to occur in any Greek writings prior to Paul’s use of it in his epistles) because there didn’t seem to be an equivalent word to πόρνος for a man who slept specifically with male temple prostitutes. So, to break it down, in Paul’s epistles a πόρνος would almost certainly be a male who sleeps with female temple prostitutes, a πόρνη would be said female temple prostitute, an ἀρσενοκοίτης would likely be a male who sleeps with male temple prostitutes, and a μαλακός would then be said male temple prostitute. Bottom line: it’s all about committing idolatry (at least in the Bible; knowing how some of these words might have been used outside of Scripture can be helpful, but considering consistent context — not only of the specific section a word is used in, but of Scripture as a whole — can be even more important when it comes to interpretation, since words can mean different things in different parts of Scripture, as we’ve already learned, as well as mean different things from the way they were used outside of Scripture at times too) and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with simple sexual desire or same-sex relations outside of temple prostitution and the worship of other deities. Even if someone does decide to ignore all of the above, however, they should be warned that Scripture is very clear that it’s the anti-gay conservatives who are actually guilty of “the sin of Sodom” (which had nothing to do with homosexuality at all) today, and I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of these religious conservatives at the final judgement. Even if only indirectly, homophobic (and transphobic) conservatives are responsible for many homeless youth, as well as for numerous suicides, not to mention all the assaults against, and even murders of, people who are different from them when it comes to their sexuality and gender identity, and pretty much each and every conservative (whether they’re religious or not) is going to have to answer for their culpability in these horrors when they’re standing at the Great White Throne Judgement. Because even if they’re only indirectly responsible, they all still have a responsibility for all of this suffering nonetheless.

• Abortion is condemned by the Bible as murder. Regardless of one’s feelings on abortion (and whether it happens to actually be wrong or not, which I’m not taking a side on either way in this section), it isn’t ever mentioned in the Bible; and since murder is a legal term, it can’t legitimately be defined as murder in places where it’s not illegal (abortion might involve killing, but killing can only be classified as murder if the killing is unlawful under one’s human government, since otherwise capital punishment and the killing of enemy combatants in war would also have to be called murder, as would killing in self defence). Now, some have tried to get around this fact by saying, “It doesn’t matter how humans define the word. The only thing that matters is how God defines it.” Well, “murder” is a human word, and like all words, if we aren’t all using the same definition when we use a word, the word becomes entirely meaningless as far as a discussion goes and there’s no point in even using that word to begin with. Most Christians today also aren’t aware that abortion (at least if performed during much of the first two trimesters) was not actually considered to be wrong by most Christians throughout much of history either (at least among Christians who hold to Sola scriptura, and the theological perspectives of those who don’t hold to Sola scriptura are rarely even worth considering). This doesn’t necessarily matter as far as one’s consideration of the morality of abortion goes, since those of us in the body of Christ don’t base our theology on what Christians have historically considered to fall under the purview of “orthodoxy” or “orthopraxy” anyway (because we consider the doctrines of the Christian religion to be entirely wrong about nearly everything), but it is still useful for us to know that until relatively recently Evangelicals and other Protestants have actually been mostly okay with abortion, and that it was only due to the machinations of certain conservatives who decided to join forces with the Roman Catholics in their fight against abortion (although it appears that even Catholic opinions on abortion have changed over the years) in order to create the movement now known as the Religious Right so they could fight against desegregation and continue to promote racism that nearly everyone has been swayed into incorrectly assuming abortion has always been thought to be a sin by all Christians. All that said, there are some facts that are important to be aware of when it comes to abortion. The brain physically cannot have a consciousness (and so a fetus can’t be said to have a soul, because “soul” involves consciousness and feeling, as we learned in a previous chapter) until at least 24 weeks of gestation have passed (and likely more; maybe much more) because it does not have the structures necessary to develop consciousness or sentience. Therefore, since only about 1% of abortions take place after week 21, abortion in the overwhelming majority of cases definitely does not kill a living soul (it might kill something that is biologically human — or at least something with human DNA — but it’s not a “person” or a “soul”). In addition, scientists believe that it takes even longer than that — not until at least the 29th week — before a fetus could feel pain, in case that’s a concern you might have. It’s also important to note that abortions in the third trimester basically only ever take place because something has gone horribly wrong and the baby is going to die anyway (often in an extremely painful manner), and often because the pregnant mother will jeopardize her health if she continues with the pregnancy as well. No woman goes through months of pregnancy only to abort it near the end unless something is very wrong, and it’s almost certain that no doctor would do so for any other reason either, so these are all facts to keep in mind whenever someone insists that abortion is definitely wrong. Of course, it’s also important to note that a large number of Christians who today claim the “Pro-Life” label are only actually against abortion when it comes to other people’s abortions, thinking that the abortions they themselves have had are somehow okay, but that everyone else’s abortions are wrong and should be illegal, basically telling us that they believe the only moral abortions are the abortions they have, as well as that a large reason they’re fighting against abortion is actually because they want to punish other women for enjoying sex, and to ensure that those women suffer long-lasting consequences for their actions (they’ll argue that it’s actually because they think abortion is immoral and that they believe in “the sanctity of life,” but their hypocrisy, along with the way they treat those who have been born, reveals the real truth about them to the rest of us: that they don’t actually believe in “the sanctity of life,” or in ethical practices at all, for that matter).

• Monogamy is the only acceptable form of romantic relationshipHonestly, nearly every Christian is likely aware of the fact that polygamy and other forms of non-monogamy were considered to be an acceptable practice for people by God in the Bible, with the possible exception of local church overseers and deacons (depending on how one translates/interprets those particular passages; there’s good reason to believe they’re actually just saying that an elder or deacon should have at least one wife — meaning they should not be single — not that they can’t have more than one wife), but you’d never know it to hear Christians talk about it. God even told David that if he had wanted more wives, rather than taking someone else’s wife, he should have just asked God for more (and if polygamy is a sin, that would mean God would have been offering to help David sin). So basically, those conservatives who claim they’re fighting to promote “traditional marriage” really aren’t (if they were, they’d be promoting polygamy at the very least), and if monogamy was actually natural, cheating wouldn’t be so common in so many relationships (yes, even in Christian relationships).

• Swearing is shameful. The only thing that looking down on profanity does is demonstrate what an unspiritual (and likely hypocritical) snob one is. I’m not going to exegete all the passages in the Bible about language, though I will quickly point out that saying “oh my God” isn’t taking the Lord’s name in vain, since “God” isn’t even close to being the Lord’s name (His actual name is pronounced as either Yahweh or Jehovah in English, or something along those lines anyway), but is actually just a title, similar to the title of “President” (and the commandment isn’t talking about profanity anyway; it’s basically referring to perjury after swearing not to while using the Lord’s name in your oath). Instead I’ll point out the hypocrisy, not to mention haughtiness, of having trouble with profanity. All profanity means is “outside the temple,” i.e., anything that isn’t sacred. I won’t get into the problems with the secular/sacred dualism most Christians hold to, but technically anything non-religious (such as eating a hamburger) is “profane,” not just certain words. However, pretending for a moment that certain words are more profane than others, the idea that words can be bad in the first place quickly becomes comical when you begin to deconstruct the idea. I mean, it’s not like the Bible has a specific list of “forbidden words” included anywhere in it, so what makes a specific word wrong to say? Is it the particular combination of letters, or the specific sound the word makes when spoken, that makes a word wrong to use? It’s obviously ridiculous to think so, since otherwise the words “damn,” “hell,” and “ass” shouldn’t be read in the Bible, or spoken aloud in a sermon, as they’d be just as inherently bad in Scripture or sermon as when used in everyday parlance. But maybe it’s the meaning behind the word that makes it wrong? Well, if so, simply saying “have sexual intercourse” or “sleep with” (or “rats” or “ouch” any other number of expressions) would be just as bad as saying “fuck”; and saying “crap” or “faeces” would be just as bad as saying “shit,” as would saying the word “droppings,” or even “dung” (which is a word actually used in the Bible itself). But maybe it’s the intent behind the words. For instance, is it okay to say “fuck” if you’re referring to sex with your partner, or just using it as a playful adjective, but wrong to use in anger against another person? I’m okay with this, but only inasmuch as I am with the idea that we shouldn’t be saying anything with the intention of hurting another person (whether in anger or not), regardless of what words we’re using. And on top of all this, there are many words that are considered “swearing” in one part of the world that wouldn’t even be blinked at in others, so is it wrong to use a word in one location simply because it’s traditionally considered “vulgar” in that area, while not wrong to use it in other parts of the world where nobody is offended by the word? If so, that means it’s the act of offending people that would be the actual sin there, and we could never do anything that might offend another person (including evangelism, which offends all sorts of people). Just as the existence of so-called “swear words” in the Bible proves, this also means that no word is inherently wrong to use in and of itself, but is instead only considered wrong by certain people because they’ve decided the words are wrong, meaning these people have created an extrabiblical doctrine making it immoral to use words they don’t like. The reality is, getting offended by these “vulgar” words implies that you think you’re too good to hear everyday, common language, and that you probably need to be brought down a peg or two. Honestly, the old childhood saying about sticks and stones is true, and words can only hurt you if you let them. But, if you really insist on being offended by certain words, how about choosing to be offended by those words intended to hurt people who don’t happen to share your particular values or preferences instead of words that simply add a bit of colour to everyday speech. But I’ll make a compromise. Get offended by the many injustices and atrocities being committed not only around the world but even in your own backyard, and I mean offended enough to actually do something about it, and I’ll try to pretend you’re not a snob when you turn up your nose at everyday language. And I won’t even say the word uterus around you if that helps.

• Drinking alcohol is not allowed. While it might not be pro-drunkenness (and it’s certainly not in favour of over-drinking), the Bible actually recommends, and in some places even commands, the consumption of alcohol for certain people. And in fact, under the Old Covenant, wine was considered to be a blessing, with the absence of wine being considered to be a curse. Besides, as we all know, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine (and yes, it was wine, not grape juice, as John 2:10 makes pretty clear, not to mention as the fact that the Greek word for wine in this account — οἶνος/“oinos” — is the exact same word used in Ephesians 5:18 where Paul warns against getting drunk on wine also makes clear, unless you think he was warning against getting drunk on grape juice). And, of course, Jesus used wine to represent “the new testament [covenant] in my [His] blood, which is shed for you,” so it should be pretty obvious that drinking alcohol in moderation is certainly allowed.

• Dancing, movie theatres, certain music, card games, and various other “worldly” activities should be avoided. Some Institutional Churches are worse than others, and most aren’t this extreme, but these, along with the various other so-called “sins” that have already been covered in this chapter, are a great example of how many religious leaders like to add rules to the Bible that were never mentioned in there to begin with, or twist teachings that are in there to try to make them say things they never actually meant, sometimes because they misunderstand the meaning of the passage that supposedly tells us to “avoid all appearance of evil,” sometimes because they actually, albeit mistakenly, think these things really are sinful, and sometimes because they don’t know what “worldly” or “not being of the world” really means (hint: “the world” at the time the Scriptures were written was very religious and conservative, particularly “the world” that Jesus was speaking against; Jesus didn’t spend His time condemning those the religious thought were sinners, but rather those religious conservatives who were doing the condemning of everyone who wasn’t living up to their so-called standards of righteousness, which should make it pretty obvious what “the world” He was against referred to).

All that being said, I’m not actually writing this to tell you that you should participate in any of the activities I’ve discussed in this article. After reading everything I wrote above, the most important thing to remember is that, regardless of the conclusions you’ve come to as far as whether it would be sinful for you to participate in any of the actions I just discussed, if you’re in the body of Christ, you are not called to condemn the rest of the world for what they do, or to try to influence it to straighten up their walk. Nor are we meant to get involved in politics to try to enforce our own preferences on the rest of the world (politics and moralism are the domain of the unbeliever, and are not activities those of us in the body of Christ are called to participate in). All you’re called to do is walk in accord with spirit, and let the rest of the world make their own decisions about morality. And so, if you have concluded that it would be a sin for you to participate in some of the actions discussed in this article, by all means, avoid doing so. Just don’t judge your brothers and sisters in Christ for doing whatever they decide to do.

Still, if you really want a general principle of morality to live by under the dispensation of grace, I can give you the philosophy of morality I myself live by (just don’t take this as a rule; it’s simply my own principles that my conscience and common sense led me to). In no particular order, I ask myself a number of questions, such as, “is it loving to do so?” If it’s done (or avoided) out of actual love or compassion, odds are high that it’s fine to do. I’ll also consider whether it’s harming anybody unnecessarily against their will. This is because certain actions can harm people without being sinful, actions such as defending someone against an attacker, for example, or a doctor amputating a limb to protect against the spread of a disease, so sometimes harmful/evil actions are necessary (and the “against their will” part is because something such as piercing someone’s ears when they want it done is technically causing them “harm,” or is at least damaging their body — even if only the tiniest bit — but it’s not to a fatal or even serious degree, and it’s their desire to have it done, so a professional piercer can rest assured that they aren’t sinning by causing this sort of harm or damage). But if an action would result in unnecessary harm to somebody against their will, it should likely be avoided. Another consideration is whether an action would get one in trouble with the police or break a secular law of the land. If it would, it’s probably best do something else instead. Of course, I also look to Scripture to see whether Paul has spoken against a specific action I might be wanting to do. While his teachings were exhortations rather than commandments (meaning they were good ideas to follow, but not required of us, for the most part), it’s still a good idea to see what he had to say about things if you’re in the body of Christ (for those who are in the Israel of God instead, they should be looking to what the Circumcision writings say they should do and not do). And last (but definitely not least), I think about whether it’s an idolatrous action that would result in the worship of another deity (or the worship of anything/anyone other than God). If so, I definitely don’t do it. But if something is loving, isn’t harming others unnecessarily against their will, isn’t illegal, doesn’t go against (properly translated and interpreted) Scripture, and isn’t idolatrous, I have the faith that it’s generally perfectly fine to do so. If you don’t have the same sort of faith about a specific action, however, it would be a sin for you to do it, and you should avoid any action that would go against your own conscience until you have legitimately changed your mind about it being wrong (just don’t judge another person for their actions — presuming these aren’t actions that harm others unnecessarily against their will, aren’t illegal, and aren’t idolatrous — if it isn’t going against their conscience).

And before moving on, I should reiterate something I wrote earlier in the chapter, which is that some people who have made it this far will have felt their pharisaical flesh crawling, and their self-righteous souls getting stirred up against some of the things they’ve just read. If that’s the case for you, it means you really need to reevaluate whether you’re more interested in holding fast to the traditions you’ve been taught by your denomination and religious leaders, so that you can continue walking in accord with flesh, or in what Scripture actually says, so that you can begin walking in accord with spirit instead.

Chapter 6 – Politics

As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:12“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” And so, regardless of one’s views on morality, whatever the Bible might actually say about the topic as it applies the body of Christ, it’s limited to the body of Christ, contrary to what so many in the Institutional Church seem to believe (although most of the members of the Institutional Church are technically a part of the very world they condemn, since they’re not in the body of Christ due to having believed a false “gospel,” so it actually might make sense for them to judge the world they’re a part of, but they’re judging it based on misinterpretations of Scripture, which doesn’t help). Trying to force those who are not a part of the body of Christ to live a supposedly “righteous life,” by legal means or otherwise, is not even slightly justifiable, since nowhere in the Bible is it even hinted at that the body of Christ is called to influence (or force) our cultures to be more conservative or to follow religious laws. In fact, the only thing we’re asked to do regarding the government is to obey the secular laws and to pay our taxes (even when these laws harm us and should not exist in the first place). Slavery is a good example of this. It’s not that Paul was supporting slavery; it’s simply that he was exhorting believers to obey the law even when it’s extremely unpleasant, and when the authorities making said laws are ungodly (which isn’t to say that those who are not members of the body of Christ shouldn’t do what they can to make the world a better place where possible, including fighting to completely eliminate slavery).

Yes, in a democracy, “we the people” technically help determine the secular laws to a certain (in practice, extremely limited) extent, but there’s still zero excuse for trying to create laws based on religious morality (especially when we consider the fact that most religious morality isn’t at all scriptural, as already discussed), or for trying to turn one’s nation into a theocracy (the world will be a theocracy in the future, but not until Jesus returns to the earth). And culturally, there also isn’t any reason to go around putting down non-believers for doing things that go against one’s moralistic sensibilities (particularly, again, since most of the things that religious conservatives think are sinful aren’t actually even slightly sinful to begin with), for trying to pressure the rest of the world into acting the way conservatives want them to, or for any number of the cruel or unnecessary actions that too many of those who are religious conservatives seem to feel obligated to perform against those in their communities and countries — actions such as trying to get people fired, kicking people out of their homes, or not being willing to sell things to people, all based simply on who they happen to be attracted to or what gender they identify as, for example; or actions such as trying to enforce prohibitions against consuming certain beverages or plants, or at least enforcing prohibitions against purchasing such things on certain days of the week (to name just a few of many examples).

Any attempt to legislate religious morality, or to pressure the rest of the world into following one’s religious and conservative leanings, will do nothing but drive people even further away from the faith one no doubt wants them to embrace, and will also continue to cause everyone to misunderstand what the Gospel is actually about (hint: it’s not about trying to be as big of an asshole as possible towards those who don’t believe and act the way you do, as so many conservative Christians act like they think it is).

This is an important factor for parents to keep in mind too, by the way. Raising your kids to be good citizens who live loving, quiet, respectful, and peaceable lives is important, and they should certainly be brought up with the training and instruction of the Lord so that they’ll understand what they need to know about God and Scripture, but trying to force people to live “godly lives” misses the entire point of Paul’s teachings. You can’t stuff the Holy Spirit into somebody (and if God hasn’t predestined your child for eonian life, you aren’t going to be able to convince them to believe the Gospel and “get saved” anyway), and trying to make people (children or grown adults) live according to religious rules will only cause them to sin and rebel all the more, as Paul makes quite clear (that was the whole purpose of the existence of the Mosaic law, after all). And even if those within Churchianity were correct about what is right and wrong (which they definitely aren’t), getting people who aren’t already saved (relatively speaking) to live “righteous” lives and stop sinning isn’t going to get them saved, or make them any less lost, unless you believe that salvation actually is by works, so it just doesn’t make any sense to begin with to try to force the rest of the world to live by religious standards since it won’t help them in the long run anyway (at least not according to the most common soteriology of Churchianity).

History is very clear about all of this as well, of course. When religious “morality” gains control of government, people suffer. There’s almost nothing scarier, or more antithetical to freedom, than a theocracy or theonomy run by mortal humans (remember, it is for freedom that we have been set free; it wasn’t so we would put ourselves back under religious bondage). When religious conservatives run governments without a liberal and secular hand to restrain them, people are censored, fired, expelled from their homes, imprisoned, tortured, and even executed simply for their beliefs (or lack thereof), as well as for the most innocent of actions. If someone challenges the religious status quo or does things considered sinful in a theocratic society, religious conservatives become extremely evil towards such heretics, apostates, and infidels (and even today in more secular countries you find religious conservatives trying to take or keep civil rights away from people who might live differently from them for no reason other than the fact that these differences might not line up with their religious beliefs).

This is one reason I like to stay far away from religious conservatives in general (or at least only meet with them in public places). Perjury, assault, torture, theft, and killing are a major part of the heritage of nearly all conservative religions, including the Christian religion, and I have no doubt that many of them would bring that legacy back into practice if they could. That’s not to say all religious conservatives would do this if they had the opportunity, but I still wouldn’t want to take that chance. And regardless of their propensity towards violence, it goes without saying that most of them would definitely (and happily) fight against freedoms and civil rights for people who are different from them in various ways, particularly when it comes to sexuality and gender, and I see no good reason to have much to do with people who would be so heartless and cruel.

Religious conservatives sometimes talk about a culture war, and they are right, there is one happening. The problem is, they’re on the wrong side of this battle, having exchanged the truth for an attempt at holding political power (although Daniel warned us that the Christian religion — along with all of the world’s other false religions, although it seems that some of the other religions will actually outlast the Christian religion somewhat, based on Daniel’s prophecy, presuming we’re interpreting it correctly — will be utterly destroyed eventually, and that God will kill many within this religion during the Great Tribulation, so they do this at their own peril). Conservatism is basically about greed, hunger for power, paranoia, racism, sexism, homophobia (among other forms of erotophobia), transphobia, and just having a lack of empathy towards one’s neighbours in general, rather than loving one’s neighbour. All of this ultimately leads to people trying to control the lives and actions of those who might be a little different from what they consider to be “the norm,” and religion only makes conservatism worse since it leads people to believe their harmful mindsets and actions are sanctioned (or even commanded) by God. So if you’ve ever wondered why some people remain wary of religious conservatives, it should be pretty obvious at this point.

All that being said, I should add that I’m not claiming liberalism will save the world (or even your country). Scripture is quite clear that no human government can ever do that. Still, liberalism is actually about compassion, empathy, and taking care of those in need (basically, the exact opposite of what conservatism is about), and those living under truly liberal governments (and not just liberal governments in name only) tend to have much better lives in general than those living under more conservative governments do, so I’d much rather be in a more liberal part of the world (which, thankfully, I am) any day of the week.

And, of course, as we’ve already discussed, members of the Christian religion are wrong about basically everything anyway, and since most members of the Christian religion are conservative, it stands to reason that there’s literally no way conservatism can possibly be correct if nearly every single member of this religion holds to it. At the end of the day, however, members of the body of Christ are aliens here on this planet, since our citizenship is in the heavens, so the politics of earth really aren’t meant for us to begin with.

Chapter 7 – Church

As you almost certainly already know, religious leaders don’t only tell us that certain things are forbidden. They also try to convince us that certain things are required. If you do attend traditional church services and become a member of a particular assembly, you’ll likely sit through a number of sermons meant to make you feel guilty if you don’t give them a percentage of your money on a regular basis, sermons that completely ignore the fact that the tithe was meant solely for followers of the Mosaic law. Members of the body of Christ (Jewish or otherwise) are not supposed to follow the law of Moses, and those who do try to follow any of it are under a curse of being obligated to follow all of it, according to Paul (that means no more bacon or shrimp, or clothes with mixed fabrics, or doing chores or running errands on Saturday).

Of course, a true biblical tithe is actually in the form of food, drink, or livestock, and only goes to the Levitical priests and to the poor (with the exception of the tithe that wasn’t given away at all, but was rather consumed by the tithers themselves). Unless your pastors are Levites who perform animal sacrifices, they have no scriptural basis for demanding it from anyone (no, not even Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek helps their case, unless perhaps one’s pastor is the king of Salem and they’re tithing of the spoils they took from their enemies in battle). There’s absolutely nothing in the Bible about the body of Christ having to give a tenth (or any amount) of their money to their religious leaders or organizations.

While tithing isn’t a biblical idea for today’s believers, what is recorded as having apparently happened among the body of Christ is people giving financial aid to those in need. They didn’t, however, just give money to pastors who simply wanted to live off church members’ hard-earned money or keep the power running in a church building, and it was never an obligation.

Those church buildings and pastors themselves, by the way, are also a big problem, since modern church services and the buildings they take place in don’t have any biblical justification for existing in the first place. The ecclesia known as the body of Christ in Paul’s time didn’t gather in chapels or temples. Instead, they met in homes. And a gathering wasn’t a few songs and then a sermon by a pastor. There might have been songs, and even a speech or two, but the early church gatherings apparently included a meal and discussions, not just a bite of bread, a sip of wine (or grape juice), and a sermon.

“The Lord’s Supper” for example, appears to have been a part of a real dinner meant to demonstrate the communion, or unity, of the body of Christ; it wasn’t just a little snack. To quote Aaron Welch, “there is no indication that Paul considered this an ordinance that had to be kept, a ‘sacrament’ that had to be ‘administered,’ or a ceremonial ritual that had to be periodically observed by the saints to whom he wrote.” This should be obvious since our administration has no elements or ordinances at all, because we are complete in Christ, who is the end of all religion for those in His body, and returning to the shadows and types of rituals and rites in any way whatsoever would rob us of the full enjoyment of both our possessions and freedom in Christ. In fact, very few members of the body of Christ actually do partake of this meal anymore, partly due to the fact that many actually believe (for reasons that I won’t get into right here) that it was meant to end around the time of Paul’s imprisonment, and partly due to the fact that there are so few members of the body of Christ alive today that it’s difficult to actually gather together in person anymore anyway. Still, while practicing the Lord’s Supper as a ceremony would not be at all scriptural, choosing to share a meal together in a manner that demonstrates our communion with one another (so long as it isn’t a practice that’s enforced upon us, and we’re actually sharing the meal with everyone in the ecclesia rather than selfishly consuming it all before everyone has arrived), meaning that it helps us recognize that we’re all members of the same body, seems like the exact opposite of a religious ritual to me, and I see no problem with doing just that when gathering as a local ecclesia in one’s home (if one is able to find such an ecclesia) if the group so desires.

As far as the rest of the “church service” goes, it appears they had actual conversations and dialogue rather than just a monologue by one preacher. That’s not to say the occasional lesson or presentation isn’t helpful sometimes, but it isn’t the point of the gathering, and can easily be done without.

Just remember that church buildings and the current structure of the Institutional Church’s weekend “services” didn’t exist until some time later. To be fair, though, it’s not the buildings themselves that are the real problem; it’s the “organization” and lack of real, spontaneous, Spirit-led fellowship. Yes, you will almost certainly hear the word “fellowship” in most traditional church meetings, but you also almost as certainly won’t experience much (if any) there, despite how much so many pastors seem to love the word (it’s hard to fellowship with the back of someone’s head while sitting in pews listening to a sermon). But you can technically meet in a home and still be an Institutional Church, or rent a room in a building other than a home and be a relational, Open Church (as church gatherings that follow the pattern of the first assemblies are sometimes called). As nice as a home gathering is, it’s really the openness and fellowship that are the important factors. That said, if a local assembly owns a whole building that they meet in — even if they just call it a chapel or a hall — you should probably stay far away. Perhaps there’s a slim possibility of the rare exception existing, but in my experience, owning a building for worship and sermons seems to be a good litmus test for a local assembly, demonstrating that they likely know extremely little about biblical theology and what Scripture actually says. In fact, you’d be much better off spiritually (and even physically) in a strip club than in a so-called “house of God” (as many mistakenly call these buildings). At least in a strip club nobody is deceiving you about what Scripture teaches when they try to take a percentage of your money.

Speaking of teaching, the idea of a pastor or priest or any professional preacher who rules over a church (a word which simply refers to the “group” or “assembly” of believers in an area, by the way; it never referred to a building) isn’t in the Bible either. Local churches were overseen by a group of unpaid elders or overseers (or “bishops,” depending on your translation), not run by one paid man (that’s not to say that evangelists shouldn’t be paid to evangelize, but elders and evangelists aren’t necessarily always the same people). If you have one person leading (and basically performing the entire ministry in) a local gathering of believers, I would suggest not having much of anything to do with their gatherings if you value your spiritual well-being (and while not all clergy are dangerous or are con-artists — many are just confused — I’d suggest you do play it safe and be cautious when interacting with them, just in case, since a lot still are).

Also, just as a quick aside on the topic of spiritual things, the “charismatic” spiritual gifts that some pastors say one should have really aren’t meant for those in the dispensation of grace today either (meaning for those in the body of Christ). They might still be active for some saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision, since they were basically meant as a sign for Jews anyway — even those in the body of Christ were mostly “speaking in tongues,” for example, as a sign for unbelieving Jews (who often required a sign to accept Jesus as their Messiah and as the Son of God) — but for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, they appear to have come to an end as Israel as a whole fully rejected the Messiah, quite possibly around the time recorded in Acts 28 (although, again, I’m not an Acts 28 Ultradispensationalist), as evidenced by the fact that even Paul, whose simple handkerchiefs could heal those who touched them at one time, could no longer heal people by the time he wrote the final book of the Bible, and even suggested that Timothy take some wine for his stomach and other ailments rather than seek the gift of healing as those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision were instructed to do.

That’s not to say God can’t or doesn’t ever do miracles anymore (and it definitely doesn’t mean that God doesn’t still guide us through His Spirit), just that they’re the exception rather than the rule while the reason for the sign gifts has been temporarily paused, until the final Gentile meant to enter the body of Christ does so and God’s focus returns to Israel and the Gospel of the Circumcision becomes the only Evangel to be proclaimed on earth once again (which means that if you’re reading this after the Snatching Away has occurred, and the final heptad — meaning the seven year period often called the Tribulation — has begun, then Paul’s epistles weren’t written to you and it’s time to focus on the Circumcision writings instead).

Aside from tithing (and “speaking in tongues,” depending on one’s denomination), there’s one more unbiblical tradition that religious leaders will condemn you for if you don’t do it on a regular basis, and that is regularly attending their gatherings, particularly on the day they believe to be the Sabbath. Almost anybody who has ever discussed no longer “going to church” for any length of time has been given a guilt trip and has been told that we aren’t supposed to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, completely misrepresenting the meaning of the passage in Hebrews they use for this purpose (while also ignoring the fact that this book wasn’t written to the body of Christ anyway). The word translated as “assembling” here (ἐπισυναγωγή/“episynagōgē” in the original Greek), just like its cognate in other passages (ἐπισυνάγω/“episynagō”), is never used in Scripture to refer to “gathering” in the sense one would use when speaking of “going to church.” The only other place in Scripture where ἐπισυναγωγή is used is when Paul was talking about the gathering of the saints to Christ at the Snatching Away, in his second epistle to the Thessalonians. Combine that fact with the actual context of the rest of that chapter in Hebrews, and it’s clear that the writer is warning his readers against forsaking the hope of being assembled back together as a unified nation when Christ returns, and wasn’t speaking of “going to church” at all (although gathering with like minded believers, if you can find them, is still extremely beneficial, so please don’t think I’m saying that one shouldn’t gather with the body if one can find other members nearby), be it on the Sabbath or on any other day.

And as far as what day the Sabbath is goes, this is one where various sabbatarian denominations are partially correct, while also being quite wrong about it at the same time. The Sabbath is indeed Saturday as they claim; it was never changed to Sunday (and Sunday is not the Lord’s Day either; the Lord’s Day, also known as the Day of the Lord, is an event that hasn’t happened yet, at least not as of the time this was written). But since those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision are not under the Mosaic law in any way whatsoever, it doesn’t really matter to them what day the Sabbath is. In the very beginning of the church, believers didn’t pick one specific day to gather together when they did get together for fellowship; they could meet any day of the week (possibly doing so more than one day a week, and very likely often happening later in the afternoon or evening after work rather than first thing in the morning based on the fact that some were eating all the food and getting drunk before the poor could arrive at their gatherings). That said, there’s nothing technically wrong with meeting on a Sunday. In fact it’s often the most convenient day to gather together on at this point in time, since the Institutional Church has managed to convince most people that it is the new Sabbath, thanks to the influence it’s had over our society, but it’s really not any different from any other day of the week, so don’t feel any obligation to treat it like a special day.

And on the topic of esteeming certain days above others, be they new holidays invented by (or pagan holidays that were “Christianized” by) the Institutional Church (such as Lent, such as Easter, and such as Christmas, to name just three) or days that are observed by Jewish followers of the Mosaic law, while it might not always be a great idea, it’s not necessarily wrong to celebrate a specific day if it’s something one enjoys doing just for the fun of it (or if it’s something one who is weak in faith still feels they need to do). Just realize that none of these days are required for the body of Christ any more than the Sabbath is (you won’t find any commandments or even exhortations in Scripture for the body of Christ to celebrate any of these days), and that nobody should be looked down upon for not participating in these “holy days.” And, of course, please be aware of the fact that Jesus didn’t actually die on a Friday, wasn’t resurrected on the day we call Easter on our modern calendars (which should be more obvious than it seems to be to most, since it’s on a different day each year), and wasn’t born on December 25th either (while it doesn’t really matter when He was born since we aren’t told to celebrate His birthday in Scripture, there’s good reason to believe it was actually in September or October on our modern calendar). That said, if you’re going to celebrate Christmas or Easter, consider doing so mostly from a secular perspective, focusing on the chocolates and eggs and gifts and such. To do otherwise (meaning, to celebrate them as remembrances of Jesus’ birth and death) is to know Christ after the flesh, which is something the body of Christ is called to move past.


I could go on and on about the multitude of ideas that those within the Christian religion are confused about thanks to the flawed assumptions they begin with, and a lack of desire to actually take the time to dig into what the Bible really says, preferring to simply accept what their religious leaders teach instead, but that should be more than enough to explain why I couldn’t ever return to Christianity. Of course, at this point the real question isn’t why I couldn’t return to the Christian religion, but why you yourself might still consider having anything to do with such an unscriptural, not to mention harmful, institution (and why you would risk your soul within its “sanctuaries”).

Nearly everything in this book should really be considered “Scripture 101,” and everyone who has read through the Word of God should already be completely familiar with most of what I’ve covered. However, I suspect that most of what I’ve written here is brand new for many who are reading it for the first time. Sadly, Satan’s false apostles, deceitful workers, and ministers of righteousness within Churchianity (aka the vain talkers and deceivers who are leading and teaching the followers of the Christian religion) have hijacked the Bible, convincing billions that Scripture is actually a much more conservative set of documents than it really is (not to mention convince them that it’s a rulebook which every human alive is expected to follow in its entirety), and have also managed to deceive billions into thinking that God is capable of allowing never-ending torture to occur, or is at least willing to leave the majority of humans to remain dead forever thanks to those who teach Annihilationism (with both false teachings causing people to reject God altogether thanks to the monstrous false image of God we’ve been told is the real God, although at least Annihilationists are capable of understanding that words like “hell” and “everlasting” don’t mean what Infernalists have assumed them to mean, even if they don’t follow this understanding through to its obvious conclusion). These lies, along with the other errors that seem to keep the majority of humanity (including most Christians) from experiencing eonian life, make the Christian religion the most nefarious cult there is (yes, that’s what the Christian religion really is: an idolatrous cult of confusion, hypocrisy, false expressions, guilt, and erotophobia — which might be somewhat ironic considering the fact that those who practice this religion are in a constant state of πορνεία with evil spirits themselves, figuratively-speaking). The actual truths of Scripture set people completely free, but the conservative, “orthodox” teachings of Christianity only enslave people through its unscriptural rules, unnecessary shame, unloving discrimination, and threats of unending punishment (although it’s important to also keep in mind that, at least from an absolute perspective, it’s not ultimately the fault of those people who are leading the Christian religion that this is so).

Unfortunately, this means that most who have made it all the way through this book will not be sure what to believe, or will think it’s so foreign to what they were taught growing up that they’ll just reject it out of hand, which could just mean that God hasn’t chosen them to be a member of the body of Christ, or at least hasn’t called them yet (although there are, of course, various types of eonian life available to be experienced, depending on when one lives, anyway; so if you still haven’t come to understand and believe Paul’s Gospel, you might get to enjoy the eonian life that involves living in Israel after Jesus returns if you happen to live through the Tribulation and take care of Israelites who are persecuted during the second half of it, and the members of the Israel of God will also be given eonian life after Jesus returns, and will get to reign over the rest of the world from Israel). However, for those chosen few of you who do dig deeper and then realize that you need to reject organized religion and the teachings and practices of Christianity, you’ll be left wondering what you should do instead. Well, first of all, it means that you get to sleep in on Sunday (or Saturday) mornings if you want to. Beyond that, however, if you can find a nearby ecclesia that actually believes what Scripture says, it might be a good group to check out. That said, many, if not most, of the members of the body of Christ have to go it fairly alone, or at least without a regular ecclesia to fellowship with, since it seems there are very few members of the body of Christ in any particular area. I should say that this is not a new problem; the ecclesia made up of the body of Christ has been extremely small from almost the beginning, and I’d be surprised to see this change before the Snatching Away occurs. It fell into apostasy and people separated from it very early on — some of these divisions and separations from Paul’s Gospel and the actual body of Christ becoming the so-called Orthodox and Catholic denominations we know today (a number of the so-called “Early Church Fathers” of these denominations, Polycarp and Irenaeus for example, were from the very province that Paul said “all” had turned away from him in during his imprisonment, which makes any of their teachings, and then any of the later teachings by those who accepted their teachings, suspect to begin with), from which the Evangelical and other Protestant denominations of this religion later sprang — and it seems to have never regained its original size.

This means that, if you can’t find any fellow members to fellowship with where you live, you should just keep studying the Scriptures. You’re far better off not participating in any sort of church gathering than you are participating in Churchianity, so I’d suggest leaving the Institutional Church behind completely. Yes, it’s beneficial to fellowship with likeminded believers if you can find them, but you won’t find many, if any, of them in the denominations of Christendom, at least not if you happen to agree with what I’ve written in this book. That said, we do have a Discord server (which is a sort of online chat room), and there are also a number of other websites and YouTube channels for English speaking members of of the body of Christ, which you can find linked to over on the home page of this site as well, so please check them out.

But bottom line, to those of you who are inspired to do so, pull out your Bibles, concordances, and Hebrew and Koine Greek dictionaries, fire up your search engines, and start studying to “shew thyself approved.” And while digging into what Scripture actually means, remember that “the first pleader seems right in his contention until his associate comes and investigates him,” so just because the assumptions Christians make about what the Bible means might sound correct to you at first, investigate carefully as to whether what they’re saying actually is right, because “it is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” Be warned, however, that if you do come to the conclusions I have about Scripture, you’ll likely be called a heretic by the “orthodox” members of Christianity, and even shunned (if not worse) by many of them. But to that threat I simply repeat the words of A. E. Knoch: “Heretic” is the highest earthly title which can be bestowed at this time.