by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 4 Study # 17 October 26, 2004 Lincolnton, N.C.
(072)Thesis:Man's "qualification" for the judgment of eternal Hell is clearly known by him.
Introduction:I suggested last week that maybe we didn't need to spend another week on Paul's case against mankind in Romans 1. I changed my mind. The statement that Paul makes in Romans 1:32 needs to be understood clearly in respect to the "T"heology that it creates. There is no doctrine in the Bible that creates more problems for human consumption than God's willingness to put him to death for his sins. There is another doctrine that almost ranks as high on the list of "despised doctrines" -- that of God's final sovereignty in all things -- but that one is only a real problem because it stands on this one. If God were not willing to put men to death for their sins, there would be no "theological problems" for man; he would just blow through life on this earth and die in great peace and contentment without a care. So, this evening we are going to look into what Paul said with some care.
I. What Paul Said.
A. First, he said that men "know" two basic facts.
1. The first issue in his claim is the word he chose to use to express "knowledge".
a. This word is an intensified form of a word that means "to know as fully as is possible on the basis of current experience".
1) That it is an intensified form of a word that means "to know as fully as is possible" reveals the tension ... how can one intensify something that has already reached its boundaries?
2) The solution seems to be this: when one "knows" on the basis of experience, his knowledge is necessarily as limited as his experience; but, when we intensify the concept, we push the boundaries of our experience to make sure that we have included all of it.
b. What Paul is claiming is that man's experience of the "truth" about God's ordinance is vast -- there are few areas of man's experience that are left untouched by this "truth".
2. The second issue is his claim that man's knowledge is of God's "ordinance".
a. The word "ordinance" is a word that combines two concepts.
1) The first concept is "righteousness": fundamental justice.
2) The second concept is "enforcement": a precept backed by all of the various attributes of God...including omnipotence.
a) It was this "ordinance" that compelled Calvary: righteousness was not to be denied in the expression of gracious mercy.
b) It is this "ordinance" that also compels Gehennah: righteousness will not be denied in the expression of justice.
b. The content of the "ordinance".
1) The "ordinance" is this: "Those who practice the litany of things Paul addressed in Romans 1:29-31 are worthy of death".
2) The focus of the "ordinance" is "death".
B. Second, man's "knowledge" includes the concept of "death" as the Bible develops it.
1. "Death", in the Bible, is never treated as a cessation of existence.
a. When we see a dead body, we never think that because the body is dead, it has ceased to exist.
b. When we speak of death on the levels that are distinct from the body, we never think that there has been a cessation of existence; we always think in terms of significantly negative experience.
2. "Death", in the Bible, is always treated as a cessation of the ability to function in harmony with the purposes of existence.
a. When we see a dead body, we acknowledge that it is dead for one reason: it no longer has the capacity to express the spirit of the person to whom the body belonged.
b. When we claim to be "dead" in areas apart from the physical, we always have one thing in mind: the inability to achieve the objective for which those areas exist.
1) The death of the soul is the inability to rejoice in a harmonious relationship.
2) The death of the spirit is the inability to exult in the accomplishment of a worthy task.
3. "Death", in the Bible, is always treated as "potentially total".
a. Death is only "the last great enemy" because it has the potential of a total incapacity to experience "Life".
b. Death, therefore, always has Gehennah lurking in the background.
1) Gehennah has always been described in terms of three characteristics...
c) Gnashing of teeth
2) Gehennah is never described in terms of annihilation or extinction.
II. The Problems Men Have With the "God of Gehennah".
A. The concept of an unending experience of total death in terms of physical pain, emotional terror and spiritual rage is tantamount in man's thinking to the worst kind of ogre story.
1. For this cause, men think of God as an Ogre if they admit what they "know".
2. But some men refuse to acknowledge what they "know" and attempt to build a view of God that does not allow the "Ogre" parts.
B. The concept of an unending experience of total death has been embraced as an excuse to maintain the intense antagonism that men feel toward God.
C. The concept of an unending experience of total death has been rejected in favor of either "universal salvation", or "the annihilation of the wicked".
1. Universalism is not taught anywhere in the Bible.
2. Annihilationism is not taught anywhere in the Bible.
3. Both concepts destroy legitimate theology...
a. First, at the truth level ... God cannot tell lies about the future without being a liar.
b. Then, at the justice level ... God cannot refuse to impose true justice as men do while they are claiming to be "more merciful" than God.
c. Then, at the grace level ... what God did in Christ is a mockery if Gehennah is not real.
d. Then, at the love level ... it cannot be love to treat the perpetrators of evil better than the doers of good; nor can it be "love" to turn experience over to the wicked to determine for all others.
e. Then, at the mercy level ... it is not mercy to refuse to help the needy because the wicked want to be wicked and will not be allowed to be if the needy get any real help.
III. The Bottom Line: the God of Gehennah is also the God of the New Jerusalem.
A. There are not two, opposing Gods.
B. There is One God Who interposed Calvary and the Gospel so that Gehennah is only populated by the impenitent and the New Jerusalem is open to all who repent.