What are the basic doctrines of the church according to the New Testament?
Well, they are listed in the sixth chapter of the Book of Hebrews. (A related sermon is also available titled: Basic Doctrines of Hebrew 6.)
1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2, NKJV throughout unless otherwise noted).
1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2, KJV)
1 With this in mind, we should stop going over the elementary truths about Christ and move on to topics for more mature people. We shouldn't repeat the basics about turning away from the useless things we did and the basics about faith in God. 2 We shouldn't repeat the basic teachings about such things as baptisms, setting people apart for holy tasks, dead people coming back to life, and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2, God's Word Translation)
1 Let us leave behind us then all the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to its completion, without going over the fundamental doctrines again: the turning away from dead actions, faith in God, 2 the teaching about baptisms and the laying -- on of hands, about the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgement. (Hebrews 6:1-2, New Jerusalem Bible)
There are six elementary principles/doctrines/teachings listed Hebrews 6:1-2, plus a goal which could be considered as the seventh.
This article (WHICH IS CURRENTLY AN IN-PROCESS DRAFT) is highly based on the booklet by the old Worldwide Church of God titled The Six Great Doctrines of Hebrews 6 (Ambassador College Productions, c. 1982). It has been slightly expanded in content (plus something missed on baptisms was added) and appropriate links have been added.
THE FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINES
JESUS is the author (beginner) of our eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9). He is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2).
Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last. He will give to him who is thirsty the fountain of the water of life-eternal salvation — freely (Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13).
Jesus begins and ends every Christian's eternal salvation. But it is axiomatic that everything God begins spiritually, through human instruments, must start the smallest (Matthew 13:31-32; see also Parable of the Mustard Seed).
You were not separated from your mother's womb as a full-grown mature human being. It took anywhere from thirteen to twenty or so years for you to attain maximum growth in the physical sphere.
But the point is, you had to start somewhere. And that start was when your mother conceived. At that precise moment you were no bigger than a pinpoint or the period at the end of this sentence.
And it is, figuratively the same in the spiritual sphere. There was a time in the life of each true follower of Christ when he or she began to be a Christian. All start out as spiritual infants.
And if you are not yet a Christian, but do want to become one, you must begin as a babe in Christ-not as a full grown, mature Christian.
In the first grade a small child does not begin his study of mathematics by solving higher equations. He or she starts with 1 + 1 = 2.
In like manner one must commence his Christian life by learning the first principles of the oracles of
God-the first principles of the doctrine of Christ (Heb. 5:12: 6:1).
The newly begotten Christian must first be thoroughly grounded in the basics.
Every Christian, when first converted, is likened to one that uses milk, being unskillful in the word of righteousness because he is a babe in Christ (Heb. 5:13).
But what are the first principles of the doctrine of Christ? What is this "milk" of the word? What specific doctrines should you begin to understand even in "boot camp," that preliminary period just before you become a Christian (and during your early conversion period)? Where are they found in the Bible?
The following are listed in Hebrews 6:1-2.
1) Repentance from dead works
2) Faith toward God
3) The doctrine of baptisms
4) Laying on of hands
5) The resurrection of the dead
6) Eternal judgment
A summary explanation of each one of these fundamental doctrines is contained in this article.
They all help lay the foundation for "us go on to perfection" (Hebrews 6:1).
"Repentance From Dead Works"
"The wages of sin is death," proclaimed the Apostle Paul (Romans 6:23). And every human being has contributed his or her share to the sins of the world. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," stated Paul to the Romans (Rom. 3:23).
We have all walked contrary to God's way of life in the past. We have performed the works of the flesh-we have fulfilled the desires and lusts of our minds and our bodies. We have walked according to the course set for mankind by Satan the devil.
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Ephesians 2:1-3, NKJV)
Pretty plain! We have all performed works which have led only to eternal death. As Paul put it: "What fruit had ye then in those things [sins] whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death" (Rom. 6:21).
We were, so to speak, on a sort of spiritual "death row"-awaiting the execution of a justly deserved ultimate capital punishment. We earned this penalty by simply doing what comes naturally — sinning.
The death penalty for sins has to be paid. But God in His vast mercy has provided a way by which you may avoid that extreme penalty.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)
God is not willing that any human being should have to pay that final penalty for sin:
1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
He wishes that all would claim the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, for the remission of their personal sins.
This is the only means by which a person may avoid having to pay that terrible penalty. Jesus Christ became human flesh, lived a sinless life, and paid the death penalty on your behalf. He provided a way for you to enter into eternity!
But there is something you must do. You must accept that sacrifice on your behalf by demonstrating that you no longer wish to continue in that sinful way of life which qualified you for death in the first place. You demonstrate our acceptance of Christ's sacrifice by changing your way of living. This change of direction is called "repentance" in Bible terminology.
But what do we repent of?
The motions, actions or works which lead to death are simply defined as sin. Sin is the violation or transgression of any of God's great spiritual laws:
4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4, KJV)
4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4, NKJV)
Sin is violating/not observing God's law.
What are you to have done about that:
38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:38-39)
To repent simply means to "change direction." We turn from the way of self-indulgence to the way of give. We stop serving the lusts and desires of our own flesh and begin to serve others. We turn from selfishness to selflessness,
When we demonstrate our willingness to change, God applies the sacrifice of Christ on our behalves We are then free from the crushing guilt of sin. We are forgiven and our consciences are cleared.
The Book of Hebrews explains it this way:
13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:13-15)
No amount of human works can bring about the forgiveness of sin. Even the great sacrificial laws of the Old Testament could not bring about forgiveness and a clear conscience. Those laws were only a type of what was to come.
The Book of Hebrews explained that the Old Testament sacrificial system was:
9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience (Hebrews 9:9)
These works also were "dead" in that they could not produce eternal life. They could not forgive sin. They could not erase the record. They were unable to purge the conscience of the guilt of sin.
But they did picture or typify the great sacrifice of the Lamb of God—Jesus. As long as those under the Old Testament administration kept the sacrificial law, they were depicting the sacrifice of the Son of God.
Finally, when that great event actually occurred, it was no longer necessary to portray it in type. With the destruction of the second Temple in. A.D. 70, the sacrificial system of ancient Israel also perished.
No amount of physical human works can effect forgiveness of sin. There is no way we can "make up" for sin. Beads, indulgences, penance, fastings, or afflicting one's flesh in some other way will not erase the guilt of sin. You cannot punish yourself for sin, and thus avoid God's punishment!
Only a repentant spirit will bring about God's mercy. God looks to those who are of a meek and contrite spirit — those who tremble before the two-edged sword of His Word. God recognizes a broken spirit, a humble seeking for forgiveness and mercy.
God will honor the attitude of all who are willing to turn from works and deeds which are sinful and which result only in death. We are admonished through the writing of Matthew: "Bring forth therefore fruits meet [fit to show] for repentance" (Matt. 3:8).
True godly repentance is a gift from God. It is not something that can be "worked up" from within the human psyche. God instructs His ministers to be "in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves: if God peradventure, will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth..." (II Tim. 2:25). Paul said "... the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Rom. 2:4).
And in the book of Acts, we find that God has "... also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18). Those desiring a godly repentance must seek it from God.
True repentance represents a permanent change of direction. It is a commitment to a course from which there is no turning back. It is not a temporary sawdust-trail, tear-jerking emotional response. It is something much deeper and vastly more profound.
Repentance represents a total commitment — a point of no return. It places you on a course directly into eternal life. It represents a complete forsaking of the dead works of your former way of life. It is the first major step into eternity!
Is it any wonder then that God includes "repentance from dead works" as one of the basic and most fundamental of all Christian doctrines?
"Faith Toward God"
Faith is a foundational and fundamental biblical doctrine. It is absolutely required for salvation.
None may obtain eternal life without it.
6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
But what is faith anyway? Is it just blind confidence? Or is it based on something much more substantial?
Perhaps an example would provide the best explanation.
How was the faith of Abraham expressed? He has been called the "father of the faithful." His example should tell us what constitutes real faith.
God promised Abraham that he would become a "father of many nations" (Rom. 4:17). And yet (except for the child Ishmael) he was a childless 99 and his wife Sarah was well past the child-bearing age.
But Abraham did not look to the stark fact of Sarah's previous menopause, or to his own apparent impotence. He looked only to God's promise to make him a father.
19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. (Romans 4:19-21)
There you have it: a biblical definition of faith. It was expressed in slightly different words to Jewish Christians: "Now faith is the substance [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb.11:1).
The fact that God had promised was all the evidence Abraham needed!
You do not need faith for something you already possess. Faith revolves around something "not seen" — something you do not yet have. Romans 8:24-25 proves the point. "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that [which] we see not, then do we with patience wait for it," wrote the Apostle Paul.
The Apostle to the Gentiles was himself an example of living faith.
As a prisoner, Paul boarded a sailing ship bound for ltaly. He warned the captain that the cargo and the passengers would be in jeopardy should they undertake the voyage. But, his warning went unheeded; and not long afterwards, three days of severely stormy weather took away all hope that any aboard would survive.
Although all the physical evidence — what they could see (the swirling temptest surrounding them) — indicated the contrary, Paul stood up and said:
"... There shall be no loss of any man's life among you... For there stood by me this night the angel of God... saying, Fear not Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me" (Acts 27:22-25).
Paul had "faith toward God" because he believed God. He had an unquestioning conviction that God would indeed do what He had promised.
The Patriarch Noah preceded Paul as an enduring example of "faith toward God." The writer of Hebrews summarized Noah's faith in Hebrews 11:7. "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith."
Hebrews 11 is known in theological circles as "the faith chapter." And well it should be because it is filled with "faith toward God" amply demonstrated in the lives of God's patriarchs, prophets, kings, judges, commoners, and even one repentant prostitute.
One very negative example serves to illustrate this crux point: "Faith toward God" involves simply believing what God says.
Our first parents knew God existed; they knew He was their Creator. They saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears things we, in this twentieth century, are simply not privileged to hear or see.
God had told our first parents that they would surely die if they partook of the forbidden fruit. But, Adam and Eve did not believe God. Instead, they believed Satan. Adam and Eve had very little faith toward God, but they ironically seemed to possess a kind of perverted "faith" in the assurances of Satan the devil.
Now that we understand by both positive and negative example, just what faith is, we need to define its relationship to salvation.
Again, faith is absolutely required for eternal salvation. Not a single person will enter God's family void of faith.
In summarizing his ministry for the Ephesian elders, Paul explained how he had testified to the Jewish people and the Grecians "... repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21).
In order to even start the salvation process, you must have faith in Christ's blood — His atoning sacrifice for your sins.
Of course, you must also believe and know that God exists."... He that cometh to God must believe that he is …," (Heb. 11:6). And you must believe that one reason God sent His Son Jesus Christ to this earth was to shed His blood in order to blot out your past sins (see John 3:16).
Paul put it this way:
25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, (Romans 3:25)
And so we must believe in Christ's sacrifice as an historical event that God applies to the repentant sinner, now, at this present time.
Remember Thomas, the doubting disciple? "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29).
You have never seen Jesus Christ and neither have I. And yet our very salvation depends upon our firm belief that He was a historical person; that He is a member of the Godhead; that He suffered bled and died because of our sins; and that He rose again to live forevermore.
Belief in Christ's blood — faith in His sacrifice for past sins — involves believing what Christ said. You cannot really believe in Jesus' sacrifice without believing His message — the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
On Jesus' first evangelistic tour, He said: "... Repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15).
(Two articles of related interest would be What is the Gospel? and The Gospel of the Kingdom of God was the Emphasis of Jesus and the Early Church.)
Once a person has heard the true gospel of the Kingdom of God and has acted upon it by repenting being baptized, and receiving God's Holy Spirit as a gift (see Acts 2:38), God imparts to that individual the very faith of Jesus Christ.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
You cannot work up this saving faith toward God. It is His gift to you upon real conversion.
Notice that Paul wrote:
16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16, KJV)
Grasp the fact that Paul does not say, "by a man's faith in Jesus Christ" (although that is the starting point); he says," by the faith of Jesus Christ" — which means Christ's faith (the NKJV has it wrong; see also Berean Literal Bible which says "faith of Jesus Christ").
In summary, how may you possess "faith toward God" — this saving faith of Jesus Christ? First of all, you must repent of dead works (see the preceding article).Then you must be baptized as a symbol of your faith in Christ's precious blood, to blot out your past sins, burying your old self in a watery grave.
Then you will receive a portion of the very faith of Jesus Christ which — if properly nourished — will eventually result in your ultimate salvation — eternal life in God's Kingdom.
"The Doctrine of Baptisms"
The simple unpretentious rite of baptism is meant to mark a miraculous change in you. lt is to testify that you have embarked on a new, clean, right way of life that will end in complete satisfaction, unrestricted reward, total success and happiness unending. God wants you to realize this and take full advantage of His generous offer.
Most of Christendom understands in part that baptism is a fundamental doctrine of God's religion. But too few capture the overwhelming concept which its symbolism is meant to instill. Let's look back into the past, and come to understand more perfectly what God is revealing.
From the beginning God has wanted men to be clean — physically, mentally and spiritually. He designed an elaborate ritualistic system for His Old Testament Church to impress this grand lesson. He meant for you and me to find in the New Testament the brimming spiritual fulfillment which comes through Jesus the Christ (Gal. 3:24).
Paul wrote the book of Hebrews to Jewish Christians to help make this plain. He shows how Old Testament ritual finds full spiritual expression in Christ. These Jewish people knew about the washings (baptisms) of the ritual (Heb. 9:10). They knew about the prescribed cleansing of clothes, people, priests (Ex. 19:10-14; Lev. 8:6).
But most people today have not understood the facts concerning the pre-Christian baptism of John.
Recall that John the Baptizer was accepted by some in his community. This was not some new and unusual action. Pharisees and Sadducees would have had no dealings with anyone contradicting the traditions of the elders (Matt. 15:1-2). Why, they even rejected Jesus because they could not fathom the spiritual application which He made of Old Testament instruction.
But they did accept John's teaching about baptism. Sadducees and Pharisees — perhaps not yet having heard of Jesus — flocked to John, wanting to be baptized. Evidently the unrepentant ones wanted only to receive a mark of religious distinction. They wanted to advertise their "righteousness" — to prate and brag about their acceptance by this recognized, rustic, prophet of God (Matt. 3:1-7: Mark 1:4-7).
But John was doing God's Work, He was calling his countrymen to repentance — change. He wanted proof that they were doing something to change their miserable and evil lives. He culled out those who were not turning to God in heart rending contrition and obedience.
He would have no part in baptizing those who clung to their old evil ways—sins — dead works. His baptism was for the purpose of symbolizing spiritually clean people — those who had changed so much that they could take advantage of the Messiah's upcoming sacrifice for the remission — forgiveness — — of their sins.
John was busily preaching and baptizing when Jesus came on the scene. Jesus set His seal of approval on John's baptism by undergoing the very same rite as the people who were sick of their sins and longed enough for forgiveness that they "brought forth fruit" proved by changed righteous obedient-to-God lives. Jesus said His baptism "... fulfill [ed] all righteousness (Matt. 3:15 ).
Later, after His death and resurrection. He expressly commanded His disciples to follow this very same procedure when they found people who would really accept, believe and do what He taught. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:16).
Baptism is the symbolic door to righteousness. You must go through that door if you are going to enter into eternal life. There is no other way.
Ritualistic washing can clean pots, pans, clothes and skin. But water can do nothing to cleanse the mind of man — it cannot reach him spiritually.
But John's baptism added more color to the picture of God's plan of salvation. It pointed to the Jewish need to improve in keeping God's eternal law. It insisted that they should accept the government of that law. John recognized their mental approach to life must be in accord with God's direction.
People must develop the discipline and volition to live by every word of God (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3). John knew that even more than this would be required if people were going to finally enter into the Kingdom of God. He said:" I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he [Jesus] that cometh after me... shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire" (Matt. 3:11).
Baptism with the Holy Spirit is the ultimate baptism toward which we press. This is the highest form of baptism.
The only way that sin — which is the result of distorted mental action — can be remitted scrubbed out, paid for, is through death (Rom. 6:23). If we were left to pay for our own sins, death would descend upon us and there could be no hope for the future. Only black oblivion! But God is merciful.
Even while we were yet in our sins Christ died for us. He paid the entire debt which encumbers us. We are free when we accept His payment in our stead and so can live (Rom. 5:8-9).
But that is not to say we just use the sacrifice of Christ and blithely pursue our own way. A complete change is demanded when such a great price has been paid so that we can live — for we would have died without this payment.
Since Christ has been willing to die for us, then we must be willing to die for Him. When we are baptized we picture our willingness to participate in death, just as He did, in order that goodness, godliness (god-likeness), will prevail in our lives (Rom. 6:3). We will imitate the way He lived. He didn't break the law of God in one little point (Matt. 5:18-20). Neither should we!
He died horribly, ignominiously in order that people who recognize their shortcomings could be washed clean and given a new life — a changed, repentant, spiritual way of living.
Baptism pictures the burial of our old ways. A willingness to let our old ways go down into the grave to moulder away to nothing — the putrescence of our own ways covered and eaten up by death. Read Romans 6:4-6 with these thoughts in mind:
"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."
We, because we are sinners die, in baptism from a spiritual point of view. We no longer allow the inordinate desires of our fleshly, sensual existence to dictate. Christ became sin so we could live righteously — without sin — without breaking the law (II Cor. 5:21).
You and I are to be spiritually crucified with Christ. Then His mind — spirit — enters us. We live as Christ would live. He gave Himself for us to that purpose (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:6-7). The Christian is dead to the old ways of the natural man (Rom. 6:11-12). He no longer conforms to the way in which people naturally respond to life. His mind is renewed. He proves what God wants and does it (Rom. 12:2).
This way is entirely-different. The spiritual immersion which accompanies water baptism cleanses the man's mind. Materialistic, egotistical, vain, worldly, carnal, sensual stimuli no longer prevail. All ways that are contrary to the spirit are now abhorrent.
That spiritual immersion—baptism — is promised to all repentant people. On the day the New Testament Christian Church was founded, conscience-stricken converts implored the apostles to tell them what they needed to do to get right with God. Peter gave them the authoritative, simple answer; "Repent, and be baptized... and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
Those people, and all truly baptized Christians since, were baptized (immersed) in to one body and have all been infused with the Holy Spirit — the holy mind of Christ.
To have that spiritual mind means that the filth of naturalness washed out. The man now thinks, acts and does what God wants him to. He is a begotten spiritual son of God. One day he will be born into the very family of God to be with the Father and the Son forever.
Baptism brings together, in symbolic grandeur, three wonderful gifts from God: 1) the precious redeeming blood of Christ, 2) the water of regeneration, and 3) the Holy Spirit.
Baptism pictures the complete covering of a dead body, placing it in a watery grave. But as we have seen much more is pictured in this illustration.
Even as the old, dead body of the convert is entombed in baptism, it is literally washed and cleansed. This complete immersion and washing of the exterior symbolizes the internal—mental—moral — washing and regeneration of the mind. A man is what his mind thinks.
The baptized Christian comes up out of his watery grave with an altogether different mind — a different way of thinking about life and the way to solve its problems. It is as if he, like Christ, had been resurrected. The restrictions of the flesh no longer predominate and encumber.
New values exist. A new life is begun. The old life — the old way — the old man — is left dead in the grave.
Spiritual values take precedence. Every effort is made to satisfy God.
Not many people understand how God has intended, from the beginning, that all men should be baptized. You now know about this glorious fundamental truth of the Christian religion.
We have an article titled: Baptism, the Early Church, and the Continuing Church and a link to a booklet: All About Water Baptism.
The very next thing you should consider doing — to please God and help yourself — is to click the link and read it. They answers such questions as: Is water baptism essential to salvation? What about the 'thief on the cross'? Will he be saved without it? What is the proper form, or mode — sprinkling, pouring or immersion? Should babies and children be baptized? Suppose you were baptized by a minister you have since lost confidence in. Should you be baptized over again?
Even if you are already baptized, there is probably much more that you need to know and do if you truly desire to serve God as He says.
Hebrews 6 tells of baptismS--plural.
But what about the baptism with fire?
Should a Christian seek it? What did John the Baptist prophesy and teach concerning it?
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:7-12)
The populace came in great crowds to see John — mostly out of curiosity. But John was speaking in particular to the unrepentant religionists, as well as those who did repent. Notice carefully that some of those to whom John spoke — the repentant — were to be baptized with the Holy Spirit later. But the others present — among them many hypocritical, unrepentant Pharisees and Sadducees — were going to be baptized with fire — immersed in the lake of fire — unless they repented. They would be burned up as chaff (Matthew 3:12) (Sedliacik R. MINISTUDY: The BAPTISMS of the Bible. Good News magazine, April 1979).
This fire is the ultimate fate of all the incorrigible wicked:
14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14-15)
8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
1 "For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,"
Says the Lord of hosts,
"That will leave them neither root nor branch.
2 But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
3 You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,"
Says the Lord of hosts.
Surely no one will seek the baptism with fire once he or she understands what it really is!
"Laying on of Hands
This doctrine is of critical importance to Christianity because it shows that God works and deals with mankind through fallible, imperfect human beings He chooses and sets apart for His purpose.
From the books of Moses to the book of Revelation, we find the laying-on-of-hands ceremony used in a wide variety of circumstances.
It was performed as an official ceremony, generally by an individual ordained or commissioned by God.
The ceremony centered around God's servant praying aloud as he placed his hands on the recipient of his petitions. It was a formal request to God, usually for a specific blessing, gift or authority as in ordination. Usually a simple, short ceremony, but filled with meaning.
Let's notice some of the interesting and varied ways in which men of God have used the laying on of hands.
One of the earliest recorded biblical examples of this doctrine is found in Exodus 29 during an ordination ceremony. And strangely enough, the hands were laid on animals by the persons being ordained. Here is how it happened.
In Exodus 28:1 God commanded Moses to set apart Aaron and his four sons to be priests.
In Exodus 29:10 we read: "Then bring the young bull to the Tabernacle, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands upon its head; and you shall kill it before the Lord, at the entrance of the Tabernacle" (The Living Bible).
Verses 15-20 state that they were to do likewise with the two rams.
Why did they do this? Aaron and his sons were commanded to lay their hands on the animals' heads to symbolize their sins, their guilt being transferred to the animals which then suffered the penalty of sin
Aaron and his sons should have received — death.
Of course, this all had symbolic meaning since only Christ's blood really atoned for sin.
The laying on of hands in this example symbolized the cleansing and purifying of the priests through the transferal of their sins to the animals.
We will soon see that the laying on of hands often symbolizes a transfer, transmittal or granting of special gifts, blessings or authority — elements that are literally priceless. Things that are only God's to give.
"Then bring the Levites to the door of the Tabernacle as all the people watch. There the leaders of the tribes shall lay their hands upon them, and Aaron, with a gesture of offering, shall present them to the Lord as a gift from the entire nation of Israel. The Levites will represent all the people in serving the Lord… In this way you will dedicate the Levites from among the rest of the people of Israel, and the Levites shall be mine. After you have sanctified them and presented them in this way," they shall go in and out of the Tabernacle to do their work" (Numbers 8:9-11, 14-15; The Living Bible).
Of course, the leaders' hands had no magical or mystical qualities. They merely symbolized and formally emphasized that God, not man, gave them authority and set them apart for a particular job. God commissioned them and issued them authority and jurisdiction to do His work.
This again demonstrates one of the great lessons of the laying on of hands — that God works through man — — even in ordaining His own servants. Even if the man he uses is uncertain of what he is doing (cf. Genesis 27:30-35).
The Continuing Church of God practices the doctrine of laying on of hands today in ordaining qualified men to be deacons and ministers (and qualified women to be deaconesses).
Notice the New Testament example of ordaining deacons in Acts 6. The twelve apostles had chosen seven men to be deacons,
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. (Acts 6:5-6)
Acts 13:2-3 records the ordinations of Barnabas and Paul:
1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:1-3)
Again, God's will was carried out by His ministers praying and laying hands on the ones He had chosen. This was another example of God's issuing authority through His already ordained and chosen human servants.
Receiving the Holy Spirit. Christ gave the ministers of His Church the authority to baptize those who have truly repented of their sins. Along with the physical act of baptism is promised the Holy Spirit — through the laying on of hands.
Millions have supposedly been baptized, but very few have had hands laid on them for the receiving of the Holy Spirit after baptism.
Notice the example in Acts 8. Philip went to the city of Samaria to preach the gospel. Many believed and were baptized. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the gospel had been preached at Samaria, they sent Peter and John:
14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17)
Notice, they had been baptized days or even weeks before and had not received the Holy Spirit. God had withheld it until Peter and John had laid hands on them. God respected the order and authority He vested in His ministers. He granted His Spirit when they laid hands on them.
An interesting side light to Acts 8 is the story of Simon the sorcerer.
He too was baptized in Samaria when the others were. After he saw that the others received the Holy Spirit when Peter and John laid hands on them and prayed, he desperately wanted the power to do the same.
18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit." (Acts 8:18-19)
The point is, Simon recognized that the apostles really did have God given authority — authority which he saw demonstrated through the laying on of hands. But he did not want to do it God's way.
We need to accept God's plan and His ways.
Christ set the example in healing. Luke 4:40 states:
40 When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. (Luke 4:40)
Mark 6:4-5 relates another example. When Christ came to His own community. He found such little faith that He remarked: "... A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them."
In Acts 28:8 we find that Paul also laid his hands on Publius' father to heal him.
Concerning His true ministers Christ stated: "... They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover"(Mark 16:18).While many professing Christians know nothing of God's promise to heal, others make a public mockery and display of what they think is the healing power of God.
James 5:14 is a command from God to those who are sick:
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15)
No minister's hands are special or holy. No olive oil has any mysterious power. It is God Himself who heals through His Holy Spirit; but He has prescribed a physical act to show our faith and trust in Him and to show our acceptance of the authority He has placed with His servants.
The book of Genesis contains a very moving example of the laying on of hands when Jacob blessed his two grandsons. Jacob was an old man and knew his time was short. He asked his son Joseph to bring the two boys to him.
"Israel [Jacob] was half blind with age, so that he could hardly see. So Joseph brought the boys close to him and he kissed and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph, 'I never thought I would see you again, but now God has let me see your children too.'
"Joseph took the boys by the hand, bowed deeply to him, and led the boys to their grandfather's knees — Ephraim at Israel's left hand and Manasseh at his right. But Israel crossed his arms as he stretched them out to lay his hands upon the boys' heads, so that his right hand was upon the head of Ephraim, the younger boy, and his left hand was upon the head of Manasseh, the older. He did this purposely.
"Then he blessed Joseph with this blessing': May God, the God of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, the God who has shepherded me all my life, wonderfully bless these boys. He is the Angel who has kept me from all harm. May these boys be an honor to my name and to the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and may they become a mighty nation" (Gen. 48:10-16, The Living Bible).
Jacob went on to bless the boys individually, handing down the blessings promised to Abraham. The laying on of hands was symbolic of this transferral by God's authority.
The laying on of hands ceremony is very relevant to this society — to you and me! God is alive and actively dealing with mankind today through a physical group of human beings, a Church doing His Work. And He has provided in this day, as the Bible records He always has, spiritual guides, ministers, to represent Him, to oversee
His Church. And He has given them a certain amount of jurisdiction to carry out their jobs.
The laying on of hands is the outward ceremony used in the delegation and use of that authority. God respects it and we should too!
"Resurrection of the Dead"
What is the real hope of the true Christian? Will he spend eternity lounging in idleness and ease? Or will the resurrected, newborn Christian spend eternity in happy, but productive, activity faithfully serving his Creator?
Most professing Christians have a rather foggy idea of what future life in the Kingdom of God will be like. They know very little about biblical teaching concerning the "resurrection of the dead" — yet this is one of the basic doctrines of the Bible (Heb. 6:2).
But do you realize you can know what it will be like in the next life?
The Prophet Isaiah wrote:
4 For since the beginning of the world
Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him. (Isaiah 64:4)
But the Apostle Paul explained that a Christian can comprehend what God has prepared for those that love Him:
9 But as it is written:
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."
10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)
Many scriptures speak of this "mystery" (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:3, 5, 9; Rev. 10:7).
Satan has deceived the whole world on this all-important subject of the resurrection of the dead (Rev. 12:9). Many scriptures reveal that the whole world is in darkness, ignorance and superstition.
The plain Bible teaching on the subject of the resurrection(s) has been submerged in darkness for many centuries. There are no Bible commentaries or dictionaries to which you can go to get the truth on this subject.
Invariably, you are given a noxious mixture of truth and error-light and darkness.
But it is high time for professing Christians to go directly to the Word of God to learn the real, unadulterated truth.
How deceived has the world become on this vital subject of the resurrections?
A common belief is expressed in the 1972 edition of The World Book Encyclopedia":
Most Christians believe that on the last day of the world all the dead will come to life. They call the day, Judgment Day, because God will judge everyone" ("Resurrection," XVI, p. 245).
Some believe that at death their "souls" go immediately to heaven, purgatory, limbo or hell.
"The Westminster Shorter Catechism (question xxxvii.) states the doctrine that the bodies of the dead rest in their graves till the resurrection, but that their souls do immediately pass into glory [heaven]. This was the view of the Reformers" ("Death," The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1911, p. 382).
According to this teaching the "body" must rest in the grave till the "soul" can be reunited with it at the resurrection.
If the righteous are already in heavenly bliss, is it logical to think that they would be made to return to this earth to be reunited with their "bodies"?
Editor's note: For an in-depth look into the false concepts of heaven, check out the article Did Early Christians Teach They Were Going to Heaven?
There are several references in the Old Testament to the resurrection, but it is in the book written by the Prophet Daniel where it is hinted that there might be more than one resurrection:
2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
3 Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:2-3)
And in the New Testament, Jesus Christ said:
28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:28-29)
The Apostle Paul, when he was speaking before Felix, the governor of Judea, said that he had "hope toward God" of a resurrection, in which, affirmed Paul, the Jews also believed. He plainly told Felix "that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust" (Acts 24:15).
In none of the previous passages is the time factor specified. However, other New Testament scriptures do clarify it.
Paul wrote at length regarding the resurrection (s) in 1 Corinthians15.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:22-24)
Now if one turns to the twentieth chapter of Revelation, he can see what is meant by "the end." Paul was referring to the end of the one-thousand-year reign of Christ and the saints on this earth. It will not be until sometime after the thousand years are over that the second resurrection occurs:
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
Jesus Christ is depicted in Revelation 19:11-21 as coming on "a white horse" and then "he shall [in the future] rule them [the nations] with a rod of iron" (verse15).
The resurrected saints (joined by the living saints) will be caught up to meet Christ in the air at His second coming, and they as kings and priests will "reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:10).
To these saints Christ promises: "He that overcometh...to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them [under Christ] with a rod of iron..." (Rev. 2:26,27).
But when and how will these glorified, then-made-immortal saints rule with Christ. And for how long?
The Apostle John was inspired to give the answer:" And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded, and they lived and reigned [ruled] with Christ a thousand years" (Rev. 20:4).
John, in vision, saw those who had been beheaded now resurrected (at Christ's triumphal second coming) and given governing positions or "judgment".
Paul gives more details of this glorious resurrection of saints:
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18)
Note that it does not say the saints will go to "heaven" to meet Christ, but that He will come from "heaven" to the atmosphere of this earth, and the saints will rise to meet him "in the air."
Now notice a prophecy back in Zechariah which shows where Christ and the saints will go — after this rendezvous in the air:
4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, ... (Zechariah 14:4)
At this time will Christ be alone?
5 ... Thus the Lord my God will come, And all the saints with You. (Zechariah 14:5)
But where will Christ go? Back to heaven with the saints?
9 And the Lord shall be King over all the earth.
In that day it shall be —
"The Lord is one,"
And His name one. (Zechariah 14:9)
It should not amaze us to find that Christ will return to stand on the Mount of Olives. Nearly two thousand years ago, His angels told the disciples that Christ would return to this earth just as He left it — and He had been standing talking with His disciples atop Mount Olivet just before this promise was given (Acts 1:4-12).
The Apostle Paul also spoke of Christ's coming at the "last trump"-the time when He will gather His saints unto Himself:
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53)
These and other scriptures show that it is only the righteous who are resurrected at Christ's second coming.
John shows that those who had been martyred will be raised to life and to a position of rulership during the thousand-year rule of Christ. But the unjust will not be resurrected until the end of this period per Revelation 20:5-6.
Then, after the thousand years are expired, Satan goes out to stir up more trouble on this earth. And it is still some time later before the Great White Throne
Judgment takes place — at which time the others who are still dead (years after the millennium has ended) are made to "stand before God" in the second resurrection — when they have their first chance.
What is your guarantee that you will be resurrected when Christ returns to this earth? How can you make sure you will be in the first resurrection to immortality?
It is "they that are Christ's at his coming" who will be in the first resurrection (I Cor. 15:23).
But who are "Christ's"? Paul said:
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (Romans 8:9)
It is only those who are filled and led by the Spirit of God who will be in the first resurrection.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
God's Spirit in us is like a seed that is developing in to godly character.
11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)
There it is! If we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in us when we die, then we will be resurrected through the power of that same Spirit — at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Paul then explains that we are earnestly waiting for that time when we shall be born as spiritual beings into the family of God. Remember, Christ said: "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).
Paul explained this soon-coming new birth:
19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:19-23)
That is what the true Christian waits for — — earnestly' longing for the time when he will be born into the family of God — as a divine, glorified son of God.
What did he mean by "the redemption of our body"? Paul begins to explain in the book of Philippians.
By way of background he mentions that he gave up everything in order to serve Christ and became willing to suffer "the loss of all things" (Phil. 3:7, 8). Why?
7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)
He then went on to explain that:
20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
And it is from there — from heaven — that we "look for the Saviour."
This redemption of the body — this change from mortal flesh to a spiritual body — is the hope held out to the Christian.
The resurrected, glorified, immortalized saints will live in eternal happiness forever and ever: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain..." (Rev. 21:4).
Each of these sons/daughters of God, then born into the very God family, will "inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" (verse 7).
Will they ever have to suffer any more evil trials? "And there shall be no more curse... and his servants shall serve him" (Rev. 22:3).
What will they do throughout eternity? Just sit back and bask in idleness, ease and luxury, lapping up never-ending rivers of pleasures?
No, they will be busy. "... And they shall reign [rule or govern] for ever and ever" (verse 5). And remember, "his servants shall serve him"-throughout all eternity (verse 3).
Then will come to pass the inspired words of Hebrews 2:
8 You have put all things in subjection under his feet."
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:8-11)
We should strive to be in the "first resurrection"(Rev. 20:6). It is spoken of as "a better resurrection" (Heb. 11:35). Those who rise in that resurrection will be wonderfully blessed of God!
All will be judged:
10... For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written:
"As I live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God."
12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10-12)
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. (2 Corinthians 5:9-11)
Eternal judgment! It scares some.
Eternal judgment? It makes others laugh.
To the religious, the foreboding threat of "eternal judgment" often portends a fearful apprehension of a majestic throne upon which sits a stern judge condescendingly looking down upon a quaking skeleton of a person who is barely able to keep his/her knees from knocking against one another.
To those "modern sophisticates" not given to religious "superstition," the archaic threat of "eternal judgment" is scornfully looked upon as an ancient remnant out of man's distant past, a useless appendage, a shriveled-up relic of a bygone age.
Yet in clearly listing "the principles of the doctrine of Christ" in Hebrews 6:1-2, the Apostle Paul concludes these absolutely foundational principles of God's Word with the phrase" eternal judgment."
"Eternal judgment" in the Information Age? Sneers of ridicule — — or perhaps chills of fright! "Eternal judgment" seems to do everything to the modern mind except portray what it really means.
Disregarding for a moment the fine distinctions between the Hebrew words translated "eternal" (olam, ad) and the Greek word (aionios), let's for a moment consider what the English word "eternal" means. How can we express it? A line that has no ends, the progression of time forever?
How can the human mind ever conceive of anything without beginning and without end? Let your mind wander in space or in time — then in both. Consider the earth, the solar system, the sun, our Milky Way galaxy (in which the earth is but tucked away in one small corner), the galaxies within our local galactic structure, and then the universe of galaxies on beyond-all engrossed in endless eons of time.
But, the physical is finite, no matter how long, no matter how large. What God offers is eternal, beyond the physical-incredibly beyond, incomprehensibly beyond! Physical events and time spheres no longer have meaning. When eternity is considered, a million years spent on each planet in the entirety of the universe becomes but a moment.
Nothing in the physical creation even approximates eternity. Nothing physical is eternal; nothing physical will ever be eternal. Eternity by its very nature, by the enormous vastness inherent in the word itself, transcends the physical. This is what God offers us! Eternity. Beyond the physical.
The human mind can almost comprehend the meaning of eternity. This is remarkable by itself. We can begin to conceptualize eternity. We can think of that line with no beginning and no end; we can think of the unending vastness of time that occurred before our birth and will go on after our death.
We can consider eternity, but we cannot comprehend it. Whenever we try, we become frustrated. Our brains balk, our gray matter turns into soup. We can understand just enough to understand that we can never understand.
That's the uniqueness of the human mind-almost but not quite able to comprehend. It's there — -eternity is there-but just out of our reach, just beyond our grasp.
Is this coincidental? Isn't it strange that what our Creator holds out to us as the ultimate goal of human life—eternity — is something we are almost able to comprehend, but yet with awesomeness of mystery still surrounding it?
Even assuming the entirety of the universe is as old as cosmologists tell us-- some 10 to 15 billion years old (see also How Old is the Earth and How Long Were the Days of Creation?)-- the totality of this time (as incomprehensibly endless as it seems compared to our short 70-odd year life spans) is but a few fleeting seconds in the endless vastness of eternity. It is far less than one small grain of sand compared to the multiple billions of tons of sand on all the beaches surrounding all the oceans in the entire world.
Eternity as a concept defines the boundary reaches of the human mind; almost, in a manner of speaking, the interface between the physical and the spiritual. Because nothing physical is eternal. The physical by very definition is subject to change and decay (see II Cor. 4:18).
To those of us who are extremely busy every day of our lives (whether commuting to work, putting in a hard day at the office, getting our exercise, coming home at night, having dinner, playing with the children, perhaps going out to a party or a movie and coming home to bed — a real packed day in a very busy week), a year, 365 days, is an awfully long time.
And yet the reality of eternity is always there. It never leaves us; it is just overshadowed by what may seem to be the more pressing needs of the moment: How much do eggs cost now? Will I have enough gasoline next Sunday? Will I be promoted on my job? What movie (or cinema) shall we see this weekend? When are the in-laws coming to visit? How are the children doing in school?
Yet, all the while, the absolute reality of the eternity of time that will follow your death is ever-present and ever-real. If you don't feel its pressure, you are deluding yourself.
But we are not left without hope. The Creator God — the God who created us, who designed our human minds able to almost comprehend eternity, has given us the knowledge — knowledge that has had to be revealed — — of what eternity can mean to human beings.
As Paul described in this culminating doctrine of God's Church-- eternal judgment -- God in His Word takes us beyond, takes us to reality, takes us to sanity, takes us to eternity.
To those steeped in the "heaven-hades Churchianity" so long offered as the biblical model, "judgment" means a decision reached after carefully considering every sin that you have ever committed from the first time you ever hit your baby brother or talked back to your parents until your last, wheezing gasp as an old man or woman about to expire.
How many sins do you think you have committed in your life? How long would it take someone to read a detailed account of every one of them?
Let's assume the average person sins about once a da (which is a gross understatement)y, and since God says a sin is a sin, we'll include all the "little" sins as well as the horrendous ones. Consequently, in the average lifetime, the average person might sin roughly 25,000 times. (Granted, some of these sins would take longer explanations, covering three to four pages of written material to describe the exact situation: other of these sins might just take one to two lines, explaining why you "had" to utter that unfortunate word in that unforeseen circumstance.)
Now, facetiously assuming that in the future God would have to consider the lives of, let us say, ten billion human beings, and giving God the benefit of the doubt that
He could go through all the intricate details of every single sin in the fleeting instant of one second, it would still take God roughly (and this is, of course, extremely rough) 100 million years to fully analyze the totality of everybody's sins. And, of course, God couldn't make a "judgment" until He did such — — or so we might be led to believe.
Isn't it strange that when we hear the word "judgment" we automatically feel bad? We have a negative, depressing mood overwhelm us. Why does the word "judgment" evoke such a reaction? Is this what God intended His Word to portray? Is this what Paul meant in Hebrews 6:2, when he spoke of eternal judgment?
No it isn't!
But, thank God, our God is the real God! And the "judgment" taught by this world's religion is as fallacious as it is foolish.
When we read of "judgment" in the Bible, we should experience waves of elation and joy, great excitement, enthusiasm and expectation concerning the fantastic events awaiting us in the future.
To give what must be a very weak analogy: Think of the graduation day after four years of high school or college. That's the day when, after thousands of hours of hard work and classes, homework, periods of nervous exhaustion, tension and concern — finally, after all that, a person has made it! He has completed the course; he has achieved the goal. Following each graduation, every individual has won some new place. For example, many high school students have been accepted at the colleges of their choice; many college students in the medical, dental, law, or professional or graduate schools of their choice.
There are generally few failures; although some each year do fail. But graduation for the vast majority is a very happy time — a time of confidence, achievement, success and joy.
So it will be with God's judgment. Only God's "graduation day" will be from far more than a few years of study; it will be from a lifetime — and the rewards will be far greater than any diploma or promotion, because from God's graduation the rewards will be eternal.
The "judgment" is really a decision — a decision that your Creator, your personal Father in heaven, the very God who gives you breath and life, the Being that hears your prayers and loves you more than any father loved any son, makes for your benefit.
The judgment is when God decides or informs you of His decision of what, where, and how you will be spending eternity. And for the vast majority, this will surely be the greatest moment in their entire lives-incomprehensibly greater than everything they have done before!
The marriage supper in Revelation 19:9 and the breathtaking new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21 can only begin to hint at the magnificent reality that God has planned for all human beings.
As God the Father has structured all spiritual and physical reality, there are many areas of responsibility in the future that are needed to be filled by individual human beings. This is why Christ said in John 14:2, "In my father's house are many mansions..." The universe is a big place, and eternity is a long time. God has a lot to do (even though we may not know much about it now — see Hebrews 2:8-9) and He has created us to become sons to help Him administer all reality forever.
How does God decide what individual responsibility or position (or whatever God chooses to call it) each of us will have in the future? He knows and loves us personally, and will choose the best possible situation for every one of us. We will surely each have our own specific areas of responsibility, your own personal likes and dislikes — we will not be like statues in a garden, or candles in a monastery, set up merely to adorn or make God feel better. We will be real personalities doing real jobs, individually and personally.
Our Father, your Father, knows you personally. He knows the type of work, recreation and situations that you enjoy the most. He has designed reality to give you everything that you have always wanted.
But you have a responsibility also. You have to qualify. You have to attain the requirements for "graduation" — and, as you do attain these requirements, God will determine how well you have done and give you your reward in direct proportion to how successful you have been. As Christ said in Matthew 16:27, referring to the time of His spectacular return to earth: "... And then he [Christ] shall reward every man according to his works."
How long does it take God to "judge" an individual? Does He quickly come to a decision in a few minutes, upon being given the "pluses" and "minuses" of your entire life? Or is judgment a process?
I Peter 4:17 states that " the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God...." In fact, judgment and development of the people of God today must take place in order that God may, during this age, develop such a group to assist Him in "judging," in ruling, in developing, in encouraging the vast multitudes of people to be taught in the millennium following the return of Christ.
And what of the multitudes of untold billions who have long since died and who have forever been forgotten — from those who died in the Noachian Flood or perished from the Black Death to those who were vaporized in the atomic-bomb blast over Hiroshima? Are these people lost and forgotten? Is there a "judgment" reserved for them?
Remarkably and incredibly, the biblical "plan of salvation" — which is a religious-sounding term indicating the process by which the Eternal Creator works with the human beings He created to bring them into the God family — will eventually be made available to everyone.
That means everyone who has ever lived, from a fifth-century, newborn baby that died after two weeks of a labored life in some backward province in China, to old men who have lived beyond 100 years of age in the Caucasus of Central Russia.
All who have not been called of God in this life will eventually have that opportunity as fully and completely as anyone has ever had the chance — all will have their chance, their first chance, in the future.
(Click this link for our free article: Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.)
But what of us who are participating in this worldwide Work of God in one way or another? Many of us will not be in future groups that will be called of God. God only gives one chance to every individual: but that chance must be a real chance.
God will judge people. Those called, chosen, and faithful (Revelation 17:14) in this age will be granted to be part of God's kingdom:
21 "I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom. (Daniel 7:21-22)
When a person knows and knows that he knows that there is a God in heaven, that that God inspired the Bible and has opened that person's way to be baptized and receive God's Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and be put into God's Church, and truly understands, then, in all probability, he/she has likely had his chance (see also What is the Unpardonable Sin?).
But we have both an opportunity and a responsibility: an opportunity to be called of God now in this age, to help do His work of witnessing to and warning the world, and an awesome responsibility to commit ourselves and our lives to God in toto now.
When Peter stated that judgment must begin at the house of God, he was directing his comments to those whom God was calling.
How do you know if God is calling you? You cannot know from any analysis of your blood. Examining your brain waves won't help, nor will an electrocardiogram.
There are ways of knowing, however. Are you moved deeply when you read your Bible? Do you really begin to see the plan of God as outlined from Genesis to Revelation? Are you fascinated and excited by spiritual concepts you see expounded and explained?
And what about your own personal life? Do you see yourself as God sees you? Do you feel, on one hand, excited and enthralled at the prospects for the future, at the reason why God created you; and, at the same time, do you see yourself as a worthless worm, a disobedient fleshly being who desperately needs to be forgiven of his sins by his Saviour?
What of others?
Those who, after the second resurrection, are not written in the Lamb's Book of Life will be judged:
5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. (Revelation 20:5)
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (Revelation 20:11-12)
The uncoverted will be found guilty.
Does this mean that under God's judgment then it is over?
No, God has a plan for them as well.
Consider that the Bible teaches:
13 Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)
The Bible shows that God always had a plan that would take into account how human beings would have rebelled against Him (cf. 1 Peter 1:20-21). Since God is all-knowing (Isaiah 46:9–10), we in the CCOG believe that God is smart enough to have developed a plan that does not result in the vast majority of humanity having to suffer endless torment.
Unlike those with Calvinist beliefs, we in the Continuing Church of God truly believe:
20 Our God is the God of salvation (Psalm 68:20).
Certainly “the God of salvation” has a plan of salvation that works for more than just a relative few.
43 Whoever is wise will observe these things, And they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord (Psalm 107:43).
God’s plan is wise and is based upon His loving kindness. All will have an opportunity for salvation at the time that is best for each of them.
We in the Continuing Church of God believe that God’s plan is logical and will result in nearly everyone who ever lived repenting, accepting Jesus, and being saved, no matter what their religion or background was. We believe that there are hundreds of verses in the Bible that show this and that this is God’s will (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16-17). This plan is also consistent with writings about Christianity throughout history, although most in modern times seem to wish to overlook that fact.
Those in the faithful Church of God specifically believe that the Bible teaches that God made everything and it was very good (Genesis 1:1-31). God made humans upright (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Yet, humans thought that they could disobey God’s commands (Genesis 3:6). Because of that disobedience, God stopped humans from having immediate access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24) on their own (John 6:44). God had a plan of redemption from before the foundation of the world involving Jesus Christ (Revelation 13:8).
We in the Continuing Church of God believe that God gave humans 6,000 years to live their own way, mainly apart from Him. We believe the Bible reveals that humans will mess things up so badly that, unless those days were shortened, “no one would survive” (Matthew 24:22, NIV).
Like the Bible teaches, we in the Continuing Church of God also believe that some are elect now, while many others are blinded:
14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
7 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded (Romans 11:7).
4…minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them (2 Corinthians 4:4).
We understand Jesus’ teaching that those blinded do not have their blindness held against them (John 9:41; cf. Isaiah 6:9-13). This is most likely part of why scripture shows:
6…all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Luke 3:6).
2 O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come (Psalms 65:2).
13 Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, 14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work Among this people, A marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”...24 These also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, And those who complained will learn doctrine. (Isaiah 29:24)
16 I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them. 17 They shall be turned back, They shall be greatly ashamed, Who trust in carved images, Who say to the molded images, ‘You are our gods.’ 18 “Hear, you deaf; And look, you blind, that you may see. (Isaiah 42:16-18)
10 The LORD has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God (Isaiah 52:10).
When people are no longer blind and Satan (“the god of this world,” 2 Corinthians 4:4, KJV) is cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10), the White Throne Judgment will begin (Revelation 20:11-12), and salvation will be offered to all whom were blinded to it before (cf. Romans 11:7,17).
“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).
God is just and God will do right. All who ever lived will have a real opportunity for salvation.
When Revelation 20:12 states, “And the dead were judged,” we in CCOG believe that these people actually get judged. Yet, certain Protestants claim that these people are “the wicked dead,” (e.g. Walvoord, p. 464) which implies that they were judged prior to the time of the Great White Throne Judgment. While the apparent majority of mainstream Protestants and Roman Catholics teach that most will suffer eternal torment, the Bible shows that “mercy triumphs judgment” (James 2:13). We in the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God believe that God is wise enough and loving enough to have a plan whereby salvation will be offered to all.
We in the Continuing Church of God teach that most who ever lived will accept God’s generous offer (cf. Psalm 107:1-3; Matthew 8:11; Psalm 66:3) of salvation through Jesus (Acts 4:10-12) —who came so that all might be saved (John 3:16-17). (Click this link for our free article: Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.)
But what of eternal judgment?
Only those who AFTER they have truly understood and rejected God's offer of salvation, will those wicked be judged and eliminated:
4 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14-15)
This is also the 'baptism of fire.'
The second death is not the eternal judgment for those who truly accept God's offer. Eternity in God's kingdom is:
1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." 5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." 6 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:1-8).
The are two possibilities for eternal judgment. Make the right choice and accept God's offer.
The first six elementary doctrines of Hebrew 6 are:
1) Repentance from dead works
2) Faith toward God
3) The doctrine of baptisms
4) Laying on of hands
5) The resurrection of the dead
6) Eternal judgment
What about perfection?
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
But what about problems? Notice what Jesus said the Apostle Paul:
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
Perfection is something we are to strive to attain--and it is more than developing knowledge. Yet, we need to understand other basic doctrines in order to do this. That is part of what Hebrews 6:1-2 is all about.
When do Christians become perfect?
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. (Hebrews 11:39-40)
Christians are made perfect, after they are resurrected and deified (see What is Your Destiny? Deification? Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?), and the doctrine of resurrections is one of the basic ones of Hebrews 6.
Now that you know more about the six ones, as Hebrews 6:1 says, "let us go on to perfection!"
A related sermon is also available titled: Basic Doctrines of Hebrew 6.
Elementary Doctrines of the Church: Hebrews 6. Bob Thiel, editor. (c) 2015 http://www.cogwriter.com/doctrines-of-hebrews-6.htm 2015 1201
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