Thoughts on the Judgments of God
Nov 13, 2011
Here are a few thoughts to ponder in regard to the connection between the doctrine of hell and human sacrifice.
There was only one human sacrifice that was ever valid in the eyes of God. It occurred when God presented His only-begotten Son to the priests in Jerusalem to be sacrificed for the sin of the world. Abraham runs a close second, but at the last minute the sacrifice was a substitute lamb that again pointed to Jesus Christ as the true Lamb of God.
The penalty for sin has nothing to do with the laws of men. It has everything to do with the laws of God. Men judge crime by their own laws; God judges sin by His own law. The worst penalty for sin in the divine law is death, usually by stoning. For certain sins, the sinner's body would be burned after he had been stoned.
We see this, for example, in the story of Achan (Joshua 7:25).
Hence, Paul tells us in Rom. 6:23, "the wages of sin is death." Theologians have taught us to believe that the wages of sin is something more than death. They say it involves never-ending torture, even for the smallest of sins. They say that God is so holy that He is required to do this to sinners, even though He loves them. Really? Show me the law that requires never-ending torture.
Furthermore, if that truly were the penalty for sin, and if that is the penalty that Jesus took upon Himself on the cross to pay for the sin of the world, then are we to believe that Jesus is yet in hell, burning for all eternity? This is an important issue, because if Jesus merely died to pay for all the sin in the world, how is it that a single individual would have to pay MORE for his own sin than Jesus did for all sin?
The law of God is very clear. The judgment is always directly proportional to the sin. It is "eye for eye, tooth for tooth." Restitution payments are always figured mathematically and are a multiple of the crime (Ex. 22:1-4). And yet we are supposed to believe that the smallest unrepented sin calls for never-ending torture in the law of God?
The key misunderstanding, for the most part, hangs on the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated "everlasting" or "eternal." These words have taken on new meaning in the modern world. In ancient times, the Hebrew word olam simply meant an indefinite or unknown period of time. You can see this by looking at Gesenius' Lexicon:
"what is hidden; specially hidden time, long; the beginning or end of which is either uncertain or else not defined."
This time period might be never-ending, but the word itself implies that the actual length of time is unknown, or hidden from the person. The point is that olam does not have to mean everlasting. It is only everlasting IF the context shows it to be so.
For example, God made an "everlasting" covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai. The New Testament calls it the Old Covenant, and Hebrews 8 says that it is now "obsolete" (NASB). How could an everlasting covenant become obsolete? How could it be replaced by the New Covenant? Only if theolam covenant was for an unknown or uncertain period of time.
Likewise, Phinehas was given an "everlasting" priesthood. It lasted about 300 years until his lineage was replaced by Zadok in the early days of Solomon. When God gave Phinehas this olam covenant, the time of his priestly dynasty was unknown. It would last until his descendants became so corrupt that they were replaced by God.
Likewise, Jonah was in the belly of the whale "forever." Really? We know that it was just 3 days. But to Jonah, the time was uncertain or unknown, because the word used was olam.
There are literally hundreds of examples that we could give to prove that Gesenius (and many other theologians) are correct. The case is proven by actual usage of the word.
The Greek word used in the New Testament is aionian, which was the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew olam. This equivalent was established in the centuries before Christ by the Septuagint Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Greek word was derived from aion, which means "an age," that is, an indefinite and long, but limited, period of time.
In the end, though, one does not need to scrutinize the Greek word, because it was merely the nearest Greek equivalent used to express the Hebrew concept of olam. As long as we define aionianas being the same as olam, we cannot go wrong.
And so, when Scripture speaks of aionian judgment, we must think in terms of olam judgment. It is an unknown period of time, because in the law one sinner could receive a work sentence of one week, and another for a year or even up to 49 years. The judgment varied according to the sin and the sinner's ability to pay restitution.
It is safe to say that much sin is not judged here on earth during the sinner's life time. That is why there must be a future judgment in the Divine Court. The purpose of the Great White Throne is to judge all sin and restore harmony and reconciliation to the universe. It is not designed simply to punish, but to correct the sinner and to restore the lawful order. To sentence someone to eternal torture does not restore anything to the victims of injustice. It merely punishes the sinner in an unlawful manner without any attempt to correct him or save him.
The judgments of God come from His nature. God is Love. His Love does not prevent Him from judgment, but the Wisdom of God knows how to judge in such a way that He loses nothing. God is able to save to the uttermost. He has the Power to do so, He has the motive of Love, and He has the Wisdom to know HOW to do it while being true to Himself and His character.
Dr. Stephen Jones