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LOVE THAT PASSES KNOWLEDGE AND
THE JUST VINDICATION OF THE LOVE OF GOD and
DAMNATION AS A DIMENSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF CONDEMNATION
There is need in all thing as to have fidelity to the scripture. Tradition may go this way or that, at this time or that; but it is not sufficient. It must be subjected to scrupulous scrutiny. What is taught and what is believed must not exceed what is written and its necessary implications. By no means must work in this area exceed what is necessarily implicit, for doctrine, in the interests of pleasant short cuts or real verbal rigour. Indeed, personal reticence in the presence of the word of God is required.
THE LIGHT IDENTIFIED
This in John 3 we are told that THIS is the condemnation, that light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, or more literally, men loved the darkness more than the light.
Now if anyone sought to establish that the light referred to was not Jesus Christ, he would have some difficulty in escaping a just charge of eisegesis. After all, the Gospel of John has been at extreme pains to show that the light IS Jesus Christ, sent into the world. It actually SAYS so (John 1:3,10-11). The Word is the focus, it was the light, is the light, became flesh and dwelt a mong us. This is the declaration.
John the Baptist, we read in John 1, came for a witness. HE was not the light, we are told. That true light was in the world made by Him (as noted in John 1:3), came to His own, was not received by them, but was received by certain ones, who became His people, born not of the will of man but of God. Accordingly, Jesus declares in John 9:5, As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world; and again, in John 12:36ff.: "Yet a little while is the light with you . Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come on you": "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may be the children of light". In John 8:12, He announces: "I am the light of the world: he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Again, as already noted, John the Baptist was a witness to this Light. What light ? The light of general exposure to the testimony of God's creation ? Was it necessary for him to teach them theism ? Is that the portent of John 1 ? In verse 14, we find that 'we' beheld His glory on His becoming flesh. It is this wonder to which John is sent to bear a witness, to which John 1 addresses it exposure; although it is of course true that this same Christ was present in the world before this, even at the creation, as the Word. That however merely amplifies the staggering sequence of the thrust from John. THOUGH that was His eminence, THIS is His intimacy, purpose and program for us men.
The definable event however adequately and actively emphasised is this: that
1) THIS word was always there, that THIS light was always there, this ultra-universal light in one sense accompanying every man in the world from birth; and that
2) THIS light, being God with God (there is only one God, the Creator - Isaiah 45:6-12,18, 46:9,44:6-8, 42:5-8, who stretches forth the heavens ALONE - as Moses indicated), did such an amazing thing.
It was so condescending as to become flesh, duly impactive as expressed in His being full of grace and truth: and further, the glory He showed reached the acme of wonder: for it was such as to attest in its effulgence, God's only begotten Son. It was divinity in human form with human face, whose goings were from everlasting.
Having noted all this in detail, however, we simply revert to the fact that:
the Word who became flesh, who was with God and was God, is the One of whom it is stated: "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men."
Who came to His own ? "The true Light"...
What became of those who received Him ?
They became the
children of God. Then in John 1:15, we learn that John bore witness of Him
saying, He who comes after me is preferred before me" -.
PURPOSES: POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE
Important consequences follow, we learn in John 3: the project has a decisive and distinct purpose, and something equally distinctly not purposed.
Verse 16 tells us of the signal salvatory act of God in sending this, His only begotten Son.
1) It tells us what the purpose was not: to secure judgment against the world. The non-condemnation of the woman taken in adultery (through lack of accusers when Christ asked those without sin to cast the first stone).
2) He tells us what the purpose was : to secure salvation for believers. This is amplified in the statement earlier that as many as received Him, to these He gave power to become children of God.
There is the positive and the negative, therefore. The NEGATIVE is this: purpose not to condemn. The POSITIVE is this: purpose that the world through Him might be saved, even all who believe.
He tells us moreover of residual and implied judgment so secure that it is able to be announced categorically: the non-believer in the face of this exposed word of God-in-the-flesh is already condemned. The purpose is discarded, the opportunity despised, even when the ultimate step, personal from the Creator is taken, even when He becomes flesh and accepts condemnation that those worthy of it might be pardoned. At this level, as it were, of the examination, pass or fail is final, determinate and failure is irremediable. The analogy of course has failure as correlative to non-reception of Christ.
Here then, further judgment is unnecessary for the destined end: THIS is the key and password for judgment. JESUS is the password, the scriptural Christ, and on that all depends. The NAME of the ONLY BEGOTTEN SON is the key. THIS name is exposed and this reality is made manifest: THENCE non-believing in HIM in final, fatal, inexcusable. There are no extenuating circumstances when God presents His face and it is slapped, derided, or ignored. His is the ambulance: destroy the ambulance and rejoice in the discard, or merely turn from it, and there is no other way to the operating theatre required for restoration.
AND DOLEFUL CONSEQUENCES
The purpose of the surgeon is not to condemn to death those who refuse the operation; yet that is the equivalent result in terms of eventuation. The weeping of Jesus Christ noted in Luke 19:42 is eloquent testimony. Yet the result?
Here is the brink of love and the parameter of salvation in expressed form. Here it is reality facing reality: it is response facing divinity. It is, let us repeat it, the NAME of the SON which is the criterion (John ). God's speech here walks and confronts you face to face.
Immediately we are told (John ) that THIS is the judgment: that the Light has come and the faith has not! To seek to force a view that John here is ignoring all the paraphernalia of the advent, in its expressive and particularised form, its masterful impact and its finality and favour, expressing to men the word of God categorically and sacrificially, with the filial imprimatur never absent: this would not merely be to ignore but virtually even to ridicule the whole thrust of the GOSPEL as being announced.
THAT is not merely theistic and monotheistic, and annunciatory of good, and definitive of it in the context of salvation. It has a specificity about the very being of God registered, recorded and revealed for what it is: to the depths of it, nothing less.
Such ignoring therefore would be tantamount to a magnificently bold but unwisely daring bypass operation relative to the fact that John has just STATED right here what he means. God loved and sent His only Son in whom to believe is life; and He SO loved as to do THIS; and in this SON, contradistinct from all other conceptions and beyond all inferior connotations, not to believe is death. It rejects the source and origin of creation, the tide and thrust of love, the depth and horror of the remedy for the Creator, the wonder and grace of the offer from Him and the face He presents in Person.
Nothing more monumental, definitive and decisive is conceivable. It is true that predestinative security will ensure that no 'mistake' is made. But as to the principle and nature of the thing before us: the personal infinitude with beauty and wonder, God Himself, meets sinful derivatives, creations called man, and the flow is where it is. There is no more. All is said, and all is done.
Accordingly, John states that the CONDEMNATION IS TO BE PRONOUNCED IN THESE VERY TERMS, that the light that lights every man has come to earth, and it has been rejected in terms of preference concerning it. That is the PRINCIPLE. It is FOR THIS REASON, that the one who does not believe is CONDEMNED ALREADY (John ).
APPEARING IN THE
It is now necessary to face the teaching in these fields; and for this purpose, let us rehearse, recapitulate somewhat; but extend and apply our premises.
Not only then is there this principle, the condemnation in terms of the rejection of the remedy. We must consider the sequence of thought as we move from John .
In verse 18, we find that it is a matter of believing or otherwise in the One just expressly announced as having come in manifest and marvellous, explicit expression of Deity, as the Son, SO THAT the negative case, the non-believer in the light of this, is ALREADY condemned - condemned in the fact of such exception to the exposure of the Deity. That in the PRACTICE. This is a happening.
We are dealing with a magnificent and specialised event, just hot off the press (1:1-14,3:15; I John 1:1-6); with the purpose of it, negatively and positively (v.17); with the response to it (v. 18) - indeed to HIM as Son come, as name exposed; and we learn of condign judgment served to the wrong receptors, resistant and rejecting. THEN PRACTICE PAST, response reviewed, we proceed.
Now we have elaboration, analysis if you will and definition of this event just past and just announced: the condemnation in view IS a matter of rejecting THIS ONE SO SENT and so loving and so sacrificial and with such a name, background and status, such a situation in salvation - namely, the SON.
The PRINCIPLE of John 3:19 has been reviewed, not so that we might reject it, any more than we should reject the ONE whose written word this is. Christ has adequately associated words and love in John 14:21-23.
Now this is ONE thing. To reject a non-SON or a NOT THUS REVEALED God, that however, is ANOTHER thing. John 15:21-23 makes this super-emphatically clear. But it is here. No exposure, we read in this place, to the One who had not done the works no other had done, or spoken such words, and theirs was not the (relevant and fatal) sin (all men but Christ, being sinners). This merely confirms, and applies particularly, John 3:19 which is a principle in itself as well. Even if WE, in the light of glory, can see implications or think we do: yet there is a need to make APPLICATIONS of the revealed PRINCIPLE FIRST. Let us build on what God says, and confirms again: not on dim surmising, or worse, assured dim surmising.
In fact, some might reject various devilishly misinterpreted syncretised mis-versions of God and so on, without the true light of the Son. They may be, but need not be, philosophers; and they may, but need not, be PHYSICALLY dwelling in lands of super-abundant pagan darkness (for which competition these days may be strong from diverse quarters, civilised and uncivilised!).
Now of course they are responsible for not being perfect, for being confused, for not being sufficiently discerning to throw over such served up syncretism; and without any doubt at all, they deserve condemnation. They are without excuse. Unless love and light were gratuitously operative, darkness only would be their lot. This however is not the present question.
IS John declaring the condemnation as a PRINCIPLE in terms of an exposed and revealed, and declared Jesus Christ- or is he not! If he is not, then context is meaningless, thrust is irrelevant, words are a mere mirage and need not be consulted; theology is a substitute for expression, even for the word of God, even as pagan philosophies effect substitution more obviously. Yes, it then becomes just as it was in the days of the Pharisees, of whom Jesus declared, they made vain the word of God by their traditions, muzzled it, defiled it, bypassed it and made their doctrine their own. Be assured, to neither of these views does this writer subscribe: such action is unwise.
If however John IS declaring THIS PRINCIPLE just noted as such, then we have categorically exposed for assessment of all thought, what IS the FINAL criterion for a DESTINY IN HELL. And that, that principle, that application of John in John that specifies the dynamics of damnation in their ultimate principle? It is informed rejection of Jesus Christ, or its divinely assessed equal. It is preference for darkness in the face of light expressly come and sent, with the no-condemnation specific objective, with the specific face of God in its challenge, the Gospel in its thrust.*1A
With this, place John 15:21-23 and we gain a
result. It is this. Though all are predestinated without their sin-smitten
wills being the operative sovereignty or autonomous or synergistic determinant
or component (Romans ,
John 15:1-5, I Corinthians -15),
but rather God's own choice per se: YET in God's
pleasure , we gain depiction characterising the outcome and this crucial feature and principle. As for Him, the damnation-determinant is not sin. SIN is the desert-determinant. As to the damnation-determinant, it is this: rejection of the revealed Jesus Christ.
This is a double barrier or threshold which is passed on the way to condemnation at the level of damnation. First is the sin which all men other than Christ have; second is the sin against the mercy which was shown when "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (II Corinthians ). To achieve hell, as it were, a person must cross both. This then in a sense, becomes the double-cross... The alternative is to receive the gift of repentance and so repenting, to believe in the God of love by His grace, and to rest in Him (cf. Repent or Perish Ch.1, End-note 1).
God, we read in
John 4, IS love; and in love that is how His loving action accrues. Justice is
not lost; love is not thwarted but with the infinitude of purity, fulfils
itself with the sacrificial splendour that is completed in the power that
provides. The distorted pullulations which would disfigure His love by
diminishing its power or its presence, even before all time, must be banished
from scriptural discourse, except as an example of error. Philosophy loves to
lose its head to unscriptural extremes, but Biblical scholarship and fidelity
will not follow its writhings
(cf. Repent or Perish 1, End-Note 1, esp. p. 26, and SMR Appendix B, esp. pp. 1128-1130).
IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS, NOR IS IT BLESSED:
SO WHERE DOES IT STAND?
CIRCUMSPECTION WITHOUT CALUMNY
How then would this affect the destiny of the ignorant non-hearers of the gospel? Here we must avoid mere traditionalism and consider what the word of God actually says. Thus, I Timothy 2 in the clearest possible fashion spells out the attitude the Almighty has to this matter of salvation. He would have all to be saved. Few will be; but that is not the point. His attitude is that all men might come to a knowledge of the truth. Numerous other aspects of this point from the Bible are shown in SMR Appendix B, and in Predestination and Freewill, Section 3.
SINCE He would have all to be saved, and
SINCE we read in Matthew 11:21 that the people of Tyre and Sidon would have
repented long ago if the mighty works done in Chorazin had been done there!...
what then? This implies that they did not. Since the Almighty is under no constraint to invent any system or structure whatsoever which in any way denies, contradicts or thwarts His will or wishes, attitudes or desires, then this one must not do so. Hence prima facie there may be some in Tyre and Sidon who, through lack of the John 15:21-23 type of impact, did not repent, but who would have done so if Christ had been among them, and "done the works which no other man did" - that is, works definitive of and declarative of deity, acting with the profound expedition He took in sending His only begotten Son.
In such areas, prudence is essential. We must allow that there may be certain features implicit in this Christ-painted picture of which we are not adequately aware. This is true. Nevertheless, there is a strong prima facie case for this point: that it is entirely possible that some who have not had the impact of the light of which John 1 speaks, and which is the criterion of condemnation in John 3 for its rejection, may nevertheless figure among the elect. If God has chosen ANYONE, HE will have that person. Chosen before the foundation of the world, such persons are not subject to chance or change. The unseverable sovereignty of God will ensure that they, being so chosen, are found.
NO CHANCE OF CHANCE
Does this imply that some may have a 'chance' after death ? No, of course not. The very thought of chance is just as contrary to all scripture and its predestinative and sovereign implications and indeed statements as the ignoring of John 3:19's statement would be to short-circuit the amplitude of the love of God. If THIS is the condemnation in terms of such rejected light, and in the light of the stated salvatory purpose, then such it is. If chance is ruled out, then so that is. Must we be like children who turn from ice cream to icy poles in delighted dilemma, instead of maturely considering ALL that is before us in seeking an understanding of the correct course. The WHOLE COUNSEL of God does not exclude inconvenient scriptures.
We must at last avoid this hideous theological proclivity, common as the common cold, it may be, to get into corners and 'patriotically' to some "Apollos" or other, slug it out.
There are NO chances, there is never a chance and never an operable option, since the fall, so that men may come as princes to a Prince and relate or not with a chance to come or go from His covenanted presence.
GOD determines these things in Himself (Ephesians e.g.). However, He does it, it is with certain statable and STATED PRINCIPLES which He CHOOSES to use and also to divulge. What is written, is written for our profit; so then let us do so. What He reveals, He reveals; what He reserves, He reserves. It is useless to try to push back the words into His mouth in the interests of significantly discourteous theology, if so it may be called. It is a kind of fierce blasphemy, a Sadducaism of horror, so to do.
The principle in view here, then, in various scriptures, and which seem to be implied in others is just this. GOD DAMNS - as distinct from condemns - on the basis of informed preference or its entire equivalent, against Jesus Christ. THIS is the STATED HIGHWAY that leads to HELL. THIS is that gate at the end of the row.
HOW does He execute such a principle in the case of the ignorant - who have not heard His Gospel, RELATIVE TO THE REVELATION EXPLICITY IN VIEW ? I DO NOT KNOW, FOR ONE. We can for apologetic purposes propose working hypotheses for examination in order to give a reason for the hope within us to those who ask, as is required of us (I Peter 3:15). There is no sin in obedience as such. Yet we cannot KNOW in this instance, more than this: that He will fulfil every principle which He enunciates, and this not partially, but fully. Strong is He who executes His word, and is faithful ( Joel 2:11, Isaiah 11:5, Matthew 5:17-18, 24:35, Psalm 119:89-90,138) .
To act assuredly on contrary hypothesis however, as if God forgot to the gracious because philosophers failed to perceive the unity of the depths of the ocean of the truth of the word of God: this does not appear wise, or to keep the path of His commandments.
Let us revert to His predestinative power in its overall nature. It is infinite, and it may be that He executes the option which is HIS, in some way which implicitly but totally covers the principle of knowing His own, in what you could almost call symbolic form. This is outlined in Section 3 of my Predestination and Freewill, and is used to DEMONSTRATE the entire and UNIQUE harmonisability of all the data with the Biblical picture, and hence to demonstrate the superiority of the Biblical coverage of man to anything else proposed or propounded. It works, it is not reductionist and it is perfectly internally harmonious. We are at some care to show that this proposed harmony is not the same as a declaration of doctrine.
It is a procedure for DEMONSTRATING the harmony of Biblical principles, nothing more, and hence an apologetic vindication of the majesty superiority of the word of God. Like scaffolding, its task complete, it has done what it should, and the building, the word of God itself, stands as always, firm and abiding, ALL of it important, NONE of it minimised, EACH word on EACH topic to be valued beyond minimisation or mutiny.
The varied and magnificent
PRINCIPLES themselves in the word of God, therefore, these are not proposed;
they are propounded in the Bible by God Himself. Our point here is that if we are willing to follow the Bible,
we must follow all of them, for all people over all time; and give lip service
to something less important, if that is our inclination. It is not, for my
part, mine to do lip service to anything. Let tradition with
In what way, then, God executes the principles of John 3, I John 4:7 and I Timothy 3, of Hosea 7:1, Jeremiah 51:9 and Ezekiel 33, for example, we do not know; but executed they will be. They present not the slightest problem to understand, as to compatibility; on the contrary, they embrace like lovers. It is simply that the chosen divine procedure or mode of operation to perform His words - as performed they assuredly will be - each one, and all in holy integrity: we do not know.
Reticence in the face of such majesty (I Timothy 6:16, Psalm 131) is right; just as failure to show its wonders as revealed and its unique capabilities would, equally, be remiss (I Peter 3:15, II Corinthians 10:5, Psalm 145:6-13). We do well not only to believe, but to do what we are told. In the domain of the truth, obedience is beautiful, effectual.
There are, then, things in the form of the Lord who dwells in light inaccessible (I Timothy , Philippians 2, I Timothy , Deuteronomy 29:29) and full of glory, to which we are not, at this point, party (I Corinthians 13:9-13). This is not a problem, but a glory and a joy. That to which we do not, however, have access, let us keep in its integrity in terms of what is revealed; and for apologetics, let us show the sheer wonder of its mutually agreeable parts. Nothing else on earth has this enduring depth which covers all aspects, all arguments, all points, all concern with an assured and delightful sufficiency which is literally on its own.
Another index which prima facie holds the suggestion that some who have been ignorant of Christ may be found, by sovereign and predestinate determination, after life as they were foreknown before it, is found in I Peter 3:17-19. Here we read in a sequence of historical steps, of Christ visiting the spirits in prison. In prison, as servants of sin, sinners are without the Lordship of Christ exercised on them. "Spirits in prison" however is a phrase not found, to my knowledge, in the Bible anywhere, OR SUGGESTED. As to the statement that Christ went by the Spirit, to preach to the spirits in prison, it is worth noting this: the Bible is indeed entirely devoid of Platonic philosophy. This sort of statement would not appear to be in the perspective portrayed Biblically, if it means He went to people living on earth. This point too is pregnantly suggestive, just as the alien nature of such terminology must be so.
The 'spirit' may be in prison, but it is the person who is the servant of sin. We are not disembodied, and although certain forms of speech are conceivable, they are not found. Spirits in chains awaiting judgment we find in Jude; but these are not on this earth. They are angels who left their first estate. Jude is talking of spirits as spirits.
From a verbal point of view, this language is that of the after-life in the Bible. Releasing the captives in Isaiah 61, is people on earth, not spirits in prison. There are times and places of being captive, and the Biblical mode of referring to the one and to the other is distinctive and apt. From the point of view of sequence, naturalness of progress in I Peter 3:17-19, we move from Christ suffering for sins, to bring us to God, being put to death, quickened by the Spirit: and from there we launch into the excursion noted in vv. 19-20.
Do we then move back a few thousand years in time in a sort of time jump? Or are we pursuing the point to the environs of judgment to which He wished to relate? Are we finding the other vast judgment which covered the earth so that almost all people were physically extinguished one earth; and here seeing Christ visit in a giant illustration and indication of the Colossians 1:19-23 scope and grandeur of His magnificent love and outreach and desire to "reconcile all things to Himself?" The match is a marvel*1B.
And with what power and force does Paul speak of this reconciling passion on the part of the Almighty? This: "and having made peace by the blood of the Cross, by Him to reconcile all things to Himself: by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in the heavens", in just collaboration with I Timothy 2 and John -19.
MERCY IMMENSE AND INTENSE
Must we learn the lesson of Jonah again! God is intensely merciful, and does not concede to some 'system' the souls of men, but would have them all to be saved, and so does whatever seems good to that end. CERTAIN it is that no one will be lost for some technical hitch, problem or omission, who MIGHT have been saved. This is NOT to consider the will of man, as operative in salvation to determine or even to sway it: it IS to notice that man being in the image of God is treated accordingly, but BY God, who alone knows His own.
Peter, having in terms of sequence seemingly gone from Calvary to the condemned in the same sort of scope as Colossians indicates, he follows the work of Christ, then applies it back to us again, relating the ark of those times which led to such mass extinction to baptism now - but not the sacrament, rather the salvation which it connotes (I Peter 3:21).
The intense meaning and depth of the passage is thus preserved, rather than what at least would appear a somewhat jolting movement about, here and there, without a clear time line, aborting the thrust of his words. The thrust of this principle and the contextual study of the thrust and sequence of the Biblical passage before us is illustrative then of an option which, not to secure but to express predestination, God may employ at His pleasure.(Cf. The Kingdom of Heaven 2, pp. 30ff., at Being 'Natural' or in the Kingdom of Heaven.) For my part, let it be emphasised, I do not know with any degree of certainty, the mode chosen by Christ in preaching to the imprisoned spirits; nor do I value the wonderful knowledge of those who do, even if ostensibly it be based on the scriptures: unless it is indeed based on these, rather than... floating philosophically. It fits with the Colossians 1:19ff., that the proclamation of Christ to the spirits in prison was preaching the Gospel, but we cannot add to the word of God, even when the basis of inference is likely, aptly so, but not entirely sure.
It must be necessarily implied by scripture if it is to believed, or actually stated: and in this, again, the Westminster Confession speaks justly. Mere traditions may be comforting (or discomforting); but can be traps, and must never be relied on, nor have competition with the glorious certainties of the word of God. The penalty of Mark 7:7 is ever near to the adventurous.
To adopt traditions based on name and fame in mere history is to aggravate the assault on the word of God. The Apollos syndrome is scripturally condemned. Be thankful for your Apollos-gifted expositors; but leave the word of God to its own environs, lest a 0.1% pollution from the imperfect saint become blinkers on the wilful, and judgment on the disobedient... lest further, it develop into a carnal 'ism-itis', the inflammatory caricature of truth in the formula of the -ism, such as too frequently defiles the earth.
Such scriptures as earlier noted, then, in principle and practice, taken in concert make it impossible Biblically to refuse, except in autonomous sovereignty over the word of God, the possibility that some who were not found in this life, have been preserved to times to come, for their before-all-time appointment to the God of their Creation, to become effective.
How instructive therefore is the appearance of inextricable damnation, undeterrable damnation in the Scripture, in precisely such a Christ-related sort of way as John 1-3 has outlined. How informative amidst covenantal reasoning both deep and poignant, is the context of Hebrews 10:26-31, 6:4-8! How complete and superlative is the scripture for all just purposes! Indeed the ground of damnation is explicit, analytical, principial in the first three and the fifteenth chapters of John for example; and any theory which ignores it, stops short of a scriptural mandate for its provisions.
God does not speak in order to be ignored. When the Pharisees of old acted as if this were the case, their correction was amongst the most irresistibly severe imaginable. Whatever else is done, each word of Godmust be kept like a diamond on a ring, being the gift in its splendour.
SAVING FAITH IS NOT OUR WORK
One passage of interest in this regard is found in II Corinthians 5. ALL, including the apostle, we learn, face the reception of judgment for WHAT WAS DONE IN THE BODY. Yet because "GOD WAS, IN CHRIST, RECONCILING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF, NOT IMPUTING THEIR TRESPASSES TO THEM," and has committed to Paul and his colleagues the 'word of reconciliation'. Therefore and by this, this TERROR of the Lord () is abated, for indeed 'mercy smiles in the face of judgment', as James declares. Not for those outside of Christ however is this wonder, except they come. Hence Paul WARNS them!
ALL men must so "appear before the judgment seat of Christ". This includes Paul. Yet we know that the saint's sins are buried in the depths of the sea, and will be remembered no more (Micah 7:18-29, Hebrews 8:10-12). Thus a divine INTERVENTION in terms of the gospel mercies and pardon, swallows up this fearful apparition of just judgment. With regard to the terror, but constrained by love, Paul warns them. God will intervene only in terms of His Gospel, and if this be rejected then judgment is sure already.
In sum: confronted as for judgment, with the list and litany of wrong doing, the data of his faults, Paul is delivered by the supervention of the marvel of judicial mercy made manifest then, as Christ as made manifest Himself on earth earlier; and this predestinate mercy was made manifest in his heart (II Timothy 1:9,12). God being no respecter of persons, and this 'word' of reconciliation being preached: then others may look similarly by faith for such supervention in this sense ( I John , Romans 5:9-10). Others may receive it through its activation in terms of the everlasting Gospel, in the time of the appointment of the sovereign majesty of God, as He pleases: whose divine understanding no man wisely would dare to challenge, since it is infinite (Psalm 147:5).
The Westminster Confession speaks in Chapter III, of 'elect infants, dying in infancy' and 'all other elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word' as 'being regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth'. This emphasis is just. GOD appoints the gospel, the time, the manner of its dispersal, and sovereignly secures by its criterion, those who are His, who without works, He has before the world known.
We do not, may not and cannot rightly prescribe; to His patience or to His knowledge, by the wisdom of our little wits; but will leave to His divine knowledge the securing of His own WITH the love He protests He has (and I believe Him!), declares He is and executes without prejudice (I Timothy 2:1-6, Colossians 1:19ff.).
Against potentially damning, indeed justly damning evidence, then, comes the divine supervention in METHOD (pardon and regeneration), PRINCIPLE (the procurement as by the Gospel) and TIMING (when He will), that all chosen, repenting and believing may be, and indeed assuredly will be saved. Let us take then care not to distort or contort, to squeeze or to qualify outside the Bible that magnificent love of God. HE does NOT go through the souls of men as a philanthropist might go through an orphanage, and select now this one now that, condemning by non-selection those left.
DESPITE His love for all, He rejects some, but on the PRINCIPLES stated which fully delineate His love, and NOT in some way which denies them. NONE deserves to be selected, let alone through some mysterious X-factor of God-acceptability which is viewed as in some way endemic. (Cf. Predestination and Freewill pp. 82 and 97 - note 88. "I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing," says Paul in Romans 7:18 - cf. Psalm 16:1-5, Isaiah 45:23-24, 64:6, Romans 3:20-27). Perception of spiritual beauty differentially in the flesh is not the ground of salvation, or its criterion, but "the grace of God that brings salvation, which has appeared to all men" - Titus 2:11.
ALL deserve to be rejected. But GOD deserves to be taken at His word which He states that He would have all men to be saved and declares in the most categorical imaginable terms the barrier against salvation not in His love lack towards some, but in the response in the very face of His STATED intention (John 3:17) and His direct ADVENT, of those whom He rejects.
Those known before all time indeed are lost, but not through lack of love towards any as the basis and underlying cause, in His attitude. To state, makes parables or imagine to the contrary is to have an imagination at war with the word of God. Of all places in which to wage war, this is the last.
Let us then, as is well in such considerations of the divine mercy, recall to mind two vital principles. The first is that of grounded condemnation, and the double threshold, from John 3:19; and the second?
It is this: Micah's depiction of it, given in just and true inspiration of God (Micah -19): GOD DELIGHTS IN MERCY, relishes it, is not illiberal with it, but rather is worthy of praise in awe for the lavishness of this mercy which suffuses from His heart. He IS love (I John 4:7, John ,Acts 13:46-48, Romans 11:32-33, I Timothy 2:1-5). We have that on good authority, none better! Let us hear the pristine beauty of His approach to the Jew, first called in the saga of kingdoms outlined in Romans 11:
“Who is a God like You,
who pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression
of the remnant of His heritage ?
He does not retain His anger for ever,
because He delights in mercy.
“He will turn again,
He will have compassion upon us;
He will subdue our iniquities, and
You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
Ezekiel 33:11 is similar and of incomparable breadth, while Luke 19:42 shows a concern in parallel, and Jonah 3 in action. God loves mercy and God cites condemnation in terms of ultimate sin against the ultimate light. So much has been said by so many on the sovereignty of God, and by so many others on the freedom of the human will even in sin, that the justice of the first and the error of the second tend to be stalemated in terms of the bypass of the love of God often found in the second: something which had Wesley*1 in almost apoplectic seeming passion against Whitefield to the point.
It is of course the simple case that God is UTTERLY sovereign and UTTERLY merciful, and the way these things are at work together is as stated in the Bible, portions of which both sides have tended to ignore, suppress or treat too lightly. If only one could remember at all times that God means exactly what He says ON ALL SUBJECTS.
SIN is remorseless an agent to do what it can to undo; MERCY is NO LESS SO as the agent for deliverance. GOD in His wisdom moves wholly, truly and justly: in all His stated principles, magnificently true, truly magnificent. What He states to the Jew in terms of His love, He states to the Gentile, to the world! It is all written, whether by apostle or prophet to the Jew or to the Gentile...
Does however II Corinthians 5 limit the application of this mercy? IF Paul warns people of their facing judgment on the score of 'receiving' sins done in the body (5:10), does this NECESSARILY entail that the supervention of mercy will not occur unless believing is done in the flesh (in which case, farewell those not able to receive the ministry of the word, as cited from the Westminster Confession earlier).
However, Jesus said that believing itself is THE WORK OF GOD. (John is an example, and similar portent is Ephesians 2:8.) It is not a work done in the flesh for which reward is 'received', as in II Corinthians 5:10. It is a work of God which has its own reward.
Since many scriptures indicate that saving faith is not a work of ours, something evincible as meritorious or citable as attained; since merit is out, not indeed attributable to us as agents in salvation any more than such would be citable to a baby being born; since it is clear that this categorical and unrescindable (Romans 8:28) gift is given so that GOD DOES IT, and it is WROUGHT in us: then this becomes one more case, like that in Romans 1-3.
The universal condemnation or susceptibility for it or both is spelled out first; and then the supervening mercies in the gospel are spelled in. CATEGORICALLY and ANALYTICALLY and even PRINCIPIALLY, we ALL face and deserve hell; but divine supervention BY the Gospel WHEN God pleases chases away the law, and institutes redemption.
For each Christian, therefore, for each called at this or that time, this principle is equally in force. Into this arena of judgment, ALL must have the intervention of God; and the question is this - when does He do it?
Believing becomes the operation interceptive, the anti-missile missile carrier which brings deliverance. It intercepts what it will when God wills. For whom then does it make this interception? For all to whom this occurs, for them there is the deliverance from this judicial scourge, impending but disrupted by the gift of eternal life in which it is God who justifies, as Paul puts it in Romans 8.
"Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who is risen again... Who shall separate us from the love of God!..." (see Romans 8:33-34,38-39).
WHEN DOES GOD ELECT TO ACT ?
IT STARTED BEFORE THE WORLD,
IS EVIDENCED AT JUDGMENT
We are in this context therefore faced with this: it simply means that all face the sourness of hell justly by deserts of their deeds, but in His inimitable style, God has sent Christ His Son, and will send sentences to those secured to Him, to the depths of the sea; whenever this has the assured correlative to predestination: in which the whole thing is determined at and indeed, before the outset of the world. That correlate is saving faith, the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
Paul, out of love, not out of terror (II Corinthians 5:14), but with terror in mind, then tells whom he may, so that they may be saved, and none will be, without preaching (Romans 10); for without this Christ none will be saved, and that involves revelation and preaching, or its just divinely functioning equivalent in reality, known to God. It is indeed well to leave the secret things to God (Deuteronomy 29:30), and to employ and deploy the revelation HE has given to us, while leaving HIM to consummate its principle in His illimitable wisdom and freedom. What then God may do in terms of His freely declared PRINCIPLES and HOW He will do it , is HIS PREROGATIVE. He does not contradict Himself (Proverbs 8:8). He will act just as he says.
We, first of all, do not know the whole
outworking of predestination in history; and secondly, do know that the judge
of all the earth will do right and will execute His word, including those
magnificent principles of John 1-3. We do our part and preach, teach, live for
Christ; God does ALL He wishes as He wishes. His word is not mocked or locked;
HE will perform it. It is neither necessary nor wise to exercise ourselves in
things too high for us. Christ always and only is for answer; and how He performs
it in terms of His only and everlasting Gospel is His affair. I for profoundly delighted to leave that to Him as I
marvel in survey of the passion and scope of Colossians 1:19ff., and the
seemingly endless repetitions of His enduring desire expressed against the
utmost provocation in the times of
As for whoever in this present world will be damned: such will not be so without the total application of the principles of John 1-3, -23 for example. HOW that is done is something one dare not seek to grasp from God for the sake of any theology, for the canon is closed as Revelation shows us; and not doing so, is a reticence to be commended to all theology.
There are, to be sure, highly suggestive intimations; and who would deny to anyone the privilege of constructing apologetics for the assistance of the saints and the reaching of the lost who desire it, with due reserve*2, keeping scriptures which have bearing, in mind, without addition or subtraction : while interpreting the system as it is, and exhibiting the thrust of its demonstrable harmonies with the liberty which the need imposes, and the care God imposes (I Peter 3:15, II Corinthians 10:5, I Corinthians 9:19-23, II Timothy 2:15)...
Such work is prima facie, however: structural concept for the sake of Apologetics, not adding to doctrine or subtracting from thought. NOTHING will in any case bankrupt the love of God, yes even at any point: any more than it will disperse His sovereignty or less human responsibility. The neat, all-embracing and elegant way in which the Bible weaves these together, this and this alone in all literature, allows such entirely harmonious combinations of these principles, and for this we praise the might, the marvel and the communication of God.
WHAT SHOULD BE SHRUGGED OFF
IS MINIMISATION OF THE LOVE OF GOD:
THE SOVEREIGN OF SOVEREIGNTY IS A MOST LOVING LORD
Enduring and simple realities remain clear and certain: as we have seen from John and Paul, a is also displayed in Hosea, Ezekiel and Jeremiah, as displayed in Predestination and Freewill and Appendix B, SMR: hell is for the second degree of rejection (Colossians 1:19-23, John 1-3,15, I Timothy 2:1-6), extending to the abyss of severance, awesomely excluded by reinforced guilt, away from the love of God. HOW to get there 'safely' is to reject mercy's commission, Jesus Christ! And this in the face of the divine willingness amply declared, and this in truth and in reality! God does not ask us to worship Him with greater simplicity and reality than He Himself has displayed in His own true testimonies and commandments.
We who love the Lord*3 have no call to presumption to prescribe times and seasons to the Almighty; but rather to proclaim the everlasting Gospel (Revelation 14:6, Genesis , Romans 4:11-25, Galatians 1, Ephesians 1:4, II Timothy1:9) without which no-one can be saved, and through the abuse of which is the toll-gate of damnation. For no one does love shrug, not for a moment, though it comes to rejection in the knowledge of God, whose passionate seeking for the lost is so amply displayed in Hosea 14 and II Chronicles 36; and though indeed, the results of dismissal in the FACE of this urgent and earnest endeavour is catastrophic as well as foreknown (cf. Jeremiah 9:1ff.). Double predestination (I Peter 2:8) is not unloving because it is sure; but sure because it is loving.
Not then for one moment does love shrug, in indifference to life; as if that were an acceptable vogue. It is contrary to the mind of the Creator and unacceptable for the people of God, whose salvation is at the hand of Him who IS life. Indifferent then? Love would rather ACT and speed the action for all or any who face the mangling jaws of life without Christ ( Ephesians ). Let us then neither limit the sovereignty of God nor add to His principles in our limited wisdom as if tradition were truth, nor move one iota from the truth, the word, the Gospel, rigorously exclusive of all unbelief, justly inclusive of all to whom the grace of God has accorded faith; and let us be diligent. The time is short; where live is, it acts.
It is God who is God; and all who make some submissions in theology in His name, must recall this constantly lest there should be a carrying away with systems of human thought, however godly may be the intention.
See Appendix B of The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, where the full thrust of Matthew is relevantly exposed and made manifest: for the present setting.
The "daughter of Jerusalem" who shook her head at Sennacherib, ridiculed and despised him (cf. Psalm 2's divine and scathing scorn) - the generation, that is, of Jerusalem of that time, here seen in Matthew as Jerusalem's children is in focus. It here gives the bypass rejection notice, this time not to the Assyrian monarch, but to their own Saviour, a vastly different act, but by the same agent, the contemporary generation of Jerusalem, the embodiment of the city that relates to the action in view. This scornful rejection they pursue towards Jesus Christ in their own generation, in an undiscriminating parallel to the ancient act of their forefathers, an act of fatal blindness (cf. Luke ), at which He, the Christ wept, their 'day of visitation' sacrificed along with Himself.
"Behold your house is left to you desolate" (cf. Matthew 24:2) was the result from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, as He shows in Matthew 23:37, in the very face of the Saviour's multiplied calls to the security of His personal protection, in close abiding, under His wings. If they had come (John ), eternal life was theirs, for those who come (John 6:37ff.) are those whom the Father gives.
This is the case, "BUT YOU WOULD NOT!", says Christ. There is the same direct parallelism as in Matthew 16:15-16, the divine and the human, the question and the answer, the approach and the response.
...Who do YOU say ...
...YOU are the Christ!
as we see it there, in earlier discourse.
v I would have gathered YOU -
v but YOU would not.
Since the current generation of the "daughter of Jerusalem" is in view, its "children" being the term here used, so their rejection puts Jerusalem itself on the mat, so that the city per se now pays the penalty. It is precisely parallel to Matthew 23:30-35 a few verses earlier, where the blood of many generations will come on this one, who are the "children of those who killed the prophets".
There is an can be no question that these are severely specified, with the utmost clarity, as the recipients through their own obduracy of what has been long in preparation for the city; and this is in face of what might have been, had their own attitude been different, a distinction which brought tears to the Saviour as seen in Luke 19:42. The "children" are the current, the contemporary account receivers for the direction of the past, being repellant to the last, of the most!
"Fill up," He says, "the measure of your fathers." Accordingly, it is "upon this generation, " that "all these things shall come," intensified to a point of no return, as John 15:22-24 so amply and categorically shows from the same divine lips.
Here then in our verse of Matthew 23:37, in dramatic FORM and customary formula, already applied in detail in the same chapter of Matthew's gospel as we have just noted, is the PRINCIPLE of Colossians 1:19-23 abundantly applied; it is equally that of John 3:17ff. used with direct divine countenance.
Judgment is cumulative
"to the 3rd and 4th. generation " of "those who hate" God,
who stand in the withering path of truth,
in the way of rejection of a love at once solicitous, magnified, multiplied in expression
(cf. Hosea - where the same 'song' of the love of God, follows in 13:1-9),
and to the heart, from the heart,
applied towards a reconciliation (Col.1), and salvation (John 3),
for which He is willing, but they are not,
so eventuating in the oblivion of light, damaging and eternal,
where chaste love pursues no more.
Such it that wonderful
love of God, who is love ( I John 4:7).
In John 15 you see Christ (vv.21-23), telling them that if HE had not come AMONG them and SPOKEN and DONE the wonders He did, they would not have had sin. (All being sinners, the context implies that this is the sin relating to damnation, which is judgment unmitigated: it is sin relevant to the issue in hand.)
In Colossians 1:19ff., you see the ATTITUDE of God in His DETERMINATION that ALL might be reconciled to Himself, this being in the essence of the sending of His Son (cf.John 3:16, cf. I John 2:1-2 - the scope there being ON BEHALF of all, but of course not in their place, since most prefer to keep their own, and not believing "that I am He", "die in their sins" - John 8:24).
In the colossal sweep of this grand tour of triumph, in I Peter 3:17-19, for the reasons given in our text, from the phrasing and sequence, we appear to be seeing the grandeur of preaching to that vast CATASTROPHIC multitude from one of the axes of universal history, the universal flood (Genesis 6:17). Here we find from revelation, Christ preaching to the spirits in prison if we take simply what it says, and doing so UPON HIS OWN RESURRECTION. Thus the determination of Colossians, the situation of John 15, the scope of John 3:16 and for that matter, the willingness of I Timothy 2, that all should come to a knowledge of the truth, come like so many vast tidal waves of revelation, inundating the earth and softening it up, so that it might not be hard, imagining as it were, that the love of God could in some way be short-circuited, and tidied up beyond the immense scope of its grandeur which GOD HIMSELF repeatedly attests to be the case.
This love does not remove hell; but it certainly removes any excuse for it. Man does not reach that destination, and doom, except in the very face of the love of the Almighty God. It is thus precisely correct to say that it is done 'over Christ's dead body', for there is the alleviation and the good pleasure of God combined, held out to all, though paying only for some, since only some are to leave their sins, the majority keeping them like collectors' items, to accompany them to the abode of the lost, where truth does not come, the light is darkness and polluted preferences (John 3:19) are consummated.
See Predestination and Freewill,
pp. 100ff., in Part 2 on John Wesley.This notable evangelist unfortunately did
not support his concern with apt systematics; but his primary thrust regarding
the love of God had some substance. Agreeableness with both system and
substance could have been achieved without detriment to either. For an example
of this, see the above work, Part III, pp 114-159.The superb Biblical
harmony of the love, responsibility and sovereignty aspects is provided in the
text of the word of God with His customary precision and harmony, as the above
noted work demonstrates.
My Predestination and Freewill provides an exposition in this area.
At this point, it may prove helpful to consider hell in the terms we have just been envisaging.
For hell and time, see SMR pp. 422V-W, 509-510, 638-639, 1137, *1 and *3. C.S. Lewis has pointed out that eternal destruction and eternal punishment are correlative concepts to be considered in their jointness. Garbage is not the same as the undefiled originals, and so transience of some kind appears to enter in.
Manifest criteria of hell relate to the manifest love of God: namely, by the nature of the way people get there, in the very face of the marred face of Christ, it is irrevocable; it is hopeless for the same reason, for life has no hope but in God. It is everlasting shame as Daniel 12 so impactively presents it, for its contempt is due and deserved, earned and made rigid. It is shame adorned by guilt, and guilt aggravated by wanton preference for its continuance. Indeed, it is only when the love of God is understood, that hell may be better comprehended.
For the rest, as noted in SMR 422V, time itself is a creation of God. Being created, it proceeds according to its mode; and in every phase of the history of creation, it has its character. For God Himself, mere sequence is not mandatory, but is a creation, a serial mode that has both its point and its limits. Time is not something with its own eternal power. Such thoughts fit rather into the irrelevances of materialism, which founds its validity on its invalidity, making thought irrationally subservient to not thought, and ignores the whole major matrix of life, which is other.(See SMR Index, Materialism; and pp. 100, 316A-G, 329-332H, 422E-W.) In view of these considerations, it is understandable how the antichrist forces noted in Daniel, could presume to seek to changes times and seasons.
God however can do this: and the nature of the everlasting contempt, unrelieved, other than annihilation, branded as it were with inner brands from tormented conscience may have characteristics of its own. "The smoke of their torment" rises on the dismal scene. The content in terms of time as we know it, however, it is best not to imagine in terms of the current epoch merely extrapolated into eternity; since such a presumption merely creates considerations that are purely arbitrary.
None finds this mode of life and death without the double barrier being crossed, that was earlier noted; and it is this which makes it what it is. There is nothing arbitrary about hell; nor is it merely a punishment for the commission of various inadequate acts. It tears its own mercy.
It is of the highest importance not only in theology, but in life that the love of God be recognised with its abundantly attested Biblical amplitude. The idea of a mitigated love in a sovereign who is either not the sovereign of this dreadful sovereignty, which aborts the clear principles of scripture, or not the God who He says He is, is of great practical import (Jeremiah 9:24, II Timothy 3:16-17). Entirely loving and equally entirely sovereign, God is the basis of our understanding, the former of our characters, the inspirer of our vision and of our best deeds.
Once His lovely and loving magnificence is reduced or (in appearance) seduced, in a confusion of theology which does not see that in salvation, the love of God is logically prior to all system, and that system does not depend on it, there is a grievous peril. Out of misplaced fear or indeed for any reason, then the disciple is needlessly vulnerable, apt to become truncated in love as he/she has also truncated (however confusedly and however unintentionally) the love of God. It is the place of fanaticism to forget the love of God, as it is the place of slackness to forget His sovereignty. Stability flourishes (Isaiah 33:6) where ALL His counsel is remembered. THIS was the apostolic example of Paul: and who more forcibly among the apostles maintained both aspects than he! (Acts ,27).