ACST 27. The Root

After almost ten years, I just discovered today that I apparently did not include this article in my blog. So, here is the long lost article that eventually became chapter 27 in my Advent Christian Systematic Theology book. – Jeff

The root cause of all personal sins is original sin. This term does not refer to the first time someone willfully sins. It refers to what happened the first time the human race sinned: the fall of our ancestors in the Garden of Eden. The choice to break the original prohibition has lead to a change in human nature and destiny, which is universal in scope.

The Black Hole

The doctrine of original sin is tied to the historical event of Adam and Eve’s rebellion in Eden. Since many today are convinced that the Genesis record is not factual, they are left with no space in their universe for original sin. As a result, “if there is a black hole for church doctrines, original sin is in one.”1 But to jettison this doctrine is to leave unanswered questions which continue to be asked by people who want to know what is happening to humanity, and what our destiny is.

The Change

Paul tells the Romans that death is a result of that original sin. He argued that “when Adam sinned, sin entered the world.”2 From that point on, there is no such thing as human innocence. All human beings have been changed. Part of that change is the inherited sinful inclination, and that leads inevitably to personal sins, for which we are accountable. But the difference made in Eden is even more fundamental than that. Since the wages of sin is death,3 and all humanity has been mortal since that fateful day, the original sin has resulted in an inherited guilt – not just a changed nature. The status of humanity changed that day.

Paul expressed the change in these terms: “so death spread to all men because all sinned.”4 He did not mean that we all will eventually sin, but that on that day, in the garden, all sinned. This is clear from the fact that Paul is comparing two event in Romans 5. He compares the fall in Eden with the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary.

By the one act of rebellion, all humanity were made sinners, and thus deemed deserving of immediate condemnation. Paul explains this by comparing the sin in the Garden with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He says “as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”5

God regards all human beings as sinners, even if they have not yet personally sinned. He sent his Son to die for us “while we were still sinners.”6 But Jesus died before you and I were even born. So, even before we were born, our status before God was sinners in need of salvation. Our status was not that of innocents. To understand why this is so will take another trip to the Garden.

Eden and Original Righteousness

God created human beings sinless, and with no condemnation. He “saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”7 As totally sinless creatures, our ancestors had the potential to become much more than we can imagine. But all this potential had to continue to be directed towards God’s will for them. God had established one small prohibition. They were not to eat of the tree of knowing good and evil. This was the one bad apple that would spoil the barrel.

It was apparently not long before temptation resulted in that original sin. For “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”8

Born in Sin

Ever since that event, human beings have been born with the defilement of sin.9 Humanity is not a tabula rasa – a blank slate upon which moral impressions are made only after the moment of conscious life. We come into life with the condemnation of God already upon us. That condemnation that came upon Adam was visited upon all who were in Adam at the time. He made the choice for all of us. We are born into a sinful state and a sinful world as a result of that choice.

Born Mortal

This event also explains why all human beings are born mortal. God had warned Adam that if he ate of the forbidden tree it would result in mortality and eventual death.10 This warning was to Adam, as head of the entire adamic species. Had he obeyed the commandment, it might have resulted in eventual immortality for the species. Since he disobeyed, it is not unfair for God to visit the consequences of that choice upon all of us.

The consequences of that choice are spelled out in detail. Mortality from the moment of the original transgression, and eventual death to the entire species. The cemeteries that have appeared all over the landscape of this planet are reminders of that choice, that event in history. Those graves are not there because of anyone’s personal sins. The graves are there because the species has sinned in Adam.

Limits of Original Sin

Original sin explains the universal mortality and sinful state that every human is born into. The doctrine has absolutely nothing to with hell, or final punishment. When human beings are judged at the end of time, not one of them will be punished for even a moment because of Adam’s transgression. This present mortality alone and the death we all face at the end of this life are payment in full for Adam’s transgression.

If a child dies before she has a chance to make the choice to commit personal sin, that child will suffer only the consequences of her ancestor’s sin – that is, the first death. Original sin does not put anyone into hell. Knowing how Christ is just and compassionate in his dealings with all people should answer our questions about those who die early, thus are never given a chance to know him personally.

Likewise, Jesus’ death on the cross does not automatically undo the damage done by original sin. We all continue to suffer the consequences of Adam’s rebellion. There is, if you will, a tombstone with your name on it, regardless of whether you have accepted Christ as your Savior or not. Christ frees us “from our sins by his blood.”11 That is, Christ’s death has paid the price we all owe due to our personal sins. We would otherwise have to pay for those personal sins ourselves by suffering in hell and eventually dying the second death.12

The Complexity

“The wages of sin is death” is a true principle and applies in both cases. It applies to personal sins in that hell’s torments will eventually end in the second death. It applies in respect to original sin in that all humanity will face the first death. The complex nature of the sin equals death principle reminds the believer that God is just. Although some people may die as a result of mistakes, or wrong choices, that they will eventually die is not their choice. It was the choice of their ancestors in Eden.

The Choice

Yet God by his grace has provided everyone with another chance: a choice which will affect their eternal destiny. That choice is Christ. He is “the the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”13 By his death he can reverse and wipe out the consequences of personal sin on the species. God gave Adam the choice as to whether or not the species would suffer the first death. He made that choice, and original sin is the result. God gives you and me the choice as to whether we will personally suffer the second death. We cannot blame Adam if we make the wrong choice.

The Cross And Original Sin

Original sin made the death of Christ necessary because it removed the possibility of any human being gaining salvation through his own merits. Christ through his death on the cross has also set in motion a chain of events which will eventually abolish the death-penalty associated with original sin.14 This will happen in stages. First, Christ will reverse the consequences of original sin for believers at his second coming. The perishable will become imperishable.15

The consequences of original sin will be ultimately dealt with at the day of judgment when death and hades give up the dead who are in them.16 After all are whose names are not found in the Lamb’s book of life are destroyed in the second death, then death and hades (the consequences of original sin) will be themselves thrown into the lake of fire to be destroyed.17 This is the ultimate solution to the problem we call original sin. Redeemed and glorified humanity will not carry that problem with us into eternity.

1 Tatha Wiley, Original Sin: Origins, Developments, Contemporary Meanings. (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2002), 3.

2 Rom. 5:12 NLT.

3 Rom. 6:23.

4 Rom. 5:12b.

5 Rom. 5:18-19.

6 Rom. 5:8.

7 Gen. 1:31.

8 Gen. 3:6.

9 Psalm 51:5.

10 Gen. 2:17 (cf. 160).

11 Rev. 1:5.

12 Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8.

13 John 1:29, 36.

14 2 Tim. 1:10.

15 1 Cor. 15:42,50, 52,53,54.

16 Rev. 20:13.

17 Rev. 20:14.

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2018 articles published in New Zealand

Afterlife

2018 articles published in New Zealand

Here is a list of articles I have written which were published online in New Zealand in 2018. You may click on the hyperlink for an individual article to find it on the Afterlife website.

 

everlasting

IMG_0368gift of life #18

everlasting

There are basically three views of final punishment debated among Christians. Two groups believe that God has created everyone with immortal souls. One group believes that in hell, God will keep punishing the souls of the lost forever because he cannot destroy them. This is what I call the traditionalist view. Another group says that God will destroy the sin, and eventually restore all the souls, so that no one will be lost forever. That is the view I call universalism. Traditionalists and universalists both agree on one thing: the immortality of the soul. They disagree over the meaning of hell itself. Traditionalists see hell as a perpetual process, while universalists see it as an event with everlasting results.

We conditionalists agree with universalists in that we see hell as an event with everlasting results, not a process which has to go on perpetually. We disagree with both groups in that we find no biblical justification for innate immortality. We believe that hell will involve real destruction, and that destruction will be everlasting.

The Greek adjective used to describe hell most in the New Testament is aionios, and that word is better translated everlasting, not eternal. It refers to the permanence of a result, rather than the continuous duration of a process.

Paul used this word aionios three times in his second letter to the Corinthians, and each use demonstrates that meaning.

  • In 4:17, he compared our present slight momentary affliction to our future everlasting weight of glory.
  • In the next verse, he compares the everlasting things to come that we cannot see now to the temporary things that we can see.
  • In 5:1, he compares our future everlasting body in the sky to our temporary tent of a body that we have now.

Now, the traditionalists look at that evidence and they say “see, hell is everlasting, so people will continue to suffer in it forever.”

No, when Paul used the word aionios to describe hell he said that the lost: “will be punished with everlasting destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). That is not an on-going process. It is an event which has everlasting results.

So, when we conditionalists say that hell is everlasting, we affirm just what Paul did. It is God’s real solution to the problem of sin. Sinners will be destroyed, and that destruction will be everlasting.

If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at jeffersonvann@yahoo.com. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.

Listen to the audio at Afterlife.

the evolution of the afterlife

DSCF1273gift of life #15

the evolution of the afterlife

In his book, Life After Death: The Evidence, apologist Dinesh D’Souza claims that the Christian doctrine of the afterlife just kind of evolved. He said that at first, Jesus and Paul taught the same doctrine of the believer’s future that the Old Testament teaches: a future that depends on a resurrection. Then, along came some early Christian teachers with an alternative, and chief among them was Augustine. Augustine had been taught the philosophical doctrines of Plato, and so he adopted Plato’s view of human immortality and added it to the teachings of the Catholic Church. As a result, says D’Souza, “Christianity since Augustine does not espouse life ‘after’ death, but rather life ‘beyond’ death” (page 48).

For D’Souza, this is OK. He is apparently comfortable with the idea of theology evolving. Me, not so much. I have to believe that the whole Bible is consistent on the subject of life after death. And I don’t think it is responsible for anybody to teach something different than what is revealed in that Bible, and taught by Jesus and his apostles. That’s not really evolution. It’s syncretism.

I am a conditionalist when it comes to the afterlife. I believe there will be a future eternal life, but I reject what Plato taught. He taught that our future life automatically begins when we die. The Bible teaches that any future life is conditional. It cannot happen unless we are resurrected first. That is why Jesus and Paul only taught the resurrection and did not teach continued existence beyond death. They, too were conditionalists. Their hope was another life after death, not an automatic continuation of life beyond death.

The good news that the Bible proclaims is that through Jesus Christ those who believe in him can have resurrection life after their deaths, when Jesus comes again. One advantage of holding to this good news rather than accepting the counterfeit good news is that it is what D’Souza calls the “official teaching” of the Bible, rather than the popular “alternative, unofficial view.” We conditionalists need never resort to having to prove our view by practical reason and science alone, like D’Souza attempted to do in his book. We have God’s word on it. There will be a resurrection.

Another advantage of proclaiming life after death through the resurrection is that it is actually what people want. As much as a traditionalist might boast about his desire to go to heaven, he will spend his entire fortune to delay the trip. What people really want is to be alive – fully and functionally alive, and to enjoy God and the universe that he created for us. His plan for us is a new heaven and a new earth, restored to its holiness and spiritual vitality. That is our destiny, and it is a certainty for all who are in Christ. But that great event will not happen when we die. It will happen when death dies. It will happen after our Saviour returns. Come, Lord Jesus.

If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at jeffersonvann@yahoo.com. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.

Listen to the audio at Afterlife.

you two point oh

10404313_10152719826176949_4738064153211655456_ngift of life #14

you two point oh

There’s going to be another you, a you after this you – a you two point oh. One of the fundamental truths that we Christians believe is that when Jesus returns, he’s going to raise us from the dead. Your resurrected you will be the same you, but with a very important upgrade. If you are a believer in Christ today, when he returns, he will make you perfect, sinless and immortal.

The apostle Paul explained the details of this you two point oh in 1 Corinthians 15. First, he taught that there is evidence now that our coming upgrade is going to happen. That evidence includes the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead. He’s the first to undergo the upgrade. Another evidence is the fact that the people who knew Christ the best (the apostles) gave their lives to preach the gospel. Another evidence is the change that takes place in peoples’ lives when they give those lives to Christ now. He makes a difference now; we expect him to make a difference then.

Paul even gave us a timetable for the future resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. He talked about the order of the resurrection, describing it as a great harvest. Jesus was the firstfruits of the harvest, so his resurrection came first (verse 20). Then, when Christ returns, all the dead in Christ will be raised at once, and all the living in Christ will be caught up with them, and together we will all be with the Lord (verses 51-52). Then, there will be a time period in which Christ will reign and put all his enemies under his feet. I believe this time period is the millennial reign (verses 25-26). Finally, after that reign, the end of the harvest will come, the final resurrection of all the remaining dead (verse 24). Here’s why that timetable is important. Christ has promised us a resurrection. The fulfilment of the promise will happen not when we die, but when he returns.

Also in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul described the nature of this resurrection as well. The resurrection is not a re-creation, starting over with all-new materials (and hopefully getting it right this time). No, our upgrade will be the plant from the present seed. It will be a continuation of this life with which God originally intended to bless his universe forever. Sin entered your life and corrupted it, making it necessary for you to die. But God loves you too much to let that be the last note of your song. The resurrected you will be the same you, purged of all those things that cannot exist forever, and transformed into something extraordinary.

Finally, Paul described our present state: “of the dust of the earth” (46), perishable (50), mortal (53). God cannot endure that forever. He plans to purge his universe of the disease that humanity has become, so that it can once again be pronounced “very good.” Your upgrade state is imperishable and immortal. Your upgrade will be you as God intended you to be. Paul described his resurrection chapter as essentially the gospel message that he preached (1-2). It is right for believers to emphasise the benefits we already have because of the death of Christ: forgiveness of sins, permission to approach God in prayer, guidance from the indwelling Holy Spirit, etc. But let us never forget that the gospel is not complete if it stops there. You have not heard the whole gospel if the message you have heard fails to include the promise of the next upgrade.

If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at jeffersonvann@yahoo.com. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.

listen to the audio in Afterlife

waiting at the station

platform-714961_1280gift of life #9

waiting at the station

In the Bible, Solomon taught that “the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing” (Eccl. 9:5). For him, the intermediate state between death and resurrection was not a time to look forward to. Like all other biblical authors, he looked forward to the resurrection unto eternal life. He never denied the reality of death. Indeed, he taught that all people now living know that their death is coming. But after death, no one knows anything.

He taught that the intermediate state is universal. Everyone will experience it, and all will experience it the same: a state of unconscious survival. It is not non-existence. It merely is a state of existence where one is not conscious or aware of the passage of time and cannot know anything.

This was Solomon’s view, and he held that view along with other Old Testament writers: “Those who are wise must finally die, just like the foolish and senseless, leaving all their wealth behind” (Psalm 49:10 NLT). Death happens to everyone, and no one can “take it with them.” It is a universal event that all will experience. Being wise will not keep you from experiencing death. The wise will join the foolish in that one place. The Hebrews called it Sheol.

But – wait a minute. Isn’t Sheol just another word for hell? No, it is not. The Hebrews did not see Sheol as a place of punishment for anyone. Sheol is the station where everyone waits in an unconscious state for resurrection to their final state: either eternal life or eternal death.

Job actually looked forward to death and the intermediate state. He said “Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!” (Job 14:13 ESV). He wanted to forget the pain and unfair treatment he had experienced in life. His hope was not that he would be rewarded at death, but that at death he would be hidden (in a state of unconsciousness) and then resurrected back to life at an appointed time when God remembered him.

That is the hope described in the New Testament as well. Jesus said “… an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29 ESV).

Get this: Death is not the train to take us to our destination. Death is the station we all wait it. The train is the resurrection. We are all waiting for that hour. Some will be alive when the train comes in. Others will be in their tombs – waiting at the station. The Greeks called the station Hades. And it corresponds to the Hebrew Sheol. It is a state of unconsciousness where the dead wait for life. It is not the final state. Ears which have long since crumbled to dust will one day hear again. They will hear their master’s voice, calling them to their eternal destiny.

If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at jeffersonvann@yahoo.com. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.

listen to the audio file at Afterlife.

most offensive claim

May 2015 (12)“…the most offensive claim in Christianity is that God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet.”

David Platt, Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion,
Persecution, Orphans and Pornography
. Tyndale House Publishers, 2015, p.15.