Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Kingdom of God - Since the Coming of the King

The last post left off at an apparent low point for the Kingdom of God, “God's kingdom has hit a brick wall, David's throne is has been vacant for centuries, and God's promises are frustrated by disobedience and captivity.” Things don’t appear to be going God’s way.

But then comes a voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight!”

The Message of Jesus

John the Baptist is the herald of the next move God is about to make in establishing his Kingdom forever, fulfilling his prophesies and His promises to David. John prepared the way for Jesus, he fertilized the fields, so to speak, and Jesus pickup exactly were John left off. The first words of Jesus as His ministry began are recorded in Mark 1:15,

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
This message is undisputedly Jesus’ primary and favorite topic, He repeats it constantly:

Luke 4:42-43
And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

Luke 6:20

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:23-27

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
Did the Kingdom Come?

One statement that has been repeated over the years is that Jesus came to bring the Kingdom to the Jews but it was removed when they rejected Him and it will not come again until the time of the Christ’s return. A close inspection of the messages of Jesus and the Apostles after His ascension reveals this view to be mistaken.

Throughout his ministry Jesus speaks of the nearness of the Kingdom, and tells certain people that they are not far from finding it (Mark 12:28-34). Matthew, assistant to the Apostle Peter, editorializes on Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, stating that,

Matthew 21:4-5
This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,

‘Behold, your king is coming to
Humble, and mounted on a
And on a colt, the foal of a
Beast of burden.’”
Even as the unjust trial of Jesus comes to a conclusion and the people of Israel have chosen a murderer over the Son of Man, Jesus bluntly states His Lordship over a Kingdom,

John 18:33-36
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.
It may seem that Jesus’ claim of Kingship, ruling not from a the throne of David as God promised but rather from Heaven, is somewhat diminished from the nearness of the Kingdom He spoke about previously. After all, if the Kingdom is not of this world, how close can it really be?

But this is precisely the kind of Kingdom about which Jesus was speaking throughout His ministry. A Kingdom not made of land and territory, but a spiritual Kingdom which individuals find their way into as they come to acknowledge the authority of God over them.

Matthew 7:21
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
It turns out that a Kingdom without borders or territory was always the plan from the beginning. In Luke Jesus describes the growth of the Kingdom, a description which mirrors a prophesy that was given nearly 600 years before to the prophet Daniel.

Luke 13:18-21
He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45

As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth... And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”
Both Daniel and Jesus speak of a Kingdom which begins small, like a mustard seed, leaven in a lump of dough, or a stone, and then grows over time, eventually filling the whole earth. This is the kind of Kingdom which Jesus claimed kingship over when He was standing before Pilate. This Kingdom was not taken away from God’s people when Christ ascended into Heaven in the first chapter of Acts.

If it had been taken, then one would expect the apostles would stop talking about the Kingdom as they had when Jesus sent them out to witness in the cities and towns ahead of Him. However, the apostles continued to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God, just as Jesus had before He left them.

Acts 8:12
But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Acts 19:8

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.

Romans 14:17

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 15:50

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

2 Thessalonians 1:5

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—
The message that the Kingdom is a present reality and is growing to fill the whole earth doesn’t seem to make sense in a world where sin is still rampant, people are more comfortable than ever publicly rejecting God, and injustice is commonplace. Don't such things oppose the view of a present and continually increasing Kingdom?

It’s true that in the Romans 14:17 passage, cited above, Paul tells us that the Kingdom is peace and joy, yet war and suffering have been the constant companions of humanity since before Jesus walked the earth. Paul is clear that the Kingdom is peace and joy, but not in the world. Paul says such peace and joy are found in the Holy Spirit. This dovetails with another statement Jesus made to His followers while He poured out His heart to them in the upper room just hours before his crucifixion.

John 16:33
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
The peace that Jesus is talking about is not absence of conflict; to the contrary, Jesus says that His subjects will be persecuted. Even so, all the world belongs to Him and His people are safe in His hand. Paul paints a beautiful picture of this idea in his letter to the Colossians,

Colossians 1:13-14
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Are we still within this domain of darkness? We live within it, but it can’t touch us. At worst, it can only kill our bodies; but if that happens for Christ, then our status in the Kingdom is only enhanced. We are subjects of the King and no one can take us out of his hand.

The King has come and his kingdom has been established. He has all authority in earth and in Heaven gathered to Himself. For the present time, this Kingdom is not visible to the naked eye, but every time a person places himself under the authority of Christ and bows before Him the kingdoms of the earth grow a little weaker. Another citizen of the kingdoms of the earth slips away and seeks asylum with the King of kings.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Kingdom of God in the Old Testament

There are a lot of misunderstandings regarding the Kingdom of God entrenched in Christian, and some non-Christian, thought today - as was demonstrated in the last post. Such misunderstandings rise, in part, from the wide ranging nature of the Kingdom itself: the Kingdom is not something that can be pinned down in order for us say, “The Kingdom of God is Salvation,” or “ The Kingdom is peace.” It is these things, but it is a great deal more as well. To gain a better understanding of the Kingdom we need to examine it’s history as it is described in the Old and New Testaments.

God Initiates the Kingdom

Before the Exodus, the people of God had very little information about Him, who He was, or even what he desired of them on a day to day basis. They knew that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they knew some of the things He had done for their fathers. That all changed when the Jews were freed from captivity and slavery in Egypt and God met them at Mount Sinai.

In Exodus 19:4-6, God speaks to the refugees from Egypt through Moses:

“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptian, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

The Children of Israel responded twice, in Exodus 19:8 and 24:3 “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do,” thus accepting God’s proposed covenant and the conditions He placed upon it.

The modern reader loses some of the power of God’s statement and Israel’s response, because he lives in a world entirely devoid of powerful monarchs. This message was given to the Jews at a time when every nation on earth was a monarchy. In that context, God approaches these people gathered at Sinai and says, “I will be your King.” This isn’t just a metaphor, or a word picture for something else – God meant it literally.

Judges 8 records the defeat of the Midianites by God through his judge, Gideon. After the victory the men of Israel, quickly forgetting that God did all the fighting while they stood by and watched, desired to make Gideon their King and establish his line as a dynasty.

Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.”

Gideon understood God’s rightful place as king over this people. Unfortunately, some 200 years later, the people would forget God again in their desire for a king that they could see and touch, a human king just like everyone else had.

2 Samuel 8:4-7
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.

Stop for a second and reflect on that statement – They have rejected Me! This was treason perpetrated directly against the God of the Universe. They took God off the throne and placed a man there, no different than when other nations violently revolt and replace their old king with a new one. Not surprisingly, God did not take kindly to this usurpation of His proper place by the Jews.

Hosea 13:9-11
He destroys you, O Israel,
for you are against me, against your helper.
Where now is your king, to save you in all your cities?
Where are all your rulers—
those of whom you said,
“Give me a king and princes”?
I gave you a king in my anger,
and I took him away in my wrath.

Despite this statement, God does not stay angry with his people for long, He sets His sights on restoring His rule, this time through a new king; one who will do His will and obey His commands. God finds just such a man in the shepherd David.

During his reign, David expresses interest in building a house for God. At first the prophet Nathan approves, but a few hours later God appears to Nathan in a dream and gives him different directions. God says to David:

2 Samuel 7:5-6,8-9, 11-13
Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. … I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. … And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

God makes a promise to David that a descendents of his will sit on the throne forever. He promises an everlasting dynasty, what the Bible often refers to as “The House of David,” and God will rule his people through this house forever.

Unfortunately, Israel continues to be a “stiff necked people,” they leave God again and again. First, ten of the tribes of Israel split from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin when the ten refuse to accept Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, as their King. The nation breaks in two, the Kingdom of Judah in the south, made up of Judah and Benjamin, and the Kingdom of Israel in the north, made up of the other ten tribes.

While Judah has a small number of good kings who seek after God Israel has none, and proceeds to prostitute herself with other nations and other gods until God wipes them out around 720 BC. The northern kingdom of Israel was so bad that later, when God is warning Judah to return to Him, He says of Israel:

Jeremiah 3:6-8
“Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce.

Israel had broken the conditions of covenant given by God at Sinai and the covenant curses, laid out in Deuteronomy 28, all come to pass against that nation.

Because of their few good Kings, Judah lasts a little longer than her sister, but eventually God must punish her as well. In 586 BC God sends the Empire of Babylon, under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar, to lay waste to Jerusalem and the entire nation of Judah. And most of the people are carried off into captivity in a foreign land.

While the Kingdom of Israel was utterly destroyed, Judah and Benjamin survive their captivity under the Babylonians and after 70 years God opens the way for the Jews to return to the land of Israel and to Jerusalem; although only a relatively small number actually return. The Jews manage to rebuild their city and the Temple, but for the next 500 years they are continuously under the dominion of foreign nations: the Medes and Persians, then the Greeks, and finally the Romans. They never restore their free nation, nor re-establish the throne of David.

It seems as though God's kingdom has hit a brick wall, David's throne is left vacant for centuries, and God's promises are frustrated by disobedience and captivity. Fortunately, the history of the Kingdom doesn't end there. More than 500 years after the captivity in Babylon ends, God sets about restoring His Kingdom and remaking it in the form it was always intended to take.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Kingdom of God - What it's Not

Jesus spoke of the Kingdom frequently, he sent the disciples out to preach it to the people, and he told all his followers to “seek it first.” But what is it?

The message of The Kingdom is perhaps the primary focal point of the entire Bible, yet it is a broad subject – so broad that it might be easiest to begin by discussing what the Kingdom is not and some mistaken ideas about it.

Are the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven different things?

There have been a number of people, particularly dispensationalists, who have taught that the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are different. In his bible commentary on Matthew 6, C. I. Scofield distinguishes between these Kingdoms in several ways, essentially stating that the Kingdom of God is a "universal spiritual kingdom" while the Kingdom of Heaven is the manifest Davidic Kingdom on earth. But is this distinction accurate?

In Matthew 19:23-24 Jesus says to the disciples,

“Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Jesus uses the titles Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God interchangeably. He presents the same teaching twice, repeating himself for emphasis, but in the repetition swaps the title Kingdom of Heaven for Kingdom of God.

The synoptic gospels can often be used to clarify a teaching by comparing how the same speech is rendered by different authors. Mark and Matthew give us a little insight into how these two phrases should be understood:

Mark 1:14-15
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

Matthew 4:17
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This is the same moment, the same teaching, rendered by Mark as the Kingdom of God and by Matthew as the Kingdom of Heaven. Clearly, the phrases mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably.

Is the Kingdom of God Heaven?

To answer this question one only needs to look back at Jesus’ primary teaching on prayer:

Matthew 6:9-13
Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

In this model prayer, Jesus teaches the disciples to pray that God’s Kingdom will come on earth, as it already exists in Heaven. Heaven is not the Kingdom of God - the Kingdom does exist there - but we are to pray that the Kingdom “comes” on earth in the same way it already exists in Heaven.

Is the Kingdom the “Millennial Reign” of Christ?

Many evangelicals in the West today hold to a future view of the “Millennial reign” of Christ foretold in Revelation 20 and equate that period with the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Dr. Thomas Ice, a pre-millennial dispensational apologist, writes

“[...] of an interim kingdom following Christ's return but prior to the eternal kingdom of God during which Christ will rule and vanquish all His enemies. [...] Revelation 20 gives the chronology of events and length of Christ's kingdom on this earth prior to the eternal state.”

It is this “interim kingdom" following Christ’s return that is generally known as the “Millennial Reign.”

To be clear, the distinctives of this particular view are that Jesus will return at the end of the future “Tribulation” period and rule the world from Jerusalem for 1000 years. At the end of this 1000 year period there will be a rebellion against Christ, which will be put down and bring about the destruction of the present heaven and earth, which makes room for the “new heaven and earth” and what Dr. Ice calls the “eternal kingdom.”

The most immediate problem with equating the Kingdom of God with the pre-millennial view of the Millennial Reign of Christ is that it ends after 1000 years. However, numerous passages of scripture tell us that the Kingdom will never come to an end.

Isaiah 9:6-7
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time
forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Daniel 2:44
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,

Luke 1:31-33
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

The pre-millennial view of the Millennial reign of Christ cannot be the Kingdom of God. It may be included in the Kingdom, it may be part of the Kingdom, but it itself is not the Kingdom of God.

Is the Nation of Israel the Kingdom of God?

Many Jews at the time of Jesus were expecting the Messiah to come to Israel and throw off their Roman oppressors and re-establish Israel as an independent national power. They believed the prophesies made to King David in 2 Samuel 7:10-17 meant that the Messiah would literally sit on the throne of a free Jerusalem and be a powerful political ruler of Israel.

This appears to be the disciples' understanding of the purpose of the Messiah on earth, for after Jesus has been crucified and resurrected from the dead they ask him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6)?” But Jesus appears to understand the subject differently than his followers:

Acts 1:7-8
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

At first glance it appears like Jesus has dodged their question, however, on closer inspection Jesus appears to have answered the question, but in an unexpected way. Instead of directly answering, Jesus speaks of what is about to happen to them: they will receive power and they will witnesses everywhere, even to the end of the earth.

In his statement to the disciples, Jesus makes reference to Psalm 2; the first of what are known as the “Kingdom Psalms.” The psalmist writes in verses 7-8,

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.

The opening verses of Romans state that, “concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” According to Paul, Jesus was, "declared to be the Son of God […] by his resurrection from the dead," which is a direct allusion to verse 7 of the 2nd Psalm. In Acts 1:8, Jesus refers to the next verse in Psalm 2, stating that the disciples will be his witnesses to “the end of the earth.”

Jesus fulfilled verse Psalm 2:7 by rising from the dead and sends out his disciples to be His witnesses and to fulfill Psalm 2:8. Essentially, Jesus is answering His disciples, “I am setting up the Kingdom at this time, and through your witness to end of the earth it will be established.”

What all this means is that the nation of Israel is not the Kingdom of God either.

Is the Kingdom of God inside everyone?

This is a common claim made by new-agers who want a stamp of approval from Jesus. The claim is based on the King James Version rendering of Luke 17:21:

“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

“See,” says the new-ager, “Jesus says that the Kingdom not a real, objective thing. It is inside each of one of us.”

However, Jesus does not agree with this assessment of the Kingdom.

Luke 16:16
“The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it."

John 3:3,5
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God… Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Jesus is clear that the Kingdom of God is something external to the individual that not everyone will see, or enter.

A better rendering of Luke 17:21 can be found in most modern translations:

“…nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

In other words, “See! The Kingdom of God is very nearby at this moment, even within the midst of this crowd!”

What is the Kingdom of God?

After reading about a lot of things the Kingdom is not, it would be good to get a little insight into what the Kingdom is.

John 3:3-7
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

The Kingdom is not something that anyone can just walk into, Jesus clearly and unequivocally tells Nicodemus that one must be born again to “see” or enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus says the Kingdom “is spirit” and that to enter into it one must be “born of the Spirit,” not just of flesh.

Romans 14:17
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

This is the only passage I have found in the entire Bible which comes right out and says, “the Kingdom of God is…” It’s peace. It’s righteousness. It’s joy. But not by themselves. These things
are of the Holy Spirit. He makes them possible and without him, no one will become part of the Kingdom.

While this begins to give us an idea about the Kingdom there is much more to it than just that. To begin to bring the Kingdom into focus we need to examine it's history in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Next: The Kingdom of God in the Old Testament

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Kingdom of God – It's Importance

What is the most important teaching in the Bible? Many would say it is the good news about the saving work of Jesus on the cross. Others could argue it's the assurance of life demonstrated by Christ's resurrection on Sunday morning. One of my favorite radio hosts believes it is found in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God created..." Certainly the argument could be made that the most important teaching is found in Matthew 22:37-40:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

All of these teachings are important, and to one degree or another they all answer at least part of the question. That said, I think there is an answer that is straight forward, encompasses all the answers above, and completely pervades both the Old and New Testaments:

The Kingdom of God.

Jesus was obsessed with teaching the Kingdom. Every covenant between God and man related in the Bible is inseparably linked to building the Kingdom. By comparison, the Apostles taught the Kingdom of God and little else.

So what is the Kingdom of God? When did it begin? What does it mean for believers today? Why should we care?

Jesus himself clearly says that The Kingdom should be first on our list of priorities. Starting in Luke 9 there are a series of passages which clearly highlight the importance of The Kingdom to Jesus’ work on Earth.

Luke 9:1-2

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.

This is the first missionary journey for Jesus’ twelve closest followers. He decides it is time for the disciples to step out on their own, so he gathers them together, gives them power, and sends them out to tell the people to put their trust in Jesus so they might be saved…wait a second, that’s not quite right. Such a message might be part of what Jesus wants them to preach, but instead of that traditional missionary message He explicitly instructs them to “proclaim the kingdom of God” to all who will listen.

The next chapter in Luke begins similarly:

Luke 10:1-2, 8-9

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest…Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

So Christ sends out another 72 individuals on 36 different missionary journeys to do what? Heal the sick and tell them that The Kingdom is near them.

At the beginning of Chapter 11 of Luke’s gospel the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. Jesus' answer is somewhat truncated in Luke, but the expanded version can be found in Matthew 6:

Matthew 6:9-13

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”

While there is a great deal that could be said about this prayer, simply note that praying for the coming of The Kingdom is second only to exalting God the Father. Is the picture becoming clear yet? The Kingdom is a topic of great importance to Jesus.

While any number of passages could be cited to drive this point home, let's look at only two more:

Matthew 24:9-14

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Matthew 6:31-33

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

There is a lot of baggage that could be unpacked in the 24th chapter of Matthew, it is highly eschatological and often apocalyptic in nature, making its interpretation less than straightforward. Fortunately, no matter what you believe Jesus is teaching in this chapter it is clear that he highlights the proclamation of the Kingdom of God as the thing of utmost importance. Getting out the message of this kingdom is the thing that must happen before “the end will come.”

Going back to the sixth chapter of Matthew, Jesus follows up his teaching on prayer by speaking at some length about the priorities of his followers. He expounds on things that we normally place foremost in our lives - making a good living, getting food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over our heads - and places them behind The Kingdom, saying, “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and all He’ll worry about that other stuff. The Kingdom should be our ultimate concern.

Christ was obsessed with the Kingdom of God. While I have only highlighted a few passages, Jesus spoke about it nearly non-stop. If He was that concerned about The Kingdom, isn’t it a sign that we should be as well?

Over the next several posts, I want to dig into this subject of the Kingdom of God. I hope you find it as interesting as I have.

Next: What the Kingdom Is Not.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Three Views of Hell, Conclusion

If you hadn’t noticed, over the last several months I have devoted this blog to an introductory investigation of the actual Biblical teachings on Hell. This series seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people as I have heard from many people I had no idea even knew about this blog who asked questions of me about the topic or expressed thanks for a genuine investigation of teaching. The topic certainly sparked a lot of interest.

Making a Choice Between Views

I have been asked repeatedly over the last few months which interpretation of Hell I favor most. I am still up in the air regarding my preference of view (and feel no great need to come down anytime soon). Actually, this is a very good place to be as it has allowed me to notice something very interesting about how many people decide controversial issues like this one. From the research that I have done on the three views so far it seems clear that one could be Biblically justified in holding to any of them.

The reason this is possible is because no matter which view one subscribes to, he has to interpret some passages literally and some figuratively. Which passages are written literally and which figuratively is up for debate; there are guidelines that one should follow (i.e. context, type of literature, audience, purpose, etc.), but even so, determining the author’s intent is not always clear cut and easy. If you take the passages that talk about sinners receiving the punishment of death literally then you will likely fall into the Conditional Mortality (CM) camp. If you believe that the passages that speak of the death of the soul in a more figurative way and take God literally at His word when He says that He desires that none should perish and that the works of the devil will be totally destroyed, then you will likely fall into the Universal Reconciliation (UR) camp. Like-wise for many passages that speak of the eternality of aspects of the punishment of the wicked and the Eternal Torment (ET) view.

Interestingly, it seems to me that many will be swayed largely by their view of the nature of God Himself. If you are particularly impressed with the holiness of God and the greatness of His offense at our sin, then it’s likely you will be partial to ET. If you are favorable to the vision of God as the ultimate victor over sin, where God expunges every final particle of sin from creation, then you are likely most favorable to UR. If the primary foundation for your understanding of God rests on His total and perfect justice, then you are likely preferable to the CM view.

Why is this interesting and why does it matter? Because I think that our image of who God is and what He is like deeply colors the way we understand the Bible - maybe more than any other factor. Think about it. Why do liberal Christians hold the views they do? In their mind the superceding trait of God is His love; since God so deeply loves, he must be far more accepting than perhaps traditional Christianity has portrayed, or so they think. On the flip side, extremely conservative Christians who likely tend towards legalism have a primary image of God as a righteous judge. If you understand this point it becomes clear that a good, biblically thorough understanding of God’s nature, and particularly His relationship with us, is crucially important as it can and, I think, does affect many other theological issues we engage with.

Consequences for Evangelism

Let’s face it. The vast, vast majority of Christians, at least in the West, hold the Eternal Torment view. One of the primary concerns that many voice when beginning to consider either of the alternate views are the implications to evangelism. Many Christians believe that one of the best tools in the evangelist’s belt is the average unsaved individual’s fear of eternal torment. While throughout this series I have refrained from taking sides, on this point I can’t remain neutral: The threat of Hell is not a good tool for bringing the lost to Christ. Not only that, the apostles never evangelized in using such threats.

If you read the Book of Acts with an eye toward the “evangelism techniques” of the apostles you will notice that they almost never speak about “Hell” when talking to the people. In Acts 2, Peter’s speech to the people gathered at Pentecost simply proclaimed the truth about who Jesus was, the facts surrounding his life and teaching and concluded with the simple statement that He is the Christ, the anointed one, who is the Lord. The simple implication of Peter’s sermon is that Jesus is the one to whom all the people of the earth owe their allegiance. Peter presented the facts, and the facts backed up the claim of Christ. Those who acknowledged the claim were “cut to the heart” and asked the apostles how they could be saved.

In Acts 3 Peter credits Christ with the healing of a crippled man and, taking advantage of the scene this created, convicts the listeners of their injustice in killing “the Holy and Righteous One” and choosing a murderer in His place. He then tells that events had to transpire in this way in order that God might complete His plan to bless all people by turning them from their wickedness.

Likewise, in Acts 4 Peter continues to proclaim the Lordship of Christ, proclaiming that he came to save the lost, and that it was his duty, as Christ was his Lord, that he continue to spread the message of Jesus.

Acts goes on and on in this way, the apostles frequently referring to Christ’s claim over all people and the allegiance they owe Him, and only occasionally making vague references to “punishment” or being “destroyed from the people.” The point is, that someone who decides to follow Jesus because he wants to escape eternal torment has not actually come to Christ, but is simply fleeing destruction - something John Baptist accused the Jewish religious authorities of doing at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. He hasn’t come to Christ for Christ’s sake, but out of a desire to save himself from pain.

If the New Testament is clear about anything, it’s clear that we are to come to Jesus on our hands and knees, broken down by our sin because we know that it was rebellion against Him who has the rightful claim over us as our Lord and Creator. Our sin hurt Him who loved us first so deeply that He chose to suffer and die that He might bless us by turning us from our wickedness and bringing us into His family. This should be our desire and the primary impetuous for our salvation, not necessarily a fear of punishment.

We See Through a Glass Darkly

I love the Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 13 of the present state of our knowledge as believers:

1 Corinthians 13:9-12

For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I
spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I
became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but
then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have
been fully known.

I like answers and believe that there are more and better answers to many of the questions Christians ask than many realize. That said, Paul acknowledges that even he, the most important figure in Christianity next to Jesus himself, doesn’t have all knowledge, all reason, or all understanding available to him. There are things, many things on many subjects, which will never be known to man in our present state on this Old Earth. As I have studied over the past three years many issues have become more clear to me, whereas others, like the issue of Hell, have become less and less defined the more I study. It appears that God did not give us complete information on many subjects. Like the mirror, or glass, in which we can see only a hazy, clouded image, there are topics in scripture which we cannot see with any specificity, but can only perceive in the most general way.

Hell is clearly one of these subjects. God, apparently, doesn’t feel the need to fill us in on the details of the punishment of the wicked, but gives us just enough to know that it exists and it is a fearful fate. He doesn’t think we need to know. Someday, as Paul says, we who belong to Christ will see face to face and know fully those things about which we have questions or cannot presently comprehend. As someone who likes answers that expectation is exciting and deeply satisfying.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Three Views of Hell, Part 6 - Conditional Mortality

The doctrine of Conditional Immortality is the final of the three views of Hell left to examine. Like the other two, it has a surprising amount of scripture in it’s favor and should not be brushed off without some serious consideration.

Conditional Immortality, as the name suggests, rests on the idea that human beings are not immortal by nature. This would be opposite to the Eternal Torment view that clearly implies that we are all immortal (if we live forever without the sustaining life of Christ following in us, then we must, by our very nature, possess immortality). Which is right? The Biblical evidence is completely unequivocal.

Only God is immortal:

1 Timothy 1:17
To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 6:13-16
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Human beings do not possess immortality, but receive it as a gift from God, through Christ:

Matthew 19:29
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:36
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 5:24
Truly, truly, I say to you, 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.

John 6:40
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 6:47
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

Romans 2:6-7
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:53-55
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

1 John 5:11-12
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

This is a short list of passages that teach us that eternal life is a gift of God, and that immortality is God’s own possession, which He bestows only on those who seek after Him. On the other side of that coin the Bible has a great deal to say about the fate of the lost; and it isn’t necessarily that they will spend eternity in Hell.

Genesis 2:16-17
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Ezekiel 18:4
Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.

Matthew 10:28
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 10:28
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 5:12
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

The implications of the teaching that immortality is God’s alone, to my mind raises a disturbing dilemma for those who hold to the Eternal Torment view. If it is true that man is, by nature, mortal and can only live an immortal life if God sustains him, then that would mean that God would, unnaturally, have to sustain all those in Hell for eternity. Why would God do such a thing, seeing as He frequently tells us that He takes no joy in the destruction of the wicked? Why would He continue doing something that apparently brings Him pain long after He supposedly has set all things right and all creation is exactly as He intends it to be? I don’t have an answer for that question.

God says repeatedly that those who are guilty will die, perish, be devoured, destroyed, or consumed. The problem is, that when many evangelicals see these words in the context of the passages above what they read instead is “Hell.” This is somewhat understandable given two verses at the end of Revelation:

Revelation 20:13-14
And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:7-8
The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

“There you go,” say many Christians, myself included until recently, “eternity in the Lake of Fire is called the second death.” On these grounds, so the argument goes, it’s justified to refer to an eternity in Hell as perishing, death, being devoured, etc. The problem is, as I wrote in an earlier post, while Revelation certainly says that those who aren’t numbered with the saints will be cast into the Lake of Fire after the Judgment, nowhere are we taught that those lost individuals stay there for eternity. It is quite possible that those lost individuals are sent to Hell for a finite period of time in order to pay for their sins and that upon the completion of such a time and lacking the gift of eternal life they simply pass out of existence.

Simply put, until the Book of Revelation was penned there was not the least reason to assume that when God said, “the soul that sins it shall die,” He meant anything more than that. With the acceptance of Revelation into the canon we gain a little more information, but problems in understanding exactly what to make these two passages still exist, as they fall within very apocalyptic sections of the most hyperbolic, apocalyptic book in the Bible (to learn a little more about the apocalyptic style, click here).

Let’s imagine that you tell your child, “If you disobey me you will die;” and then he does disobey you and does indeed die. Then you meet him on the other side and say, “You know, I told you you would die if you disobeyed me. But what I didn’t tell you was that you’ll never actually die but live forever and ever being tormented every moment from now on.” If God had wanted to communicate that the fate of the lost was eternal torment in Hell, say those in the Conditional Immortality camp, then He had a very strange way of doing it. Those who find this view appealing simply say, “God meant what he said about sinners, and we believe He meant what He said.”

As always, there is a great deal more that could be said in defense of this position, so consider this a jumping off point if anything you read here promts you to look into this position more carefully.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Three Views of Hell, Part 5 - Universal Reconciliation

I realize that many, particularly Calvinists, will take considerably greater exception to the view of Universal Reconciliation than either of the other two views. Given the nearly total acceptance of Eternal Torment and that most who advocate similar doctrines are clearly outside of Christian orthodoxy, it’s not hard to understand why. It wasn’t always like this, though. If you would travel back through the first six centuries of Christianity you would find things turned almost completely on their heads in favor of Universal Reconciliation.

According to the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Vol. XII, Pg. 96) there “were six known theological schools, of which four (Alexandria…, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa…) were Universalist, one (Ephesus) accepted conditional immortality; one (…Rome) taught endless punishment of the wicked.” In the first few centuries following the ascension of Christ, the majority of Christianity, or at least Christian scholarship, taught Universal Reconciliation – leaving the view of Eternal Torment in the small minority!

If you wonder how the widespread acceptance of these two views could have changed so dramatically between then and now, note that the school at Rome was the major institution teaching Eternal Torment in the year 500 A.D. With the rise of the Catholic Church, many views which were widely accepted in the early church were replaced by those of the “Universal Church.” I don’t point out this fact as a smear against Catholicism, it may be that Eternal Torment is the most correct of the three extant views of Hell. However, this information may give some Evangelicals pause in their rejection of Universal Reconciliation were they to realize that most of them hold the view they do largely because the Roman Catholic position overwhelmed the early and more widely accepted view of Universal Reconciliation.

Now that the history lesson is over…

This view begins with the assumption that God wants nothing less than that all people should be saved. The Bible, taken at face value, appears to communicate such a desire on the part of the Father:

Ezekiel 18:23
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

John 3:16-17
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

1 Timothy 2:1-6
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

Nearly all non-Calvinists believe that God would prefer that all people would turn to Jesus and be saved, yet believe that most will never come to such a saving faith. Most people will be lost to Hell, beyond the reach of Salvation. This belief, however, may be the result of a persistent bias for the Eternal Torment view. Not only does the Bible make apparent claims that God desires all men to be saved, but it seems to hint in places that everyone will eventually be saved.

John 12:31-32
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Ephesians 1:7-10
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him,
things in heaven and things on earth.

Colossians 1:16-20
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

It is important to note the distinction between Universal Reconciliation and other forms of universalism. All non-evangelical universalists that I am aware of make claims that all people will be saved regardless of the path they choose to take to God. You want to be a Muslim? Great! You want to be a follower of Buddha? Fantastic! You want to be a atheist? God honors you too! Apparently, according to standard universalists, God is just too nice a guy to punish anyone for anything.

Not so, says Universal Reconciliation. While God may eventually save all men, all men, when they are saved, will be saved by faith in the work of Christ on the cross. In this view, Hell exists for those who die without Jesus, but Hell is not a place of eternal torment but a place of torment which is the final tool that God uses to break the hard-hearted down and bring them to repentance and acceptance of Christ.

In addition to the Biblical statements like those above, there are also concepts taught in the Bible which appear to support Universal Reconciliation.

All Christians agree that even Mao Zedong, or Joseph Stalin, would be saved if they experienced genuine repentance on their death beds. The Universal Reconciliationist asks, “What is it about death that makes it the cut-off point?” If God is willing to accept our repentance just minutes before we die, why wouldn’t he be willing to accept repentance just moments after we die? Does God really say, “You're too late; I wanted to forgive you five minutes ago but I don’t want to forgive you now?” Where is it taught in scripture that one can’t repent after death?

I can think of two passages, off the top of my head, that could be raised in response to this question. The first is the often partially quoted Hebrews 9:27 – “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” I have cited this particular verse myself to justify the belief that death cuts off repentance. However, as I look at it again, with a Universal Reconcilationist cap on, this verse says nothing of the kind. If eternal torment is true, and the judgment of God on each of us is final and Hell is eternal, then this passage would confirm that death is the apparent cut-off point for repentance. However, if these assumptions are not true and if Hell is a place of torment used by God to bring the lost to repentance then this verse tells us nothing about the final destination of the lost; only that they are judged; which we knew already. If the Universal Reconciliationist is correct, then this judgment is temporary until the judged turn to Christ. It seems to me that Hebrews 9:27 could be used to support the idea that death is the cut-off point for forgiveness, if one has already concluded that the Eternal Torment view is correct, but if one is attempting to make up his mind about which view to hold then this verse doesn’t help.

I would also point out that the purpose of this passage at the end of the ninth chapter of Hebrews was not written by the author to inform us about the ability of sinners to repent after death. This brief sentence is used within a larger explanation of why, under the Old Covenant, animals had to be sacrificed repeatedly, yet it was only necessary for Christ to die on the cross once. To use it, as I have in the past, to justify death as the cut-off point for forgiveness is to yank the verse somewhat out of context.

The second passage that could be raised against Universal Reconciliation is at the very end of John’s first epistle:

1 John 5:16-17
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

I know that this passage is very confusing to many, and is somewhat controversial. To keep this short I simply say that, for very interesting reasons that I hope to cover in another post, I have come to believe that John is telling his readers that they should pray for those who are still living and trapped in their sin, but not to bother praying for the salvation of those who have died. If I am right about this passage, then this would seem to be strange advice to give if those who have died are still capable of repentance, as Universal Reconciliation suggests.

That said, I try to hard to be realistic and thoughtful about all the views I hold, and would be negligent if I did not repeat that this passage is very mysterious and controversial. It would be advisable to take any person’s interpretation of this passage with a grain of salt (including mine), recognizing that there is no clear answer available to us today as to what exactly the Apostle is referring to.

There is one more argument in favor of Universal Reconciliation that I haven’t touched on yet, and in my mind it is the most powerful of them all. If Christ truly desires that all men should be saved and He paid the price for all men, yet because of Satan’s interference the majority of humanity is lost forever – then who is the real loser and who is the real winner for all eternity? Satan may be cast into the Lake of Fire at the Judgment, but even then he would be able to rejoice that he took the vast majority of men, the pinnacle of God's creation, made in His image, with him into that place to be separated from God forever. God wanted them saved, but the work of the Devil destroyed them, which seems to go against the teaching of scripture.
1 John 3:8
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

Hebrews 2:14
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

Christians believe that in the day Christ returns he will raise everyone to judgment. Once judgment has been passed and the sheep have been separated from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), the creator of all things will remake heaven and earth (Revelation 21-22), restoring what was lost at the fall, reclaiming what the Devil had taken – restoring both Heaven and Earth to their original glory and more (God is not in the business of simply fixing broken things, but of making them better than they ever were before). If God will restore all things, if every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, if all things both in heaven and on earth will be reconciled to Him through the blood of Jesus, then mightn’t God save all men, who are His greatest creation, made in His image, through that blood as well?

I don’t know.

But it certainly seems that such a sweeping salvation, such an incredible, complete restoration of all things could be the ultimate and grand plan of the Almighty God.