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In yesterday's blog I made the statement that "The Gospel of the Kingdom that Paul preached had no threats." I apologize for overstating the case. I was thinking about 2 Cor. 5:18-20, where there are no threats, but rather was a call to reconciliation, telling the world that God was "not counting their trespasses against them."
I was trying to make the point that our message should not be "turn or burn." But the way it came out, I gave the impression that there was to be no divine judgment for sin. I have always acknowledged a future judgment for sin, and there are, in fact, some who criticize me for this, insisting that there is no judgment.
There are other passages where Paul and others make it clear that there is a day of judgment yet to come. For example, Romans 2:5 says,
5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.
The question is this: Does Romans 2:5 contradict 2 Cor. 5:18-20? Not really. In Romans 2 Paul was informing unbelievers of the judgment to come. In 2 Cor. 5, Paul was informing the believers of the mission as ambassadors.
Yet how can there be a day of judgment without God holding their trespasses against them? This has long been the underlying source of controversy between me and some of my critics. The answer lies in the fact that Christ's death on the cross has indeed reconciled the world, but the means of realizing that accomplishment will involve corrective judgments for most of the world.
In other words, Christ's work on the cross ensured the success of the divine plan to save all mankind. Those who place their faith in Christ's work on the cross may avoid all judgment, if they are overcomers. Those believers who build on the foundation of Christ using flammable materials will be "saved yet so as by fire" (1 Cor. 3:15). And finally, the unbelievers "will learn righteousness" by means of corrective judgments (Isaiah 26:9).
But in the end, God will be "all in all," as Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:28. Not all in some. Not some in all. Just all in all. All things [ta panta, "the all"] will be put under His feet, which fulfills the Dominion Mandate of Gen. 1:28 to "subdue" the earth. Whereas Adam failed in this, the Last Adam (Jesus Christ) succeeded. Hebrews 2:8 says,
8 "Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet" [from Psalm 8:6]. For in subjecting all things to Him, He left nothing that is not subject to Him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to Him.
So we see that when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father, He fulfilled the Dominion Mandate. All things were subdued or subjected to Him, and "He left nothing that is not subject to Him." This subjection takes time, however, and for this reason, "we do not yet see all things subjected to Him."
It is only a matter of time. To those sinners who are too immature to understand the Father's heart, all judgments are considered threats. When we discipline our own children--even as faulty human beings--our purpose is to correct them, not to destroy them forever. Nonetheless, from the child's point of view, all judgment is a threat, because it goes contrary to his carnal will.
Yes, I remember those days.
It is the Father's character and will to bring forth sons in His image. Then it is His will to use those sons to bring the blessings of Abraham to the rest of creation. This is why Paul says in Rom. 8:19,
19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it IN HOPE [expectation] that the creation itself will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
This is a two-step process. First the sons, then the creation itself. When the creation itself is subjected to the authority and will of Jesus Christ, the Last Adam, then the divine plan will be complete.
Creation itself is represented by the four beasts around the throne: lion, calf, man, and eagle (Rev. 4:7). These are also the four creatures mentioned in God's covenant with the earth in the days of Noah. Genesis 9:9, 10 says,
9 Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with YOU [man] and your descendants after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds [eagle], the cattle[calf], and with every beast of the earth [lion] with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth.
These are also the signs on the banners of the four leading tribes of Israel around the tabernacle of Moses. Judah's sign was the lion, Ephraim's was the calf (or ox), Reuben's was the man, and Dan's was the eagle. Israel's tribes were the elected representatives of the whole earth, called to bring the blessings of Abraham to all.
And so when John saw the accomplished end of the plan in Revelation 5, he first observed the sons of God manifested, followed by the rest of creation. The sons of God, he says in 5:9-10, are "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" who have become a kingdom of priests that will reign on the earth. They are a cross-section of humanity, a first-fruits of creation.
The first-fruits sanctify the harvest. Hence, John continues,
13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor, and glory and dominion forever and ever." 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen."
When the four beasts--representing all of creation--say AMEN, it signifies that all have been reconciled. There is peace in creation, because all are now in full agreement and harmony. All that was lost in Adam has been redeemed, not only Adam himself, but his entire estate that had been sold to pay for his sin (Matt. 18:25).
So far, as Paul tells us, we do not yet see all things put under His feet. It is only when the four beasts (living creatures) can say AMEN that the divine plan is complete. Between now and then, many will experience both consequences of sin (in this life) as well as judgments at the Great White Throne.
In the end, those judgments will prove to be aionian, not "everlasting." It is a limited period of time, because the purpose of judgment is to make corrections and to teach right from wrong.
Dr. Robert Young's Literal Translation consistently translates aionian as "age-during," because the word is derived from aion, which means "an eon or age." He is the author of Young's Concordance. Rotherham's The Emphasized Bible translates the word as "age-abiding" for the same reason.
For this reason, Paul could speak of aionian judgment in Heb. 6:2 without contradicting his other statements in Heb. 2:8, Eph. 1:22, Rom. 5:15-19, and 1 Cor. 15:25-28. Paul thus agrees with John's vision of Creation's Jubilee at the end of history (in Rev. 5), although it is understood that this great reconciliation is established by temporary judgments.
Conclusion: There are indeed threats of temporary judgment, but when viewed through the heart of love (God's character), the threats are better seen as a father's correction of his children.