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Mercy in the Lake of Fire

Feb 04, 2008

When Solomon dedicated the temple, his inspired prayer recognized that God would judge sin, and yet the judgment would end when the people repented. For example, 1 Kings 8:33, 34 says,

" (33) When Thy people Israel are defeated before an enemy, because they have sinned against Thee, if they turn to Thee again and confess Thy name and pray and make supplication to Thee in this house, (34) then hear Thou in heaven and forgive the sin of Thy people Israel, and bring them back to the land which Thou didst give to their fathers."

This idea is taken directly from the law of tribulation in Lev. 26:40-42, where God said He would judge His people and even bring them into a foreign land if necessary. He said that He would bring them back to their land only after they "confess their iniquity . . . and also in their acting with hostility against Me"--that is, against Jesus Christ, the Yahweh of the Old Testament and Lawgiver.

In other words, God brings judgment in order to bring correction. But His judgment does not end until people actually repent and confess their iniquity and hostility toward Jesus Christ. In the case of Israel (above), it is plain that the so-called Zionists have forced themselves into Palestine without confessing their iniquity and their hostility against Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is not the fulfillment of the law of tribulation, nor even of Solomon's prayer.

The purpose of judgment is to bring correction, which is manifested by repentance. David repented, and so God showed him mercy. All through the book of Judges, whenever Israel repented, God ended their captivities to other nations. In no instance did God end the judgment prior to their repentance.

If we take it back to Adam himself, we see that God judged him with the death penalty for his sin. But we also see the mercy factor in this, because he was not executed immediately. The death penalty in his case was lengthened by time and is what we call mortality. Mortality was a sufficient penalty for Adam's sin to fulfill the penalty expressed in Gen. 2:17, "in the day that you eat from it, you shall surely die." It was God's prerogative to define a "day," and He did so by making it a thousand years (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8). So Adam died at the age of 930, which was just 70 years short of a thousand. This was God's mercy upon Adam.

The law demanding the death penalty is expressed in seemingly rigid terms (Deut. 17:6, 12), but this gives instructions to the judges (priests), telling them that they have no power to set aside the death penalty. In fact, the judge has no power to reduce a restitution payment either. If there is to be any mercy applied to the sinner, it must be done by the victim, not the judge--unless, of course, the judge is the victim. If a judge sentences the sinner to pay $100,000 restitution, the case is closed, but the victim can either collect it in its entirety, reduce it, or forgive it in full. That is his prerogative, if he sees repentance and wants to extend mercy.

Paul says in Phil. 2:10, 11,

" (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, (11) and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

This is a loose quotation of Isaiah 45:23, where the full passage reads,

" (22) Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.(23) I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. (24)They will say of Me, 'Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength. . ."

God first swore by Himself (His own name) in Num. 14:21, "but indeed, AS I LIVE, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord." This was God's unconditional vow. Most Christians today question His ability to fulfill that vow. They question His ability to bring the whole earth to repentance, where "every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance." But Paul did not question it.

I believe that this will take place at the Great White Throne judgment, when all are raised to be judged according to their works. On that day there will be no more unbelievers. In 1 Cor. 12:3, Paul says that "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit." And so, when they all confess that He is Lord at the Great White Throne, it will be by the Holy Spirit. They will repent and be converted, and they will receive mercy even in judgment.

Some insist that death is the deadline for conversion, based upon a misreading of Heb. 9:27, "as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment." I fully concur that the Great White Throne judgment comes after men die. But nowhere does it say that death makes men incapable of conversion--of if they want to be converted, they are not allowed to repent. The divine deadline has been inserted by the traditions of men, not by God.

Paul says clearly that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This will be done to the glory of God. There is no glory in forcing every man to his knees against his will. There is no glory in torturing men into confessing that Jesus was right after all. The fact is this: the GLORY of the Lord is in the fact that all men will confess Him to be Lord only because they will recognize clearly that "only in the Lord are righteousness and strength," as Isaiah 45:24 says (quoted above). When God receives such glory in all men, then and only then will His glory cover the whole earth to fulfill His vow to Moses in Num. 14:21.

But as I have shown already, repentance is the key that brings mercy. Mercy does not necessarily cancel out judgment, as we saw in the example of King David. But it certainly plays a role. And God, the merciful Judge, has the full right to redefine death or to lengthen it by Time. John was shown this when he wrote in Rev. 20:14 that "death and hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire."

The first death, imposed upon Adam, is called mortality. The second death, revealed by Paul in many writings, is when we put to death the old man, crucify the flesh, and "die daily." It is repentance itself, and the law is satisfied because its purpose has been served to correct the sinner.

Thus, we see that at the Great White Throne, God will dispose of mortality, which gives way to this second type of death. How? By the fact that every knee will bow and all will repent sincerely to the glory of God. Because of this universal repentance, no one will be annihilated, nor will anyone be tortured in a never-ending fire.

The "fire" is the symbol of law (Deut. 33:2) and the word of God (Jer. 23:29). This "fire" proceeds from the throne (a symbol of law, containing the Ten Commandments), as Daniel 7:9, 10 tells us. This "river of fire" forms a "lake of fire" in Rev. 20:14. It is the judgment of the law, but it is not without mercy.

While it is certain that the majority of humanity will be judged by the law, it will be done according to the level of their responsibility. Some knew God's will, and others did not (Luke 12:47, 48). In that final Age of Judgment, the former unbelievers will learn righteousness and obedience (Isaiah 26:9) until they are fully released into the glorious liberty of the sons of God at the Creation Jubilee, when all judgment ceases and God is all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).

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Category: God's Law
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones