Heaven or Hell
What is at Stake?
What I believe to be the truth concerning Paul the supposed apostle may appear new to most Christians, but the argument is nothing new. It is as old as Paul himself. History records in the book of Acts, that Paul's own contemporaries accused him of teaching against God's Law. As head of the first Messianic church in Jerusalem, James, the brother of Yeshua, began the inquiry into Paul's teachings, but because the story takes an abrupt turn after Paul's arrest in the temple, we never hear from James again and the issue was never settled in the record of Acts. I only take up where the story left off and the question was left open. Because Christians have typically paid little attention to the details of this story before, it will naturally appear new to them.
When someone comes along with what appears to be a new doctrine, one question that naturally arises is the issue of salvation and how it fits with this "new" picture. It is an important question. Many religious institutions today teach as though they've cornered the market on heaven and eternal life. These institutions have a notorious reputation for effectively communicating to their followers that if one doesn't embrace their doctrine, they will not go to heaven, and therefore end up tormented in the lake of fire for eternity. As you will see, this is not what I believe or claim for my position. I have no doubts that the exclusive doctrines of salvation taught by these institutions have done far more harm than good when it comes to the truth concerning the kingdom of God.
Because the issue of eternal life is
indeed important, and the answer to the question a key part of this work, I will
first address what is at stake
concerning the issue of eternal life, and in subsequent chapters I will address the issue of Paul's
doctrines and his supposed credentials to teach them.
There's more than one book of life!
Have you ever read Yeshua's words and noticed that at one moment he appeared to imply eternal life is relatively easy to attain, and then in another place he made it sound virtually impossible? I have, and it kept my emotions on a virtual roller coaster ride for a long time. The reason for this apparent difference is because we haven't been told that there are two distinct levels of eternal life that will divide all those who have been saved from the lake of fire. There is a general large group, and a smaller more specific group. It is the general group that is relatively easy to be part of, but the smaller one is the difficult one to enter. The following is my argument in support of this picture.
In the last two chapters of Revelation, there is a picture prophecy of the new heavens and the new earth. I had been puzzled for some time by a couple of things in this passage that didn't seem to make sense, but instead of trying to reconcile them, I did as most Christians do. I brushed over them and simply ignored the problem. I had read these chapters many times before the truth finally jumped out at me.
First, the scene must be set for these last two chapters of Revelation (21 and 22) by reading the last 5 verses of chapter 20.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15
This picture is typically all most Christians know of a judgment day. It is an all-or-nothing, one or the other of only two possibilities picture. It is important to understand that this takes place after the 1000 year Messianic reign of Yeshua on earth (Revelation 20:4-6), and it is important to note that the first heaven and earth have passed away when all the dead that had been in them are judged. Notice also that Hell is not the same as the lake of fire. There is an obvious difference in geographical location. In the end, Hell itself is thrown into the lake of fire.
Now, after this, John begins to describe the "new heavens" and the "new earth". When you read it, notice that there are three distinct places mentioned; the new heaven, and the new earth, and on the new earth is a city... the New Jerusalem. Christian theologians have wrongly portrayed this entire area of the new heavens and new earth as "heaven" assuming it's the place of God's throne and eternal bliss. The error is in the fact that whenever the word "heaven" is used in conjunction with "earth" in this manner, it always refers to the expanse, or sky above the earth, and not what we would typically picture as God's dwelling place. This is important to remember. It will be seen that our classic picture of God's dwelling place and the location of eternal bliss is only in the city the New Jerusalem. As you read the following, notice that New Jerusalem descends from the sky... "heaven". Also notice how it stands out as the centerpiece and main subject of the passage.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:1,2
Then John records what is said about the city.
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." Revelation 21:3-5
This passage describes the condition of things inside the new city and not necessarily everywhere outside it on the new earth. This fact will be established in a moment. Now John records these words.
And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 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 21:6-8
Take special notice of the list of evildoers here. There are eight described, starting with the "cowardly" and "unbelieving". These are the ones whose names are not in the "Book of Life" and therefore end up in the lake of fire. We will come back to this list in a moment. Up to this point, John has been given a broad overview of events to come. Now he is taken back and shown more detail of the New Jerusalem, and this time, the city is called the "Lamb's Wife"!
..."Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain , and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. And her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Revelation 21:9b-11
Again, the subject and centerpiece remains the New Jerusalem. John continues in the next 10 verses to describe the city in greater detail. He describes the pearly gates, the foundation stones, the streets of gold, and the size of the city. According to some estimates, John was looking at a city as large as 1,380 miles square! He continues, and once again, it is the city that is being described.
But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it, and the Lamb is its light. Revelation 21:22,23
Now, the next verse is very important to remember. I will reference it again in a moment.
And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its (the city's) light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Revelation 21:24
Let's summarize the picture so far. There is a new heavens and a new earth on which live all those who are saved and have eternal life. They have eternal life because they drink freely of the water of life. These are those whose names were written in the Book of life. There is also a new city, the New Jerusalem, which is the crowning glory of all that has been created anew. There is no more pain or suffering of any kind in the city. The city itself gives light to the new earth, and this light is the glory of the presence of God and the Lamb. Now in the last verse of this chapter there is one of those statements that had me confused for some time. It is important to hear all that is being said here.
But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. Revelation 21:27
"It", is again, unquestionably in
reference to the New Jerusalem and not the new earth in general. The fact that lies,
abominations, and things that defile are not permitted to enter the city suggests that
these things exist outside it. If this deduction appears tenuous, please read on.
There is another important observation to be made here. There is mention of a Lamb's Book of Life. This Lamb's Book of Life is not the same book as the Book of Life mentioned earlier! This is where it starts getting really good. Notice that the new city itself is called "the Lamb's wife". Would it not make perfect sense that the only ones allowed to enter what is referred to as the "Lamb's wife" are those whose names are written in the "Lamb's Book of Life"? Yes, there are indeed two books of life! All the names that are written in the smaller "Lamb's Book of Life" would no doubt be listed in the general "Book of Life", but not all names in the general Book of Life are in the smaller Lamb's Book of Life. At one time, I thought as most Christians do, that there was only one Book of Life and everyone whose name was written in it got to live in the New Jerusalem... but not anymore. There are two more passages in the 22nd chapter of Revelation that cannot be reconciled with what we've read so far unless there are in fact two books of life.
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. Revelation 22:1-4
There are several things in this passage that need to be pointed out. One of particular interest I have in emboldened print. This entire passage is again concerning what is inside the city. The word "it" couldn't possibly be in reference to anything other than the city. But here we have in the middle of this passage a reference to "leaves" for "the healing of the nations"! Let's look at the subject of the leaves first. We just read in the first sentence about the tree of life yielding fruit, and not just one variety, but twelve! My question is: With all this fruit available, who would want leaves? Then secondly comes the picture of "healing". Now if our typical picture of heaven were correct, where all trouble ceases to exist... no pain or sorrow and so on, who would need healing? I would figure all healing had been accomplished! And thirdly, who are these "nations" who desire the leaves for their healing? The answer is that these are "the nations of those who are saved" and "walk in the light" of the city outside it. Remember the verse quoted above? Here it is again.
And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its (the city's) light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Revelation 21:24
These are the ones who have eternal life and are "saved", but are outside the city and have no access to the city or the fruit which is inside the city. If all this still sounds like a stretch, there is one more passage to consider.
Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. Revelation 22:14,15
Could it possibly have been stated more
clearly? Not everyone
on the new earth has the right to enter the city, known as the "Lamb's
wife". Read it again if necessary.
As mentioned before, it is obviously only those who have their names written in the
Book of Life who will have access to the city. In this
passage, we also find out how one
gets their name written in the Lamb's Book of Life. It says,
those who do his commandments." These are the
ones who will have the right to enter the city where the fruit of the tree of life is.
Then it says, "But outside..."
what? Answer: The city! The city is the obvious subject of the
passage. This is not "outside" the new heavens and new earth. Those who have no eternal life at all are not
something. They are incarcerated in the lake of
fire. But outside the city are what are described as "dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters,
and whoever loves and practices a lie." Clearly, outside the city is a different
matter and conditions are not as good as they are inside.
Remember the list of eight crimes that those who were sent to the lake of fire were guilty of in Revelation 21:8? Notice the similar list here in Revelation 22:15 has shrunk to six. Except for the two missing categories this second list is basically identical. The first list begins with the two that are missing in the second... "the cowardly and unbelieving". By the absence of these two in the second list we can conclude that the difference between them and the first group that was thrown in the lake of fire, is that even though they were guilty of some of the same serious sins, they still took courage and believed. Those from the first list who were thrown in the lake of fire, should be seen as, "the cowardly-and-unbelieving abominable, the cowardly-and-unbelieving murderer, the cowardly-and-unbelieving sexually immoral..." and so on. Now the "believing" that the courageous ones of this second list did, is not the "faith alone" preached by many protestant denominations. The Greek word John used and is translated "believe", carries the same picture that James portrays in his epistle. It is a pro-active faith that demonstrates itself through "works". It is not mere mental assent. One cannot separate what one believes from what one does. These saved individuals outside the city demonstrated some faith and courage by doing some good works... like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and so on. But because they never walked in all God's commandments, they were not permitted access to the city. They didn't end up in the lake of fire either! These outside the city then are those who would need the leaves of the tree of life for healing, but they have no access to the fruit.
The leaves of the tree of life
The leaves of the Tree of Life are for the healing of the nations who were
saved. The nations who have been saved
from the lake of fire, yet still need the healing power of the leaves, are banned
city. But the Trees of Life are located in the city! I wondered for some time how this logistical problem
is worked out. Then one day a sweet picture came to mind. This may not be how it will
but all the necessary pieces of the picture are there in the passage for it to
work out this way. I pictured the Tree of Life growing all along the River of
Life in the city, and every month shedding its
leaves in preparation for the next growth cycle
and crop of fruit. The leaves, which nobody in the city has any interest in
because they have all the fruit they want, would fall into the River of Life
which flows from the throne, through the city, and out under the wall to the rest of the new
earth giving eternal life to all those who are saved. Outside the wall would be all kinds of people harvesting the leaves as they
float out of
the city on the river. Outside the city they are very valuable and highly prized
for their healing qualities. Now reread Revelation
21:22-27 and 22:1-2 with this picture in mind.
Here is the challenge to those who continue to believe there is only one book of life and two possible destinations... walk the streets of gold or burn. Explain who those are who live outside the city, who are not in the lake of fire, and are referred to as "the nations of those who are saved", and walk in the light of the city, but are forbidden from entering it? These passages have been glossed-over and ignored far too long. The truth of this is an inconvenient one for many Christian institutions that use the scare-tactic threat of eternal torment in fire to hold on to their flocks. Of course there are many members of these various institutions who believe these doctrines and genuinely care about the eternal well-being of others. These good-hearted people certainly cannot be faulted for their motives when they attempt to convert others. But it is a regrettable case of the blind leading the blind.
It is important to point out that contrary to the fear-mongering doctrines of these various branches of Christianity, God is not looking for some loop-hole-excuse to send the majority of mankind to the torments of the lake of fire. On the contrary, it is obvious that God is good and looking for any justifiable reason to salvage as many as possible from it. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find that the majority of humans will have been spared this worst of eternal fates. Many of them may be forced to live a long way from the city where the light from the city is dim... a place known as "outer-darkness" where there is severe regret--weeping and even gnashing of teeth--for not having done better, but only the very worst will end up in the lake of fire where there is not only extreme regret, but punishment. Conversely, only the very best will live in the city, the Lamb's wife. These are the ones God is looking for... the cream of the crop as it were, and the very purpose for creating this world. It should start to become obvious that right from the start of creation, the Father, with the son alongside, embarked on this risky romantic venture with the very intention of bringing into existence a worthy bride for the son. Yeshua used the picture of him as the bridegroom in a number parables for a definite reason.
Someone might ask; didn't Yeshua say in Matthew 7:13-14 that the road to life is narrow and there are "few" who find it? Yes, he did. The answer is in understanding what Yeshua meant by his use of the word "life". It's a matter of perspective. From his point of view, "Life" with a capital "L" is found when one gets his name in the Lamb's Book of Life and can eat from the tree of life. Outside the city, conditions are not nearly as good as they are inside the city. It is a kind of half-life... bitter-sweet truth. While we can have great hope that we will again see our deceased loved ones who were essentially good and decent individuals in a place far better than this world, there is the fact that there will be much disappointment, heart ache, and weeping by many who thought they were going to walk the streets of gold when discover they are banned from the city and the most they will ever see of the tree of life are its leaves. God is good, just, and righteous, and every man will be rewarded according to what he has done with what he was given. It is an issue of works.
"And behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to every one according to his work." Revelation 22:12
There is also no reason to conclude that if a person attains the right to enter the New Jerusalem, that loved ones outside the city can't benefit in some ways from it. Citizens of the kingdom might be permitted to take leaves from the tree of life outside the city to whomever they desire! This could very well be another way the leaves are dispersed to the saved outside the city.
The classic Christian doctrines of all-or-nothing salvation are void of truth. The Protestant evangelical notion that a man can live an honorable, good, and loving life... and still spend eternity in the torments of the lake of fire if he never "accepts Jesus as his savior"... even if he never heard the name Jesus, while an evil man, the likes of Hitler, can say the words "Jesus come into my heart" on his death bed and spend eternity walking the streets of gold... is as repulsive and downright evil a doctrine in the eyes of heaven as there can be, because it makes God out to be pathologically unrighteous. The same can be said for Catholic doctrine that asserts one must convert and take part in the "eucharist" before there is any hope of salvation. It too is a convenient institution-serving misunderstanding of Yeshua's words in John 6. More on all these Christian doctrines later. No religious institution on earth, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, or otherwise, has cornered the market on eternal life. None are God's official representative on earth, and none will be man's judge. Only after the one who the Father has committed all judgment to has returned, will God's official representative institution finally be on earth. At that time there will not be left a trace of any Christian institution. Those who believe Yeshua will establish a world-wide version of their particular form of Christianity when he returns are in for a rude surprise. As Israel's Messiah, Yeshua will do the same as when he was here the first time. He will give official sanction to, and establish the Law of God as given through Moses... with nothing added, and nothing taken away. It will be the purest form of Messianic Judaism. More on this later.
There are a number of passages where Yeshua spoke of
eternal life and the kingdom of God that need to be looked at and shown how they fit
into this picture of two books of life. But first,
let's look at something Moses said that fits well with the two-book picture.
Moses and the Book of Life.
In Exodus we read about an interesting discussion between God and Moses. Moses speaks first.
"Yet now, if You will forgive their sin... but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written." And the Lord said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book." Exodus 32:32-33
Before considering which book Moses and God are talking about, I'd like to make this observation. It should be painfully obvious to those who believe in eternal security that God has indicated in no uncertain terms... names once in a book are capable of being blotted out of it because of sin!
It is obvious that there is an inside understanding here between God and Moses about a certain "book". No doubt God had given Moses knowledge of this book. The question is, of which book are God and Moses speaking? Moses appears to be offering to sacrifice his name in this book for the sake of those who have sinned against God and are apparently about to be blotted from it. If indeed there are the two books of life... the general "book" and the "Lamb's book", which one was Moses likely offering to have his name removed from? If ever there was a person who did God's commandments and was therefore worthy to have his name written in the Lamb's book, would it not have been Moses? God had told Moses about this special book and the fact that his name was written in it because Moses speaks as though he knows his name is in it.
There is also the flip-side of this to consider.
If there is only one book of life, and anyone whose name is not written in it is
doomed to an eternity of suffering in the lake of fire, I have a hard time imagining
anyone offering to make that kind of infinite sacrifice. So I submit that Moses was
offering to be left out of the Lamb's book of life and the New Jerusalem
as opposed to offering to be thrown in the lake of fire. This makes far
better sense, and I see it as support for a second book of Life.
Yeshua on the kingdom of heaven.
If indeed there are those who are saved from the lake of fire and have eternal life, yet have no access to the city, who are they? As we have seen in Revelation, John records that they are those who took courage and believed... but did not do all his commandments. Yeshua portrayed the same picture in Matthew.
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice Law-less-ness!' Matthew 7:21-23.
In this text, the "kingdom of heaven" is a reference to the New Jerusalem. The most important truth to be gleaned from this passage is the identity of those who say "Lord, Lord", and why they were denied access to the kingdom. I will answer that question in a moment, but first, I'd like to point out that Yeshua said nothing about these people ending up in punishment or fire as he did in other places. He said these people were to "depart" from him. A paraphrased equivalent would be, "go away from me... keep your distance, and stay out of my city". Take a look at the following passages and notice the similar picture.
"And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." Matthew 25:30
"And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out." Luke 13:28
Though these people have been "saved" from the lake of fire (there is no mention of fire or torment) they are still in distress. What is described is darkness "outside", as well as very significant disappointment and regret. Notice that those "outside" are in a position to know what is being missed inside the kingdom. Those in the lake of fire would doubtfully be in that position.
Now, the issue of the identity of those who said, "Lord, Lord", and why they were denied entrance to the kingdom. These people actually called him "Lord," twice! It is a passionate cry! And it can't be over-stated that Yeshua said there would be many of them! These also claimed to have done much in his name! They said they prophesied, cast out demons, and even worked miracles. The fact that Yeshua never challenged their claims should haunt every Christian. No Jew, Moslem, atheist, or anything other than a Christian could possibly make such claims. Obviously, they had done everything they said they did, but this fact was meaningless to Yeshua. The issue now was that they were also workers of "Law-less-ness". This word in Matthew 7:23 translated "lawlessness", is a bit misleading. The Greek word is anomia, and it has another more-applicable meaning in this context. The following is an excerpt from Jesus' Words Only by Doug DelTondo, a book I endorse and highly recommend. From page 60 and 61:
In Greek, anomia is a feminine noun, related to the adjective a-nomos. Nomos is the Greek word to identify the Law or Torah, i.e., the Five Books of Moses. (Strong's #3551.) The prefix a is a negative particle in Greek. Putting the parts together, it should mean negation of the Law (Torah). Do the lexicons agree? What does anomia precisely mean in Matthew 7:23? The best lexicon of the ancient Greek (which is free online) is Henry George Liddell's and Robert Scott's A Greek-English Lexicon. It defines anomia as one of two meanings:
* "the negation of the law:
* "lawlessness, lawless conduct."
The common rendering of Matthew 7:23 opts for the second meaning. (See ALT, KJV, and ASV translations.) These texts ignore entirely the first option. These translations do not reveal these workers practiced the "negation of the Law." Yet, this is the meaning Jesus intended in this context. Jesus is talking about workers of the negation of the Law because He is paraphrasing Deuteronomy 13:1-5.
DelTondo is right. Yeshua is obviously repainting the picture from Deuteronomy. Remember, those who said "Lord, Lord" are Christians, and claim to have done many works and even miracles in his name... but that fact is meaningless to him.
"If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, "Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them.' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him." Deuteronomy 13:1-4
Even the working of miracles is meaningless to the judge if God's Laws are cast aside. Does this not describe Christianity today? Christianity considers the Law of Moses the Old (obsolete) Testament. Only Christians will be saying "Lord, Lord", and Yeshua said that these will be sent away from him to "outer-darkness."
From the perspective of inside the city where the source of all light is, looking out would appear dark. Even though the city gives light to the world, it is darker outside the city, and the further one is from it the darker it is. It is rightly termed, the "outer-darkness"... the out-of-the-city darkness. Even though it is an eternal life that is better than what this world has to offer, when one sees and hears of what is going on in the city, there will be lamenting and regret by those who believed they were going to walk through the pearly gates onto the streets of gold and eat the fruit of the Tree of Life, but all they can ever hope to touch from the tree are the leaves.
The pictures portrayed in Revelation and Matthew are identical. The only way a person can have his name written in the Lamb's Book of Life and have access to the kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem, is to become a Law-abiding citizen of the Kingdom. One must prove themselves worthy of citizenship by obeying God's Law here, in the testing-grounds of this life, before citizenship is granted.
"Blessed are those who do his commandments that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city." Revelation 22:14
"But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life." Revelation 21:27
"...depart from Me, you who practice Law-less-ness!' Matthew 7:21-23.
Two books... two judgments
If there are two books of life, then it logically flows that there must be two judgments. The first, to determine who has won eternal life and been saved from the lake of fire, and the second to determine which of those who are saved have won citizenship in the Kingdom. In Matthew 7 where people say "Lord, Lord", is an account of the second judgment which concerns those whose names are not found in the Lamb's book of life. In Matthew 25 we have an account of the first judgment. As you read this passage below, notice that Yeshua could not be speaking of the same group of people as he was in chapter 7. There, the people passionately called him "Lord, Lord" and claimed to have done much in his name. Only Christians could possibly make that claim. But some have argued, that because the people in the following passage call Yeshua "Lord", they too are all Christians. Besides the fact that these do not claim to have done works in the Lord's name, this is not the case for two reasons. First of all, this group is not described as "many", but are described as "ALL the nations". This is everyone. And secondly, the fact that all of them call Yeshua "Lord" doesn't mean they had been Christians. When everyone is gathered before the throne, it will be the ultimate no-brainer that the judge on the throne IS Lord. Even Paul, when he was not a believer and on his way to destroy Christians, instantly called Yeshua "Lord" when he was confronted by his glory. So... such is to be expected in a scene as the following. Notice too, that this passage is also one of those places where Yeshua makes achieving eternal life sound easy.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right hand, 'Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you. Or when did we see you sick or in prison, and come to you.' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Then he will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matthew 25:31-46
Here is the passage from Revelation that parallels this.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before the throne and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15
Here is another from the Gospel of John:
Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the son to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come forth--those who have done good, to a resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to a resurrection of condemnation. John 5:25-29
According to these three passages, it should be clearly evident that salvation from the lake of fire depends on works. According to the first passage, these are the works of charity towards others, most particularly Yeshua's brethren... Israel. The astounding thing is there is nothing in these passages concerning a person's faith or religion. The deciding factor is works of charity and good alone! In fact, according to the Matthew 25 account, it could be argued there are those who don't even know about Yeshua before that day because they say, "When did we see you...?". Christians are very familiar with this passage and already know the answer to the question... therefore they won't be the one's asking it! So this could even include those who were more agnostic in life. The only criterion these people met was that they had been charitable to others in life, therefore they were spared by the judge! So the bottom line for salvation from the lake of fire is simply treating others, especially the descendants of Israel, the way one would like to be treated themselves! It is the fulfillment of the second greatest commandment, love your neighbor as yourself. That's it! It's not an issue of faith, formula, or being a member of any particular religious institution. If an individual could be described as a life-giver in any way, then God will proportionately repay that person with life. This includes all men of all faiths--or lack thereof--since Adam. This is righteousness on God's part that even a child instinctively understands. Only those who are "educated" in the doctrines of certain religious institutions can stand this simple truth on its head and claim unrighteous behavior is righteous if God does it. How can God want us to understand that He is righteous if we are unable to comprehend righteousness? Righteousness is a standard that God holds Himself to, and it is a standard that any person can comprehend. Abraham knew what righteousness was and that God held Himself to it. That is why he was shocked when he thought God was about to do something that he knew would be an unrighteous act. When God told Abraham that He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham respectfully confronted God and said:
"Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Gen. 18:23,25
God then confirmed that Abraham's comprehension of righteousness was indeed accurate and that He had absolutely no intentions of destroying any righteous men with the wicked.
Doing Yeshua's commandments/the will of the Father
"Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life" which grows inside the city limits of New Jerusalem. In Matthew 7, Yeshua said that the only ones who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, are those who "do the will of my Father in Heaven" ,and then he reiterates the same principle by condemning those who do just the opposite and work to negate God's Law.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. "Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice the negation of The Law!' Matthew 7:21-23.
It should be evident that the will of the Father is His Law. Not surprisingly, Yeshua's own commandments are to keep God's Law. He told his disciples to keep the Law and teach all nations to do likewise.
"Do not think that I have come to destroy (annul, render vain Strong's 2647) the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill (ratify, give official sanction to Strong's 4137). For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law till all is fulfilled ("heaven and earth" comes to pass Strong's 1096). Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:17-19
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,... teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you." Matthew 28:19,20
In Christianity today, Matthew 5:17-19 never ceases to be abused and used to accomplish the very thing Yeshua said these words to prevent. Thanks to Paul's doctrines, and the doctrines of the book of Hebrews, Christianity teaches that all the Law was "fulfilled" on the cross. Therefore it has passed away. But the Greek words that were translated "fulfill" and "fulfilled" are not the same word, nor is their meaning even similar. This has been done to bend Yeshua's meaning to conform with Pauline doctrine. The current heavens and earth have not passed away yet. Yeshua said that until they do, every jot and tittle of the Law stands. There is much prophecy concerning the 1000-year Messianic kingdom yet to come on this earth that clearly indicates every jot and tittle of the Law will be in effect even then. This fact, the doctrines of Paul, and errors of the book of Hebrews I deal with in subsequent chapters.
Notice in the Matthew 5 quote that Yeshua said one of those things that appear to make getting to heaven very difficult. That's because we haven't understood there are two books of life, and the "kingdom of heaven" of which he speaks is synonymous with the New Jerusalem.
"Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:19
Could the Lord have stated it more clearly? Having the right to enter
the city requires keeping his commandments... God's Laws! This is the will of the Father.
He said that breaking the least
commandment and leading others to do the same, will cause one to be least
in the New Jerusalem. He didn't say
that breaking the greatest will cause one to be least. He said the least
Breaking any more than the least and teaching others to do the same will
apparently cause one not to enter the city at all. This fits perfectly with what has been
established so far.
There is still hope
This may sound like it's hopelessly too late for nearly all of us to find our way into the Lamb's Book of Life. We've all done more than break the least of God's commandments, and many of us have in the past encouraged others to do the same. At this point I would expect some in evangelical Christianity to state that breaking God's Law is unavoidable because God made His Law impossible to obey for the very purpose of proving to man that he couldn't do it and thus keep him humble and reliant on His grace! This utter nonsense is Pauline doctrine (most notably from Romans 3:19,27) and is quite literally as non-sensical as doctrines get... even to the point of being blasphemous. Again, because it makes God out to be some kind of twisted despot. What kind of ruler tells his subjects to do something under the threat of torture, knowing full well they are incapable of doing it, just so he can keep them humiliated and begging for mercy? Only an evil, psychopathic tyrant does that kind of thing. John said, "His commandments are not burdensome." 1John 5:3 They are observable... and they aren't even a burden! But concerning the issue of God's Law, no one is more reliant on the grace of God than a person who believes the Law actually stands and he is guilty of breaking it. After all, who needs grace if there is no Law to be guilty of breaking?!! Removing the Law is not grace. That's the principle of anomia... working against the Law... the very thing God hates. It is only after having broken the Law that grace can be grace. If we change our mind, repent, and start doing God's will, He is gracious and will forgive and begin to restore. God's grace is not something new that came along with the "New Testament." The Psalms are replete with praise and thanksgiving to God for His tender mercies, loving kindness, and willingness to forgive. God is not looking for some excuse to condemn. He is hoping that man will change so He can forgive him.
"But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? says the Lord God, " and not that he should turn from his ways and live?" Ezekiel 18:21-23
This world and life are the testing grounds for
our placement in eternity. Citizenship in the kingdom of the New Jerusalem must be earned here.
God has done an incredibly awesome and risky thing in creating such a high being
with a free will. Man does not lose his free will after he dies... therefore
God wants to know who He can trust to do righteously, and loyally walk upright
before Him. I believe, God has determined He is not going to repeat what He has
had to deal with in Lucifer/Satan again. This time, He is permitting Satan to
test these new free-will agents first... before they are allowed to be near Him.
As long as we are in these bodies we can make the big
changes and pass the tests that determine our loyalties, which book our names are written
in... and what our everlasting
reward will be.
The Rich Young Ruler
One day, a young man came to Yeshua and asked him what was required of a man to gain eternal life. It's the story of the Rich Young Ruler. This story is recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels, but each account is a little different. Each account gives us information that the other two left out. If we didn't have Matthew's account, we wouldn't know the man was young, and if we didn't have Luke's account, we wouldn't know he was a ruler. All accounts note that he was wealthy, and by putting these three facts together we have what is known as the story of the Rich/Young/Ruler... hereafter referred to as RYR. This principle of putting all the facts together into one is something I have taken to a new level for the entire story. Before, when I read each account by itself, it seemed like something was missing. When I realized that what was missing could be found in the other accounts, and saw where the pieces fit with each other, I did a parallel comparison and put all the information together. This parallel comparison can be found in the Appendix of this book. The complete story with all the information put together is printed below. Everything in this story is found in at least one of the synoptic accounts. It is only after putting it all together that an interesting new aspect of the story emerges. It becomes obvious that Yeshua speaks of a two stage advancement that perfectly fits with the picture of two books of life.
But first there is one important insight that needs to be kept in mind when reading Yeshua's answer to someone's question. We need to understand that he tended to answer a question directly without a lot of added input and clarification, and he tended to do this even if the question was based on a misunderstanding. Sometimes we have to be careful we don't interpret Yeshua's answer as sanctioning the erroneous presupposition of a question. The principle that Yeshua apparently worked by is that he met people where they were at. This is true not just in this example of the RYR, but throughout the Gospels. Knowing this can help us better understand a number of things he said. When you read the story below, notice that the first question the RYR asks is concerning eternal life. Yeshua's answer is the same again. It is doing the works of treating others as one would want to be treated. This is the same requirement he indicated was necessary for eternal life in the story of the sheep from the goats. Once it becomes apparent the RYR has met that requirement and already has eternal life, his next question concerns what more there might be. This question is what causes Yeshua to "love him", and now his answer goes beyond just eternal life and he offers the RYR perfection, which he later refers to as the "Kingdom of Heaven". We have established that this is synonymous with having one's name in the Lamb's Book of Life and all that goes with it.
Now as He was going out on the road, a certain ruler came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" So Yeshua said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to Him, "Which ones?" Yeshua said, "You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself." And the young man answered and said, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" So when Yeshua heard these things, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "If you want to be perfect, you still lack one thing. Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me." But when the young man heard that saying, he became very sorrowful, and went away grieved, for he had great possessions. And when Yeshua saw that he became very sorrowful, He looked around and said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Yeshua answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom of Heaven! And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." And when His disciples heard it, they were astonished beyond measure, saying among themselves, "Who then can be saved?" But Yeshua looked at them and said to them, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God, all things are possible."
Notice how the picture Yeshua painted here parallels the two greatest commandments? You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. If a person does the second greatest commandment and treats others as he would want to be treated, he will get his name in the general book of life and have eternal life in the new heavens and new earth. If a person does the greatest commandment and loves the Lord with all his being, Yeshua will "love him" and he will have his name in the Lamb's Book of Life and live with him and the Father in the Kingdom of Heaven, the New Jerusalem forever! The two great commandments correspond to the two books of life!
At the end of the RYR story it says that the disciples asked, "Who then can be saved?" It wasn't unlike the disciples to occasionally display a defeatist attitude when Yeshua said something that sounded difficult. (example, Matthew 19:9,10) But this is one of those questions that was asked based on an erroneous presupposition... the assumption that Yeshua was still talking about being saved from eternal death and inheriting eternal life. Yeshua simply answered their question directly with a broad "...ALL things are possible" and was in no way endorsing the error of their presupposition. He had simply said all he was going to say about the Kingdom of Heaven in that scene and wasn't going to correct their misunderstanding and expound on it any further.
Other kingdom passages, and how they fit the two-book picture
The parable of the wedding feast
Notice how the following parable portrays Yeshua as the bridegroom. Also notice there are two judgments. The first corresponds to the first judgment and the general Book of Life where the king destroys the evil ones and burns their cities. The second corresponds to the second judgment and the Lamb's Book of Life, and one is found unworthy and thrown out into the "outer darkness" where there is no mention of fire.
The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. And again, he sent out other servants, saying, "Tell those who are invited, 'See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."' But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, "The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find invite to the wedding." So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, "Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?" And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, "Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:1-14
The wise and foolish virgins
Again, the picture of a wedding and some get left out.
"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!' Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise answered, saying, 'No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." Matthew 25:1-13
The phrase "I do not know you" is the
same as when Yeshua said "I never knew you" in Matthew 7:23, to
those who claimed to have done much in his name, but in spite of this were told
to depart from him for working against the Law.
The parable of the lazy servant
Here, the lazy unprofitable servant is sent to "outer darkness", not the lake of fire. This again is of the second--Lamb's Book of Life--judgment.
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter in the joy of your lord.' He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' His lord said to him. 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things, Enter into the joy of your lord.' Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I know you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground, Look, there you have what is yours.' But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you know that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. Therefore you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 25:14-30
One seldom hears these passages in faith-alone
evangelical churches, and it's not hard to understand why. Yeshua constantly
made works the pivotal determining factor in a person's salvation
and degree of reward.
The parable of the unforgiving servant
Notice that here, the moral of the parable is to treat others the way you want to be treated or you will suffer not just regret, but "torture". This is the minimum requirement to stay out of the punishment of the lake of fire. This then parallels the first judgment and concerns those whose names are not in the general Book of Life.
"Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, "Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, "You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due him. So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." Matthew 18:23-35
The parable of the tares explained
In Matthew 13:24-30 Yeshua tells the parable of the wheat and the tares. I won't print the lengthy story here, but in verse 36, he begins to explain the meaning of the parable to his disciples. Here again is a picture of the first judgment where those names aren't even in the general Book of Life because they were guilty of practicing Law-nullification to the limits. These apparently even nullified God's second greatest command to treat others as they would want to be treated. They are sent to the furnace of fire.
"He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice Law-less-ness (nullifying the Law), and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:37-42
The practice of nullifying the Law is a degrading principle. To the extent that one does not obey the greatest commandment to love God with all his heart will be the extent to which he is refused entrance to the city. And to the extent that one does not even obey the second greatest commandment to love others as one's self will be the extent to which he is refused any eternal life. Conversely, love is the upgrading principle. To the extent that an individual loves his neighbor and does good to him, will be the extent to which he will be rewarded with life in the new heavens and new earth. And to the extent that a person loves God and demonstrates it by obeying all His commands, will be the extent to which he is rewarded with life in the city the New Jerusalem. Notice how Yeshua clearly stated these principles in this passage from John's gospel.
"For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the son." "For even as the Father has life in Himself, so He gave also to the son to have life in himself. And He gave authority to him to also execute judgment, for he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming in which all those in the tombs will hear his voice. And they will come out, the ones having done good into a resurrection of life, and the ones having practiced evil into a resurrection of judgment." John 5:22,26-29 KJIIV
The story of Zacchaeus the tax collector is also telling. Notice what he did, and what it earned for him.
Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Yeshua was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was going to pass that way. And when Yeshua came to the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner." Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord. "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor, and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." And Yeshua said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:2-10
It was his acts of repentance, charity, and making things right with those he had cheated that earned him "salvation". The case for works-alone is established here again!
I have yet to find anyone who has put together the picture that Zacchaeus was almost certainly under the influence of John the Baptist's teaching and had been baptized by him. Yeshua knew this, and it was the reason why he called Zacchaeus by name and said ,"today I must stay at your house". Remember, John had come to prepare the way for Yeshua. Notice what John had taught concerning staying out of judgment and fire, as well as what he said to certain "tax collectors".
Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees, Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "So the people asked him, saying, "What shall we do then?" He answered and said to them, "He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Collect no more than what is appointed for you." Luke 3:7-13
Zacchaeus was one of those tax collectors who was there that day. What John had said that day could be interpreted to mean he instructed those who had possessions to give half to the poor. "He who has two... give to him who has none." This is exactly what Zacchaeus had done. And since Zacchaeus had already defrauded others and collected more than what was appropriate, he went and made it right with them by going over and above the requirements of the Law, as found in Leviticus 6:1-5, and restored what he had taken as though he had stolen sheep... a "fourfold" requirement. (Exodus 22:1, and 2 Samuel 12:6) One might even surmise from this that Zacchaeus had made a practice of collecting the excess charge in sheep! Whatever the case, he had made it right, and the point to be made is that both Yeshua and John the Baptist made it very clear that it was works-alone, of loving others through charity as well as treating them the way he would want to be treated, that saved him from fire.
There are numerous other parables, stories, and teachings of Yeshua
that fit perfectly with the picture of two books, and the issue of works
of obedience to God's Laws being the critical deciding factor. To reiterate, the two great commandments
on which hang all God's Laws are; love the Lord your God with all your heart, and
love your neighbor as yourself. Having compassion on one's neighbors and loving
them by treating them as one would want to be treated will save a person from the lake
of fire and win for them eternal life... no matter what they believe. And loving God with all one's heart... demonstrated
by works of obedience to all His Laws... will win for a person their name
in the Lamb's Book of Life, citizenship to the New Jerusalem, and access
to the fruit of the Tree of Life.
Erroneous Christian Doctrines of Salvation
The Protestant evangelical doctrine of the need to be "born again"
Aside from the erroneous faith-alone doctrine of Paul that I address in later chapters, there are a number of renowned Protestant doctrines that are based on a complete misunderstanding of things Yeshua said. On the surface they appear to support Paul's faith-alone doctrine... but do not, and need to be addressed here. The first one is the teaching that one must be "born-again" to stay out of the lake of fire. This most popular of evangelical doctrines stems from a misunderstanding of Yeshua's meaning in his discourse with Nicodemus recorded in John chapter 3. I will quote the passage shortly, but there are a couple things that need to be established first.
In the text we are considering, Yeshua used the expression "Most assuredly, I say to you..." several times before making a very important point. In the Gospel of John, he used this expression 25 times. In 23 of those cases, the important point he states immediately following the expression has an obvious direct-connection to something that was said by him or someone else earlier in the same discourse. In other words, 23 out of 25 times, Yeshua did not just throw out a freebie-for-nothing truth. Something was said that precipitated his emphatic response. A number like 23 out of 25 times is a significant, if not startling precedent. The only two instances where it is not obvious, are the very first, and the very last times Yeshua used the phrase in John. Starting with the theory that this precedent might be a principle that is applicable in all cases, I have shown in my chapter concerning Yeshua's prophecy to Peter, that the precedent holds perfectly true for the last account as well. The only one left is the first account in John 3 where Yeshua speaks of being "born again". Would it not be prudent to at least consider the possibility that what Yeshua said here has at least something to do with what was said before it? If the classic evangelical interpretation is correct, this is the only case out of 25 times that Yeshua just up and offered something for nothing. In a moment, you will see that this first instance is no exception to the well established rule.
The other thing that must be established before quoting this passage concerns the phrase "the kingdom of God". We have already seen that this term does not refer to "heaven" and eternal life in general, but refers specifically to the New Jerusalem. But there is another extension of this meaning that Yeshua used on occasion and it is used that way again in John 3 along side the term "born again". This extended meaning is clearly seen in the following passages.
"And heal the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'" Luke 10:9
"But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you." Luke 11:20
According to these passages, Yeshua indicated that the kingdom of God is or includes the ability to work miracles! It is the rare and extraordinary ability a man has who has gained citizenship (which is the same as son-ship) to the kingdom of God while still in this world. Yeshua obviously had it, and now he tells Nicodemus about it.
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Yeshua by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one is able to do these signs that you do unless God is with him." John 3:1-2
Notice that Nicodemus brings up the issue of Yeshua's ability to work miracles and the significance of this fact. In light of this subject matter, now consider what Yeshua says to him.
Yeshua answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3
The Greek word translated "see" in this verse means, to know, get knowledge of, understand, perceive. Strong's # 1492. What Yeshua was saying to Nicodemus is that a person had to be born of the Spirit to have the ability to work miracles as he did! It had absolutely nothing to do with eternal life or getting to heaven. The subject matter that Nicodemus brought up and Yeshua addressed is the working of miracles, nothing more! This is further established as we continue. Notice also how Yeshua keys off certain words spoken before he uses the emphatic phrase "Most assuredly, I say to you...". They are highlighted in burnt red. This is corroborating evidence that what Yeshua said after his emphatic assurance has everything to do with something said before.
Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Yeshua answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is (the Spirit to) everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus answered and said to him. "How can these things be?" Yeshua answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" John 3:4-12
Being "born again" is being born of the Spirit into son-ship of God, and citizenship in the kingdom of the New Jerusalem. Very very few in this world have attained that distinction. But there were those who had attained it before Yeshua, and he reprimanded Nicodemus for not having a clue about it. As a teacher of Israel he should have known all about these things. He certainly would have known all about figures like Moses and Elijah, and he should have known how they came by their ability to work miracles. They had been born-again of the Spirit as well. This concept was nothing new and certainly not something that started only after Yeshua had risen from the dead as evangelical doctrine teaches. This may come as a shock to evangelicals, but Yeshua himself had been born again... the old-fashioned way! He won his son-ship the hard way, and did it to demonstrate that a man could still attain it through total submission and obedience to the Father. When did this occur for Yeshua? At his baptism.
And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven which said, "You are my beloved son, this day have I begotten you." Luke 3:22
It wasn't until after Yeshua was born again that day, that he began his ministry and worked miracles.
This version of Luke 3:22 is from the oldest known manuscripts dating from around 250 A.D. Since then, it has read, "...in you I am well pleased". It was apparently altered early-on, along with Matthew's account, because the earned son-ship picture was intolerable to those who needed Yeshua to be on an equal plane with the Father. This old version of Luke was also quoted often by the early 'fathers'. Also, in the book of Hebrews, the author twice stated, as though it were a well known historical fact, the words "this day have I begotten you" had been spoken to Yeshua. See Hebrews 1:5, 5:5
The proof that Yeshua was not speaking of eternal life in heaven after this life is in the fact that he told Nicodemus this born-again information should be basic common knowledge for a teacher of Israel of how things work on earth. Yeshua asked him how he was going to understand heavenly things when he hadn't even figured out earthly things yet.
"Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" John 3:10,12
It is only after asking this rhetorical question that Yeshua
goes ahead and tells Nicodemus about heavenly things and eternal life in
the famous passage that includes John 3:16. Before this, Yeshua's born-again
discourse had nothing to do with eternal life. It was about his ability to
No one... ...except through me
If one were to ask an evangelical Christian if a person can be saved without accepting Jesus as their savior, which to them is synonymous with being born again, you would be answered with, "well, Jesus said...", and they would go on to quote their end-all-debate passage from the Gospel of John. It is an answer that is to be understood as "no", and implied that such a person will certainly spend eternity in the torments of the lake of fire. The verse that is quoted and the interpretation that has been laminated on it have been used as a proof-text for so long by evangelists like Billy Graham, that it is almost impossible for anyone to read it anymore without automatically hearing the evangelical's interpretation. The fact that it is almost always quoted to answer the question if one can be saved without knowing Jesus establishes the false presupposition that the passage has something to do with the question. Thus, we automatically hear the "no" interpretation. But if a person had never heard this passage used this way and read it for the first time, it is doubtful they would come to the same conclusion. And if it had been read in light of everything Yeshua had said in the book of John up to that point, it would have been understood perfectly well... just as those who heard him understood him. The verse you will hear, quoted all by itself is...
"I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6
There it is! Case closed... right? Unless one accepts Jesus as his savior he will never get to heaven, and therefore he will spend eternity in hell! When reading these words a person can see Billy Graham waving his hand and hear his accent in his thundering authoritative voice as he emphasizes the words "No one". Not surprisingly, many evangelicals who quote this verse this way couldn't tell you the context in which it is found or tell you to whom Yeshua was speaking when he said it. This is in spite of the fact that nearly everyone is familiar with the text. It is because this verse has to be ripped out of its context for it to have the full effect of the desired interpretation. After hearing this verse used this way, one would naturally assume that the context in which it was stated must be similar to the debate that precipitated its use by the evangelical. One would expect there to have been a serious discussion, where Yeshua made a statement concerning how one is saved, then a question arose of if there was any hope for others who didn't find that way, and then we would read what has been portrayed as Yeshua's hard-nose, exclude-all-others answer. None of this can be found there. There was nothing somber or threatening spoken in this scene at all! On the contrary, Yeshua had just given a sweet, peaceful promise to his disciples, and he spoke these words to them in answer to a question from Thomas...
"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?" Yeshua said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:1-6
This was in no way a statement of exclusivity. Yeshua's emphasis was on "I", not "No one". The words "No one" were spoken gently as a sweet assurance and personal promise to his disciples that he would be making sure they got to the place he was going to prepare for them. To be sure, they perfectly understood him this way, because they had also heard him say the Father had committed the judgment of all men to him.
"For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the son." "For even as the Father has life in Himself, so He gave also to the son to have life in himself. And he gave authority to him to also execute judgment, for he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming in which all those in the tombs will hear his voice. And they will come out, the ones having done good into a resurrection of life, and the ones having practiced evil in to a resurrection of judgment." John 5:22,26-29 KJIIV
This is what Yeshua meant by the words, "No one comes to the Father except through me". Only in the sense that Yeshua will judge every man is how he meant that no one gets to the Father around him. This is true whether a person believes in him or not! All he was saying, and what the disciples heard him say would be along the lines of this paraphrase.
"I told you I will be judging every man and determining where they go, and that includes you! So don't let your heart be troubled. You know the judge personally. I am the way. Be assured... I will see to it that you get there."
In summary, it is wrong to use John 14:6 as a proof-text for the evangelical doctrine that suggests unless a man accepts Jesus as his savior, he has no hope of salvation and will therefore spend eternity in the torments of the lake of fire. In John 5:29 Yeshua said that those who have "done good" will be saved and receive a just degree of eternal life.
Many evangelicals honestly believe that unless a Jew
accepts Jesus as his savior, he will end up in the lake of fire.
It's hard to express how repulsive this lie is... especially when
there are many Jews who keep both great commandments and
do good by loving the Lord their God and their neighbors
as themselves. Considering Christianity's
horrifying treatment of the Jews throughout most of it's history, is it any wonder why Jews typically want nothing to do with Christianity's
Messiah? On judgment day, no one will want to be in the shoes of one who
made a mockery of the judge to his "brethren".
Catholicism and salvation through the 'eucharist'
The Catholic church teaches that the only way to eternal life is through eating "the body of Christ" and drinking his blood. For those who are not familiar with this teaching it can be quite a shock when they first hear of it, because it naturally conjures up images of cannibalism. The eating of "the body of Christ" and drinking his blood is generally practiced weekly during the "celebration of the mass". During the mass, the priest blesses bread and wine, and through a mystery known only to God, the elements are supposedly transformed into the very flesh and blood of Christ. This human flesh and blood is called the eucharist. It is fundamental Catholic doctrine that unless a person takes these elements into his body, he will not have eternal life. Therefore, those who don't are doomed to spend eternity in the lake of fire. It is taught by the Church that only the Catholic Church has the power and authority through it's priests to make this mysterious change from bread to human flesh, and wine to human blood. This authority was supposedly given to the Church from the Lord and passed down by "apostolic succession" through the ages in its leaders. This doctrine stems from another terrible misunderstanding of Yeshua's words from the Gospel of John.
"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life, Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Then Yeshua said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed, He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven--not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead, He who eats this bread will live forever." These things he said in the synagogue as he taught in Capernaum. John 6:47-59
On the surface, it certainly appears as though the Catholic Church may have something here. Especially when this passage is coupled with words Yeshua spoke during the Passover seder just before his crucifixion. It is believed that this is where the Lord instituted the first mass and told his disciples to continue it.
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me. " Likewise he also took the cup after supper saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for you." Luke 22:19-20
If a person had never read the first passage from John and read this one from Luke, he would most likely understand Yeshua the way his disciples did, in that he was speaking figuratively, and the bread and the wine only represented his body and blood and were not literally human flesh and blood. Yeshua often spoke in figures of speech. When Yeshua said that his disciples were the "salt of the earth", are we to conclude they were literally made of salt? Or when he said they were "light" that they literally glowed? Or when he called his follower "sheep" they were literally sheep? Or when he said, "I am the vine, you are the branches" he meant he was literally a vine... and so on. How silly is it then to conclude that bread was literally his flesh and some wine was literally his blood? These were figures of speech that simply represented something. Yeshua made a regular practice of speaking in figures of speech for a reason.
"These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father." John 16:25
But when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parable. And he said to them, "To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that 'Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand...'" And with many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable he did not speak to them. And when they were alone, he explained all things to his disciples. Mark 4:10-12,33-34
Just as when a Protestant evangelical quotes from John "No man comes to the Father.." and leaves it out of context, so also the Catholic teacher typically leaves out important information that comes before, and immediately following John 6:47-59 as quoted above. What comes before this passage sheds a lot of light on what Yeshua was trying to accomplish by saying the things he did concerning his flesh being food and blood being drink. The story starts at the beginning of the chapter with the feeding of the five thousand. The people were amazed and thrilled to see that a man could turn just a little food into so much, and some of them chased after him because they wanted the free meals. (Verses 26,27) Yeshua confronts them about it and tells them to do better. But they still can't get free food off their minds and bring up the subject of the manna that God fed their fathers in the wilderness. (verse 31) So Yeshua in essence tells them to think of him and what he has to say as their food and life and what they should be seeking for as diligently as they were seeking mere bread. They still grumbled and didn't get it. Yeshua only continues then in a strong figure to liken himself to food and drink in verses 47-59 for the very purpose of confounding them and turning them away. They didn't get it. They didn't want it. So he didn't want them around anymore looking only for free meals and he got rid of them! The whole time he was trying to get their minds off literal real bread and onto the spiritual food that he had to offer.
Then what follows Yeshua's strong figure of speech is where he clearly explains to his confused followers that remained just exactly what he meant, just as Mark 4 said he did all the time. "And when they were alone, he explained all things to his disciples. " But you virtually never hear Yeshua's explanation quoted in context by a Catholic teacher. I honestly believe that many Catholics don't even know Yeshua's explanation exists right there where they left off.
Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?" When Yeshua knew in himself that his disciples murmured about this, he said to them, "Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The WORDS that I speak to you are spirit, and THEY are life." ...From that time many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more. Then Yeshua said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" Then Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." John 6:47-63, 66-68
Yeshua had been talking about his flesh giving eternal life, so when he said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing" what "flesh" was he obviously talking about? What flesh had he been talking about? His flesh! And he said it profits "nothing". Then he said, "The words that I speak to you (here now in my flesh and blood) they are spirit, and they are life".
It was not unusual for Yeshua to refer to the will and word of God figuratively as bread and food.
In the meantime his disciples urged him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." Therefore the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought him anything to eat?" Yeshua said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work." John 4:31-34
Hypothetically, imagine if an early sect of Christianity had gotten a hold of the evangelical's favorite passage from John concerning being "born again", and taken it literally the way the Catholic church has taken Yeshua's words concerning eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Even as the Jews said, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat", Nicodemous asked, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Let your imagination run with that for a minute. If that sect had won out in the power struggle of the early church, there might well be a church today with special, holy, surrogate mothers, possessing unique powers passed down from Mary by virginic-succession, who have stretched themselves all out of shape so people could get at least apart of themselves inside, call it good enough, and then come back out in a mysterious new birth into the church... the one-and-only kingdom of God on earth! This institution might even require being "born-again" every time a person sinned! Intelligent, well-educated people everywhere would have been members for generations and never give the rituals a second thought. In all seriousness, is practicing cannibalism, because of a near identical misunderstanding much more realistic? In both cases, Yeshua clearly used only figures of the physical world to illustrate truths of the Spirit. To Nicodemous he said,
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." John 3:6
To his disciples concerning eating his flesh he said,
"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" John 6:63
Preservation at all cost
The frustrating... yet telling thing in all this is that a Catholic
person will clearly see the errors I have pointed out in the salvation doctrines
of evangelical Christianity, and the evangelicals clearly see the errors in the salvation doctrines of Catholicism, but none can see the errors in
themselves. These institutions have gained a life of their own and simply
are not going to give up their exclusive claim to salvation... roll over and die. The pope is never going to come to
some day and say, "We have been mistaken concerning the eucharist. It has been a
terrible misunderstanding, because the Lord was speaking
figuratively in John 6!" It simply isn't going
to happen. The mass, and the supposed exclusive authority to perform it passed
down through apostolic succession, is what makes and keeps Catholicism
exclusive. Recently, in July of 2007, pope Benedict XVI reasserted the Church's
exclusive claim to salvation when
he said that all other Christian communities are not "true Christian"
and are "defective". He said, "Christ established only one
Church." The implications of this statement are clear. Members of all other
forms of Christianity are doomed to spend eternity in the torments of the lake
of fire. The leaders of these institutions must of necessity speak this way.
It's simply bad for business to suggest that a person can get what they need
somewhere else! The same can be said of Protestant evangelical Christianity in
it's many forms. Billy Graham is not going to get out of bed some day and say,
"Oops! Hey everybody! I've had this 'born-again' thing all wrong!
The Lord was talking about his ability to work miracles." This also is not going
to happen. I have no doubt that these leaders truly believe what they teach, and
that many of them genuinely care about others. They cannot be faulted for their initial motives in
this regard. But they can be faulted when it becomes apparent that the
preservation of the institutions they lead is more important than the truth when
their error is exposed.
Christianity, a positive influence on society?
One might argue that these Christian institutions have
positive influence on society and provide a needed family-oriented moral fiber
to society. But where are we really at in society, and how did we get here? For
many hundreds of years, the Christian church kept the masses illiterate and
in the dark ages for the purpose of maintaining control. It could have educated the common
people... but it didn't. Educated people are always a threat to institutions and
dictatorships that are founded on lies. The educated masses might actually read Yeshua's words for themselves
and leave the church. Only the clergy was permitted to read and interpret the Bible.
Less than 500 years ago, William Tyndale was burned at the stake for the heresy of
translating the Bible into English and making it available to the common man!
Just try to comprehend and imagine the implications of this fact of history! And
this was by no means an isolated anomaly in the Church. It was more like the
final-straw that finally got a few people to take a stand against the tyranny
of the Church. After Protestant Christianity became the official religion of England, many
had to leave England to start a new country and
life of freedom from religious tyranny here in America. History has proven that
whenever any form of religion becomes a political institution, its motives
become those of power and control. Inevitably, it always becomes an evil tyranny
extortion through terroristic threats of one kind or another. This fact is clearly seen by those of us in the west
when we look at the countries that are run by Islam! There is no freedom there,
and where there is no freedom, there is virtually no invention. So it could more easily be argued that Christianity has historically been
a greater hindrance to freedom and progress. It wasn't until men were free from religious
tyranny and free to educate themselves that the industrial age began. Now, to the extent that the second greatest
commandment to love others, and treat others as one would want to be treated was
practiced by church members, this would naturally have a positive stabilizing
effect on any society, but no religious institution has cornered the market on
good-will toward other men. This country was established on the "self-evident" truths of human dignity and value endowed by man's creator, where all
religious institutions were forbidden from taking control of the government made
the people, by the people, for the people. Only after such a government
came into existence... free from the control of all religious institutions,
did education, progress, and technology finally grow wings, and we find
ourselves with many of the benefits we enjoy today.
Christianity hindering those from entering the kingdom
The most serious problem that Christian institutions have created with their exclusive doctrines of salvation is that they have made it literally impossible for their followers to enter the true Kingdom of God and get their names written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Getting people into the Kingdom is what God is hoping for... the very purpose for having ventured on this risky creation in the first place. It was designed to bring into existence a worthy bride for the son! But keeping men blind to this truth, and making it impossible for them to be a part of it has been Satan's goal from the start! And like it or not, Christianity has unwittingly been his pet tool to accomplish it. How has Christianity made it impossible to enter the Kingdom of God? It has been by making it impossible for men to accomplish the greatest commandment, to "love the Lord your God with all your heart"! It is absolutely impossible for any human to truly love God if they believe any of Christianity's exclusive doctrines of salvation because they are all lies about God and His character. There is no possible way a man can become fond of, or longingly attracted to a being whom he honestly believes throws good and decent men into the lake of fire to be tormented forever on a religious technicality. Men can certainly fear such a being. But this kind of fear is the antithesis of love. The "fear" God calls for is an awesome trembling respect and honor of His greatness... not the terror of a capricious, inconsistent, unrighteous tyrant. God wants man to know Him and understand Him, and to be fondly attracted to Him because He has indeed perfectly personified goodness and righteousness. Right from the start, it has been Satan's purpose to infect men with his disease, the belief that one can be more righteous and greater than God. He does this subtly by convincing men to call God's righteousness into question. Remember the garden of Eden? It comes at us today from every direction. It's even in the titles of popular Christian books like, "When God doesn't make sense" by James Dobson! God is not, and has never been, the problem!
Here is a simple test to know if you are capable of loving God and fulfilling the greatest commandment. Hypothetically, imagine someone you love whom you consider to be a good person, having died... not coming to accept the particular exclusive doctrine of salvation you hold dear. Now imagine on judgment day God giving you the responsibility of judging a number of people and determining their eternal fate by that same exclusive doctrine. If that person you loved suddenly appeared before you, would you sentence him/her to eternal torment in the lake of fire? (God help you, if you said "yes"!) Nearly everyone would say, "No, of course I wouldn't send a good person whom I love to the lake of fire. I wouldn't do it to any decent person for that matter." But here is the clincher. If you really believe God would do it when you wouldn't, think about what you are saying. You are saying your concept of righteousness is greater than God's, which is the same as saying you believe God is unrighteous! And herein does Satan's lie have its most devastating effect. He wants men to think God is unrighteous because it is not humanly possible for a person to become fondly attracted to someone he believes is unrighteous. The definition of righteousness is not the problem. Just because God does something, it doesn't make it righteous! Righteousness is a standard that God holds Himself to, by which He has made a great name for Himself. (More on this later) The problem all along has been the exclusive salvation doctrines from hell that men have believed. It has crippled men from ever being able to fulfill the greatest commandment to love God with all his heart, and so his name is never written in the Lamb's Book of Life.
Here is another test to see how fond you are of The Almighty. Ask yourself if the following promise Yeshua made has any appealing effect to you?
"He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more." Revelation 3:12
Those who know God can't begin to think of a better place to spend eternity... in His very presence. The awesome beauty of His perfect Righteousness, Holiness, and Goodness would take an eternity to absorb. But if this promise has no appeal to you, because the picture of being stuck in a temple next to God sounds like a downer to you, you don't know God. You aren't attracted to Him and can't love Him because of the lies you have believed about Him. Thus you will have little to no desire to obey His Law and please Him so you can be near Him. Satan has won, and your name is not in the Lamb's Book of Life. But that can change if you break-off the shackles of lies. God is good and perfectly righteous in everything He has ever done, and He will judge every man righteously according to his works... what each man did with what he was given.
The ones who will have the most difficult time on judgment day will be the same as the ones Yeshua condemned when he was on earth the first time. It will be the religious leaders. What he said to them might well be said against most of today's religious institutions and their leaders. He might even say something like the following paraphrase of Matthew 23.
"Religious institutions and their leaders who claim to represent me teach some of the Law of Moses. Therefore, to the extent that they do, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. Be it known, they do not represent me. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They love the best places at banquets, the best seats in the churches, greetings in the malls, and to be called by men, 'pastor', and 'father'. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called 'pastor'; for one is your pastor, the Messiah. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. But woe to you, 'preachers' and 'priests' hypocrites! For through your exclusive doctrines of salvation you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, preachers. priests, and televangelists, hypocrites. For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, evangelicals who nullify God's Law, hypocrites. For you travel land and sea to win one convert, and when he is won, you teach him doctrines that prevent him and others from entering the kingdom of heaven and make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, leaders of the churches, hypocrites. For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Woe especially to you, televangelists, for you are like a whitewashed tomb which indeed appears beautiful outwardly, but inside is full of dead men's bones and all manner of filth and rot. You and your kind are the worst at devouring widows' houses. You lie to the vulnerable and tell them I will bless them if they give to you. You may outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and damnable doctrines that nullify the Law of God and make a mockery of me and my name. In total vanity have you claimed to represent me, and for this you will not be held guiltless. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?"
The worst and most damaging doctrine of salvation.
The worst doctrine of salvation has yet to be mentioned. It too, has its origin with the father of lies, because there is none like it in its ability to suck the life and love out of a person by causing them to take a fatalistic view of every circumstance of life. If a person has no say in what happens to them, it again makes it impossible to think fondly of God... let alone fall madly in love with Him. It is the Protestant teaching of predestination and the micro-managing picture of a sovereign God who has foreordained everything (even the evil in the world), in what is typically know as Calvinist doctrine. In Christianity, these doctrines also have their origin in Paul. Paul is the very one who started Christianity down the road of nullifying God's Law. Take a close look at something Paul said.
"For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:14
Yeshua said something very different.
Yeshua said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:37-40
Do you see the two-book picture in Yeshua's words? What ever happened to loving the Lord your God with all your heart in Paul's world? Isn't it interesting, that the man who preached predestination (the picture of an unrighteous God who fore-ordained people's eternal destiny to heaven or hell, and even ordained the evil in the world) and taught that the Law of God had become obsolete, had himself totally lost the concept of loving God?
In light of the knowledge that one must fulfill the greatest commandment to Love God with all ones heart and demonstrate it by obedience to His Law in order to have their name written in the Lamb's Book of Life, how damaging and downright evil in the eyes of heaven do you suppose is this outright lie from Paul?
"...for by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified." Galatians 2:16
Moses said in the Law itself...
"Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us." Deuteronomy 6:25
Sign of the end of the age
One day, Yeshua's disciples asked him what the sign of his coming, and the end of the age would be. His answer is below. As you read it, bear in mind a couple of things. When a person calls himself a "Christian", he is saying he represents Christ. Also factor into this that Yeshua said there would be "many" who claim his title. How many are there who actually claim to be the messiah? Also take notice of why the love of many grows cold. Yeshua says it's because of anomia again... the negation of God's Law. We live in a day and age when there is more man-made law, and more order in society because of law-enforcement than there ever has been in history. It still isn't good... but it's better than ever. Yeshua couldn't have been speaking of man's laws then. Compared to the past, that kind of lawlessness is not "abounding" today. Here is what we are to expect at the end of the age.
And Yeshua answered and said to them; "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' ("Christian") and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet." "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because Law-less-ness (teaching against God's Law) will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom (the Lamb's Book of Life?!) will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, (it's on the world-wide-web now!) and then the end will come." Matthew 24:4-6,11-14
In the following chapters I will address the doctrine of predestination, as well as Paul's teaching against the Law of God. We will reopen the prosecution's case against him as recorded in Acts 21 (which was never settled), and we will re-examine Paul's credibility and supposed credentials to teach the things he did. To the dismay of Christians everywhere, it will become quite apparent that Paul was the very false apostle Yeshua had commended the Ephesian church for rejecting in Revelation 2:2.
If you have found this chapter compelling, please pass it along to friends and family.
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