Fire at the Dais of Messiah
In recent time, students attending the BRI/IMCF Yeshiva have been studying what has become known as the “unforgivable” or “unpardonable sin.” Such a wretched sin as this most certainly does exist! It was not limited to the first century of the Common Era as the followers of a late-Californian-German rationalist have claimed! We should all shudder at the thought of ever committing such a heinous act of blasphemy against the sovereign Spirit of God.
Our students have discovered, however, that God’s nature of compassion is revealed in His desire to forgive or pardon human beings who have shown a sincere repentance for their sins. They have also perceived that God’s compassion is rooted in His essential character which is Grace. Still, the NT seems to teach that while God will show His mercy to the whole of humanity, He reserves Grace ONLY for His people.
A clear delineation between mercy and Grace is seen in the Messiah’s teaching concerning the necessary moral or ethical elements of human behaviour. Yeshua demands that we must show mercy to all who deserve mercy — indeed to all who wish it shown to them, and who have displayed an attitude of repentance in contradistinction to mere “regret” for their actions. In fact, we must learn to forgive others otherwise we will not be forgiven. In other words pardon (or forgiveness) of our sins is predicated on our willingness to forgive others who have personally wronged us (see Mt 18.21-35). For, each of us must (in this life) become perfect — spiritually mature in our essential character — EVEN AS God our heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5.48). “Even as” means to the same extent or degree! That’s quite an order from Yeshua. Of course, the truth is not one of us can reach such a pinnacle of perfection. Not by a long shot, although some believers expect it from their leaders while denying such a possibility in themselves. But such should be our goal in life: we must become like God in our essential character and nature. For many of us this life is our final training ground (Mt 11.15).
Yet, having said this, we realise that subsequent to the bloodied tree of Golgoleth Rav Shaul speaks to both Jewish and Gentile believers of the Grace of God. This Grace is unknown to Matthew and Mark. True, it’s hinted at in Luke (for Luke was a disciple of Paul) but it is not clearly stated. Search the synoptics for a mention of Grace as Grace and you won’t find it. Surprising as this first sounds! But Rav Shaul was Christianity’s first theologian. That is why he talks of Grace. What do I mean by such an appraisal?
Unlike the other apostles he looked at the cross and asked “Why?“
Paul deeply analysed the cross. He then applied the lessons of the cross, the effects of the cross, the repercussions of the cross, and the consequences of the cross to the brethren, and for the entire creation. Paul was the first to do so. He understood that to gain salvation takes work. To reach the perfection of Deity which the Lord Yeshua expected would take more effort and strenuous discipline than any of us insipid weaklings were capable of achieving. Rav Shaul’s answer to God’s righteous and frightening expectations of man was the development of a theology which explained that Messiah Yeshua himself has worked out our salvation for us, guaranteeing it to each of us. His doctrine is plain enough: no man or woman can work up his or her own faith and belief, and perfectly maintain it, to the gaining of salvation. No works at all — good or bad — can make a difference as far as our salvation is concerned. Not matter how sincere they are, disciples cannot merit salvation.
We have seen from past teachings at the BRI/IMCF headquarters Yeshiva that repentance, belief, faith, perseverance, security ALL come from the works of Messiah accomplished on our behalf. But Paul also teaches us — in the tradition of Yeshua — that works are important, and overcoming is imperative, but not for salvation. Rather, these works and merits are for our quality of salvation. Our forgiveness — the forgiveness experienced by the believer — is not actually shown as a result of God’s mercy (albeit God’s mercy is a wonderful thing to experience), but it is a result of God’s basic characteristic of Grace. This is why Paul expresses the sentiment, “In whom [Messiah] we have redemption, through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his GRACE” (Eph 1.7). This is in contradistinction to the merciful expect- ations of God toward us: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6.12).
Now it is possible, as our students are well aware, that some people can commit the unpardonable sin. Believe it or not some people are destined for a tragic, fiery destruction (Prov 16.4; 1 Pet 2.8; Jude 4; 2 Pet 2.12; Rom 2.5; Mt 25.41). There are some people, many of whom we could possibly consider to be fine people, but whom God considers dogs and swine (Mt 7.6). In our twentieth century, and after almost 2000 years of Graeco-Roman indoctrination, such sentiments jar our sensibilities. But this is what the Scripture tells us. We may not like the fact that God takes some people and hardens their hearts, but the Bible makes it very plain that He does so, and has from ancient times (Deut 2.30; Josh 11.20; 1 Sam 2.25).
Because God is holy He hates all sin. Because He hates all sin His anger burns against the sinner (Ps 7.11).
Now let’s not misunderstand. God IS love. That love is His nature. But His Grace reigns through righteousness (Rom 5.21).
- This is what most universalists, with whom I have had past contact, fail to fully appreciate.
God is not loving everyone and everything in a sloppy, effeminate, amiable, and soft way like some of us do. That is weakness. God’s love is often referred to as “tough love.” And tough it is! We are told specifically that God’s love toward us is sometimes displayed in the negative. It often finds expression in our experience of chastening, correction, scourging (Heb 12.6). Though we might wish to, we cannot escape God’s judgments.
God’s love is pure, unmixed with sentimentality. As disciples of Yeshua we must grasp this principle. If we fail to under-stand this we will never grow. And if we don’t grow the fruits of our life will indicate that we were tares all along (even in our ignorance) — destined for the fires of a blazing hell. After all, Yeshua did say, “By their fruits you shall know them.” And none of us can run away from the implications so apparent in some of Messiah’s parables about certain followers who fail to grow, fail to develop, fail to produce “fruit” (Mt 25.14-30). Attempting theologically to create two first-century Christian economies, one Jewish and the other Gentile — two Communities of God (one of which is called a “Body Church”) — is nothing more than devilish rationalism. It strains credulity like a donkey under a burden.
None of us like the doctrine of the wrath of God. I must be truthful. By nature I hate it. But I must be reminded of it occasionally for my own good — for my own spiritual health and well-being. It is for this reason we find the Bible telling us that in Messiah Yeshua “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col 2.9) and as all the divine perfections of God are displayed by Him (Jn1.18) therefore we read of “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev 6.16).
There are 3 primary reasons why Christians should contemplate God’s anger against a misinterpretation of His essential character.
- So that our hearts may be duly impressed by God’s hatred of sin. Humanly, we regard sin lightly, gloss over its hideousness, and we make excuses for it. When we meditate on what Messiah went through for sin’s consequences the more we can learn to abhor sin. Remember, we were intended to be like God knowing “good as well as evil” (Gen 3.22). It was the hidden agenda of Deity (Gen 3.5).
- We need to conceive a true fear of God in our very being. We live in an age wherein the terror of God fails to impress. We live in a godless society, especially those of us in Australia. The United Nations has told us, and not without reason, that Australia is officially “a pagan nation.” And it is! But the unknown author of Hebrews expresses what our basic attitude toward the LORD ought to be when he writes, “Let us have grace, through which we may offer service which will please God, with reverence and dread: for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12.28,29 cf Isa 33.14; Deut 4.24; 9.3).
- We must each find our own way to draw out of our inmost being a fervent praise to God. After all, it is the Father who has, through Yeshua haMashiach, delivered us from “the wrath to come” (1 Thes 1.10). This “wrath” is decidedly not some future “tribulation period” as some erroneously and foolishly teach. It is the blazing wrath expressed in the fury of a fire so hot it will ultimately consume our solar system and the heavens in our immediate vicinity. Praise the LORD He has saved us from such a horrifying fate. Did not all the apostles and the early Christians experience enormous (“great”) tribulation in pagan Roman persecutions? Didn’t near-millions perish in agony not only under pagan Rome but papal Rome as well? Of course they did! Such is the testimony of history! Great “wrath” has continually descended upon the people of God in all generations, including our present era. Fully a quarter of a million Christians perished in the full fury of Satanic wrath worldwide in 1992! We conveniently shrug away glaring facts to accommodate our stupid doctrines. How tragic!
The fear of HaShem is the beginning of wisdom. Not the love of the Lord, not the Grace of the Lord, not the mercy of the Lord, but the fear — the awe — the TERROR of the Lord (2 Cor 5.11; Lk 12.5). Shall we quibble over words? Shall we protest that the Pauline statement in Corinthians really means “reverence” or “fear”? It is no longer popular for the “terror” of God to be utilised in some versions of the Word of God, and it is down-played by Greek scholars who show a marked preference for “awe,” “fear,” and “reverence.” But they all agree in the finality that “awe” “fear” and “reverence” can only come after we are reduced to a sense of our own fragility in an awesome experience of God. A prime example of this is the insecurity felt by hundreds of thousands of Japanese as a consequence of the massive Kobe earthquake. Then in that awful Japanese tsunami of recent days.
Ever stood in the heated fury of a savage bushfire, or in the midst of tornado or hurricane conditions? Tried to stand up on rubbery legs in the wake and aftermath of such a display of God’s natural energy release? It’s time to stop kidding our-selves about the frightening nature of Deity. The Hebrews had no word for “nature” — it was all GOD. The LORD inspired David to write, “You thought that I was altogether…as yourself” (Ps 50.21). If we truly do not rejoice before God for what He is in Himself then how can we say that the LOVE of God indwells us? God’s divine character perfections eternally resident in Himself should be a cause of praise and joy — for one day they will be ours also!
The Scripture plainly informs us that some people will enter the lake of fire at the end of the age, and during the Messianic period. It is a hard doctrine but frankly a true doctrine. Yeshua said that if anyone blasphemes against the holy Spirit of God they will not be forgiven (really, pardoned) for at least two ages, “this age and the age to come” (Mt 12.32b Gk). Even here the decision of God to not pardon someone for this heinous transgression is at least limited to two aeons, or ages. Yet we also know that all humankind will eventually taste of salvation because God will one day have the act of Messiah’s justification (that was performed on the cross 2000 years ago) applied to all in the universe, as far as a positive response to it is concerned. Such is the final and complete teaching of Paul in 1 & 2 Timothy, Colossians and Ephesians.
Again, the negative character description of those who have committed blasphemy against the holy Spirit is seen in Hebrews 6.4-8 and 10.26-31. These characteristics cannot be those of genuine believers. Yet they are people obviously attached to the Messianic Community, otherwise the harsh warnings uttered by the unknown Jewish author of this letter to the Hebrew congregations concerning the fiery judgment of God would be meaningless.
Think for a moment of Judas the Sicarii. He was numbered among the original Twelve, but not one of these men were even converted! They had the Spirit working with them, but it did not indwell them. The Spirit was not given until Pente-cost. Yet look at the ministry the Twelve shared (Lk 9.1,2). They could heal the sick and cast out demonic powers. Remember, Judas was one of them. Later, Yeshua’s own Sanhedrin was given that same power and authority, before the resurrection and prior to Pentecost (Lk 10.1,17). Certainly we have the testimony of Josephus that genuine exorcism was shared by others, apart from Messiah’s apostles, during the reign of Vespasian (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities VIII, II, 5b). And recall, it was Yeshua Himself who testified to the fact that the carnal-minded adherents of the sect of the Pharisees exercised authority over demons (Mt 12.27). Exercising such power does not necessarily equate with a feather in the cap. These very people were accused by Yeshua of committing the “unpardonable sin” (Mt12.28,31-37). Judas [Judah] had all the “spiritual gifting” attributes that came from being in the intimate vicinity of Mashiach’s ministry and look at his ultimate fruits!
True disciples cannot commit the unpardonable sin. Nevertheless if this is being read by a new convert to a belief in Yeshua as Lord, Messiah and Saviour for your own sake and encouragement make a public confession of your faith and submit to the mikveh (be physically baptised — immersed) according to the biblical example shown in the Gospels, and the Acts and referred to also in the epistles so that psychologically (not for salvation) you can personally identify not only with the Messianic community of authentic believers but also with the ONE in whose steps we ought to walk. You owe it to yourself to do this.
Now I want to share with the ekklesia of God an important fact concerning the love of God. Make an immediate mental note on paper. Place this vital notice on your refrigerator door so that each and every time you open it you will read it. Read it until it fully impregnates your consciousness. What is it? It is this: The character of God is reflected in His kids! God’s love is real.
But it is a love which selflessly expresses itself in each of us in aligning us to His character. We must be conformed to His character. This is what the whole mystery of human life is all about. It explains the Garden of Eden. It explains Golgoleth. It explains the purpose for the chaos and sin in the world we see around us. It explains the need for what the “NT” means when it refers to “overcoming.” It explains why you were born. It is vital we accept the proposition that God’s character is
reflected in His kids — more so when we read that judgment “first begins” at the house of God (Eze 9; 1 Pet 4.17,18). That
judgment penetrates our very being and none of us can escape it (1 Pet 1.6,7). That judgment will test the fibre of our recognition of God’s Grace toward us personally. It is very possible to fall from that sphere of Grace — although our salvation will not be in jeopardy (Ac 13.43; Rom 6.1; 2 Cor 6.1; Gal 2.21; 5.4; Rom 8.17). Yet if we fall from God’s Grace, how shall we fare as we stand before Messiah’s “Dais”?
“Why do you condemn your brother? And why do you look down in contempt on your brother? For we shall all stand before the dais of God” (Rom 14.10).
Paul continues the same theme in his letter to the Corinthians. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest, for The Day [of Messiah’s dais-judgment] shall declare it, because it is to be revealed by fire. And that fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is….If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire” (1 Cor 3.15).
Our works burned up! Suffering loss! Saved by fire! This is not something that I can confess that I’m looking forward to experiencing. But one way or another God will have humankind aligned to Him — and He is beginning with His people, His ekklesia in whom His Grace shines. We must be aligned with Him and to Him. And either way it will be by fire (Rev 3.18). God’s fiery nature is manifested in His closest angelic thoughtforms (Heb 1.7). We are destined to spend an eternity in the nature of fire (Isa 33.14; Heb 12.29). Yeshua shows Himself to be presently burning with the fire of eternal life (Rev 1.14-16). As Our Lord shines like the most brilliant of stars He is declared to be “the bright and morning star” (Rev 22.16). Some overcomers will share that same glory (Rev 2.28). To claim that Satan is the morning star is utterly blasphemous in the extreme. It is the Devil who has attempted (successfully) to deceive people into believing that he is the “star of the dawn” (Isa 14), but the Bible says the opposite of this erroneous idea. Nevertheless, the Scripture tells us we are destined to share the fiery glory of Messiah. We are already co-bodied with Mashiach. “Bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.” We are reminded by Paul to concentrate on developing the fruits of Messiah’s righteous character. Paul also informs us that we who are united to the Lord ARE One Spirit. Peter tells us we already partake of God’s divine Nature — we share Deity with God the Father and the Mashiach. The ekklesia of God is the Body of Messiah on earth.
None of us need fear committing the “unforgivable sin” — if we are converted. A few of us realise that in this life time is the fire in which we burn, for God’s judgment begins at the House of the LORD. Indeed, our prayer ought to be “Come, Holy Spirit, and burn, burn, BURN!” All of us must burn before the Dais of Messiah. Some will burn a little longer than others, depending on how much effort is put forth NOW in working with the holy Spirit in this final earthly life. One way or another, however, through fire God will burn.
While it may not be an entirely comfortable “ordeal” to burn before God so that only His character is left, the very thought of it ought to be embraced with a measure of excitement. The Dais, after all, is not some “Judgement Seat” or “Throne” where our eternal destiny is settled. Rather, its an upraised platform similar to the platform assembled at the Greek Games and before which the victors came to the Presiding Council to receive the laurel wreath gained by “overcoming” in their competition and standing before the applauding population as gods to gain the crown of athletic accomplishment. None of us can escape it, and frankly, who would want to?
For the Dark Lord, humanity, and the ekklesia of God, the Fire of Deity may yet turn out to be the best friend we have ever
had. B’ruch HaShem!