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All judgment for sin is evil. God imposed death (mortality) upon all mankind when Adam sinned. This has been the root cause of all subsequent evil in the world that man has done as a consequence of this mortal condition or weakness.
Many do not understand this, and even Bible translators have tried to correct Paul’s writings, thinking that he made a mistake. A key misunderstanding is seen in the NASB translation of Romans 5:12,
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.
As translated above, it seems to say that through Adam, sin entered the world—because he was the first sinner. And then death came as a result of sin. Then, as Adam begat children, this death (mortality) spread to them as well—“because all sinned.”
We are left with the impression that Adam’s children all became mortal because they sinned. The implication is that if they had not sinned, they would not be mortal. This is incorrect, and it is not what Paul was actually saying.
The Concordant Literal New Testament translates it this way:
12 Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and thus death passed through into all mankind, ON WHICH [eph ho] all sinned.
The Greek phrase, eph ho, means “on which,” and is the equivalent of “therefore.” It does not mean “because.” This is crucial, because we need to know what caused what. Did mankind become mortal BECAUSE they sinned? No, it is the opposite. Mortality was passed into mankind ON WHICH they all sinned. Mankind sins because they are mortal. Mortality is their fatal flaw, their weakness.
So the order of events is this: First, Adam sinned. God imposed the death penalty upon him, which we know as “mortality.” From there, we find that all of his children were born mortal as well. This mortality made them weak and susceptible to sin. Therefore, all have sinned.
Mortality was the judgment for Adam’s sin. Mortality is the first death. The second death is the lawful judgment for each individual’s sin. Hence, Rev. 20:13 says, “they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.” The second death—the lake of fire—does not judge mankind for Adam’s sin, but for their own sins. Hence, Rom. 8:23 says, “the wages of sin is death.”
But yet there are two kinds of death. The first is mortality, while the second is submitting to the discipline of God through a baptism of fire. The fire consumes the flesh, purifies the sinner, and makes him into the image of the All-Consuming Fire that is God’s character. Christians submit to this divine judgment during their life time; unbelievers do not, and so they will be forced to do so at the Great White Throne.
This judgment at the Great White Throne establishes the justice of God, for it is not an endless torture with no possibility of salvation. Such concepts of eternal torture are, in themselves, unjust judgments as defined in the divine law. All mankind will be held accountable for their actions at the Great White Throne, if they have not appropriated the cross of Christ as payment for their sin.
But such justice does not absolve God of imposing the sentence of morality upon all mankind. Men were born mortal. If they had been immortal, and had become mortal only after they sinned, it would have been impossible for a woman to miscarry or get an abortion, for the unborn child would not have had opportunity yet to commit any sins.
Death, or mortality, was not an unjust penalty for sin, nor did it come to Adam without warning. But it was technically a violation of God’s law for Him to impose Adam’s death penalty upon the rest of us before we had even sinned. And so once again, we are left with the problem of evil—the fact that God imposed the death penalty upon all for the sin of one man, Adam.
This imposition was done by the law of headship, to be sure. We cannot question the justice of God from that standpoint. But even the law forbids judging the children according to the sins of their fathers. Thus we read in Deut. 24:16,
16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.
This is affirmed by the prophets, for Ezekiel 18:20 says,
20 The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
In a time when it was common to put a man’s entire family to death in revenge for one member’s offense, this was a very important law that established God’s righteous standard. Why, then, did God appear to do this in the case of Adam’s sin, which He imputed to us and then imposed the death sentence of Adam upon us?
By God’s own standard of righteousness, this was unjust. Most theologians today are ashamed to admit this, because they can present no solution to the problem. They are aware that the only solution possible is that God intends to rectify this temporary injustice by saving all mankind. But they find this solution unacceptable, for they want to retain their belief that God intends to torture people with infinite heat for ever and ever. One would think that if the love of God dwells in men, they would be searching for a way that God might save all mankind! If the Bible even hinted of such a possibility, one would think that they would eagerly search it out to see if it might be so.
Instead, I have found that the opposite is true. Men have actually been offended, drawing back and saying, “I’ll have you know that one of the greatest blessings in heaven will be to watch those people burn in hell.” Others actually make a game of this, teaching that the saints in heaven will applaud as the sinners scream in pain.
This is not biblical Christianity, nor does this in any way reflect the character of Christ or His Law. Torture is not one of the judgments of the law. It is one of man’s laws, which they have imposed upon God and now teach in His name.
When I was young, I was taught to define death as “separation from God.” Many Scriptures were brought in to buttress this definition. But when I finally studied it for myself with prayer, I discovered that separation from God was not the definition of sin, but a natural consequence of death. To be cut off from the Life-Source is certainly death. But separation is an immediate by-product of death, not death itself. Adam hid from God and separated himself AFTER he sinned. To redefine death as “separation from God” twisted the Scriptures and only caused confusion between the meaning of mortality and immortality.
Such a view then warped the entire meaning of divine justice. Whereas God imposes the death penalty for sin, men came to impose the penalty of fiery torture for sin. The purpose of divine judgment shifted from justice to deterrence, especially in the Latin-speaking Church, for the Roman mind valued “law and order” more than justice itself. Certainly, any carnally-minded nation had the same tendency, but the Romans perfected it.
True justice, as defined in God's law, makes justice the first priority, while deterrence is secondary. The purpose of justice is to correct the sinner and restore the broken relationship with his victim. Justice restores equilibrium to the divine order through balance. Hence, the law says, “an eye for an eye” (Ex. 21:24). In other words, the judgment imposed by the judge must always fit the crime--no more, no less—though monetary compensation could be made as the equivalent of an eye.
This is why God's law does not permit torture for any sin, for torture is mere punishment that does nothing to change a sinner's heart or to restore a broken relationship through restitution. When man defines “hell” as never-ending torture, claiming that this is divine justice, it truly is an “evil” as man views evil, for it has no purpose except to punish without end. It is only “good” to men who are motivated by revenge. It is not “good” as God defines it, for God's evil is good because it always has good purpose and is motivated by Love.
When Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, his soul began to rule his spirit and he began to think dualistically. Good and evil were separated into opposites, instead of two aspects of good (i.e., Love and Justice). It was inevitable, then, that Justice would be seen and defined as an opposite to Love, instead of as a derivative of Love having an alternate application. As this dualism progressed in religious philosophy, “hell” became hotter in the attempt to restrain the ever-increasing evil among men. Deterrence trumped justice.
But God spoke to Moses and gave Israel a perfect law by which we might know His mind and how to establish a perfect system of law. For this reason I have been amazed when well-meaning Christians fear the divine law as if it came from a God of Vengeance. They run from such a God and draw near to Jesus, the God of Love, not knowing that Jesus was the Law-giver who appeared to Moses while Jesus was in His pre-incarnate state.
Such a dualistic mindset makes the Old Covenant (“Testament”) an opposite of the New Covenant and tends to create two opposing Gods, each with a different purpose and character. No, the Bible is a single Book and must be viewed as a progressive revelation of the Kingdom of God, with each revelation building upon the previous foundations.
The strangest of all ideas is that the divine law is somehow more to be feared than the New Covenant God who is thought to impose torture upon sinners. In the divine law, stealing one dollar brings divine justice that says I must return two dollars to my victim (Ex. 22:4). The Church, however, largely discarded the law and then substituted its own ideas of deterrence, telling us that stealing even one dollar is punishable by never-ending torture in hell.
That is not divine justice as defined in the law. That is only purposeless punishment imposed by carnally-minded men who claim to know better than God the true meaning of justice. Their dualistic philosophy leaves the universe eternally with heaven and hell, light and darkness, all coexisting perpetually with no thought to restoration or reconciliation. Such an end separates evil from good, but never reconciles creation, as the Scriptures teach.
When Paul says in Col. 1:16-20 that “the all" of creation is "the all" that was reconciled in Christ, this can only occur if divine justice is good. Justice is only good if it has a good purpose and is imposed in Love. Anything short of the reconciliation of all creation falls short of Paul's expectations of God. Hence, divine justice is eonian, not everlasting, and it is restores balance to the divine order, rather than imposing mere torture.
This is the God of the Bible.