The Christian’s Coming Judgment
The Bible is primarily a book of love, grace, and redemption. It is also a book of sin and judgment. But this second thematic thrust is largely overlooked by ministers of the Word. Overall, the Bible is a book of balance covering God’s actions and purpose relative to the fall and the subsequent redemption of man. And if one is to understand God’s comprehensive redemptive plan and its ancillary truths (e.g., judgments), one must interpret Scripture correctly. If one starts “In the beginning” (Genesis 1:1a), where God initiates His revelation, and continues forward; he will in this first book of the Bible be exposed to the basis for all major doctrines of God’s Word. In most, if not all cases, the literal renditions contained in Genesis through Malachi serve as types (examples), which are primary keys to the correct interpretation of the primary doctrines (antitypes) of the New Testament.
Man’s failing to properly understand God’s living Word, which has resulted in a proliferation of various theological positions (denominations, factions, etc.), is primarily the result of an insincere, deficient, or totally absent consideration of the typology embodied in the foundational books of the Bible. Two New Testament passages, in addition to most of the book of Hebrews and many other passages throughout the New Testament, which clearly illustrate this point, are 1 Corinthians 10:1-12 and Romans 5:14.
In verses six and eleven of 1 Corinthians, Paul states that the activities surrounding the children of Israel on their deliverance from the bondage in Egypt and their wilderness journey “became our examples (Greek: tupos, meaning “types”)” and “happened to them as examples (tupos), and were written for our admonition (instruction).” In Romans 5:14, Paul specifically states that Adam was a type (tupos) of Christ (the Antitype). These are only two passages of many throughout the New Testament that confirm a major facet of the divine way in which God’s Word is structured, i.e. a type-antitype arrangement. Knowing this, one can better understand Paul’s method of teaching Bible doctrine, when in 1 Corinthians 2:13, he stated, “These things we also speak, not in words that man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things (passages, types) with spiritual (passages, antitypes).”
Unless this “type-antitype” structure of God’s Word is recognized and studied as such, one will be marginalized in the “milk” teachings of the Bible, never understanding the “meat” doctrines (Hebrews 5:12-14), which alone can insure certain and progressive growth to spiritual maturity. And it is spiritual maturity in the Word, which produces proper spiritual fruit that alone will indemnify the Christian when he stands before the judgment seat of Christ. Arlen L. Chitwood is indeed correct when, in his The Study of Scripture, he said:
Three things above all else must be adhered to in the study of Scripture:
1) A person must recognize that all Scripture is God-breathed.
2) A person must begin where God began.
3) A person must study Scripture after the fashion in which it was given.
The aforementioned facts have been mentioned to make this point. The Old Testament and its myriad types are mostly ignored by most of Christendom in the development of doctrinal issues prescribed in the New Testament. Oh, it is true that many Old Testament stories are used as illustrations from the pulpits of the land in order to demonstrate specific spiritual points; but, alas, often the larger picture conveyed by the story or type is missed.
A case in point would be the doctrine of the “body of Christ” in relation to the “bride of Christ” as revealed in the New Testament. Most evangelical Christians believe that they are one and the same. And this could be understandable if one sees the two only through the scope of the New Testament. But when one “compares spiritual things to spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13), knowing that Adam was a “type of Him [Christ] who was to come” (Romans 5:14), and reviews how Adam received his bride in Genesis 2:21, 22; he quickly learns that the “body of Christ” and the “bride of Christ” are not one and the same. He learns that the “bride” is composed of only a small part of the “body,” which will be taken from the “body” and presented to Christ. And this then gives meaning to Paul’s desire to be part of the “out-resurrection” (the only use of the word [Greek: exanastasis] in the Bible, the common word for “resurrection” being anastasis), which he mentions in Philippians 3:11.
Paul was running the race and fighting the fight, beating his spiritual soul into shape, in order to be qualified in that future day to be taken from the “body of Christ” and to be presented back to Christ (appropriate attired with “righteous acts” [Revelation 19:8]) as part of His “bride,” which would then be a reward having only millennial verities in view. But the negative side of this doctrine, which is largely ignored, mostly due to ignorance of the Word, is that most Christian (the Church) who compose the “body of Christ” (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:23; 5:30; Colossians 1:24) will not become part of the “bride of Christ;” but to the contrary, will be subject to a thorny existence throughout the Messianic Era.
And the consideration of this startling revelation serves as a transition to the primary focus of this document. Because it is at the coming judgment before Christ, which every Christian must face, that the separation of the “bride” from the “body” of Christ will take place. And underlying this certain judgment are the reasons why most of Christendom ignores the sterner portions (judgment, wrath, recompense) of God’s Word, those elements that balance God’s attributes of love, mercy, and grace. These segments of truth, found in both Testaments, are often selectively passed over by both laity and clergy alike. The rationale for such neglect runs from the belief that the Old Testament doesn’t apply to the Church dispensation to the belief that God could never be the author of such severe and inflexible tendencies and acts as are found in the Word.
The truth is that Scripture is quite clear on the subject of the Christian’s coming judgment. When a Christian forthrightly and diligently reads the Word of God he cannot ignore the following clear passages, which clearly specify that every Christian must face a meticulous and fiery judgment at the “judgment seat of Christ.”
Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; for You render to each one according to his work. (Psalm 62:12)
If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds? (Proverbs 24:12)
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. . . . For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 11:9; 12:14)
But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. (Matthew 12:36)
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” (Matthew 16:24-27)
(It should be noted that contextually the above passage links the issuance of rewards [positive and negative] for works with the saving or the losing of one’s soul [not spirit], i.e. “soul-salvation,” not “spirit-salvation”)
And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds” [quote from Proverbs 24:12]: eternal [age-lasting] life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness — indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:3-11)
(It should be noted concerning the above passage, contrary to the traditional interpretation of it referencing spirit-salvation of those who are lost, that it is actually about soul-salvation of those who are saved [in spirit]; i.e. the passage is directed to Christians who will face a stern judgment, which will affect their disposition during “age-lasting life” [the coming age of the Messianic Era of Christ’s kingdom])
But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10-12)
. . . each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. . . . Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. . . . Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. . . . (1 Corinthians 3:8a, 12-15; 4:5a)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men . . . . (2 Corinthians 5:10, 11a)
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting [age-lasting] life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (Galatians 6:7-9)
Knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord . . . . (Ephesians 6:8a)
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality. (Colossians 3:23-25)
And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. (Revelation 22:12)
Every single Christian will most certainly face the Day of Judgment, a prospect that should instill in him the “fear of the Lord,” which is true wisdom and true knowledge (Psalms 111:10; Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7). Every single Christian, at the judgment seat of Christ, will confess before his Lord a meticulous account of his life lived subsequent to his redemption, i.e. the moment that he placed faith alone in Christ alone for his personal eternal salvation. Every single Christian, as a result of his “confession,” will be the recipient of either rewards or punishment, depending upon his works during his temporal lifetime as a Christian. Every single Christian will either enjoy ruling and reigning with Christ, as His bride, during the Messianic Era (one thousand years); or, will suffer in great agony during this period of time.
And every single pastor who succumbs to the “easy path” of avoiding this topic when addressing his parishioners will be subject to an even greater punishment at the judgment seat of Christ when it is his turn to account for his temporal life post salvation (James 3:1). Therefore, it is absolutely critical that every minister of the Word become thoroughly acquainted and conversant with the “word of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:19) and its ancillary teachings (i.e., fruit-bearing, judgment) in order to further instruct his “flock” in strict accordance with the “rule of God,” i.e. His complete Word. Such instruction would then be inline with the “meat” and not the “milk” of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 3:1, 2; Hebrews 5:12-14). The affect of such teaching (every pastor is to be a pastor-teacher [Ephesians 4:11]) would be growth to spiritual maturity for those under his charge, which can be the most noble fruit for a minister resulting in reward at the coming judgment.
It is therefore strongly recommended that every Christian, be he laity or clergy, study the following two books, which embody a comprehensive treatment of the “kingdom message” (the gospel of John the Baptist, Christ, and the apostle Paul) and the Christian’s coming judgment.
Both may be accessed verbatim by going to www.bibleone.net.
As an adjunct to this document, the 11th chapter of Whipple’s book, entitled “Knowing the Terror of the Lord” will follow, which details the severe punishments awaiting those, both lost and saved (with the emphasis on the saved), who choose to defy God.
Shock & Surprise Beyond the Rapture
Gary T. Whipple
Knowing the Terror of the Lord
Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men . . . . (2 Corinthians 5:11)
This chapter will contain the most discomforting information that has so far been considered, but it is needed in order to gain a full discernment of the wisdom of God concerning those that are disinherited. Here, we will be discussing the remainder of the “Gehenna truths,” which teach the second death, and millennial destruction. We will learn what Jesus personally said about this subject, as well as that of the apostles.
It is most important for the reader to understand that the following subject does not speak of the eternal suffering of the lost, but of believers who will forfeit their right to rule and reign in His coming millennial kingdom.
The method we have chosen to use in teaching these truths is to present a premise, and then spend the remaining portion of this book in proving it.
All levels of apostate believers and teachers will be slain by the Lord Jesus Christ at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and then cast into Gehenna for a thousand years. Gehenna is a region of destruction and ruin which will contain fire, the graves of the slain bodies of apostates, and the blackness of darkness (Jude 13) where the bodiless souls will be confined. At the end of the thousand years its inhabitants will be raised and changed, along with those who had been confined alive in the region of “the outer darkness.” Together they will be given glorified bodies forever.
Eternal life is based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ to every one who believes on Him. Therefore, since all apostates will have saved spirits, they will also have eternal life. However, because of their rebellion against God’s Word, they will be forfeiting their rights to the millennial kingdom for a thousand years.
TWO DIFFERENT JUDGMENTS FOR THE CHRISTIAN
In studying the second and fifth letters of Revelation in chapters two and three, we discover two different judgments that Jesus will personally pronounce upon all non-overcomers at the judgment seat. These are (1) being blotted out of the book of life (3:5) and (2) being hurt of the second death (2:11). It is our opinion that the first expression (blotted out of the book of life) may correspond to all who will lose their inheritance (both those who will go to the “outer darkness,” and those who will go to “the blackness of darkness”). Whereas the second (“the second death”) corresponds only to the “blackness of darkness” (the region of Gehenna).
Being Blotted Out of the Book of Life
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living and not be written with the righteous.
Many Christian teachers err when they attempt to teach about the “book of life.” Their error comes from a failure to recognize that there are actually three different books of life mentioned in the Scriptures, with each pertaining to one of the three parts of man (body, soul and spirit). Two of these “books of life” are found in the Old Testament, with the third book being found in the book of Revelation.
The First Book of Life
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living . . . . (Psalm 69:28a)
In the first half of this verse in Psalms we see the first of the two books of life. It is called the “book of the living.” This is the book in which every person’s name is written at the moment of conception and is blotted out at the moment of death. This is the book of all of the living, lost and saved, and pertains only to the body of man.
David mentioned this book of life when he spoke of his own conception in Psalm 139:13-16. In the verse 16 he tells us that God wrote his name in this book before his bodily members were formed in the womb of his mother. Here we see that God counts us as individual persons with names at the moment of conception. The Jews recognized this truth by counting all of their children as being one year old at birth.
The Second Book of Life
. . . and not be written with the righteous. (Psalms 69:28b)
The second half of the verse refers to the book of life of the “righteous.” It contains all of the names of those who are saved, and who will be saved (salvation of the spirit). Here, the names of the saved can only be written, not blotted out (eternal security of the believer). In the New Testament, this book is known as the “Book of Life” (depending on the context), and the “Lamb’s Book of Life” (compare Philippians 4:3; Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27). It pertains only to the spirit of man.
The Third Book of Life
He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Revelation 3:5)
This third book of life is found in Revelation. It is a book of the names of all who will rule and reign with Jesus Christ in His kingdom. Every believer’s name will be written in this book because he is an heir. But if he is disinherited, his name will be blotted out. Where it is impossible for a believer to be blotted out of the book of life that pertains to the salvation of the spirit, it is possible for one to be blotted out of this book, which pertains to the salvation of the soul (rewards). The above verse (Revelation 3:5), teaches that there is a reward for those who overcome, and a loss of reward (being blotted out of the book of life) for those who fail to overcome. Thus, this book of life is a different book from the first two books of life, in that it pertains specifically to the soul.
The contextual setting of this verse is found in the letter that was written to the Sardis church. This church represents the new Christian who does not grow in the Word, and confess his sins to God. Therefore, it becomes a fitting symbol of the average church member in these last days. Those that “have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1b). Saved, but that is about all, as these are saints who are in danger of losing their inheritance by being blotted out of the book of life. Most likely, those of this class who fail to overcome will spend their millennial life in the “outer darkness.”
And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:19)
The context of this verse suggests more than just the representation of Sardis Christians. God here warns the apostate Christians (those falling away from God) that their punishment will be in having their names blotted out of the book of life, and as we shall see, a suffering of the second death.
The differences between the above two groups are as follows. Whereas, some of the Sardis Christians fail to grow in the Word, these Christians fall away from the Word, and in so doing, try to destroy it. The first group loses their inheritance. The second loses their inheritance and their body. Also notice, that all who suffer this judgment will lose their part out of the Holy City, and from the things (the inheritance) written in the book. This exclusion from the Holy City and loss of inheritance will probably last throughout eternity, even though at the end of the kingdom age, they will be raised and be given glorified bodies forever.
The Second Death
There are two types of “second death” in the Word of God. The first type is for the lost while the second is reserved for certain believers.
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Revelation 20:14)
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
These four verses of scriptures are the only ones in all of the Word of God that speak of the “the second death.” The first verse utters the eternal judgment of the lost (Revelation 21:8), with the second verse proclaiming the eternal destruction of death and hell itself (Revelation 20:14). However, the last two verses speak of the coming destruction and ruin of the bodies and souls of all apostate believers for a period of a thousand years (Revelation 2:11; 20:6).
A careful study of “the second death” in the first two verses show a literal and eternal death (for the lost), as well as the place where it will occur (“the lake of fire”). However, in the last two verses, the second death even though it is literal, is not eternal, since it is a judgment for Christians. Also, it is not connected to the lake of fire, but as we shall see later . . . to Gehenna.
The Lake of Fire — Second Death for the Lost
The Greek word “hades” is only used ten times in the New Testament. It means the place of departed souls. Its counterpart in the Old Testament is called “sheol,” meaning: “the world of the dead (as if in a subterranean place) together with its inhabitants and assessors.” This is the place that all lost souls go immediately after death. Here, they will be confined until after the millennium and then raised up (same body that they died with) in order to be judged at the “great white throne” (Revelation 20:11-14). This judgment will be given to determine their degree of punishment in accordance to their unrighteous works. They will then be cast into the “lake of fire,” to be punished forever. This is the second death for those who were never saved.
Gehenna — Second Death for the Saved
Contrary to popular conservative theology, Gehenna is not a place that is reserved for all of the lost. Nor, is it identified with the “lake of fire,” or with hades. But, rather, it is a separate place of destruction that is set aside by God for rebellious and apostate Christians for one-thousand years. The misconception that this place is for the lost comes from two sources. First, from the mistranslation of the two Greek words, “hades and “geenna (ge-henna or Gehenna),” as both being “hell.” This created the impression that they were both in the same place when in reality they are not. Secondly, the general belief of the church, which says, “anything that appears to be good in the Bible must be for the Christian, and anything that appears to be bad must be for the lost.”
What is Gehenna? It is a graveyard, probably located in the heart of the earth. It is a place of ruin; a place of destruction for all apostates. Jesus taught us about this place by using the Valley of Hinnom as a type where God has and will destroy the apostates of His own people Israel. This valley was located south of Jerusalem. In it was a high place (possibly a hill) called Tophet (the place of fire). This was the place in times past where the pagans made their children pass through fire for their pagan god Moloch. Later, the people of God (Judah) fell from worshipping the true God and began worshipping a false god in this same valley. For instance—it was here, that Ahaz, king of Israel, forsook God and offered burnt offerings to Baal (2 Chronicles 28:1-5). It was also here, in this same place, that the children of Judah forsook God and sacrificed their children in fire to Baal (Jeremiah 7:30- 32). For this apostasy, God said He would call it the “valley of slaughter” (Jeremiah 7:32), where He would punish Judah for their sins. Later, when the righteous king Josiah abolished this valley and desecrated it, it became the garbage dump for Jerusalem where the fires never went out and the worm never died. It is this same Valley of Hinnom that Jesus uses as a type to point to God’s coming judgment on all apostate believers of the church age. In the Greek, it is called “geenna,” which when transliterated into English became gehenna or Gehenna. However, when the translators of the King James Bible translated this word, they interpreted it as “hell.” This in turn has caused all Bible expositors to falsely connect it with “the lake of fire.”
In studying Jeremiah chapters 7 and 19, the faithful student of the Word will come to realize that the “Valley of Hinnom” became the “valley of slaughter” where God would slay and bury His own people Israel, for turning to other Gods (apostasy). This probably was fulfilled in BC 587, when many Jews were slain by the invading Babylonians, while others were led into captivity outside of their land (Jeremiah 32:36). While this event occurred historically, it also became a type of “outer darkness” and “Gehenna” that will occur at the end of this age, when the apostates of both Israel and the Church will be punished. For Israel, this is the time that is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), a time of “great tribulation” just prior to Christ’s appearing. For the Church, this is the time of the Judgment Seat of Christ where many saints will lose their bodies and the remainder will be cast out of the kingdom (antitype of the land) for one-thousand years. In Isaiah, chapter 66, God gives us a view of those whose bodies will be slain in Gehenna.
And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. (Isaiah 66:24)
In this verse, it is declared that all people (all flesh) living during the millennium, will look upon the bodies of those who transgressed (Hebrew: ‘Pasha,’ meaning apostatized) against the Lord and were destroyed. This will be Gehenna, the antitype of the “Valley of Hinnom;” a place where the fire is not quenched, nor where the worm (maggot) does not die.
According to the type that is revealed to us in Jeremiah 19, we must remember that the Valley of Hinnom was not called the “valley of slaughter” because God slew His people there, but because He buried them there. Actually, they were slain by the Babylonians, according to God’s decree, in Jerusalem and its vicinity, which is on the north side of the valley. It is also important to remember, that God’s Word never speaks of this valley as the place where God destroyed and buried the lost Gentile nations, but rather His own people who fell away from Him (note: the gentile nations will be destroyed in the Valley of Jehoshaphat [Joel 3:12]).
Thus, this “valley of slaughter” becomes a perfect type of the destruction of God’s people (apostate Christians), who will be judged as apostates at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Lord will slay them, or cause them to be slain, in the vicinity of the heavenly Jerusalem (Judgment Seat of Christ) north (above the earth), and will bury them in the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna, somewhere in or on the earth), which is south (down) from heaven for a period of one-thousand years. While this anger of God is exercised on His own people, He will banish others into the darkness outside of the kingdom for one-thousand years.
You may ask, “Will Israel as a nation lose their salvation in Hinnom?” The answer is “no!” For this valley is not a figure of eternal destruction, but rather the severest punishment for the apostates of Israel in suffering the loss of the kingdom. You may ask again, “Is the Valley of Hinnom, or its antitype Gehenna, the place where the individual lost person goes forever?” The answer again is “no,” since the book of Revelation teaches that the punishment of all of the lost will be forever in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14, 15).
We must not mix these two places of punishment (Gehenna and the “lake of fire”) and make them the same place. Whereas Gehenna is probably in or on the earth, the “lake of fire” is most likely in another part of the universe. Consider this: the imagery of “Gehenna” is terrestrial, i.e. valley, garbage dump, worms, fire etc. Therefore, we must conclude that it is in the earth and will be destroyed along with the earth at the close of the millennial age. However, the imagery of the “lake of fire” is celestial, i.e. not on the earth. It is a literal lake of fire that burns forever, and is probably in another part of the universe.
The Second Death in the Sermon on the Mount
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell [Gehenna]. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell [Gehenna]. (Matthew 5:29, 30)
Conservative Bible expositors, for hundreds of years, have been mystified with these two verses of scripture. They knew that believers could not lose their salvation and be cast into hell. Also, they knew that the “Sermon on the Mount” was addressed to believers for the purpose of instructing them in the commandments of Christ; yet here, the Bible was clearly warning a believer about the possibility of him being cast into hell Seemingly, there was no answer. Their difficulty however, was in the misunderstanding of the word “hell” (Gehenna) which is used here. If one does not know the kingdom truths that teach of rewards and loss of rewards, he cannot come to the correct interpretation of Gehenna. The simple answer is, that here Christ is warning all believers not to fall away from God (apostatize) and become an idolater. He reveals the great sin of adultery, (same in God’s eyes as idolatry, see Colossians 3:5), and teaches that a believer who falls from God and practices this sin, even in his thoughts, is in danger of hell (Gehenna). Therefore, it is important and profitable to forsake this sin at any cost and return to the Lord, even if one has to go to the extreme of cutting off a limb or plucking out an eye. To emphasize the importance of gaining the kingdom at any cost, our Lord said that it is far better to enter into life (the kingdom) with one eye and one hand than to have them both and be cast into hell [Gehenna] for a thousand years. However, keep in mind that this indictment was given to the disciples before the cross. We now live in the Church dispensation, after the cross and have the shed blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse us from all confessed sin (1 John 1:9).
In his book, The Sermon On The Mount, Robert Govett wrote “. . . hell [Gehenna] is made the penalty of the worst cases of transgression on the part of the disciple” (page 84).
G.H. Pember, that great Bible scholar of the 19th century, believed that non-overcoming Christians would suffer one-thousand years in hell [Gehenna]. He wrote these words: “Now in regard to the use of the lake of fire, during the millennium, as the place in which the saved who have done evil in the body may receive according to what they have done . . . As to the fact itself, that the overcome are detained either in hell or in some other places of the dead during the age following that in which they dwelt upon the earth. . . .” (G.H. Pember, The Great Prophecies of the Centuries Concerning the Church, pages 115-116).
The Second Death for the Scribes and Pharisees
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell [Gehenna] as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15)
Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell [Gehenna]? (Matthew 23: 33)
Contrary to what others have taught, these two verses do not teach that the scribes and Pharisees were lost and bound for the lake of fire. Instead, the warning of judgments here, and in the remaining portions of Matthew 23, was delivered to them by Jesus because of their works and not their lost spiritual condition. Here, Jesus refers to Gehenna as the place they will go if they do not repent of their self-righteous works, (Gehenna is a special place of judgment, and punishment for God’s own people who become apostates). Thus one cannot, with sound exegesis, declare that the scribes and the Pharisees were lost men based on their works and attitudes. If this were true, then most of the Church could be cast into the “lake of fire,” since it has many in its ranks who are saved and have self-righteous works.
Here is another point to notice. Our Lord instructed the multitude and the disciples to observe and do everything that the scribes and Pharisees taught, only do not do their works (Matthew 23:1-3)! It would seem inappropriate for our Lord to instruct Israel to be students of and to do all the teachings of men who did not belong to God. Thus, it is the opinion of this writer that the scope of teaching here does not deal with lost teachers and their punishment in the “lake of fire,” but rather apostate teachers and their punishment in Gehenna.
Furthermore, Jesus’ message to all the Jews was principally on how to enter into “millennial life,” and not “eternal life.” Apparently the Jews, as a nation were already counted by God as His own people (though individually they were to be saved by faith). Thus, the scope of the gospel that Jesus preached did not include the “gospel of grace” since that gospel could not have been preached until after He had died on the cross (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Instead, the gospel that He preached, was the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:17). Its message was to Israel only, and it exhorted them to repent (turn back to God) and bring forth fruit (Matthew 3:8). This fruit was necessary in order to enter the kingdom that was about to appear. Therefore, this gospel is a different gospel than that of the “gospel of grace,” since the “gospel of grace” proclaims that eternal life is by faith in Jesus Christ and, “. . . not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).
Second Death in Matthew Chapter Eighteen:
If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life [millennium] lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting [Greek: aionian] fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life [millennium] with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell [Gehenna] fire. (Matthew 18:8-9)
It is the opinion of this writer that the translators of the King James Version of the Bible might have mistranslated one important word in Matthew 18:8. This word is the Greek word “aionian,” which was mistranslated as everlasting; when it should have been properly translated as age-lasting, i.e. the messianic age, or kingdom age (Greek: aionian “The adjective form of the word aion [meaning age] cannot rise higher in meaning than the noun [aion] from which it is derived, and must always be governed by it” [Dr. J.J. Griesbach]). If our Lord had wanted us to know that the fire in this verse was everlasting (as it was translated), i.e. perpetual, permanent, and unchangeable; He would have perhaps used the Greek word “aidios,” which literally means everlasting. Thus, when we connect this verse of scripture to the one that follows (v. 9), we must come to the conclusion that the hell fire of verse 9 (the fires of Gehenna) last only for an age (Greek: aionian or age-lasting).
It is interesting to note that certain early Jewish Rabbis did not believe that Gehenna was everlasting, “for sundry rabbinic statements dating from the first and second centuries AD declare that Jews by and large will be delivered from it [Gehenna] and that none of them will remain there permanently. . . . Rabbi Akiba affirms expressly that the torment of Gehenna lasts only for twelve months” (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, page 362). However, we are persuaded that the duration of this future punishment for apostates of the church age will have duration of not more, or not less than one‑thousand years.
Further, we understand that if the Gehenna fires that are described here were the same as the “lake of fire” (the everlasting fire for the lost), then it would be possible for a lost man to be saved and enter heaven by cutting off his hand or plucking out his eye (or by works). We know, of course, that this interpretation would corrupt God’s Word. Therefore, the “Gehenna fire” must be for the punishment of Christian apostates that will last for an age (millennial age), while the word “life” in this same verse, means rewards in the millennial age. In another example of “aionian life” (age lasting life in the coming kingdom), the reader should consider Matthew 19:16-22. In this passage, a rich young ruler asked Jesus what he must do in order to inherit eternal life, i.e. aionian or aionios life. Notice that he did not ask what he must do in order to be saved, but rather what he must do in order to inherit millennial life. In answering his question, Jesus simply replied by telling him to keep the commandments of God (v. 20), and to sell what he had and give it to the poor. Then he could come and follow Him (v. 22). Now, can this answer of Jesus be the gospel of grace? Did Jesus tell this rich young ruler how to be saved? “No!” a thousand times! It is instead the gospel of the kingdom, which calls for righteous works from those who already belong to God, in order to enter the kingdom (v. 24). The sad conclusion to the matter is that this man, as well as all of Israel, rejected Christ. Therefore, the kingdom was postponed for 2000 years and Israel’s part in it was forfeited to the Church (Israel lost their reward, not their salvation).
In concluding our thoughts on this section, Jesus warned the Jews, that unless they repented (which included bringing forth fruit) they would not enter the kingdom. His warning was specifically to Israel’s leaders (scribes and Pharisees) when He said, “. . . How can you escape the condemnation of hell [Gehenna]” (Matthew 23:33b).
Today, this same warning is being given to the Church by the Holy Spirit in the book of Hebrews when He writes “how shall we escape [the suffering of loss at the judgment seat] if we neglect [do not meet the requirements of] so great a salvation . . . .” (Hebrews 2:3). Also, other places of this warning are to be found in the “kingdom of heaven” parables, as well as the epistles of Paul, Peter, James, the book of Hebrews, etc. However, in this dispensation, the “gospel of the kingdom” is not known by that title, but rather by the titles of “the word of the kingdom” (Matthew13:19), “my gospel” (Romans16:25), and the “great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3).
The Second Death in Matthew Twenty four:
Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming,” and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24: 45-47)
The above passage reveals the greatest reward and the severest punishment that will be given out at the judgment seat to the church. The reward portion here (vv. 45-47) has already been taught in the ninth chapter as the highest rank in the kingdom structure (the bride of Christ). We now take up what will happen to those who are privileged to become a member of the bride, but instead fall away from God (vv. 48-5 1).
It all begins when one says in his heart, “My master is delaying His coming.” These are teachers and preachers who no longer look for Christ’s second coming, as well as those who no longer believe that He is coming again in His literal body of flesh (2 John 1:7-9). This is the cause of the apostate Church in these last days. For by doing away with a literal second coming and a literal king, the popular amillennial teacher can then do away with a literal kingdom.
The next step in their fall is to smite their fellow servants. That is, they begin to attack repeatedly other pastors and teachers who teach and believe the word of the kingdom. They ridicule and scorn God’s Word. Then, as they continue to apostatize themselves, they fall to the lowest level where they begin to eat and drink with the drunken. This last state is a state of worldliness, i.e. identified with the world in every manner of lifestyle, including idolatry.
God now tells us in verses 50 and 51 what is to become of these rebels. First, He is going to surprise them at His coming (the rapture). Secondly, He is going to cut them asunder (Greek: dichotomeo, meaning “to bisect”), i.e. literally slay them by separating or bisecting their soul from the body. Thirdly, He is going to appoint (Greek: tithemi, meaning “to place properly in a passive or horizontal posture”) their portion (Greek: meros, meaning “an allotment or share”) with the hypocrites.
This scripture, in the Greek text, reveals very plainly that these apostates will be slain then, and their bodies will be placed in a horizontal position in Gehenna. Finally, it appears from this scripture and others (Psalm 88), that their souls will be allotted a division of darkness with the remainder of the hypocrites (those who were acting under an assumed character). This allotment will be for a thousand years.
The Second Death in Luke:
But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” (Luke 19:14)
But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me. (Luke 19:27)
The above two verses are in the “parable of the pounds.” When this parable was explained in the ninth chapter, we elected not to interpret these two verses until we reached this chapter. The reason being, that these verses speak of apostasy and punishment, and not reward.
It is fascinating, how easily these verses have been overlooked by Bible expositors on the assumption that they represent the lost world, or the Jews. However, by examining these verses in the light of the Word, we discover that they represent saved people. Verse fourteen speaks of His citizens, i.e. those who belonged under His authority, and whom Jesus had every right to rule over. This cannot speak of the lost world since the lost are not under the authority of Christ in this dispensation. Also, the lost do not believe in Him, and as such, would not have sent a message after Him. Likewise, this group does not represent the lost Jews, since the Jews did not believe in Him either. Certainly a nation of lost Jews would not count themselves as His citizens after they had rejected Him. And again, they would not send a message after Him at His ascension, when they did not believe in the resurrection, or the ascension.
Therefore, we are forced to conclude that these citizens must represent a group of people who believed in Him but refused to place their lives under His authority, i.e., control of the Holy Spirit. This group, then, must represent all of the saved and living Christians during the Church dispensation who will fall away from Christ’s authority, and rebel against God.
In verse twenty-seven, we see this same group being brought before Christ at the judgment seat. Here He calls them enemies (Greek: echthros, meaning “hateful and hostile”). This is most significant. For before, they were His citizens, and now here at the judgment seat, they are called His enemies. There are three other places in the New Testament that the word “enemies” or “enemy” is used in connection with believers.
The first is found in Philippians 3:18, where the apostle Paul draws our attention to apostate believers, and calls them “enemies of the cross.” So disturbing were these apostates to Paul in their walk, that they brought tears to his eyes.
Also, the Galatians had fallen from grace by accepting a false teaching from the Judaizers in Paul’s absentia. With this false doctrine they willingly placed themselves back under the law. When Paul learned of this, he wrote them a letter and asked them if he had become their enemy for telling them the truth (Galatians 4:16). Here the Holy Spirit uses the same Greek word for enemy as He did in Luke 19:27, showing that it is not necessarily used as a description of the lost unbeliever all of the time. As previously stated, this word (echthros) means only to be hateful, or hostile. Therefore, God warns us that it is possible for a Christian to fall away, and become spiritually hateful and hostile toward the Holy Spirit, causing Him to become grieved (Ephesians 4:30).
Finally, and in connection with this, God tells us in James 4:4, that if we exercise friendship with this world, we will become the enemy of God. Here, he is not saying that a believer who does this would lose his salvation, for that is impossible. But rather he would lose his reward because of his attitude toward God. James further tells us that this friendship with the world is enmity with God. And its chief sin is adultery.
Back to the text in Luke, Christ qualifies these enemies in order that they will not be mistaken for the lost. First, they are His enemies who would not allow Him to reign over them. Secondly, they are judged at the judgment seat of Christ, where no lost man will be judged (the lost will be judged before God’s great white throne). Thirdly, they are not slain by Christ personally, but by His heavenly servants. This is contrary to the slaying of the lost nations at His return, since He will personally slay them by treading the winepress alone (Zechariah 14:2, 3; Isaiah 63:3; Revelation19:15). Also, this cannot be the slaying of the Jews at His coming, since their judgment occurs during the great tribulation.
Thus, when He appears, it is not for the purpose of punishing the Jews, but saving them (Zechariah 13:1). Fourthly, Christ commands His heavenly servants to bring His enemies “here” and slay them before Him. The Greek word for “here” is hode, which means “in this same spot,” or in the same spot where He rewarded the faithful believers, i.e. the judgment seat of Christ. Therefore, these apostate believers will be cut asunder (bisected: body from soul), placed in horizontal postures and given their allotment of Gehenna at the judgment seat of Christ.
Before leaving this section, it is worthy to take note of the difference between the apostates in this parable as opposed to the wicked (hurtful) servant who is also in the same parable. Both parties failed to produce a saved soul, and as such, lost their inheritance. However, where the wicked servant only had his pound taken from him, the apostates were slain. Where the wicked servant became worthless outside of the glory of the kingdom for a thousand years, the apostates were totally destroyed (ruined) in Gehenna, or the spiritual Valley of Hinnom, for a thousand years.
TWO LEVELS OF JUDGMENTS IN THE EPISTLES
Except for one place in the book of James, the word Gehenna is not found in the epistles. It seems that Jesus reserved this word mainly for the gospels, while the writers of the epistles were to use different terms for the same place. These terms are: destruction, damnation, perdition and condemnation.
The Greater Condemnation
God seems to always use the term “destruction,” (or one of the other words that means the same thing), twice in the same context when He is speaking of Gehenna, and calls this the “greater condemnation.” However, while in the single usage, this word seems to speak only of the lesser punishment of the “outer darkness.”
Also, when these terms are used, the context they are found in determines whether they speak of Gehenna or “the lake of fire.” As an example, in 2 Peter 3:7 God associates the word “perdition” with the ungodly, or the lost. This means everlasting destruction. In Revelation 17:8 God uses the word “perdition” for the place of the antichrist. This, too, means everlasting destruction. Then, in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, He uses the term “everlasting destruction” for the lost. Notice that God never prefixes any of these words (of destruction) with the word “everlasting” unless He is referring to the lost.
On the other hand, when He uses any of these words to describe the punishment of the saved, the context in which they are set, plus the exact Greek words or absence of words used, will always inform us that these are saved people. The following are some examples.
The Greater Condemnation in Peter:
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. (2 Peter 2:1-3)
Here, Peter informs us of apostate teachers that will arise during the Church period. In verse one we see that these are saved teachers who will bring in erroneous Christian doctrine. They will even deny their Lord who bought them (proof that they are saved). Their method will be to teach damnable heresies secretly. The word “secretly” in the Greek text is pareimi, which means “I exist and am close to you” (or a con-man who has gained your confidence as an expert). For this, they will bring upon themselves “swift destruction” (Greek: tachinos apoleia, meaning “impending total ruin or loss”).
Verse two tells us that many shall follow these teachers into destruction by blaspheming the “way of truth.” The way of truth is best described as: “the Christian’s walk through life, that ends at the judgment seat of Christ with a matured faith, and a saved soul through the Word.” These apostate teachers will not only, with heresies, deny the Lord who bought them (errors in teaching the milk doctrines), but also blaspheming the way of truth (the meat doctrines).
Verse three continues by telling us that these teachers are “covetousness” (Greek: pleonexia, meaning “avarice, or eager for gain and implying fraud and extortion”), and as such use “deceptive” (Greek: plastos, meaning “molded, artificial, and fictitious”) words in order to “exploit” (via. a religious business) their Christian and non-Christian followers. It is interesting that the Greek word for “exploit” is emporeuomai, which means “trade, buy, and sell.” In order for one to do this, he must have something to trade or sell. This something is the apostate’s promise of riches and special miraculous powers for this time. Their messages come from a corruption of the Word of God in order to deceive and to gain riches for themselves. And many are the foolish who will try to buy these false promises by giving them their money, and as such, follow their pernicious (destructive) ways.
In our own discernment, these false teachers describe a host of so-called pastors, evangelists, and televangelists in these last days of the Church dispensation. God has reserved for them a double judgment (see the word destruction twice, in verses one and three). The first judgment is for denying their Lord and bringing in heresies. The second, for speaking evil of the way of truth, causing others to fall with them, and for using these followers to create a profitable religious business for themselves.
In God’s just recompense of reward, the teacher who falls away from God will receive a much greater punishment than those apostates who do not teach. For of those who have much, much is required. If he does well, his reward will be greater. If not, his punishment will be greater. This is what James meant when he said, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment (which in the KJV is translated as a greater condemnation [a double destruction])” (James 3:1).
The Greater Condemnation in Timothy:
The Apostle Paul adds to this by telling us that the first cause of a falling away from God is a desire to be rich. From this, riches lead men into many lusts and sins, which end in destruction and perdition. Here he pleads with the man of God (Timothy) not to fall into this trap.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:9-11)
Notice the words destruction and perdition. By using these words twice, which together in the Greek means prolonged ruin and destruction, God is showing us the greater condemnation reserved for apostate teachers.
Gehenna in the epistles seems to be directed mostly to the scorners who are apostate teachers. In this section we have seen that they are worthy of double destruction, a greater condemnation, destruction, and perdition. It is this writer’s belief that all “double punishment” is indicative of punishment in Gehenna for a thousand years, and (according to this scripture) its chief cause is a desire to become rich in this world. This temptation leads a believer to fall into the trap of Satan and eventually err from the faith (become an apostate).
The Lesser Condemnation
Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 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 set their mind on earthly things. (Philippians 3:17-19)
In this passage, we see a marked change in the usage of the word destruction. It is used only once, thus showing the lesser condemnation for the non-overcomer. It is the writer’s belief that here, the apostle Paul is pointing out the walk of believers who are not apostate teachers. Therefore, they must represent the average Christian, possibly the “simple ones,” who are saved but whose interest is in self and the things of this world (no control of their body or soul), and who mind earthly things (no control over the effects of sin). They have no knowledge beyond that of the cross, and they apparently have no interest in the Word. This is why Paul has spoken of them often and wept over them. They are akin to the Sardis church: saved, but that is all. Notice the apostle’s cry of warning to not follow after them in their walk, but rather follow after his ensample, i.e., become joint-imitators of his walk.
These are called “enemies of the cross.” Once before, we saw the word “enemies” used as a description of certain saved ones. It was in Luke 19 in the parable of the pounds. There, Christ had His enemies brought to the same spot where He had rewarded others, and then had them slain. The difference in the usage of this word however, is that whereas, in Luke they are called “my enemies,” here they are called the enemies of the cross. Whereas, those of Luke were apostates from the higher knowledge (meat), these are apostates from the knowledge of the cross (milk) and are possibly the same ones of Matthew 7: 23. Their end will be destruction (total ruin) outside of the kingdom.
PUNISHMENT FOR THE CHRISTIAN SEEN IN TYPOLOGY
Now all these things happened to them [Israel] as examples [types], and they were written for our admonition [instruction], upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
When God speaks to the Church, He uses more than the direct message of the New Testament. He also uses the Old Testament, where He has placed much of His warnings and instructions concerning the coming kingdom. However, these truths are written in “types” (Greek: tupos, meaning “patterns or foreshadows”), which a believer must learn how to read in order to know that which God is saying to him. The above verse informs us of this. For all things that happened to Israel, happened for types to teach us (the Church), who are living near the end of the age, things that we must know in order to enter the kingdom.
Now to look at the details of what we are to learn in the verses that precede verse eleven.
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples [types], to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples [types], and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).
By studying these verses we will discover that God is using the history of Israel’s salvation, wilderness wanderings, and destruction of an entire generation, as a type to teach us (the Church), truths concerning the coming kingdom. And, by these types He is also warning us to not fall away (apostatize ourselves) by committing the same sins. Verse eleven of our text simply says that all these things that happened to Israel (between verse 1 and 10) were examples (types), and written to admonish (instruct) us who are living during this, the Church dispensation.
Here, God gives us an overall view of Israel in three pictures (types). First, they were in “Egypt,” but were delivered by means of the blood of the paschal lamb. Second, they crossed the Red Sea and were in “the wilderness.” Third, they were called to go into “the land of promise;” but, they failed because of unbelief and were destroyed. These three pictures of Israel are types (examples) of the same three areas of life for individual believers of the Church dispensation. First, believers are down in Egypt (lost) serving Pharaoh (Satan), but they are saved by the blood of the Passover Lamb (Jesus, the Lamb of God on the cross). Second, they pass through the sea (type of death in baptism), and come up on the other side. Here, they are to follow Moses (type of Christ) and the cloud (type of the Holy Spirit), and receive instruction in the Law (the Word), in order to enter into the Promised Land (type of the coming kingdom). However third, like the children of Israel, this type reveals that because of unbelief, most Christians will never enter the Promised Land (the kingdom). They will instead be destroyed by the destroyer in the desert (a type of the outer darkness) and be blotted out of the book of life. In the historical event of Israel’s destruction, recorded in the book of Numbers, only two men, (Joshua and Caleb) came out of that generation of six hundred thousand men and actually entered the land. This sets the type to teach us that only a few out of all the Church will enter the kingdom.
To get a clearer understanding of Israel’s destruction, the reader should take time to read and study this historical event recorded in Numbers 13:17-14:45. In this passage God attempted to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land (a type of the kingdom), but they would not go because of unbelief. They had hardened their hearts, and as such could not enter.
It is the same with the Church of this closing age. God is trying to lead us into the kingdom. But most will not enter in because of unbelief. They have been so long out in the world, in the same sins of that of the children of Israel, that their hearts have been hardened. And though they are saved, yet they are unbelievers of the coming kingdom.
In God’s continuing concern to show us how necessary it is for our faith to mature through the wisdom of the higher knowledge (Greek: epignosis) of God, He shows us again this same defeat of Israel in the book of Hebrews and admonishes us not to follow after the same sin of unbelief.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘they shall not enter My rest.’” Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Hebrew 3: 7-15)
With the exposition of this passage, God reinforces the types that were explained in the previous passage of First Corinthians. Here again, He reaches back into the Old Testament to the same events (specifically, Numbers 13:17 through chapter 14), to show that the individual believers of the Church dispensation are the antitypes of Israel. It is here that He also emphasizes the reason why Israel could not enter the Promised Land and warns Christians not to commit these same sins. Once in this passage, God warns us to not have an “evil heart of unbelief” (apostatize), which will cause us to fall away (v. 12). And twice He warns us not to harden our hearts, as Israel did (vv. 8, 15), which resulted in their being destroyed outside of the Promised Land (the kingdom). Nevertheless, and in spite of these warnings, most Christians today are doing just that, and for the same reasons. God tells us we can only be partakers of Christ (inherit the kingdom) if we keep our faith to the end (v. 14).
First Corinthians chapter ten tells us that they lusted after evil things (v. 6) and became idolaters (v. 7). Also, they committed fornication, as well as tempting and murmuring against Christ (anti-type of Moses).
The first of these sins occurred when Moses went up on the mountain to receive the commandments of God, then to come back down (Exodus 32). This is a type of Christ who came to save us (provided all that was necessary that would rescue us out of Egypt), went back to heaven, and will come again. While Moses was away, the hearts of the people harden, and they said, “we do not know what has become of him” (v. 1). So, they forgot all about Moses and had Aaron make a golden calf, which they worshipped as the god who brought them out of Egypt (v. 8b). This in turn, led to all kinds of immorality, including nudity (v. 25). When Moses came down (type of Christ at the rapture and the judgment seat), he was so angered that he had three thousand men slain for their apostasy (v. 27, 28) and pleaded with God not to blot the rest out of His book (type of the book of life and of the salvation of the soul). But God said “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book” (v. 33). These same ones were given space to repent and did not. This is evidenced in their lack of faith that made it impossible for them to later on enter the Promised Land. Hence, they were blotted out of God’s book of life and all died natural deaths in the desert, outside of the Promised Land (type of the kingdom).
Much of the Church today has likewise forgotten about Christ and His coming again. Instead they are worshipping the same golden calf (another god). This is the god of money and power. A god that has a convenient religion, and who preaches that since you are no longer in Egypt (no longer lost), you can live your life as you please. A god that tolerates all forms of immorality and conforms to world standards. A god that says, the Church needs to become more relevant to the changing world, i.e. making the Church more worldly so that the world can become churchier.
But, we are living in the end time when Jesus is about to return. When He returns, there will be those at His judgment who will be “slain” while others will have their names “blotted out of the book of life” because of unbelief, and will be unable to enter the kingdom. God says, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). And again, we will enter that special house of Christ’s (the kingdom) “if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:6). And again, “. . . we have become partakers of Christ [in the kingdom], if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Hebrews 3:14).
Now Israel knew about the Promised Land and the Church has heard of the kingdom. But Israel thought entering the Promised Land was automatic, so likewise the Church assumes that entering into all reward and inheritance is automatic. God on the other hand, tells us that in order to enter into the inheritance (whether physical and earthly or spiritual and heavenly), one must win it! Fight for it! Slay the giants that would keep us out (Numbers 13:31-33)! And what are the giants? To Israel they were real giants. To the Church, they are sins, weaknesses, and personal hang-ups. They could be labeled as the giants of the love of money, of power, of popularity, of sex, of drink, of drugs, etc. Any work of the flesh can be a giant in our lives, and there are many (Galatians 5:19-21a). And how can we slay these giants? The same way that Israel could have slain theirs. Through faith! God promised Israel that He would send His Angel before them (Exodus 32:34), who was a type of Christ. All they had to do was to follow. But Israel could not follow and enter in because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:19). Likewise, most believers of the Church are not willing to abandon their sins and follow Christ. And as such, because of unbelief will be unable to enter into the kingdom.
Oh, you who have trusted in Christ, look up! Your hope is not in this world with its deceitfulness of riches. For one day it shall perish in flames (2 Peter 3:10). Rather, your hope is in the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ, where there is a true inheritance. Those who will enter in here will be ruling with Christ, not only over this earth for a thousand years, but possibly the billions of star galaxies forever. Since Christ is the heir of all things forever, we also can be a co-heir with Him. And where does one acquire this needed faith to enter in? From the Word of God (“. . . faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” [Romans 10:17])!
God’s Continuing Warnings
And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible . . . if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:3, 4a, 6)
God’s continuing warnings to the Church are in Hebrews, chapters five and six. They begin in chapter five, verse twelve. Here, God describes the Church as those believers desiring only the milk doctrines of the Word. He tells them that they ought to be teachers, but they cannot be because they are unskilled in the Word. Not only that, but their continuous desire is to have pastors and visiting evangelists to preach to them over and over the first principles of the Word of God, i.e. how to be saved. They are babes in Christ, and cannot discern by spiritual senses the good and the evil in their walk of life. They need to learn how to partake of strong meat and become “of full age” or mature (Hebrews 5:12-14). They need to grow up!
Then in the beginning verses of the chapter six, God tells them to leave these first principles of the doctrine of Christ (doctrines pertaining to the cross) and go on into “perfection” (Greek: teleiotes, meaning “maturity or completeness”). He says don’t continually lay again the foundation (the work of the cross), for your life, nor the teaching of baptisms and the laying on of hands (identification and service), of elementary truths of heaven and hell. He says to go on to maturity, for all these belong to the milk doctrines (Hebrews 6:1, 2).
“And this we will do if God will permits” (v. 3). God apparently does not allow all believers to go on into maturity. For what reason, we cannot know. However, we do know, according to His sovereignty, that all who are supposed to rule and reign with Him, will do so (Matthew 20:21-23)!
For it is impossible, for those who were once saved, had a life controlled by the Holy Spirit, had knowledge of the meat of the Word of God, and of the powers (those who will rule) of the world (age) to come, if they shall fall away to renew them again to repentance. Notice here, that God did not say, it is impossible to renew them to salvation, but rather repentance. These are saved people who cannot lose their salvation, only their reward. Therefore, once one progresses to see the meat doctrines (epignosis), and understands that which is necessary for the salvation of his soul and then falls away (apostatizes), he cannot be renewed to repentance in order to enter the kingdom. His life from that time on will be back in the first principles of Christ. And, his lifestyle will manifest the re-crucifying of Jesus over-and-over, and putting Him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:1-6). Those who are apostate teachers may even begin to teach the insecurity of the believer, hence, making it necessary for them to be saved over-and-over again (if that were possible).
The teaching that Christ has to die more than once is repugnant to the Father. Yet, those who teach that a believer can lose his salvation are doing just that. For, if they could lose their salvation, Christ would have to die the second time in order to save them again. This would be against the law of God, which says, “one purchase price for one purchase.” Moses made this same mistake when he marred the type that teaches this. He was told by God to strike the rock in the wilderness once in order to get water. This was a type of Christ dying on the cross (being struck) so that the Holy Spirit could flow from Him to satisfy our spiritual thirst. Then, God told Moses that when Israel needed water again to only speak to the rock. But, in a moment of anger at the people, Moses struck it twice. This action marred the type by making it teach that Christ could die twice. This so angered God that Moses (in type) was “blotted out of the book of life,” because he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land (type of the kingdom). He could only see from a mountain top far away (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:8-12; Deuteronomy 34:1-4) (compare John 3:3, 5).
It is interesting to note that there are two prime personalities of Israel who (in type form) did not make it into the Promised Land (the kingdom). The first was Korah, who went down alive into the pit located in the heart of the earth for his apostasy. This was a place of darkness where no one could see the kingdom (Numbers 16:32, 33). The second was Moses who was taken up to the top of the mountain where he died a natural death after seeing the kingdom. Both however, in type form, were “blotted out of the book of life.” The first became an apostate, whereas, the second, inadvertently taught an incorrect doctrine. The first went to “the blackness of darkness” (darkness beyond the realm of light), whereas, the second was in “outer darkness” (obscurity outside the light of the kingdom). Along with them, there were great hosts of people from Israel that did not qualify to enter into the Promised Land. Some were killed by God with plague, fire and sword, while others died a natural death outside the Promised Land. None of them lost their salvation, but they did lose the Promised Land. While some, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness, were in obscurity outside the land. Others were slain by the wrath of God and (in type form) went to Gehenna.
THE COMING JUDGMENT OF THE CHURCH
The judgment of Israel by God at the entrance to the Promised Land is a type of the judgment seat of Christ as recorded in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. Only those who have works of gold, silver, and precious stones will gain the reward. However, to determine this, every Christian will undergo the test of fire. If he has works of wood, hay or straw, they will burn up — but if they are of gold, silver and precious stones, they will survive. The works that are perishable in the fire are works of the world, the flesh, and Satan. Whereas, the works that are imperishable are those of the Holy Spirit through us. Gold always is emblematic of deity (the coming kingship of Christ), while silver represents redemption (the saviorship of Jesus on the cross), and precious stones for the power (the Lordship of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit) to produce spiritual fruit in the life of the believer, who allows Him to control his life.
Finally, notice in 1 Corinthians 3:15. Those who will suffer loss will not be saved at that time (soul salvation) “. . . but [they themselves] will be saved, yet so as by (through) fire.” In the Greek, this salvation is in the “future passive” (shall be). That is to say, his soul will not be saved at this time, but will be in the future (after the millennium).