The purpose and intent of this site is twofold:

1. Share the Word of God as found in the Bible.

2. Comment on current events as they relate to Bible prophecy

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

God, Law, and Fire


The laws of God as given to Moses and then repeated to the Israelites covered the scope of sins against God and sins against a neighbor.  The civil laws included theft and destruction of property.  The victim of the crime was to always have repayment or recompense.  Theft required repayment of double the amount taken.  Some crimes including murder, rape, and adultery could not be repaid, thus the perpetrator was to be put to death and God would tend to the punishment at that person’s resurrection.  Most cultures view murder or death in general as an extinction process with no hope of restitution.  God, on the other hand, perhaps views death as a temporary cessation or pause of an individual’s timeline that will begin anew in the future.

The Sabbatical Year
Every seventh year was supposed to be a special Sabbatical year (Exodus 23:10-11).  Everything including the land and work animals were to have a year of rest.  The commandment is to sow and reap for six years, and to let the land rest on the seventh, "that the poor of thy people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the held shall eat”. 

This year was also a release to servants, slaves, and debtors in general where they slaves could rest with their family and debtors would be temporarily excused from paying their debts.  At the end of the year, everything would return as it was before the start of the Sabbatical year.

The Jubilee Year
At the end of seven Sabbatical years, the next year was to be a Jubilee year.  This proclamation of a fiftieth "liberty" year occurs on one of God's annual feast days known as the Day of Atonement.  The Jubilee year is similar to a Sabbatical year except that a complete restoration was to be made.  All servants, slaves, and debtors were to be set free for the duration of their life.  All land, property, and possessions were to be returned to the rightful owner.  All debts were to be canceled.  It is a time of freedom and of celebration when everyone will receive back their original property, and slaves will return home to their families. No planting of any seed or harvesting of any produce from fields or vineyards.

Unlike the American justice system, no crime other than murder or sexual offenses is to be punished for the life of the perpetrator.  All crime, including murder and rape, will be judged by God at the second resurrection.  All earthly punishment is supposed to have an end.  There are no life sentences in the mind of God, only in the minds of earth dwellers who influence the criminal justice system.  Prisons do not rehabilitate or restore anyone.  A thief going in is a smarter thief going out.

Eternal Punishment?
At this point, it should be apparent that God does not punish forever.  Punishment took the form of stripes (no more than 40), double replacement of value, or labor (work) until the Jubilee.  Eventually, everything was basically restored.  That brings us to the “lake of fire” and the interpretation of many who consider the lake of fire is an eternal punishment of burning without death.  If God did not allow a life sentence of punishment in the law given to Moses, why would God allow an eternal punishment of fire at the end of the age?  Perhaps He did not and many are merely misinterpreting the scriptures because of their own mindset.  In my opinion, God is in the business of atonement (reparation), not eternal punishment.  This has not always been my opinion, mostly because of the influence of peers and Church teaching, but the conclusion has now been reached that God did not create souls to eternally punish.  Rather, He created them to worship the King of the Kingdom and to acknowledge and obey the laws of God although a short term of punishment may be required as given in the laws transcribed by Moses.

Was the lake of fire always considered an eternal punishment of the damned?  It appears from various commentator’s research, that many of the early Church Fathers considered the lake of fire as a purifying aspect and only when the Church moved to Rome with the writings of Augustine as the central commentary was the eternal punishment established according to the mindset of the Romans. 

A few quotes discovered by Dr. Stephen Jones will be presented to show that eternal punishment was not the original interpretation.

Clement of Alexandria (150-213 A.D.)  “God does not wreak vengeance, for vengeance is to return evil for evil, and God punishes only with an eye to the good.” ( Stromata, 7, 26)

Origen of Alexandria (180-253 A.D.)  “The Sacred Scripture does, indeed, call our God “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12: 29), and says that “rivers of fire go before His face: (Dan. 7: 10), and that “He shall come as a refiner’s fire and purify the people” (Mal. 3: 2,3). As therefore, God is a consuming fire, what is it that is to be consumed by Him? We say it is wickedness, and whatever proceeds from it, such as is figuratively called “wood, hay, and stubble” (1 Cor. 3: 12-15) which denote the evil works of man. Our God is a consuming fire in this sense; and He shall come as a refiner’s fire to purify rational nature from the alloy of wickedness and other impure matter which has adulterated the intellectual gold and silver; consuming whatever evil is admixed in all the soul.”

“They are purged with the “wise fire” or made to pay in prison every debt up to the last farthing . . . to cleanse them from the evils committed in their error . . . Thus they are delivered from all the filth and blood with which they had been so filthied and defiled that they could not even think about being saved from their own perdition . . .”

Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389 A.D.)  “These (apostates), if they will, may go our way, which indeed is Christ’s; but if not, let them go their own way. In another place perhaps they shall be baptized with fire, that last baptism, which is not only very painful, but enduring also; which eats up, as if it were hay, all defiled matter, and consumes all vanity and vice.” (Orat. XXXIX, 19)

Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 428), “ Who is so great a fool” as to believe that God would resurrect men merely to destroy them forever with torments? (Fragment IV)  [887]

Titus, bishop of Bostra, “The punishments of God are Holy, as they are remedial and salutary in their effect upon transgressors; for they are inflicted, not to preserve them in their wickedness, but to make them cease from their sins. The abyss . . . is indeed the place of punishment, but it is not endless. The anguish of their sufferings compels them to break off from their sins.”

There are more quotes but the above should be enough to demonstrate the idea that the lake of fire as an eternal punishment was not the original interpretation but was conceptualized later and the person gaining notoriety for this deed is Augustine because he could not read Greek and relied on the faulty translation by Jerome of the original Latin vulgate.  When the Church moved to Rome, reading Greek was now a non-issue and the writings of Augustine became standard interpretation.

The Origen quote above uses scripture from Malachi 3:2-3 as his testimony that punishment is not eternal but has an end similar to the Jubilee year.

Malachi 3:2-3 KJV  But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:  (3)  And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

Malachi comments that God’s fire is a refiner’s fire that separates the dross elements from the gold.  The fire of God is a purifying fire not an eternal punishment fire.

The Fire of God
God is perceived as fire, or some type of fire.  Moses viewed God as a burning bush.  God led the Israelites from Egypt as a column of fire.  Moses listened to God as He gave him instructions on Mt. Sinai as a type of fire.

Exodus 20:18 KJV  And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.

There are several scriptures describing God as a fire.

Jeremiah 23:29 KJV  Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?

Isaiah 33:14 NET  Sinners are afraid in Zion; panic grips the godless. They say, 'Who among us can coexist with destructive fire? Who among us can coexist with unquenchable fire?'

Some scriptures view the fire of God as a judgmental purification agent.

Isaiah 26:9 NET  I look for you during the night, my spirit within me seeks you at dawn, for when your judgments come upon the earth, those who live in the world learn about justice.

John the Baptist baptized with water but the Son of God baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire (referred to by early Church writers as the Baptism of Fire).

Matthew 3:11-12 KJV  I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:  (12)  Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Notice that Jesus will purge the grain floor and burn up the chaff.  Chaff is the sin and iniquities not eternal fire of torment.  The burning of chaff is referred to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:12 as wood, hay, and stubble.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 KJV  (12)  Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;  (13)  Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.  (14)  If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  (15)  If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

“For the day” in verse 13 may very well be the day of Judgment where every person’s works are revealed by the fire of God.  Sinful works will be burned by this Godly fire but the individual will survive and be saved by the fire.

No comments:

Post a Comment