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Jesus vs Paul – “Salvation Checklist” Response/Critique

A Brief History of Spookery

The above links to a comment at a Cutting Through The Fog post. The commenter points to this link as proof that Paul constantly contradicted Jesus and himself:

Before responding to his other points I think this document needs to be thoroughly examined. Many will likely accept this assertion as true without looking into it. So let’s look closely at what they say the Bible says. In my experience the Bible has held it’s own against such criticism and I figured it’d be worth examining the specifics point by point.

The first lines of this document-

Jesus: The one who repents from sin is “justified.” (Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. Luke 18:10-14.) Th son who was dead but now repents is “alive again” (born again). (Parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:1-32, viz. v. 24.)

So right out of the gate we must question the reading comprehension of whoever put this list together. Just read Luke 18:10-14. This passage is about humility, not how one is “saved”. Look at how Jesus finishes this illustration: “Because everyone who exalts himself will humiliated, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14b). Also, it’s clear from the context who he was addressing and why, verse 9 introduces the parable: “He also told this illustration to some who trusted in their own righteousness and who considered others as nothing”. Verse 13 brings the point out with “this man…was proved more righteous”. Of course, you probably should be righteous before God to be in line for salvation, but that’s not what is being emphasized here. Jesus explicitly compares these two characters’ righteousness before God because his audience needed help to stop comparing themselves to others. What does your relative righteousness have to do with my salvation? Logically, none. This is not really a passage to use to begin your understanding of how to attain to salvation.

So we remove that from the list. And move onto the next cited scripture, the familiar “Prodigal Son”. Here the writer says that the son is “alive again” after repenting and coming home. Let’s read verse 24 as they highlight it: “‘For this son of mine was dead but has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they started to enjoy themselves.” The son’s condition before repenting and coming home is compared to his condition after. This passage doesn’t go on about the son’s life going on forever – which really is the goal of salvation, right? No, it goes on about the older son’s jealousy over his father’s exuberant acceptance of the younger son’s return. Again, to understand the point of the illustration we must see who Jesus is speaking to which will give us more indication of the why behind the story:

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners kept gathering around him to hear him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes kept muttering: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” – Luke 15:1, 2

Jesus then shares two short examples of people rejoicing over something that was lost, a shepherd and a sheep, and a woman and one of her drachmas. Then he goes into the long parable of the “Prodigal son”. From this context how do you understand the goal of Jesus’ words? Is he highlighting an important aspect of salvation? Or is he relating to his people’s religious leaders that they need an attitude adjustment toward those seeking to turn around from their spiritually dead position?

Recognizing that your God and creator wants to help you and returning to him makes sense as a step toward salvation, but this story ends with the father talking to the jealous son so Jesus’ focus is on their attitude not the mechanics of salvation. Again we can remove this passage from where they placed it. But now this box is empty. Ok, let’s check the Paul side and see if our writer applies his words more logically. The first citation:

By this undeserved kindness you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; rather it is God’s gift. No, it is not a result of works, so that no one should have grounds from boasting. – Ephesians 2:8,9

This passage does at least focus on that subject of ‘being saved’ or salvation. But in summarizing this the writer misses the mark again: “One is not justified nor born again by repentance from sin, but by faith alone.” Really? “by faith alone”? Is that what Paul said? No, he says salvation is “God’s gift” and that it’s “not of your own doing”. God is doing the real saving here, our efforts can’t help us attain the gift that God has so gracefully chosen to bestow.

Upon whom does he chose to bestow this gift? Certainly those how have faith in him, see Hebrews 11:6 “without faith it is impossible to please God well, for whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” God can only reward you with salvation if you have faith in him, seems logical. If you read this whole document you will never find them mention God’s role in our salvation despite references scriptures like this that bring it up. Discussing these spiritual concepts from the Bible without mentioning Jehovah is like discussing atomic structure without mentioning the charge field. The primary action is being taken by who? Again, our writer seems to miss the real point of what’s expressed.

Romans 4:4 is also cited. This verse says “Now to the man who works his pay is not counted as as undeserved kindness but as something owed to him.” Which is pretty straight forward. If you give me something that’s a gift, if I work for you then your owe me. Where is God in that equation? Well, we owe our existence to God, thus we are debtors. Let’s look at the surrounding verses to see why Paul makes this statement.

That being so, what will we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For instance, if Abraham was declared righteous as a result of works, he would have reason to boast, but not with God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the man who works, his pay is not counted as an undeserved kindness but as something owed to him. On the other hand, to the man who does not work but puts faith in the One who declares the ungodly one righteous, his faith is counted as righteousness. Just as David also speaks of the happiness of the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Happy are those whose lawless deeds have been pardoned and whose sins have been covered; happy is the man whose sin Jehovah will by no means take into account.” – Romans 4:1-8

So verse 4 is just a quick contrast to highlight Paul’s main idea, that even noteworthy examples of faith were not owed their salvation. No, even for them it was a gift from God and he quotes David’s words from Psalm 32 bring out we can be happy because God isn’t expecting an accounting our transgressions.

But how is it summed up by our writer here? “Any such addition to Paul’s
salvation by faith alone doctrine is the heresy of ‘works salvation.'” Again with the “faith alone” nonsense. If anything should be called “heresy” it should be the use of that extremely misleading phrase. There’s nothing “alone” about faith or salvation. The whole phrase seems to exist to confuse honest-hearted bible-readers. Faith doesn’t save you, God does. Faith is the most basic requirement on our part for God to extend the gift of everlasting life. Real faith will move a person to make changes. Which is the meaning of repentance: “change one’s mind”.  The repentance discussed on the Jesus side of a box is indeed an act of faith. The prodigal son repented and returned home because he had faith that doing so would be an improvement to his situation, (Luke 15:17).

So that means a “deathbed conversion” is possible if the person really changes their mind, but we can be understandably skeptical of their true heart condition since we don’t have further proof of their change of heart – if it’s real, God knows (Jeremiah 11:20). But imagine a sudden recovery and they return to their former conduct. Now perhaps you see why James wrote “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17, 26). Similarly if the prodigal son had only changed his mind about his conduct he’d not have improved his situation, he had to make the effort to return to his father. But as I mentioned before, we don’t know if he continued to make good decisions after returning home. To live a life of faith means in general your actions reflect your faith. But your work in accordance with your faith will never pay God back for what you owe him, thus your salvation is ultimately due to his generosity.

Sheesh! Going in I thought I might address every point, but given how this started I don’t think that’s necessary. But we’ll read the next one:

Jesus: The one who relies upon God’s election to salvation and does not
repent goes home unjustified. (Parable of the Publican and the
Pharisee. Luke 18:10-14.)

Where are they getting their ideas from? “God’s election to salvation”? If the Pharisee prayed giving thanks for his Jewish heritage and lineage to the priestly families that might follow from the text, but the Pharisee’s prayer includes a comparison of himself to sinners and lists deeds he thinks are part of his righteousness. Nothing about “God’s election”. Jesus is highlighting the importance of our attitude and thinking.

Again, they are forcing a passage about humility to shape their thinking on attaining to salvation. Many well-known bible translations use “justified” in the text of Luke 18:14, but a number of them use the phrase “right with God” or “declared righteous”. I quickly found these: Good News Translation (GNT), International Children’s Bible (ICB), The Message (MSG), Disciples’ Literal New Testament (DLNT), Tree of Life Version (TLV), Young’s Literal Translation (YLT).

We can see that this is another comparison of attitudes: “I say to you, this one went-down to his house having been declared-righteous, rather-than that one,” (Luke 10:14a, DLNT). The Contemporary English Version (CEV) translates it “it was the tax collector and not the Pharisee who was pleasing to God.” These translations help us understand that Jesus isn’t expounding upon the details of salvation. He is saying one must be humble to please God, which is certainly part of salvation, but not how you “get saved”.

So another empty square, but words of  Paul do they compare to this?

The one who relies upon God’s election alone for salvation is relying on the right thing. (Rom. 8:33.) God elects you to salvation by means of predestination, and hence without any work on your part. Faith is given to you as part of God’s work in you. (Phil 1:6)

Yikes, none of these concepts hold up to an examination of the bible text. First let’s look at the cited scripture: “Who will file accusation against God’s chosen ones? God is the One who declares them righteous.” Working backward, it is logical that God declares who is righteous, since he is the one who provides the ultimate standard of righteousness and he can read our hearts. We saw above that it helps to be humble if you want to be righteous before God. But in this context Paul compares the judgement of men to the judgement of God. Obviously God’s judgment is more important than men’s.

It’s the phrase “God’s chosen ones” that leads to the wrong conclusion that God does all the choosing, taking away our agency or free will in regard to our own standing before God. But that is that what we’ve found? Jesus’ parable of the two men at prayer is encouragement to make a better choice. Oh but this whole thing is supposed to be Paul vs Jesus, because someone who can’t read thinks they are at odds. OK. What’s Paul say about our free will? Just flip back and read chapters 6 and 7 of Romans.

There we find phrases like “do not let sin continue to rule as king in your mortal bodies” (Rom. 6:12), “if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves you are slaves to the one you obey” (6:16) , and “now present your members as slaves of righteous” (6:19). The words I italicized demonstrate that Paul expects his readers to make a choice and act accordingly. Then in chapter 7, after explaining being freed from the Law and it’s role in identifying sin, he goes on to focus on the importance of continuing to do what you know is right, even though you may often feel like doing something else (Rom. 7:23). Paul’s expressions here shows that he understands how hard it can be, but he exhorts his reader to keep making the choice that they made when they first decided to be a disciple of Jesus. Romans 8:6 “For setting the mind on the flesh means death, but setting the mind on the spirit means life and peace”. The only way to misconstrue Paul’s words into something about predestination is to ignore most of what he is saying.

So what about the next scripture they bring up? Phil 1:6. If you read it and the surrounding verses, there is no specific mention of faith. He seems to connect this work with the “legally establishing of the good news”. So the work is likely the Christian ministry of preaching the kingdom. Which is what Jesus told his followers to do, (Matt 28:19, 20). So we have another misapplied scripture and thus we have no proof that faith is God’s work in us.

If this pattern holds there is no bible-based content in this chart. It’s empty arguments and words that mimic association with the text to confuse or distract from the real content. This list exists so people who want to ignore the Bible as self-contradictory can feel like someone has already done the research so they don’t have to think or examine the text for themselves. But we know that usually means something fishy is afoot.

This should be enough for us to know we better simply read the Bible on our own to see what it says. But we can look more closely at the next couple of sections. This will also provide an opportunity to explore some concepts that come to many people’s minds when they think of the Bible. 

To have eternal life, follow the Ten Commandments, deny yourself (i.e., repent and do works worthy of repentance) and then follow Jesus. If you give up fathers, mothers, and brothers for Jesus, deny yourself, take up your cross, and “follow Me,” you “shall have eternal life.” (Matthew 19:27-29; Matthew 10:37-39; John 12:25-26.)

Is having “eternal life” the same as salvation? I think basically, yes, but I wonder what they’d say. Salvation implies being saved from something, I would assume that we mean Satan’s corrupt world and death, but again I wonder what they’d say. Eternal life seems like the sort of thing that’s only possible once all dangers are eliminated, so they are similar. But rather than dig into that let’s see what these scriptures say about following the Ten Commandments, self-denial, and following Jesus leading to eternal life. Matthew 19:27-29 reads:

Then Peter said in reply: “Look! We have left all things and followed you; what, then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them: “Truly I say to you, in the re-creation, when the Son of man sits down on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit everlasting life.

This makes part of their point, but if they want the Ten Commandments to be mentioned they should have written “Matthew 19:16-29”, and included Jesus’ answer to the wealthy man’s question. On the surface Jesus’ mentioning of these commandments, verse 17-19, seems to support their assertion here, but this disregards two major things. 1) The Mosaic Law was still in effect. It was in effect as long as Jesus was alive and ended with his death.

2) Jesus is speaking to an individual, like with others, he could discern his thinking, see Matt 9:3, 4, Mark 2:6-8. Jesus lovingly showed this man that he was overly attached to his worldly possessions. He opened by directing attention not to himself, but on God, the source of good and deferred to Jehovah’s commandments when the man asked which to follow. Yet, the man felt he still lacked something.

Notice the final command listed by Jesus speaking to this rich man “Love your neighbor as yourself”. First note, this is not one of the “Ten Commandments” so Jesus isn’t just focused on those ten as asserted. Perhaps that 2nd greatest commandment is part of why the man felt lacking. So Jesus gave him a simple command to give away much of his belongings. This relates to the man’s excellent record of following the Law – a series of straight forward commands. But this time he couldn’t bring himself to follow why? The man’s attitude needed adjustment – he was overly attached to his material possessions. Jesus lovingly helped the man confront this fact.

So how does this relate to our salvation? Well, we are no longer under the Mosaic Law, so that part doesn’t apply in the same way. The Law does help us understand Jehovah’s thinking, likes and dislikes as well as priorities (Hosea 6:6). As for the second point about giving up family and following Jesus, we can relate this rich man’s situation to it in terms of a contrast – he was unwilling to give up something important to him to inherit something greater, everlasting life. So that helps us understand that we may have to give up a lot in order to follow after him. Also if you go back and read the summary provided by the chart they made it seem like you have to give up your family to have eternal life, but what if your whole family follows Jesus? Are you supposed to give them up somehow? Is that logical? Or is perhaps Jesus making a point about priorities?

Now, the part they actually cited comes only after Jesus’ famous words that “it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of an needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God”.* Which is basically saying it’s impossible, so understandably Peter asked “Who really can be saved?” Jesus is speaking to his closest disciples, the apostles, so he knows they’ve given up much to be learn from and follow him, so we must read this with this in mind. When Jesus says “you who have followed me will sit on 12 thrones” keep in mind his primary listeners in the moment. But then he does make a broader statement about “everyone who has left houses or brothers….for the sake of my name”. This is in contrast to the rich man who couldn’t make a large adjustment to improve his relationship with God. Jesus is assuring his followers that their sacrifices are worth it.

The next two passages they cite do express something similar, but their context shows a very different sort of discussion.

Whoever has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and whoever has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not accept his torture stake and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his soul will lose it, and whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it.- Matthew 10:37-39

These words come after Jesus explains how following after him may separate family and break up households – that is conflict may arise. (Mt. 10:34-36) Again, an emphasis on spiritual priorities. But this is expressed only after he states the importance of acknowledging Jesus before men, (Mt. 10:32, 33). Which makes sense since Jesus is preparing some of his disciples for a preaching campaign. Just read the start of chapter 10, after verse 5 it’s a long series of instructions and reminders for those doing this work, then at 11:1 they finally are sent out. I say all this to show that this passage is not focused on the idea of “how to attain everlasting life”, this isn’t a discourse about salvation doctrine so it relates only inasmuch as the text allows. The text shows this is preparation for preaching. Given that some may have feared persecution in response to their preaching work Jesus’ words about losing one’s soul (or life) may have been understood literally.

The final cited scripture from John 12 also has very different context. Jesus has recently entered Jerusalem in a unusually public way, John 12:12, 13. Many people are there for the Passover celebration (John 12:1, 20), and Jesus knows that he will soon die (John 12:33). The cited passage, John 12:25, 26, is part of an answer (v23) to a request by some Greeks (v20) to see Jesus (v21).

These last two cited scriptures in the chart express the basic idea highlighted. A person needs prioritize their life less than Jesus and follow after him. Indeed this is part of the Christian course but I take issue with the way they express it. Perhaps they are just being brief, but I don’t think that’s it. Their statements create a false sense of direct correlation. “Deny yourself, follow Jesus” = “You’ll be saved”. Once more, the problem with this sort of over-simplification is that it removes the most important person from the action, Jehovah. God is the one making this possible. It’s not some impersonal cause and effect.

Remember how at Matthew 19, Jesus first asked “Why do you call me ‘good’? One there is who is good.” Who is he talking about? Then at Matthew 10, Jesus says at verse 32, that if we publicly acknowledge Jesus before men, then Jesus will acknowledge us before God. Jesus recognizing us as his follower before God is a big deal! See Revelation 3:5. Finally, John 12:26, the very next thing spoken after what’s cited brings God in: “If anyone would minister to me, let him follow me, and where I am, there my minister will be also. If anyone would minister to me, the Father will honor.” Being honored by God is obviously one of the greatest things the creator can give one of his creations. Indeed, isn’t a large part of existence to bring honor to our maker – by whom we exist in the first place? (Matt 5:16, 1 Cor. 10:31). Most people deny the existence of God and therefore do not recognize his great works or his name and all that it represents. As opposed to Jesus, who often drew attention to our wonderful loving creator (another example John 11:40-42).

Returning to John 12, it makes sense that God choose this occasion to speak from the heaven before a crowd. Yes indeed, at John 12, right after Jesus’ response that we’ve been considering and shortly after the cited section of John, Jehovah God himself spoke, John 12:28-30. Interesting to note that he spoke for the ‘sake of the crowd’, but his words were in regard to glorifying his own name and that he will do something to glorify his name. And this is in response to Jesus’ prophesying about his execution. Without getting too deep into how all this connects it seems obvious that Jesus’ obedience even to death would be a big part of God’s glorification.

So, again by examining the context we can see that the cited scriptures are being used to push certain ideas while ignoring some of the bigger ideas in the text. But how do they say Paul contradicts this?

To have eternal life, say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe He is resurrected. (Rom. 10:9.) Do not add any work. “Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt.” (Rom. 4:4.) If salvation depends on keeping the Law, then salvation by faith is made void. “[I]f they that are of the law are heirs, faith is made void…” (Rom.4:14.)

Doesn’t this contradict itself? “Say with your mouth” is an action or “work”, so Paul pairs having faith with speaking about your faith. This chart seems unable to really grasp the meaning of the words cited as evidence, odd…or insidious you tell me.

Now, read Romans 10:9 for yourself: “For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved.” This scripture presents two things. 1) declare with your mouth and 2) exercise faith in your heart. Taken alone this reveals that it’s not enough to have faith, you must also tell others about your faith. Which is a work. 

In fact didn’t we just see above Jesus saying the same thing? Matthew 10:32 “Everyone, then, who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father who is in the heavens”. Jesus, as mediator of the new covenant, is the person we need vouching for us before God in order to gain everlasting life. He just said he’ll only do that if we acknowledge him before men. Paul is saying we must have faith and then speak about it. They are in agreement. The cited Romans 10:9 is most certainly part of a discussion of the importance of preaching work:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your own mouth and in your own heart”; that is, “the word” of faith, which we are preaching. For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation. -Romans 10:8-10

If you keep reading you will see that Paul isn’t saying preaching saves you, he is saying it spreads the message to help others put faith in the truth, helping save them. By continuing in the preaching work a Christian maintains their spiritual focus, strengthens their faith and reinforces their own salvation. Paul’s words at 1 Timothy 4:16 “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” Paul isn’t saying you save yourself by means of doing the preaching work, he’s highlighting it’s importance. We already know that our works can’t pay the debt we owe, which is what’s expressed at Romans 4, bringing in the last two scriptures cited in the box here, we’ve already discussed Romans 4:4. Romans 4:14 emphasizes the same basic thought, contrasting righteousness through the Law with that of through faith. Paul’s discussion of the Law shows that it helps identify sin so it can be corrected, but it can only be fully corrected by God, and thus we make it possible for God to do this for us when we put faith in him and his primary means for saving us, Jesus. If a person learns these things and puts faith in them, if that faith is real they will understand the importance of spreading the message and obey Jesus’ command to preach (Matt 28:19,20) which, in turn, helps them to endure.

 To summarize Paul, nothing we do can save us, our faith allows God to work in our lives. God working in our lives leads to telling others about our faith. He is writing to a large group of people new to the Christian faith, many who had a Jewish background. This is not comparable to Jesus’s words to one rich man while the Mosaic Law is in effect. Paul is writing after Jesus’ death which ended that covenant. As you can see, I’m still waiting for some thoughtful comparisons within this chart.

A Christian will go to hell if they deny Christ under pressure. (Luke 12:4-9.)

Ah, so here we go. Hell isn’t a biblical concept. Just read Revelation 20:14 where “death and Hades (the Grave)” are “hurled into the lake of fire”. These are abstract concepts- death isn’t a person, it’s a thing that happens to a life. A few sentences later the meaning is explained: “Death will be no more” (Rev. 21:4). This describes the end of death. Fire is a symbol of destruction, not suffering. How long can a person live within an incinerator? Not long. 

There’s another passage that some may think presents this idea of hell, the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, given at Luke 16:19-31. Jesus describes quite a change for these two men. The rich man says “I am in anguish in this blazing fire”, so does this mean hell is a real biblical teaching? Well, again we must look at the context. Jesus is speaking to the Pharisee’s who are self-righteous. This parable illustrates a dramatic change is coming for people like them. What support is there for taking this parable literally? I don’t see any. Again, a parable is a story meant to make a point. It is the point that is to be taken seriously not the story itself. He spend a lot of time illustrating the sad condition the rich man is in to make sure his target audience, the Pharisees, get it. This point is similar to his words “there are those last who will be first, and there are those first who will be last.” (Luke 13:30)

We can jump to Jeremiah’s prophecy to read how Jehovah feels about burning people: “in order to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, something that I had not commanded and that had never even come into my heart” (Jer. 7:31, also 32:35). So we can see how Jehovah feels about that idea – it’s not his sort of thing.

With this in mind, we can consider some of Jesus’ words which they cite:

4 Moreover, I say to you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more. 5 But I will show you whom to fear: Fear the One who after killing has authority to throw into Ge·henʹna. Yes, I tell you, fear this One. 6 Five sparrows sell for two coins of small value, do they not? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Have no fear; you are worth more than many sparrows.
8 “I say to you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. – Luke 12:4-9

This passage supports our previous comments about a “public declaration” being an important part of the Christian’s course. It supports what we just read about Jehovah caring for his people so much that he’d never consider burning them in fire, no we are “worth more than many sparrows”. And of course Jesus says we should only fear God. Fear, not as in morbid dread, but astonished awe or reverence. It makes more sense to ‘fear’ our creator more than any human. God is the source of life, and so he is also the source of the standards by which that life lives, so his judgments should be more important to us.

What is Gehenna? If you look it up online, you will find the word surrounded by lots of noise. A lot of it is just talking about how it has been come to be understood and used, but if you ignore that junk you will find that the word has sometimes been translated “rubbish heap” and evidence that it refers to a place just outside the city of Jerusalem in which “unclean” things were burned, and there may have been fire there continually. So, I’m imagining something like tire-fire of the Simpson’s Springfield.

If I were to say to you, “I’m going to hang out in the dumpster fire”. You wouldn’t try to stop me saying “that will hurt a lot and you’ll be in pain during your visit” No, you’d connect a human in a fire with their death, the end of the person. That fact that the fire doesn’t go out emphasizes that the person will not be able to reconstitute and live. This matches the basic idea that most of Judaism does not have the hell doctrine.

That last empty box is compared to 2 Timothy 2:12 & 13. But this last one is so goofball that it contradicts itself without having to even dig into the context.

If we deny Jesus, He will deny us, but in the end God will still accept us because He cannot deny Himself. (Stanley.) Paul says: “if we shall deny him, he also will deny us: if we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for He cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:12-13.)

Do you see it? “He [God] cannot deny himself” is being used to assert that God will not deny a human. But humans are not God, and God is not a human. Paul made it clear that God is willing to let go of us if we deny him. Doesn’t that match what Jesus said? If God “abideth faithful” wouldn’t he deny himself if he did save someone unfaithful? That how that reads to me. What do you think?

Again, this level of misreading, misrepresenting does not feel like an honest effort but indicates to me an effort to make the Bible seem foolish and full of contradiction. After joining me on this I hope you can see that perhaps it’s not the Bible that is doing the contradicting. 


*This passage always make me think that Jesus probably had a great sense of humor, but we rarely get to see it. And his jokes probably were always taken too seriously. Like here it seems that Peter took that hyperbole completely at face value and needed reassurance.


And seeing Paul and Jesus in agreement addresses much of the stuff our initial commenter says.


Temple Rebuilt and Damascus destroyed before “the End”?

This is simply a response to this this forum post:

“Isaiah 17 prophecizes the destruction of Damascus, an event which hasn’t happened yet. I muse a major Arab war is something that could shift the paradigm enough in Israel for the current political/power struggles to shift, and the temple to be rebuilt. On the temple, refer to: Daniel 9:27 and Daniel 12:11. Daniel here says that the Antichrist puts a stop to sacrifices (and sets up the abomination of desolation on a wing of the temple) in the middle of the 70th week, or last seven years before Christ returns (1290 days before Christ returns, to be exact). This obviously means that sacrifices commenced sometime before this and implies that there is a Temple already constructed to go along with the altar. Jesus confirms this is Matthew 24:15-16. Revelation 11:1-3 also mentions a “temple of God” in place through the end times. And 2 Thessalonians 2:4 speaks of the Antichrist taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

The fall of Damascus and the temple being rebuilt are the next events that must be fulfilled in Bible prophecy before the end times can begin. But after they are fulfilled, how long it actually takes until the end times begin I don’t believe is stated. My guess is quickly, but I could be wrong.”

Since many might feel this way I wanted to publicly speak to each point mentioned. I highly recommend reading my previous post about Israel in the Last Days. Indeed, I wrote that as part of my response to this and other comments. If you’ve read the previous essay then you can perhaps infer what this rebuilt Temple really is. Like Israel it is not a literal thing in the last days, but rather a spiritual reality. If you aren’t fully convinced of this fact or unwilling to accept that there is strong reason for us to think in this way, it may be hard to move on with what else I have to bring out.

There is plenty of evidence in that previous essay, but I will remark on the scriptures brought up above. However, those familiar with the bible may have noted that in my discussion of Physical Israel I limited myself to citing only the Hebrew part of the scriptures. Since the post I’m responding to here references some Greek scriptures I want to open with some important words from Paul that support my previous essay and will help us continue to unlock these prophecies:

For not all who descend from Israel are really “Israel”. – Romans 9:6b

Do you see what I mean? When we consider the primary fulfillment of prophecies of the last days we must keep this in mind. “Israel” is a placeholder for the new covenant group who have God’s favor. Whatever group that is in the last days, this is who these prophecies must refer to.

Daniel 9:27– If we go back to verse 24 we can get a feel for this context of what is being prophesied. 24 gives us a time period of 70 weeks in which, among other things, something will occur to “bring in everlasting righteousness”. The word “everlasting” may remind you of the later covenant to be brought about by the “prophet like Moses”. The covenant that “will not be like” the one made with Jewish bloodlines.

The next verse, 25, confirms this thinking by bringing up the Messiah, who is certainly the greater Moses, who will establish the everlasting covenant that won’t be broken.

Now, this part of Daniel happened later in his life, see 24:1 “first year of Darius”. Jerusalem has been gutted for decades. But Daniel knew from Jeremiah’s prophecy that after 70 years Jerusalem would be restored. So when we read about “from the issuing of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem” we know we are talking events to take place in relation to that reconstruction. This event is covered in another bible book, see Nehemiah 2:5,9. Daniel 9:25 is prophesying about when to expect to see the Messiah relative to that event.

Then in v26 we are also given some information about things that occur after the Messiah is “cut off”. This event is linked to allowing a “leader who is coming” to “destroy the holy place”. Who is deciding upon these “desolations”? Since this is ‘God’s Word the Bible’ it makes sense to first assume it’s his decision. OK, so why “desolations” for the city and the holy place? What would motivate such a decision? Perhaps this is to be part of the judgement upon literal Israel for rejecting their Messiah. That connects with what’s being described, so let’s assume that’s what is meant for now.

The first part of Daniel 9:27 mentions the final week for ‘keeping the covenant in force’ would seem to refer the time given to natural Israel for having the first opportunity to come into the Christian congregation, Matt 10:6, Acts 2:14; 13:46. This coincides with what we see in Daniel, namely that after 69 weeks from the “issuing of the word” Messiah would appear, v25, and then sometime after that he would be “cut off”. Verse 27 says halfway through the final week “sacrifice and offering” will cease. This is most likely when Jesus was executed.

So, what are these weeks? Some translations say “seventy sets of seven” or “seventy sevens”so this is a lot of time. 70 x 7 = 490 days, now that’s just a year and half and it clearly took a lot longer than that for Jesus to appear. What if these days were considered years? Why suggest that? Well, Ezekiel 4:6 and Numbers 14:34 both contain this phrase “a day for a year” giving this logical jump a scriptural basis. Now let’s see how it shakes down: A widely accepted year for the death of Jesus is 33 ce. If this is halfway through the final week of years then this places Cornelius’ baptism in late 36ce. Also, it is widely accepted that Jesus’ ministry was 3 1/2 years long. Hey, that’s half a week of years! So if he started his ministry in late 29ce, when was the city rebuilding completed and when was this “issuing of the word to restore” it? We only have to count backwards and see if the dates make sense. Doing so puts Jerusalem rebuilt at 406 BCE and the issuing at 455 BCE. Nehemiah 2:1 mentions who sent him and gave him with official letters to finish building the city- King Artaxerxes, who ruled from 465-424 BCE. So that lines up well enough for my purposes here.

So, this final week of years starts with Jesus’ ministry, includes the first few years of the early Christian congregation, ending three and half years after Jesus’ death. For this week Jesus keeps “the covenant in force for the many”, why? Well the many seem to be Abraham’s offspring, which the Samaritans also are, Acts 8:14-17. This week must end at the baptism of Cornelius, an event that showed that the new covenant was open to all people, Acts 10:45. Unlike the Ethiopian eunuch in chapter 8, this ‘foreigner’ was given the same holy spirit bestowed to the apostles. Demonstrating that the new covenant had fully opened to people of all nations.


There’s a lot more to say about this, but I think this is enough for now. This part of Daniel chapter 9 gives a timeline for the Messiah’s coming and going. Thus, Daniel 9:27 isn’t about an “antichrist”. But this is sufficient to lead us to see that. The Temple sacrifices stop because with the death of the Messiah at the behest of the Jewish Leaders the covenant is done and the Temple sacrifices are no longer acceptable form of worship. It is the time of the new covenant.

Matthew 24:15-16 – Jesus refers to this part of Daniel here, in his long answer to the question of “signs of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things”. To understand his answer we must understand what is meant by these terms.

First, “his presence”. Later in Matthew 24 he specifically compares his presence to a lightning brightening the entire sky, v27. So it will be discernible worldwide. Then he compares his presence to the days of Noah, v37. Interesting that Christ’s presence marks the period of time before the large destructive act, comparable to the Flood, (Luke 17:26, 27) we’ll see more of that later. This description of his presence is also paralleled at Daniel 12:1, where Michael (Jesus) stands up or arises to his position of power, but then the earth will have great distress, which is described at Matthew 24:5-12.

This sequence of events is also paralleled at Revelation 6, this is the chapter that describes the four horsemen. The first rider, is on a white horse, representing purity or holiness. He is ‘given a crown’, representing authority bestowed upon him by a greater source, (Daniel 7:13,14). So this is Jesus, and his presence begins when he first exercises his authority to act as God’s judge, starting in heaven. The rest of the riders are symbols for the distress coming to the earth. A later portion of Revelation explains the conquest of Jesus and why his presence brings such distress to the earth.

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them any longer in heaven. So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. – Revelation 12:7-9

Jesus’ conquest at first is a heavenly one. And given one that of the first things he does is push the Resister and Opposer out of heaven, it makes sense that his presence brings such distress to the earth:

On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing that he has a short period of time. – Revelation 12:12

Now we know more of what is meant by Christ’s presence and why it brings the earth so many problems. But of course this distress will not go on indefinitely. It is compared to the time before the Flood, so it will end with righteous ones delivered through some act of divine intervention. This brings us to the “conclusion of the system of things”. Sometimes translated “the end of the world”, or “the consummation of the age”.

So what marks the “age” or era that is to come to an end? Arguably it’s this age of man being alienated from God. His plan is to set up a system which will unify humans under “the tent of God”, Revelation 21:3, in which “he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them”. Certainly current society cannot be described this way. At the moment our world is filled with competing governments/rulerships, which do not even work to serve their general public. Perhaps this sounds like Daniel 2:43 to you? It does to me! How is the modern world like iron and clay? Well, the rulers aren’t even truthful about anything they do – how much more divided could we get? Daniel 2:44 describes the earth’s governments replaced by God’s Kingdom. (I could also mention that our time is marked by Satan’s control, 1 John 5:19, John 12:31; 16:11. Which may be more important ultimately, but I’m trying to be brief.)

Much of what Jesus says at Matthew 24, and in the parallel accounts, is pertinent when we look for signs that tell us “our deliverance is near”(Luke 21:28). However, when Jesus first said this he was speaking to the apostles and the Mosaic law was still in force. Remember the Jewish bloodlines were still being given first opportunity to respond to him, Matthew 10:5, 6. So those alive during this time were about to experience the end of that Jewish “system of things”, the older covenant marked by the divinely approved temple worship, using the Levitcal priesthood, and Jerusalem being a place of special divine favor. So Jesus’ answer likely included some useful specific instruction for them in their immediate lives. This is how I understand Matthew 24:15, 16.

The fact that he mentioned Daniel 9:27 here supports this since, as we’ve seen, the part of Daniel he mentions is specifically about the Messiah’s ending the covenant by means of his being ‘cut off’. Jesus is providing a few more details to help his faithful disciples escape the coming judgement and destruction of Jerusalem – which occurred at 70ce. The one causing desolation is the Roman army, as often happens God used a world power to carry out his judgments (we’ll see more of this below). The specific instructions to flee to the mountains “of Judea” also support this reading of Matthew 24:15-20.

As Jesus was speaking we can see that he wraps this back around to the later greater fulfillment when he mentions “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again”, v21. Which of course has more to do with the great time of distress marked by his presence, but that is the main idea of this whole section so that makes sense. It is a common thing to see prophecy written this way. Greater fulfillment mixed with initial.

Daniel 12:11 – This is a prophecy focused on the Last Days. Daniel 11:40 sets up the remaining part of the book to take place “In the time of the end”. But if that is the case then this is describing the activity of the participants of the new covenant. Daniel didn’t have those specific details, so he describes a vision in a way that he can understand, using the shadows of things to come (Col. 2:17). In relation to this it’s worth quoting Hebrew 10:1:

“For since the Law has a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make those who approach perfect.”

So what is the constant feature or continual sacrifice mentioned in Daniel 12:11? What aspect of the new covenant is also meant to be continual? Christians are encouraged to “pray unceasingly” (1 Thess. 5:17), but that isn’t particularly public, in fact it’s private enough to do silently in your head, so this isn’t really something that can be stopped on the whole, but what activity is public enough to put a stop for a time?

The last thing Jesus commanded is followers to was to “Go…make disciples of people of all nations” (Mat 28:19). How are disciples made? Romans 10:14 makes it clear: preaching. This is the primary outward activity of the Christian congregation. Then, Hebrews 13:15 takes us all the way: “let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that make public declaration to his name.”

The last thing to note is that this a temporary cessation of the preaching work. Daniel 12:11 ends with giving us the time limit of “1,290 days”. This has nothing to do with the 70 weeks from Daniel 9. I think I explained those weeks well enough above. It is of course easier to look back on history and see how a prophecy was carried out, but it is another matter to explain or interpret one that may have happened much more recently, is happening or is soon to occur. I think it is enough for now to note that this number merely shows that the continual sacrifice would most certainly pick back up. If that feels like a push, let’s compare this to Revelation 11, but first let’s set the stage since that’s another cited scripture:

Revelation 11:1-3 – Here is another vision with a temple, “the holy city” is also mentioned. But certainly this is a vision of the end times, so this must not be read literally. Rather, than consider this in terms of physical Israel and a literal Temple we know this is about the greater covenant which doesn’t have those features. We are working under the premise of “not all who descend from Israel are really ‘Israel'”, from Romans 9:6. Another time Paul called it “the Israel of God”, see Galatians 6:16.

I’m not going to try to explain Revelation 11 or Daniel 11&12 in full here, my goal is mainly refute the idea that this refers to a physical Israel or Temple, as that notion merely makes it harder to understand what is really being expressed.

If you continue reading Revelation 11:1-12, you will see that these two witnesses in sackcloth are “killed”, v7, but later they are brought back to life, v11. This is what I compare Daniel 12:11, 12 to. Early into the last days, the preaching stops but resumes after some time.

We must consider that Revelation 11:3 brings up the 1290 days again. This time death is not mentioned but rather the two witnesses “prophesy…dressed in sackcloth”. Sackcloth garments are often worn in bible times as a sign of grieving or mourning, (Ge 37:24; 1 Sam 3:31) which is the usual response to death, so it relates on that level. It was also associated with times of crisis, 2 Kings 19:1, Isaiah 15:3; 22:12). If Christian activities are put on hold, certainly that is a crisis for them, relative to their fervent preaching work they are now dead. Both passages bring out that it is temporary.

2 Thessalonians 2:4 – This scripture also mentions the temple of god, but in what context? Is this about the end times? Seeing as how Christ’s presence is mentioned perhaps it is… But notice how it is mentioned, many translations use the word ‘concerning’ with an expression of this sort: “However, brothers, concerning  the presence of our Lord Jesus and our being gathered…”. This notes a change of topic, from whatever he had been talking about shifting to something new, specifically something that they had likely been asking about. Something they want (to know more about) so much so that some are taking advantage of this and thus correction was needed: “we ask you not to be quickly shaken from your reason…” and “Let no one lead you astray: (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

Verse 3 goes on to say that it, Christ’s Presence, will not occur until after “the apostasy comes first”. As well as after the revealing of someone referred to as “the man of lawlessness” and “son of destruction”. Is he referring to a specific individual? I don’t think so. Verse 7 says the “mystery of this lawlessness is already at work” then verse 9 mentions that “the lawless one’s presence is by the operation of Satan”. So this seems to be a figurative term to describe those under Satan’s influence. 

It is important that this ‘son of destruction’ is ‘exalting himself’ to God’s place is mentioned as already occurring even at the time of this being written, (2 Thess. 2:7). Even as the first century Christians preached empowered with miracles the new Christian congregation it is was being attacked by Satan, so in this passage Paul is helping his readers not to be shaken by anyone saying that Christ is back or his presence has begun. Again, he says it will happen only after “the apostasy comes first”. This is in line with Jesus’ illustration of the wheat and the weeds.

Read Matthew 13:24-30, 36-40. Notice that Jesus is the sower of the fine seed and Satan is the sower of the weeds. They aren’t separated until the “conclusion of a system of things” so that’s likely during Christ’s Presence. But the timing of the sowing is shortly after Jesus sows his fine seed, some night before any of the seed has sprouted Satan comes to sow his, this pictures what is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Namely that Satan was already at work to undermine the new covenant group. This coincides with Paul saying that “God lets a deluding influence mislead many” (v11) – which is a logic occurrence if one allows the ‘weeds’ to grow with the ‘wheat’.

That brings to an end the discussion the scriptures cites as evidence of the temple restored in the times of the end. Even if you disagree, I hope you can agree that there is solid reason for viewing these and the rest of the prophecies concerning the end times as involving a spiritual “Israel” and not the literal bloodlines or locations.


The original comment also asserts that Damascus must be destroyed before the end comes. Citing Isaiah 17, so these must be the words he is referring to.

A pronouncement against Damascus:
“Look! Damascus will cease to be a city,
And it will become a heap of ruins.
The cities of A·roʹer will be abandoned;
They will become places for flocks to lie down
With no one to make them afraid.
Fortified cities will disappear from Eʹphra·im,
And the kingdom from Damascus;
And those remaining of Syria
Will be like the glory of the Israelites,” declares Jehovah of armies. -Isaiah 17:1-3

However, if you examine the context of these words there is no reference to the last days. In fact the context here is a series of pronouncements against Babylon (Is 13, 14), Moab (Is 15, 16), and Egypt (Is 19). Why aren’t we expecting these pronouncements to be fulfilled? Because they already have been carried out. Isaiah wrote this about 730 BCE. What happened after that? Well, in 539 BCE Babylon was conquered by Darius the Mede, Cyrus, (Daniel 5:30-6:1) after that it was never was a power. Moab faced much of its judgment in 582 BCE when Babylon conquered them and sometime after ceased to be a nation or people. Egypt, in fulfillment of these words, was invaded by Assyria 671 BCE, then in 525 BCE the Persia Empire took control, after this a series of rebellions fulfills Isaiah 19:2. 333 BCE Alexander the Great places a garrison there. Jump to 30 BCE and it’s made a Roman province. So we can see the Egypt was no longer the world power it was once was in the ancient world. (I just grabbed these dates from Wikipedia.)  Given that all this happened so long ago, isn’t it logical that given the Damascus pronouncement’s placement in the middle of this that we expect a similar fulfillment from history?

Damascus was the capitol of Syria. Syria’s fall is mentioned in the Bible, at the hands of a Assyrian army, 2 Kings 16:9. This fits in with the pattern above. Many of of these pronouncements involved God’s judgement being carried by Assyrians, Babylonians and the Medo-Persian powers (Isaiah 10:5, 6; 13:17; 44:28, Ezekiel 30:24, Proverbs 21:1). After this invasion, Damascus and Syria were no longer the source of opposition they once were to Israel (1 Chronicles 18:5, 6; 1 Kings 11:25).

I must then assume that the motivation behind expecting this prophecy at Isaiah 17:1-3 to see further fulfillment comes solely from the strong language used to describe the fate of Damascus as ‘ceasing to be a city’ and to ‘become a heap of ruins’. The use of figurative language or hyperbole is not uncommon in biblical prophecy, for example Isaiah 13:8, 12; 14:7, 8; 18:6; 19:5-7. So expecting a completely literal fulfillment doesn’t necessarily follow.

However, we know similar words were used to describe the fate of Babylon and indeed that ancient city is a ruin to this day. So what’s the difference? Quite simply, the frequency and severity of the words against Babylon are much more severe. Compare just those first three verses of Isaiah 17 with all this:

A pronouncement against Babylon that Isaiah the son of Aʹmoz saw in vision:

I will make mortal man scarcer than refined gold, And humans scarcer than the gold of Oʹphir.

And Babylon, the most glorious of kingdoms,
The beauty and the pride of the Chal·deʹans,
Will be like Sodʹom and Go·morʹrah when God overthrew them.
She will never be inhabited,
Nor will she be a place to reside in throughout all generations.
No Arab will pitch his tent there,
And no shepherds will rest their flocks there.
The desert creatures will lie down there;
Their houses will be filled with eagle owls.
The ostriches will reside there,
And wild goats will skip about there.
Howling creatures will cry out in her towers,
And jackals in her luxurious palaces.
Her time is near, and her days will not be prolonged.”

-Isaiah 13:1, 12, 19-22


In the day when Jehovah gives you [Israel] rest from your pain and from your turmoil and from the hard slavery imposed on you, you will recite this proverb against the king of Babylon:

“I will rise up against them,” declares Jehovah of armies.
“And I will wipe out from Babylon name and remnant and descendants and posterity,” declares Jehovah.
“And I will make her a possession of porcupines and a region of marshes, and I will sweep her with the broom of annihilation,” declares Jehovah of armies.
Jehovah of armies has sworn:
“Just as I have intended, so it will occur,
And just as I have decided, that is what will come true.

-Isaiah 14:3, 4, 22-24.

And Jeremiah was inspired to say something similar:

The word that Jehovah spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chal·deʹans, through Jeremiah the prophet:

Your mother has been put to shame.
She who gave birth to you has been disappointed.
Look! She is the least of the nations,
A waterless wilderness and a desert.
Because of the indignation of Jehovah she will not be inhabited;
She will become utterly desolate.
Anyone passing by Babylon will stare in horror
And whistle because of all her plagues.

How the forge hammer of all the earth has been cut down and broken!
How Babylon has become an object of horror among the nations!

Come against her from distant places.
Open up her granaries.
Pile her up like heaps of grain.
Destroy her completely.
May she have no one left.

Therefore, the desert creatures will dwell with the howling animals,
And in her the ostriches will dwell.
She will never again be inhabited,
Nor will she be a place of residence throughout all generations.”

Jeremiah 50:1, 12, 13, 23, 26, 39

After reading all this it is easy to see why ancient Babylon was made and remains a ruin. Above it was said of Babylon that it would “never again be inhabited” and “Nor will she be a place to reside in throughout all generations.” Her’s was a much more permanent judgment. Whereas the judgment of Damascus is much less pronounced. Based on the city’s tumultuous history I don’t find it a stretch to say that Damascus received her promised judgment in full already.


This is all to say that if we want to look for “signs of the times” we must be careful how we apply scriptures. First, when the end times and Israel are mentioned together we probably are on the right track when consider an application concerning a spiritual Israel and its role in modern history. Secondly, Jesus gave a nice long list of things to look for that mark his presence, (which precedes the establishing God’s kingdom on earth Daniel 2:44; 12:1), see Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Paul gave a list of attitudes that dominate during last days at 2 Timothy 3:1-7; 4:3, 4. These seem like the best places to start one’s understanding of what to look for to determine our place in the timeline described by the Bible.