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New Wine for the End Times
Chapter 6
Three Types of People in the Grave

The four parables of the Olivetti Discourse suggest there are three types of people in the grave: (1) the wise, (2) the foolish, and (3) the wicked.  We can now continue our study of Daniel 12 to see why Daniel 12 supports these three groups.  The terms “wise” and “wicked” come from Daniel 12.  The term “foolish” comes from Matthew 24-25, interpreted in the context of Daniel 12.  The terms “wise” and “foolish” can also be found in the Sermon on the Mount.

Our study of Daniel 12:1-2 began in chapter 1 of this book.  Here, we go into more details.  We will also get into verse 3 of Daniel 12.  This verse tells us about the wise, who will teach the foolish.

In Daniel 12:1, we find the great tribulation.

Daniel 12:1a ESV "At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.

Then, in verse 2, we find the resurrection.  Since this resurrection immediately follows the great tribulation, the resurrection happens on the “last day” before the Messianic reign of Christ.

Daniel 12:1b-2 ESV But at that time your people shall be delivered [escape], everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. (2) And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Notice that not everyone who sleeps in the dust of the earth is resurrected.  “Many of those who sleep” will be resurrected.  But not all are resurrected when Christ returns.  Of those resurrected, some are resurrected to everlasting life, and others to shame and everlasting contempt.  Only those whose names are found in the Book (of Life) are resurrected.  They are the “many of those who sleep.”  The remainder, who are not resurrected, are those who are not in the Book of Life.

Some people believe that those “delivered” in verse 1b are people being delivered from the great tribulation.  Is everyone whose name is in the Book of Life delivered from the great tribulation?  Even those who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture would not be able to make this claim.  Those who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture also believe in tribulation saints, whose names would also be in this book.

I do not believe the text is saying that anyone is "delivered" from the great tribulation.  They are "delivered" from the grave.  The better and primary translation of this Hebrew word is "escape."  They "escape" from the grave.  Therefore, those who “escape” from the grave are those whose names are in the Book of Life.  “Everyone whose name shall be found written in the book”, will “escape” the grave.  Therefore, those who escape to shame and contempt are also in the Book of Life!

They don't "escape" the tribulation.  God does not promise escape or deliverance from trials, tribulations, or persecutions.  Some will survive.  But to say that this text is talking about surviving through it would not fit the word "delivered" or "escape."  Many whose names are in the Book of Life will not survive through the tribulation.

Not everyone is resurrected.  “Many of those who sleep” are resurrected.  However, “many” does not mean all.  Those whose names are not in the Book of Life are not resurrected.  Yet those who are resurrected include both the just and the unjust (ESV Acts 24:15, John 5:25, 28-29).  Those who are resurrected include some to everlasting life, and some to shame and contempt.

From 1 Corinthians 2:14 to 3:3, Paul outlines three types of people.  

 In verse 14 of chapter 2, Paul speaks of the natural man.  The natural man “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.”  The natural man is the wicked.  Even when the Spirit of God shows him truth, the natural man rejects this truth.

 Secondly, in verse 1 of chapter 3 Paul speaks of the fleshly (carnal) man.  This is Paul’s letter to the problem-ridden church at Corinth.  Paul addresses them as carnal Christians.  Yet Paul makes it clear that they are saved (1 Cor. 1:2‑9).

 Thirdly, in verse 15 of chapter 2, Paul speaks of the spiritual man.  The spiritual man “judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one,” according to Paul.  This would not fit the description of the fleshly (carnal) man, who still struggles with sin.


The Wise

The Foolish

The Wicked

1 Corinthians 
2:14 to 3:3

The spiritual man

The fleshly (carnal) man

The natural man

Dan 12:2

Awake to everlasting life

Awake to shame and contempt.

Not the many.  Not all are raised.

John 5:25,

Those who have done good

Those who have done evil

Those who do not hear Christ’s voice

Acts 24:15

The Just

The Unjust

1 John 5:16-18

Does not sin

Sin not leading to death

Sin leading to death

Rev 20:4-5

Represented by those beheaded

Those being reigned over during the millennium

The rest of the dead, who take the mark of the beast

Hosea 13:12-13


Wise and Wicked Servants

The Wise Servant

The Wicked Servant

Ten Virgins

Five Wise

Five Foolish

The Sheep and the Goats

The Brothers of Christ

The Sheep of the nations

The Goats of the nations

The Wedding Banquet

The Bride

The Guests, both good and bad

The Elite, originally invited

Sermon on the Mount

Narrow Gate
Builds House on Rock

Wide Gate
Builds House on Sand

Compare these three types of people in 1 Corinthians 2:14 - 3:3 with three types of people found in the grave.  Daniel 12:2 would seem to define three similar types of people as Paul has described.  There are minor difference in the middle group because Paul was specifically addressing the Church; not those in the grave.  The middle group in the grave would include those who had not yet heard about Christ, or who didn’t understand enough to want to join a church.

Here again is the verse in Daniel:

Daniel 12:2 ESV And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Here is Young’s Literal Translation of this verse:

Daniel 12:2 YLT And the multitude of those sleeping in the dust of the ground do awake, some to life age-during , and some to reproaches -- to abhorrence age-during.

The middle (unjust) group contains people described as resurrected to “reproaches” and resurrected to everlasting “abhorrence.”  The Hebrew word translated “abhorrence” is a much stronger word than the Hebrew word translated “reproaches.”  Abhorrence is found only in one other verse of the Bible.

The eternal state of those resurrected to shame and everlasting contempt has not yet been determined.  As we will see, some of them will be resurrected to reproaches, but will then advance in wisdom and will later inherit everlasting life.  Others in this group will be resurrected to reproaches, and will fall into everlasting abhorrence.  In other words, some in this group will wind up being eternally saved, and others will wind up forfeiting their salvation.

To understand better, we need to take a look at the Hebrew word used here for “abhorrence.”  This Hebrew word is used only one other time in the Old Testament.  Isaiah 66:24 uses this word to describe the people who are killed at the battle of Armageddon.  It says their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched.  This is not to say that the resurrected foolish group includes those killed at Armageddon.  Those killed at Armageddon will have taken the mark of the beast, so they won’t be resurrected.  It’s just saying that some in the foolish group will die a second death, and then their death is everlasting abhorrence.

In Mark 9:45, Jesus quotes Isaiah 66:24 when he says people will be thrown into hell-fire because of sin.  He says their worm will not die, and their fire is not quenched.  We must remember that sin can still lead to the lake of fire, even if the unjust are given additional chances to trust in Christ after the resurrection.  Even now, before Christ returns, sin can lead some to commit the unpardonable sin, preventing them from being resurrected when Christ returns.

Isaiah is a book of poetry.  Things in Isaiah are said in a poetic way.  To say the "worm never dies" is simply saying they are not resurrected.  They stay in the grave.  There is no literal worm.  So to say it does not die is to say that the state of death remains.  They will not be saved from the grave.

The Hebrew word translated “reproaches” is not nearly as strong as the one for “abhorrence.”  It means “shame” or “disgrace.”  It’s used 73 times in the Old Testament.  The word is often used in reference to the people of Israel.  It’s not considered an irreversible condition.  Those resurrected without spiritual bodies would be in “shame” or in “disgrace.”  This resurrected unjust group is described with both the words “reproaches” and “abhorrence.”  Over time, the resurrection of “reproaches” can turn into eternal life.  So the “reproaches” is not everlasting.  But if the resurrection of “reproaches” becomes “abhorrence,” then it’s eternal.  That’s why the word for everlasting, in the text, is only applied to “abhorrence” and not to “reproaches.”

 Two types of people in the unjust group are given because the fate of the unjust group is not yet determined.  During the millennium, each individual in this unjust group will eventually become either righteous like those in the just group, or they will fall further into “abhorrence” and be eventually condemned to Gehenna (hell), like those in the wicked group.  After the millennium, at the judgment, those who wind up being eternally in a state of “abhorrence” will be like those who take the mark of the beast.  They will be blotted from the Book of Life.  They will die a second death.  Their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched.

Now, let’s look at the next verse.

Daniel 12:3 ESV And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Daniel 12:3 tells us the “wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens,” and that they are like the stars.  The verse also says they will lead many to righteousness.  What does it mean to shine like the “brightness of the heavens?”  At the same time, what does it mean to be like the stars?

Stars can be symbolic of angels (Isaiah 14:12-14, Rev. 1:20, 12:4, 19:1).  We know that angels literally shine (Matthew 28:2-3, Luke  2:9, Acts 12:7).  When we get our spiritual bodies, we will be like the angels (Matthew 22:30, Luke 20:36), and we will also shine (Matthew 17:2).  In the age to come, “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of [our] Father” (Matthew 13:43).  The wise will shine like the angels, and will lead many to righteousness.  So the wise will lead the foolish to righteousness.  Notice that the foolish do not have spiritual bodies.  But they are taught by those who do.  Some of the foolish, however, will continue in their foolishness and will eventually become wicked.

Read Young’s Literal Translation of the verse:

Daniel 12:3 YLT And those teaching do shine as the brightness of the expanse, and those justifying the multitude as stars to the age and for ever.

Notice that he translates the wise as “those teaching.”  The Hebrew word means those who are intelligent, and the word is associated with teachers.  Also notice that they teach to the “age,” and “forever.”  The context here is right after the resurrection.  So they teach into the age to come, and then forever.  Let’s look back at the ESV translation again.

Daniel 12:3 ESV And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Some (amillennialists) say that the wise are not teachers because they will have nobody to teach.  The Hebrew word does not require that they be teachers.  They can simply be wise, who would be able to teach.  But the text itself says the wise "turn many to righteousness."  This is teaching.  Those resurrected to “shame” and “contempt” will need to be taught.  The wise will “turn many [but not all] to righteousness.”

6.1)  Three Types of People in John 5:16-30

We must always interpret Scripture in its context.  Jesus had healed the man at the pool of Bethesda, who had been a cripple for thirty-eight years.  The Jewish leaders began to persecute Jesus and were trying to kill him for doing this on the Sabbath (verse 16).  Therefore, Jesus is addressing those who see the miracles but deny they are done by God.  They do not hear Christ's voice.  Therefore, they will not be resurrected.  Also, remember that salvation is being saved from the grave.

In this context, these Jewish leaders are the wicked who have eyes to see, but do not see.  They have ears to hear, but do not hear.  They see the miracles, but will not accept Christ.  As you read this passage, don’t forget who the audience is.

John 5:16-30 For this cause the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill him, because he did these things on the Sabbath.  (17) But Jesus answered them, "My Father is still working, so I am working, too."   (18) For this cause therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.  

(19) Jesus therefore answered them, "Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise.  (20) For the Father has affection for the Son, and shows him all things that he himself does. He will show him greater works than these, that you may marvel.  (21) For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he desires.  (22) For the Father judges no one, but he has given all judgment to the Son,  (23) that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who doesn't honor the Son doesn't honor the Father who sent him.

(24) "Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn't come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.  (25) Most certainly, I tell you, the hour comes, and now is, when the dead will hear the Son of God's voice ; and those who hear will live.  (26)  For as the Father has life in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life in himself.  (27) He also gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man.

(28) Don't marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice ,  (29) and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.   (30) I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous; because I don't seek my own will, but the will of my Father who sent me.

The Jewish leaders were not willing to hear Christ’s voice.  Thus, Jesus is saying that Jesus himself will condemn them.  They will not be resurrected because Jesus is the Judge who decides who will be resurrected.  All those who are raised hear Christ's voice and come out of the tomb, whether or not they do good or evil.  Jesus is only condemning the Jewish leaders who were not willing to hear Christ’s voice, even a voice as strong as the miracles.  Thus, in addressing the Jewish leaders directly, he is saying that if they don't hear Christ's voice, they will not be resurrected.

Many translations of these verses will tend to replace some of the words “judgment” with “condemnation” or "damnation."  The ESV and WEB translators were good enough to be consistent within the same context.  Doing otherwise only imposes the translator’s personal doctrines into the text.  Because most translators believe there are only two types of people in the grave, they don’t understand what Jesus was saying.  So they tend to interpretatively change some of the words for “judgment” to “condemnation” or "damnation."

Jesus is not saying those who do evil are to be resurrected for condemnation.  And it’s not a resurrection “for judgment.”  It’s a resurrection “of judgment.”  As they live, they are judged.  These Jewish leaders have refused to hear Christ’s voice.  However, most people have not seen the miracles.  Jesus is saying the dead will be given a chance to live under Christ’s judgment.  They will be given a chance to live when Christ is King of Kings.  Then, they will have the opportunity for eternal life.  But the Jewish leaders had hardened their hearts to Christ’s voice.

Many of the translations use the word “condemnation” in verse 29.  They assume those who do evil will be resurrected in order to be condemned.  However, being condemned for doing evil, and receiving life for doing good, doesn’t fit salvation by grace.  Did the thief on the cross do good or evil?  Salvation is by grace alone.  Without an understanding of the three types of people, translators wind up turning this verse into a salvation-by-works verse.

Another verse where this translation inconsistency occurs is in verse 24.  They render it as, “He doesn't come into condemnation, but has passed out of death into life.”  That’s true, but it’s not what Jesus is saying.  And there is another Greek word for condemnation that could have been used, if that had been Jesus’ intent (Luke 6:37).  Those who are resurrected with eternal life will not be judged (James 5:9).

Think about it this way:  The verse says, "whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (verse 24, ESV).  Notice the fact that they hear Christ's voice?  They not only hear his word; they also believe that word.  The Greek word for belief also means to have faith in that word.  They act upon that belief.  And they have eternal life.  If they have eternal life, then how can they come into any type of judgment that would cause them to lose their life?  So, the verse says they "do not come into judgment."  Since they won’t be judged, they won’t be condemned.  They no longer live a life that is under judgment.

Compare and contrast this with those who have not as yet matured in Christ.  Those who have matured in Christ no longer have sinful habits their lives.  So they are doing good.  Those who have not yet matured in Christ still have sinful habits in their lives.  So they are still doing evil.  Because of this, when they are resurrected, they will still be living a life that is still under judgment.  And later, if they do not mature in Christ, they will wind up rejecting Christ and will be subject to the second death (Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, and 21:8).

Both those resurrected to life, and those resurrected to judgment, are resurrected from the grave.  That means both are saved from the grave.  Salvation is by grace alone.  Both groups are thus saved.  But it takes work to inherit the kingdom.  Therefore, this verse is not saying that salvation is for those who do good, and not for those who do evil.  But if the resurrection of judgment is interpreted as a resurrection of condemnation, then salvation does become strictly for those who do more good than evil instead of by grace alone.

From this passage we see three types of people in the grave.  

 The wicked, like the Jewish leaders, do not hear Christ’s voice.  Verse 25 says that the dead “who hear” will live.  Jesus is saying the Jewish leaders do not hear Christ’s voice.  So they will not be resurrected when Christ returns.

 The fleshly (carnal) are those who do evil.  Verse 29 says they will hear Christ’s voice from the tomb, and will come out to a resurrection of judgment.  Since they hear Christ’s voice, they are not like the Jewish leaders who refuse to hear Christ.

 Verse 24 says those who hear Christ’s voice, and not only Christ’s voice but also Christ’s Word, and believe in that Word, will be resurrected to eternal life.  These are no longer under judgment.

6.2)  The Rest of the Dead in Revelation 20:4-6

Premillennialists traditionally interpret Revelation 20:4-5 as saying that all unbelievers are not raised until after the millennium.

Revelation 20:4-6 I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as didn't worship the beast nor his image, and didn't receive the mark on their forehead and on their hand. They lived, and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  (5) The rest of the dead didn't live until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.  (6) Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over these, the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him one thousand years.

First, we will examine the dispensational view and its problems.  Then we will see how the New Wine System resolves these problems.

Daniel 12:2 and John 5:28-29 seem to be in direct conflict with the dispensational view of Revelation 20.  With two-type thinking, dispensationalists tend to say that all the unrighteous-dead will not be raised until after the thousand years.  This seems to go against both Daniel 12:2 and John 5:28-29.  In John, both those who have done good and those who have done bad are resurrected in the same hour.  It’s not two hours separated by a thousand years.  And it’s not one hour stretched into a thousand years.  The Greek word for “hour” could be considered a short time, even a couple of years.  But it would never mean a thousand years.  

Dispensationalists tend to take Revelation 20, with its much harder-to-understand way of saying things, and let their interpretation of those harder verses overshadow the much simpler and earlier-written verses of Daniel 12:2 and John 5:28-29.  Dispensationalists have a very difficult time reconciling Revelation 20:4-6 with John 5:28-29.  And amillennialists use this argument against them.

It’s always important to read each verse in the context of the Scripture that pre-dated the verse.  Those alive at the time of Daniel would not have had John's Revelation.  Likewise, those alive at the time of Jesus would not have had John’s Revelation.  So we should be very careful when significantly changing the meaning of earlier verses based on a verse written years later.  Those living at the time of Daniel and Jesus would not have interpreted the words of Daniel and Jesus with a time-gap in-between.  We should never interpret Scripture in a way that would have been impossible for the audience of that time to do so.

The second problem with the dispensational view of Revelation 20 is that literally speaking, only those with their heads chopped off are raised.  They assume the martyrs represent all believers.  But literally speaking, only those whose heads are missing are raised.  With only two types of people, the “rest of the dead” would literally be everyone that does not have their head chopped off.  They have to make assumptions of symbolism in order to say the “rest of the dead” does not include those who die in Christ before the tribulation.

Of course you can always go to 2 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (the rapture verse) to point out that all those in Christ are raised just after the resurrection.  But it’s a problem when you have to use another verse to make any given verse say what you want it to say.  So dispensationalists have two really big problems with their view of Revelation 20:4-6.

Now, let's take a look at the verses from the New Wine System viewpoint.  I embrace the fact that it’s specifically the martyrs that John is speaking about.  He sees the souls of the martyrs who have died because of their testimony and “and didn't worship the beast nor his image, and didn't receive the mark on their forehead and on their hand."  This is the key phrase to focus upon.  He is not seeing the souls of those who died in Christ before the tribulation.  And he is not seeing the souls of the unrighteous before the tribulation either.

The context of Revelation 20 is Revelation 19, which is Armageddon.  The broader context is the tribulation period during which the saints are beheaded.  John is talking about the dead at Armageddon, and the dead martyrs of the tribulation period.  John is saying nothing directly about others who die before the tribulation.  However, it’s fair to learn from the examples of what John sees and talks about in order to get a broader picture.  We can then take the principles behind what John is seeing and apply them to everyone else.

In context, John is only talking about two types of dead people.  The vision looks at two extremes.  The two groups are those who take the mark of the beast and those who don’t for the sake of their testimony.  To take the mark of the beast, or not to take the mark of the beast. That’s the question.  Those who do not have to make this decision are outside the scope of what John is seeing.  Taking the mark of the beast is a deliberate action against Christ.  It’s not an action taken in ignorance.

Those condemned are condemned because they take specific actions against Christ.  They specifically harden their hearts against the miracles of God.  These miracles will be happening during the great awakening that is coming during the preaching of the two witnesses for 1260 days.  Those who take the mark of the beast after they have seen the miracles will be committing the unpardonable sin.  And everyone will see the miracles.  With no room for argument, everyone will know that Christ is returning.  I even think they will all see the New Jerusalem, which is Paradise, in orbit around the earth.  Bottom line is that taking the mark will be the deliberate and knowledgeable rejection of Christ.

Those who have died without knowing Christ have not taken the mark of the beast.  They have not explicitly rejected Christ.  They are outside the context of what John is seeing.

In context, the martyrs reign with Christ for a thousand years.  In that context, the “rest of the dead” would be those who take the mark of the beast.  Nothing is being said about those who die with or without Christ from before the tribulation.

Revelation 12:11 NIV They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

You can’t say this about all believers.  Before the tribulation, those who do not overcome are saved.  But they don’t inherit the kingdom.  During the tribulation, believers will have to make the choice between keeping their faith and keeping their lives.

We can look at what John said and draw a general principle for everyone.  Those who reject Christ, as in taking the mark of the beast, are the wicked.  They forfeit their salvation so they will not be raised to live in the Messianic kingdom.  The King does not save those who commit treason against him.

On the other hand, those who overcome sin through a relationship with Christ, and through the works of the Father are like the martyrs.  They do not shrink from death.  Those who get to the point where they would die for Christ, if they had to, will be raised to reign with Christ.  Everyone else will also be raised, but not with spiritual bodies.  They are still under judgment.

In other words, those who explicitly reject Christ are being compared to those who completely overcome sin to the point of being willing to die for Christ.  These are the two very-different groups being compared.  Those in the middle are still in the middle.  Even believers are still in the middle group if they have not yet overcome all the sinful habits in their lives.  And the rewards promised to the Church are only to those who overcome, as it says in each of the seven letters to the seven churches.  They will not reign with Christ.  But neither will they remain in Hades.  They are saved.  But they don’t inherit the kingdom.  You see, it all starts to come together once you break out of the traditional two-type system.

When you look at it this way, there is no longer a conflict between Revelation 20 and John 5:28-29, or with Daniel 12:2.  In Daniel 12:2, “many” of those who sleep in the dust of the earth are raised.  “Many” means not all.  Those who take the mark of the beast are not raised.  The word “many” allows for some to not be raised.  But this requires three types of people.  The wise who are raised to everlasting life. The foolish who are raised to shame and contempt.  And the wicked who are not raised.  However, the wicked come to life again after the thousand years for the Great White Throne Judgment.

If one does not interpret Revelation 20:4-5 in this more literal and in-context way that I've suggested, then how would one deal with Daniel 12:2, John 5:28-29, and Acts 24:15?  Do you insert a thousand years into these verses?  John 5:28-29 says both are resurrected in an "hour".  Does the hour become a thousand years?  Or does it become two separate hours?  Dispensationalists take this very complex passage in Revelation 20:4-6 and impose their interpretation onto the much simpler verses that pre-date its writing.  And that complex interpretation involves the beheaded as representing those who will reign with Christ.  In other words, they take a symbolic meaning and impose that interpretation on much simpler verses that state both are resurrected, at the same time, and thus they force the "hour" to become a thousand years.

6.3)  The Earth Will Give Birth To Her Dead

Isaiah 26:9‑21 is the first place in Scripture where the resurrection is clearly described.  A close study of these verses show some people do not get resurrected, but the high majority of those in the grave are resurrected.

Verse 13 talks about rulers, other than God, who have ruled over Israel in the past.  Verse 14 says they are dead now.  So Isaiah is not talking about other gods.  He is talking about past rulers of Egypt, from the time of the Exodus.  They saw the plagues on Egypt, knew that it was the work of God, but they chose to ignore the fact that God was personally speaking through these plagues.  That's the unpardonable sin.  Verse 14 says, they will not be raised from the dead.

The context of these, who are not raised, is best established with verses  9 and 10.  God's judgments come upon the earth.  Again, this is like the plagues upon Egypt.  These plagues were the clear and visible voice of God.  When we personally hear the voice of God, and harden our hearts to that voice, it's unpardonable.  So again, in verse 9, when these judgments come, the people of the world learn righteousness.

In verse 10, the wicked do not learn righteousness.  They are given grace or favor.  But they do not learn righteousness.  (Some translations render the word in verse 10 it as "grace."  Others as "favor."  Grace literally means favor.)  Today, the true believer lives under God's grace, which means favor.  Being under grace, we hear God's voice and obey.  This follows the formula.  When we personally hear the God’s voice, and harden our hearts to that voice, it's unpardonable.  Those who commit the unpardonable sin are not resurrected when Christ returns.

Just a few verses down, however, in verse 19, just about everyone is resurrected.  I say just about everyone because of verse 14, which shows the exception.  On the other hand, if you were to interpret verse 19 by itself, you would say that everybody is resurrected.

Verses 13-14 show an exception to those who will come out of the grave.  And verses 10 and 11 give the reason for this exception.  The wicked see the power and miracles of God and reject it.  Or they reject the personal voice of God.  The resurrection in verse 19 does not distinguish between the just and the unjust.  They all come out and shout for joy.  So, again, we have the three types of people in the grave: the just, the unjust, and those who do not come out.

In verse 18, Isaiah grieves over the fact that Israel had not brought salvation to the world.  People all over the world continued dying because they did not have salvation.  Yet in verse 19, Isaiah says these people will live.  By the context of verse 18, those who live are those who, all over the world, have been dying for a lack of salvation.

Since these are people from all over the world being raised, and not only the people of Israel, those being resurrected must be both the just and the unjust.  Now at long last, they wake up and shout for joy.  If some of these were waking up to be condemned, would they be shouting for joy?  Some are waking up to eternal life.  Others awake to judgment.  But that judgment lasts a thousand years.  Some will make it.  Others won't.  And those from verses  13-14 do not get resurrected.  Then verse 21 says the earth will no longer cover its slain.  Again, most people from all over the world will be resurrected to live again.

6.4)  The Bride of Christ and the Parable of the Wedding Banquet

In Ezekiel 16, Israel is the Bride of God.  But the Bride is adulterous.  The entire chapter of Ezekiel 16 is about this topic.  Thus, the idea of Israel being a bride is not from some obscure Old Testament passage that few people would have known about.  When the New Testament speaks of Christ as being the Bridegroom, it’s a clear allusion to this Old Testament teaching.

Are there two brides?  Is Israel the Bride of the Father, while the Church is the Bride of Christ?  If so, then why does Christ return to the earth to be with the Bride of the Father, while the Father remains in heaven to be with the Bride of Christ?  Are they wife swappers?  Obviously this is not what the New Testament writers had in mind.  When Jesus referred to himself as the Bridegroom, he was obviously making an allusion back to Ezekiel 16.  Jesus was equating himself with God as being the Bridegroom.  Thus, the Church and Israel are the same.  Israel (which is the Church) is the Bride of Christ.

As this metaphor is brought into the New Testament, there is some confusion as to who the Bride is, and who are the guests at the wedding banquet.  In Matthew 9:10-16, Jesus eats at Matthew’s house with other tax collectors and “sinners.”  Other accounts of this story, or similar stories, can be found in Mark 2:14-20 and Luke 5:27-35.  The Pharisees ask why these “sinners” did not fast.  In all three accounts, Jesus said the “guests” of the bridegroom do not fast while the bridegroom is with them.  But they will fast later.  The bride is not mentioned.  Who are the redeemed?  Are they the Bride, or the guests, or both?

In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus tells us the parable of the ten virgins.  Jesus is called the bridegroom.  The word “bride” is not used.  But it's only reasonable to assume the five wise “virgins” are the bride, and not simply guests.

In John 3:25-30, some of the disciples of John the Baptist complain about everyone going to Jesus.  John’s response is that the bride belongs to the bridegroom.  John refers to himself as the friend of the bridegroom who waits and listens for the voice of the bridegroom.

Paul uses the metaphor of the Church being the Bride of Christ in 2  Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesians 5:22-27.  In Revelation 19:7-8, the saints are depicted as the Bride of the Lamb when it’s stated that the wedding of the Lamb has come and the Bride has made herself ready.  So it’s clear that the redeemed in Christ become the Bride of Christ.  So then, who are the guests?

The parable of the wedding banquet can be found in Matthew 22:1-14.  There is a similar account in Luke 14:15-24.  In Matthew’s account, it’s a wedding banquet that a king prepares for his son.  The bride is not mentioned; the parable only talks about the guests.  In Luke’s account it is not explicitly a wedding banquet.  We therefore focus more on Matthew’s account for information about the Bride.

 The servants are sent to those who have been invited, telling them to come.  They all make excuses and do not come.  So the king tells his army to destroy those murderers and to burn their city.  Then servants are told to go into the street and invite anyone they find, both good and bad.  In the banquet, the king spots one man without wedding clothes.  The man is thrown into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

To understand the parable, we must identify each of the players.  Who is the king and who is his son?  Who are the original ones invited to the wedding?  Who are the guests who come?  And who is thrown out of the banquet?  Also, what is the meaning of the wedding clothes?

Almost everyone would agree that the king and his son represent the Father and Christ Jesus.  Many theologians would say the original invited guests represent Old Testament Israel, and the guests who come are Gentile believers.  But is this the way ancient Jewish hearers of the parable would have interpreted it?  Jesus was speaking to common people who saw themselves as a part of Israel.  It is doubtful they would have considered themselves to be the original invited guests who found excuses not to come.

Think about the culture of that time.  If a king threw a banquet, especially for the wedding of his son, then the elite of the society would be invited.  Royalty and the rulers would be invited.  Pharisees and the teachers of the law would be invited.  People who were wealthy would be invited.  But the common worker and the poor would not be invited.

This parable of Jesus was addressed to the common worker and the poor.  They were the ones who were hearing the parable as Jesus taught.  The elite of the society ignored Jesus at best, and rejected him at worst.  They all found excuses to ignore the miracles and the teachings of Christ.  In a society like that, one would have expected the Pharisees and the teachers of the law to be the first to recognize the Messiah.  But they hardened their hearts and rejected Christ.  In the New Wine System, they are the wicked.  In the parable, the king sends his army to destroy those murderers and to burn their city.  This will happen at Armageddon.

The guests are mostly the common people.  Anyone who is found on the street is invited, both good and bad (Matthew 22:10).  In the New Wine System , they are the middle foolish group.  Both the good and the bad will be resurrected (John 5:28‑29) to live in the kingdom, which will be Christ’s millennial reign.

What about the man who is thrown into the outer darkness because he doesn’t have wedding clothes?  Both the good and the bad are invited.  So he was invited even if he was bad.  Why would he be invited, and then thrown outside into punishment?  Just because both the good and the bad are resurrected does not mean they will all receive eternal life.  In the kingdom to come, the wise will rule the world and will lead the nations to righteousness through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  But some will not be willing to submit to Christ’s reign over their lives.  They do not respect the King.  Eventually they will die a second death.

The Bride of Christ is the Church (which is Israel.)  The Bride will have already matured in Christ before the age to come.  Wedding clothes represent righteousness.  Normally, only the bride and the groom wear wedding clothes to a wedding.  But in this case, the guests also wear wedding clothes.  Everyone is saved, including the guests.  The lack of wedding clothes for the one man in the parable is a sign that he does not respect the King.  He is not willing to mature in Christ after being invited to live in the kingdom under Christ’s reign.  So after some time, he dies a second death and is thrown out of the kingdom into the lake of fire.

Therefore, from this parable we see three types of people in the grave.  

The wicked, like many of the Jewish leaders, do not hear Christ’s voice.  In this parable, they don’t even bother to come to the King’s wedding banquet, because they don’t hear the voice of the King.

The foolish are the guests.  They are the nations during the Messianic age to come.  They hear Christ’s voice and come to the wedding banquet.  The foolish guests include both the good and the bad.  They wear wedding clothes because Christ has died for them.  Most of the foolish have respect for the King.  They will have the opportunity to mature in righteousness.  But some will reject Christ’s righteousness and will forfeit their salvation, like the one man without the wedding clothes.  He had no respect for the King.

The Bride of Christ represents the wise, which is the true Church, which is true Israel.  The Bride takes on the same purpose as Old Testament Israel.  That’s because the Bride of Christ is Israel, which is the Church.

6.5)  Paul Talks about the Resurrection

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul discusses the resurrection.  The debate at the time was not whether or not there would be a Messianic reign.  Most everyone believed in the coming Messiah.  They disagreed on whether or not there would be a resurrection when the Messiah comes.  The significance of the resurrection to the Jew was far more important than most Christians realize.  The Jews believed that both the righteous and the unrighteous sleep in the dust of the earth (Isaiah 26:14, Daniel 12:2, John 11:11-14, 1 Corinthians 15:51).  There was no belief in heaven or hell immediately after death.  So the belief in a resurrection was in fact their only belief in a life beyond the grave.  This was a very important debate.

The following verses can be interpreted in two different ways.  It all depends upon one's predisposition as to whether there is one type of resurrection or two.  If there is one type of resurrection, then everyone who is resurrected gets a spiritual body, and this passage is talking about the natural body in which we are now clothed in contrast to the spiritual body in which we will be clothed.  And there is certainly some truth to this view.  We are "sown in dishonor, and raised in glory."  

But if one's predisposition is that of two types of resurrections, then this passage is talking about the two types of bodies that are raised for the two types of resurrections.  Now consider the fact that Daniel 12:2, John 5:28-29, and Acts 24:15 all speak of a "resurrection of both the just and the unjust" (Acts 24:15).  Theologians have assumed the second type of resurrection is really a "resurrection of damnation," (John 5:29 KJV) and have thus considered it as only one type of resurrection from the dead.  But that's only an assumption based on a bad translation.  It's really a "resurrection of judgment" (John 5:29 ESV), which means they are still living under judgment.  Try reading this passage as if one really believed in a "resurrection of both the just and the unjust" (Acts 24:15).

1 Corinthians 15:34-50  Wake up righteously, and don't sin, for some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.  (35) But someone will say, "How are the dead raised?" and, "With what kind of body do they come?"  (36)  You foolish one, that which you yourself sow is not made alive unless it dies.  (37) That which you sow, you don't sow the body that will be, but a bare grain, maybe of wheat, or of some other kind.  (38) But God gives it a body even as it pleased him, and to each seed a body of its own.   (39) All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.  (40) There are also celestial bodies, and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial differs from that of the terrestrial .  (41) There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.  (42) So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.  (43) It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.   (44) It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is also a spiritual body.  (45) So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.   (46) However that which is spiritual isn't first, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual.   (47) The first man is of the earth, made of dust. The second man is the Lord from heaven.   (48) As is the one made of dust, such are those who are also made of dust; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.  (49) As we have borne the image of those made of dust, let's also bear the image of the heavenly.   (50) Now I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood can't inherit the Kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption.

There are two types of bodies.  There are heavenly (celestial) bodies and there are earthly (terrestrial) bodies.  Paul also calls them natural bodies and spiritual bodies.  One is like Adam's body.  The other is like Christ's body (the second Adam) after his resurrection.  It's true that the natural body comes first.  But Paul asks, "With what kind of body do they come?" (verse 35).  The answer seems to depend upon the seed that is sown.  "Wake up righteously, and don't sin, for some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame," Paul says.  "You foolish one, that which you yourself sow is not made alive unless it dies."  Is Paul saying some are foolish because they don't understand about the resurrection?  Or is Paul saying some are foolish because of sin?  What we ourselves sow in our own deaths depends upon our own continued sins or our own continued righteousness.  If we continue to sin when we are sown, then we will be raised with a body like Adam's instead of a body like that of Christ.

Adam had a natural body, but he lived to be 930 years old.  So there are natural bodies that live “age-during” as Adam lived.  Also, there are spiritual bodies that are more heavenly in nature and have eternal life.  Spiritual bodies are like the bodies of the angels (Matthew 22:30).

6.6)  Consistent Use of the Terms: Wise, Foolish and Wicked

As we have seen, there are three types of people in the grave.  My use of the terms “wise,” “foolish” and “wicked” comes from the very consistent use of these terms by Jesus.  

Also, these terms have their origins in Daniel 12.  As we have seen, Daniel 12:3 says, “those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the sky above.”  The verse says they will turn many to righteousness.

Verse 10 tells us that none of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand the answer to the question.  This verse also tells us the wicked will continue to be wicked.  In other words, the wicked is a class of people who are beyond changing.  They will never become wise.  They will never become righteous.  Therefore, there is an unstated middle group, who have not as yet gone one way or the other, which Jesus seems to have called “foolish.”

In the previous chapter of this book, on the Olivetti Discourse, we studied the four parables in the Olivetti Discourse and observed the three types of people in these four parables.  Three of the parables each make use of two of these terms.  Unfortunately, there is never a single parable or context where all three terms are used together.  Accordingly, traditional theologians have assumed that the foolish and the wicked both refer to the unredeemed.  But of course the New Wine System recognizes the distinction between all three terms.

The parable of the wise and wicked servant is about the wicked in the churches who forfeit their salvation.  The parable of the ten virgins is about the five foolish virgins who do not get into the wedding banquet.  But they are still saved.  The parable of the talents is also about wicked servants in the churches who forfeit their salvation.  These three parables make consistent use of the terms “wise,” foolish” and “wicked.”  And as we will see, the parable of the “sheep” and the “goats” does include terms for all three types of people.  In it, the wise are called “brothers.”

The Sermon on the Mount also makes consistent use of the terms “wise” and “foolish.”  This sermon is not about salvation.  It’s about becoming holy.  The sermon is about two ways of living.  Are you on the wise path of the narrow gate that leads to righteousness, or are you on the foolish path of the wide gate that leads to destruction?

Matthew 7:13-14 "Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it.  (14)  How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it.

In the “IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament”, by Craig S. Keener, pg 64, the section on Matthew 7:13-14, Keener writes:

Jesus’ hearers would have been familiar with the image of “two ways” - one leading to life and the other to death; it was common in Judaism.  Jesus’ emphasis that few are on the right way occurs in 4 Ezra but is not as common as the general image of the two ways.  Most Jewish people believed that Israel as a whole would be saved and that the few who were lost would be exceptions to the general rule.

The striking message here is that most people in Israel (and the Church today) believe they are on the right path.  However few, even in the churches, actually find the narrow gate of holiness.  In this same sermon, Jesus said for us to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).  Jesus is not saying the less than perfect will spend eternity in hell.  They still have the blood of Christ.  But they are on the path of the wide gate that leads to destruction.  In context, the destruction being spoken of is destruction of wealth.  The sermon focuses on the fact that you can't serve both God and money.  The foolish, even in our churches, focus more on money than on serving God.  If we focus on money, it will be destroyed.  If we focus on treasures in heaven, we find the narrow gate that leads to eternal life.

The sermon concludes with a comparison of the wise and the foolish.  The wise listen to the words of Christ and build their house on the Rock.  The foolish do not listen and build their house on the sand.  Their wealth will be destroyed.

In a play on words, the word "foolish" can also be found earlier in the sermon, about the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).  Keener writes (pg 57):

Various scholars have emphasized different uses of salt in antiquity, such as a preservative or an agent regularly added to manure; but the use of salt here is as a flavoring agent: “if salt has become tasteless” (the Greek word can also mean “become foolish,” so it may include a play on words.)

I do believe this to be a play on words.  The context is that of the wise, who have their rewards in heaven and are compared with the Old Testament prophets (verse 12).  This is a warning that if the wise turn back to the foolishness of sin, that they become ineffective and of no value in the kingdom.

6.7)  The Wide Gate that Few Find and the Narrow Gate of Destruction

A few verses down, in verse 19, Jesus says that whoever relaxes even the least of the commandments (of Law by context) will be the least in the kingdom of heaven.  (By the way, the least of the commandments would have to include the seventh-day Sabbath.)  Whoever keeps the commandments and teaches others to do so will be called the greatest.  So again, the Sermon on the Mount is all about holiness.  It's about the distinction between the wise and the foolish.

In verse 5:20, Jesus says unless your righteousness is better than the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  How holy do you need to be?  Is salvation determined by one's degree of holiness?  Of course not.  Jesus is just saying that without holiness you will not be able to enter the kingdom of heaven.  The amount of holiness is given a few verses down.  In verse 48, Jesus says we must be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.

But when Jesus says they will not be able to enter the kingdom, it doesn't mean they won't be able to live outside the kingdom with the rest of the nations.  In other words, think about it like the Jews of that time would have done.  They were waiting on the Messiah to come and set up the kingdom of heaven in Jerusalem.  These words of Jesus would only have been interpreted as saying that people who lack righteousness will not be able to enter the kingdom that will come to rule over the nations.  But the unrighteous can still live in the nations.

After Jesus tells us we must be perfect, Jesus proceeds to talk a lot about forgiveness, prayer, and money.  Matthew 6 seems to be more about money than anything else.  The wise are those who lay up treasures in heaven for the age to come.  The foolish are those who build their houses for this present age.  In other words, the foolish put emphasis on money and build their houses on the sand.  When the Messiah comes, and the kingdom of heaven is set up here on earth, the foolish will see the destruction of everything they have built.  Those who build their houses on the Rock of Christ and his righteousness will have eternal life and will reign with Christ in the New (heavenly) Jerusalem that is to come.

The wide gate eventually leads to the destruction of the soul.  But in the immediate context of the sermon, the wide gate leads to the destruction of one's wealth and possessions as we enter the age to come.  Those who build their houses on the sand are on the path of the wide gate.  Unrighteous living leads to the destruction of money and possessions.  But if one were to continue on that path during the age to come, it would eventually lead to the destruction of one's soul.

6.8)  The Punishment of the Wicked

The wide gate eventually leads to the destruction of the soul.  What exactly does that mean?  Tradition tells us that soul cannot be destroyed, and the wicked will suffer the torment of hell for all eternity.  But how would the ancient Jew have interpreted the words of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament?  What does the New Testament tell us when interpreted in the context of the Old?

The two Greek words which are traditionally translated as hell are Hades and Gehennah.  Hades literally means the grave and is the Greek word used by the New Testament when quoting the Old Testament Hebrew word Sheol.  So Hades is the place where the dead sleep and await the resurrection.

The Jews believed the dead are asleep in Hades and await the age to come, when the Messiah comes.  Those asleep in Hades include both the just and the unjust.  Old Testament Scripture also teaches that some of the dead are destroyed and will not be resurrected.  In this context, Jesus preaches against sin.  Jesus preaches to repent, for the kingdom is at hand.  To get ready for the kingdom, Jesus preaches to love the Father and your neighbor.  For those who refuse, Jesus warns about the fire of Gehennah.  

Matthew 5:22 But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council; and whoever shall say, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.

Gehennah was the name of the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem.  The word is always used in the context of a place of punishment for the wicked.  It's often used in conjunction with fire.  Thus, Gehennah is a metaphor for the punishment of the wicked in the afterlife.  Fire burned the garbage.  Since garbage was continually being thrown into the garbage dump, the fire probably seemed to never go out.  Gehennah probably refers to the same thing as the lake of fire in Revelation.  Traditional translations, like the KJV, simply used the word "hell."

Mark 9:43 KJV And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched .

Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having your two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire .

The warning about being thrown into Gehennah occurs twelve times in the New Testament.  Eleven of those are the words of Jesus.  (Mat. 5:22, 5:29, 5:30 10:28, 18:9, 23:15, 23:33, Mark 9:43, 9:45, 9:47, Luke 12:5, and James 3:6)  When we understand that Gehennah is a metaphor, used primarily by Jesus, we can do a more literal translation that might help us understand how the Jews would have interpreted the words of Jesus.

Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having your two hands to go into [the garbage dump], into the unquenchable fire.

The term "enter into life" is a reference to the resurrection.  If one is dead, and then "enters into life," it simply means the dead person is now alive.

If one is taught from childhood that the dead go immediately to eternal life in heaven or eternal punishment in the fire of hell, and if one's Bible says "hell" instead of "garbage dump," then one would read the above verse as proof that the souls of the wicked are never destroyed and are punished eternally.  If, on the other hand, one is taught from childhood that both the just and the unjust dead are asleep awaiting the resurrection, then one would read the above verse as an indication that the wicked could wind up being thrown into the garbage dump instead of being resurrected and "entering into life" in the age to come.

Would the ancient Jew interpret being thrown "into the garbage dump, into the unquenchable fire," as eternal torment by the unquenchable fire?  If someone were to literally be thrown into the fire of a garage dump, it would be a very painful death.  And it would be a very shameful way to die.  The fact that the fire is unquenchable does not imply that the person would never die from the fire.  The fire of a garbage dump is not as hot as the fire of a furnace.  The fire of a furnace would kill a person immediately.  They would not suffer prolonged pain from the fire.  But the fire of a garbage dump could take quite a while to kill a person.  It would be prolonged agony.  Yet the person would eventually die.  Here is another verse where Jesus uses the metaphor of the garbage dump.

Matthew 10:28 Don't be afraid of those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

The fire of Gehennah destroys the soul.  And it's real prolonged torment.  But eventually the soul is destroyed.  The ancient Jew would not have assumed that the soul is eternal.  The soul sleeps as he or she awaits the resurrection.  But if the soul were to be destroyed by God, there could no longer be a resurrection.  In other words, the concept of "eternal fire" does not mean eternal pain and torment.  It simply means there is no longer a possibility of a resurrection.  Yet, at the same time, there will be pain and torment for a period of time as God destroys the soul in the lake of fire.

Matthew 18:8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the eternal fire.

Matthew 25:41 Then he will say also to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels;

Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, having, in the same way as these, given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire.

Many theologians consider Matthew 25:46 (quoted below) to be the strongest proof-text verse for eternal pain and torment.  This is used to argue that the soul is never completely destroyed.

Matthew 25:46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Christian Universalists, who argue that everyone will eventually be saved, take the position that "eternal" does not really mean forever.  The problem with this argument is that the same word is also used in the same sentence for eternal life.  A clear parallelism is being made between eternal life and eternal punishment.  If one were to argue a limited amount of time for "eternal punishment," then one would also have to allow for a limited amount of time for "eternal life."

The Greek word used for "punishment" can mean pain and torment.  But given all the other evidence, we can easily interpret this verse as saying that the consequence of the punishment is eternal.  

Consider "eternal sin" in Mark 3:29 (quoted below).  The wages of sin is death.  But the gift of God is eternal life.  Yet there is a sin that cannot be forgiven.  Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven in this age, or in the age to come (Mat. 12:31-32).  In Mark, Jesus calls it an "eternal sin."  

Mark 3:29 but whoever may blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"

The idea here is not that the sin itself continues forever.  The consequences of the sin last forever.  In the same way, the consequences of "eternal punishment" lasts forever.  The wicked are eternally destroyed.  They will never live again.

The fire is eternal.  But the pain and torment do not have to be eternal.  A number of verses speak of "destruction" in relation to the punishment of the wicked.  Does the destruction take an eternity?  The verse below is the only verse which uses the term "eternal destruction."  

2 Thessalonians 1:9 who will pay the penalty: eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

Some will argue that the term "eternal destruction" in this verse means the soul is never really destroyed because the process of destroying the soul takes an eternity.  But is Paul really saying the destruction takes an eternity?  Or is Paul simply saying that the person will never be raised?  Paul specifically states that the person will not see the face of the Lord and the glory of his might.  It's easily argued Paul means this is eternally true.  But why does Paul use the noun "destruction?"

First, we need to go back to the Sermon on the Mount, discussed in section 6.8 above, and remember that in the context of the sermon, the destruction associated with the wide gate is the destruction of possessions and wealth accumulated in the present age.  The foolish who build their houses on the sand lose their possessions.  But if one were to remain on the path of the wide gate in the age to come, it would eventfully lead to the destruction of the soul.

Paul's use of the term "eternal destruction" is an allusion to what Jesus taught.  God can destroy the body and the soul.  And the fire in the garbage dump burns eternally.  This puts emphasis on the fact that when God destroys the soul the person will never be resurrected.  The soul is permanently (or eternally) destroyed.  

Secondly, we need to remember that Paul was a Pharisee and would think in terms of the Old Testament teachings.  Isaiah 26 is the first place in the Old Testament that teaches about the resurrection.  The wicked are described as "shades."  They will not be resurrected.  Directly related to this is the fact that God has visited destruction upon the wicked.  One must realize that for the most part, the possessions of the wicked have not yet been destroyed by God.  So this is something that will happen in the future.  At the same time, that destruction can refer to the souls of the wicked.  But in the Old Testament context, where the dead are asleep, this destruction primarily refers primarily to the destruction of possessions.  I think Paul's use of the term "eternal destruction" is an allusion to Isaiah 26:14 as well as the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus may have also been alluding to Isaiah 26.

Isaiah 26:14 ESV They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise ; to that end you have visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them.

Isaiah 26:19 ESV Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead .

Jesus refers to Judas as the "son of destruction" (John 17:11-12).  This equates Judas with the destruction that will reign down on the wicked.  This equates Judas with the wrath of God.  Judas will not be resurrected.  But he will "come alive" at the great white throne judgment and will be thrown into the lake of fire.  That fire is eternal in nature.  Judas will "come alive" to be judged for what he has done (Revelation 20:12).  Then, in the lake of fire, he will experience torment for some time.  His soul will be destroyed.

Revelation 20:12-14 I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and they opened books. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works.   (13) The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. They were judged, each one according to his works.  (14) Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire .

I think the amount of time it takes to destroy the soul will vary from person to person.  It will be according to God's judgment, based on what they have done.  It could be that the destruction of the soul is gradual.  As the soul is destroyed over a period of time, they would become less aware of the torment.  It's up to God's judgment as to how long the torment lasts.

Some will argue that a loving God would let the soul be immediately destroyed.  Why is torment needed?  Isn't it enough that they will never live again?  If so, then why did God say, "vengeance is mine" (Deuteronomy 32:35)?

Romans 12:18-21 If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men.   (19) Don't seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God's wrath. For it is written, "Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord."   (20) Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head."  (21) Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Hebrews 10:30-31 For we know him who said, "Vengeance belongs to me," says the Lord, " I will repay." Again, "The Lord will judge his people."   (31) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The wicked will be judged by their works, or deeds.  In other words, the wicked will be judged by their evil deeds against others.  Many wicked people have lived their lives doing unthinkable evil.  Even today, children are sold as sex-slaves.  And many of these wicked people live to a ripe old age and die rich.  For those who truly repent and trust in Christ to overcome their sinful habits, we can all find it in our hearts to forgive.  But for those who reject Christ's salvation, God's justice requires more than a destruction of their property when the Messiah comes.

Does even a full life-time of evil deeds, even against young children, deserve a forever-and-ever eternity of torment and pain?  Some have argued that eternal torment and pain is required because sin is against an infinite God.  But Revelation tells us they are judged by their finite-amount of deeds.

Revelation 14:10-11 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.  (11)  The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. They have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.

In the lake of fire, the wicked will no longer rest.  They have "no rest day and night."  But this does not mean it continues forever.  However, the "smoke of their torment goes up forever."  The smoke of their torment is simply the evidence of their punishment.  The evidence of an eternal fire will remain forever.

Philip Brown

If you find this book to be of interest, please send an email with a link to this website to all your Christian family and friends.  You could even include one to your pastor.

Philip Brown     Click to email me.

If you find this book to be of interest, please send an email with a link to this website to all your Christian family and friends.  You could even include one to your pastor.

Philip Brown     Click to email me.

If you find this book to be of interest, please send an email with a link to this website to all your Christian family and friends.  You could even include one to your pastor.

Philip Brown     Click to email me.