Servants' News

Jan/Feb 2000

Letters and responses

We print a representative sampling of our mail—both positive and negative. We do not include names unless we are fairly sure that the writer would not object. To avoid any difficulty, writers should specify how much of their name and address they would like us to print.

WCG 20% Effective with Members

Letter: Nov 19, 1999

Hello all:

Lussenheide surveys the CoG, in response to my recent “census”. I am taking the best guess that around 2000 to 3000 are in the independent community churches. My other best guesses based on festival reports, hearsay, etc.:
Flurry 5,000
UCG-IA 11,000
Global/Living 6,200
Hulme 2,500
CGI/ICG/CGOM 2,800
Ritenbaugh 350
Coulter 200
Combined others... Lacy, Smith, Westby, Cole, Havir, et al 2,000
Independent Community Churches 2,500
Total Sabbatarian Legacy of the WCG 32,550

It has been estimated that over 200,000 people were baptized by the CoGs, of which over 85% are still alive. This means, of the figure of 32,550 faithful, only 19.5% of all current living baptized individuals have persisted in the faith.

This is a terrible number! In fact, if you throw in WCGs current number of about 30,000, you still have a retention rate of any sort of church attendance (Sabbath-keeping or not) of under 40%!! No wonder we have had such a bad youth retention rate! Long term church viability is built on a base of retained multi-generational pillar families!

It is high time for all the CoG everywhere to realize it is 5 times more expensive (or higher) to bring in “new” people as it is to serve and keep your current attendees and youth. Our “customer service” needs some tremendous upgrading!

—Bill Lussenheide, Menifee, California

[Post to internet forums]

Response: Thank you very much for putting this together. Obviously, the numbers are rough estimates. It is nearly impossible to produce accurate statistics because so many organizations count “members” differently. Some count actual church attendance, some use a list of those who at some point said they are members. Others use their mailing list. Some groups are diligent about removing someone from their membership roles if they stop attending—other groups will keep people on their membership list for years after they have stopped attending. Several people have told me that they are considered members by two or more organizations.

In my opinion, more people are in the “others” and the “independent” categories, and probably less in the organizations. But, many days of work would be required to prove that. There are many hundreds who now attend with Messianic Jewish groups. Nevertheless, the overall figure of 20%—maybe 25%—is probably “in the ballpark”.

Even if we had accurate numbers of how many are in each group, we would still not know why they are there and what they believe. The WCG still consists of people who believe the old doctrines but won’t leave that church organization, as well as those who believe standard Protestant doctrines. Some who left the WCG for other groups did so because their friends did—they may have little doctrinal commitment.

From this, we should learn that no man should ever claim he is the “head” (not even the “human head”) of God’s Church. Christ is the head! (Eph 5:23, Col 1:18). Christ knows what He is doing. When people set up organizations, membership criteria, membership lists, etc. and begin to think they know exactly who is in the Church, they just get further and further away from understanding what Christ is doing.

—NSE

UCG-IA Member Seeks Reconciliation

Letter: January 13, 2000

I would like to share with you a letter that I wrote recently to the Journal. From reading in the SN and the Journal, I get the feeling that a lot of Christians see things the same way.

“My wife and I desire a church that is practicing 1 Corinthians 13, full of love and truth and that has the fruits mentioned in Galatians 5:22—a church that is going about the Father’s business.

In a healthy church environment, each member will be growing, will be edified, and their talents being utilized. In our local congregation these things are not being done. Members capable of giving sermonettes, leading songs, and doing other functions are being overlooked. From reading and studying the scriptures, this approach goes contrary to what the scriptures say.

When one member hurts, the whole body hurts...from what we see and read, it appears that the whole body is in pain—it’s hurting big time.

The Bible talks about the body being made up of many members—all are a part of the whole body—all functioning as part of the same body (1Cor12:12). It also talks about the ministry being one of reconciliation (2Cor 5:18)—to God and to each other—our brothers and sisters!

Christ gave His disciples some very important instructions in the New Testament (Mark 9:38-41). Why can’t the various “little groups” use this principle? Why can’t we say that we are for each other...all doing a part of Gods work—working together taking the good news, the message of hope to a helpless, dark world?

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. In the same way, the growth within the body of Christ would be a lot more if we all practiced this and it needs to come from the “pulpits” too!

Let’s all begin to tear down the walls and build bridges. Let’s all begin to fellowship with each other. Don’t be afraid to order tapes and literature from other groups. Let’s all begin the healing process now! Reconciliation is knocking at the door.

Let’s all open the door and truly become one in body, in mind, and in spirit”.

Let’s stop this madness now!

—concerned UCG-ia member

Response: I hope everyone comes to see it as you do. All of the groups need to work together in spite of their differences. We need to work together for study, evangelism, social activities, etc.

Why don’t some groups work together?

Groups that try to exercise “church authority” have a logical conflict if they acknowledge other groups as “near-equal” believers. A member in a church organization may ask his leader why he needs to travel to a distant site for the Feast of Tabernacles but not for Unleavened Bread, or how tithing is to be implemented today, or whether the scripture would allow a divorce in a certain case, or any number of other questions not clearly spelled out in the scriptures. His Church organization may give him the answer and claim that it has authority to expound the scriptures for the member or to a render a decision on behalf of God for the member—and the member must abide by it.

But suppose that the member disagrees with his organization’s decision and goes to a second organization that renders a different decision. If the first organization sees the second organization as a “near-equal” group, how can it say that the second organization's decision was not of God? Organizations that recognize other groups as “near-equals” can not claim to render authoritative judgments for God (unless He specifically reveals something to them). All they can do is show the person what they believe are the relevant scriptures and tell the individual that they will be responsible to the Eternal for what they do.

But isn’t that what Bible teachers should be doing anyway?

—NSE

Why So Many SN Comments?

Letter: January 10, 2000

Please remove my name from the Servants’ News mailing list. The articles written by others than the staff should not require an editors comment on every section. I feel this is improper. Christians should be intelligent enough to go to the Bible and “prove all things” for themselves, and makes one wonder why they print articles which do not fit their view anyway, unless solely for the purpose of tearing it apart. Thank you.

—Linda Choate, Bolivar, Missouri

Response: Thank you for raising some excellent questions.

Why does the Bible contain so many stories of bad kings, false prophets and false apostles? Why does it tell about the years that Paul persecuted the Church? Why not just tell the good part about him? Why does the Bible contain an “evaluation” of the seven Churches in Asia Minor? Why does it contain Paul’s evaluation of Peter’s sin (Gal 2:11-17) and Peter’s evaluation of Paul’s writing (2Pet 3:15-16)? These Bible examples—both good and bad—were clearly written for our learning (Rom 15:4; 1Cor 10:11).

We realize that Servants’ News evaluation of a teacher or doctrine is not the same as the Bible’s evaluation. The Eternal does not regularly speak to Servants’ News (either directly or though an angel) and tell us exactly what to print. Much of the Bible is the words of the Eternal or the words of Christ. That is why we print some articles that we partially disagree with and then write an editor’s comment. The author’s story is told along with our understanding of the subject. In case our understanding is wrong, people have a chance to read the author’s original words. We are not so proud to think that the only thing worth printing is that which we write ourselves. On the other hand, if we print an article that we partially disagree with and do not explain ourselves, readers often mistakenly assume that we agree with the whole thing. (This has happened many times.)

Finally, we print some articles (or parts of articles) that we think are largely in error so that others may know that such errors exist. Both Old and New Testaments have specific warnings about quite a few specific false doctrines. When people leave the corporate Church of God groups they are often joyful to find so many other groups that keep the Sabbath and Holy days. It is important that they realize that some of those groups teach (sometimes not openly) major heresies—such as “only one race can be saved”.

Whenever we talk about doctrines that we disagree with, we try to provide contact information for anyone who wants to contact those who teach it. If they are right and we are wrong, the Holy Spirit can still lead people to the truth through us. When I worked in the Worldwide Church of God, I heard of several cases where people first contacted the WCG from reading a book against it—but that gave the WCG’s address. They found, for example, that the few WCG quotes about the Sabbath in the anti-WCG book made more sense than the book’s rambling on why Sunday is the right day.

Unfortunately, the WCG (and most of her offshoots) do not reciprocate. If they are being affected by some other doctrinal teaching, they will only rarely name the group or person who is teaching it. In only some infinitesimal fraction of the cases will they provide information so that members can read both sides of the story. These groups will claim that they are “protecting the sheep” from false doctrine by not acknowledging the source of the doctrine.

I believe it is more important to teach, from the Bible or history, why the doctrine is false. If we cannot show why it is false, then we should not be teaching against it. And in the event that we are wrong and do not know it, we still make the other view (which might be correct) available to our readership.

If the Eternal raises up a prophet whom he reveals doctrines to directly, then that prophet will not need to teach as we do, but he will be able to say “thus says the Eternal”, and give his true message as he received it. But for now, we must pray and ask God to show us what to write, but still realize that we are not perfect and that He does not teach His people every truth all at once. I do not see how our frequent editorial comments can stop Christians from being mature or from proving all things. A mature Christian can always ignore our writing or else read it and then prove it true or prove it false from the Bible.

Thanks for listening to this long explanation. We will discontinue your subscription unless you let us know that you would like it again.

—NSE

Promise Keepers & Feasts

Letter: August 18, 1999

Norm,

Greeting from Washington. Just wanted to take a moment to say “thanks” for producing Servants’ News and making it readily available to all who ask. We appreciate the information and the effort you put into it and hope that you will be able to produce Servants’ News for a long time.

Thank you for keeping in touch with Paula regarding the Feast and for publishing the information on the Feast. Paula has done quite a bit of work in it and we have a great contact in Spirit Lake, Iowa who has helped tremendously with making available a great location. It should be a lively and enjoyable Feast.

If we are still here in Washington a year from now, we hope to host a Feast site near Mt. Rainier at another church camp we recently found. It would be a great place for brethren to congregate away from the busy city attractions and spend lots of quality time together in many activities and sharpening one another.

Three weeks ago I attended a Promise Keepers conference along with 20,000 other men in Tacoma, Washington. I don’t know if you have had the chance to visit a conference of theirs, but I found it helpful to open up to others in the area who are trying as well. I found Steve Farrar’s message the most inspiring. He spoke about the society in which we live and the historical analogy of similar times in our past. Quite compelling and motivating.

Thanks again for all you do and for your help We hope your Feast is inspiring and enjoyable as well.

Sincerely

—Daniel Vander Poel, Sumner, Wash.

Response: We are glad to see more people planning Feasts. If anyone is interested in the areas you mention, we will be glad to put them in contact with you.

I agree with many things that Promise Keepers teach, but do not agree with the goals of their organization. In their conferences, they heavily emphasize doing good to others and put little emphasis on doctrine. At the higher levels, the organization pushes ecumenical union of religion. I am in favor of people working together, but not of leaders unifying organizations from the top down. This kind of unity invariably leads toward “one humanly approved way to worship”—which is not at all what the Eternal wants.

—NSE

Let’s Get Back to Jewish Origins

Letter: January 2, 2000

Dear Servants’ News,

I think your publication is alright. But a little too much wishy-washy. No one can make up his/her minds entirely. So I’m going to stick to the messianic Jewish people, as the Jews have the right dates for the festivals. The churches of God are still trying to figure it out. Still following in the paths of the Sadducees, instead of the Pharisees. Well, I think it is simple, we came from Jewish origin and let’s get back to it. So take my name off the mailing list. Thanks very much, and I pray that you will all get it straight. And God will see that it will happen one day.

—Washington

Response: We will remove you from our mailing list.

If you think that the Jews are “right” and not “wishy-washy”, you must be listening to just one “Jewish origins” teacher. If you read the books that the “Jewish origins” come from, you will find much “wishy-washy” debate in them. The Mishna, the basis of Rabbinic Judahism is the size of a Bible. The Talmud is commentary on the Mishna, and about five times larger. Rashi, Maimonides and other major rabbi’s commentary are also huge. They debate nearly everything.

Are you sure that the Jews always had the “right dates” for the Feasts? They used to start new months based on witnesses sighting the new moon. Notice this Mishna passage, Rosh Hashanah 1:7:

If a father and his son saw the new moon they may both go to bear witness; not that they can be included together as a valid pair of witnesses... Rabbi Simeon says: a father and his son, and any that are near of kin, are eligible to bear witness about the new moon. Rabbi Jose said: Once Tobia the Physician saw the new moon in Jerusalem, together with his son and his freed slave; and the priests accepted him and his son but pronounced his freed slave ineligible. And when they came before the court they accepted him and his slave but declared his son ineligible.

There are many teachers, both Jewish and Christian, who act like they have “everything right”. These tend to form cults and divide themselves from others. The best teachers are the ones who do not claim to know everything, but who are always learning truth—and who are quick to practice the truth that they know.

—NSE

Biblical Calendar Events in History

Letter: March 14, 2000

In your “Biblical Calendar Basics” article you pointed out one way to verify which is the “correct” calendar: Match prophetic [significant] events in history with various calendars [and see how many important events turn out on holy days in the various calendars]. Have you done any more research or know of anyone else who has?

—Anthony McKay, Texas

Response: A few people have written to me about one or two incidents, but I do not have any conclusive proof on the matter. I would be interested in hearing others—Jewish, Christian and Anglo-Saxon.

—NSE

WCG History Research Site Lost

Letter: March 4, 2000

In the Nov/Dec edition of Servant’s News on page 5, in the lower right hand column there is a section with the title, “Useful WCG History Research”. This section closes with the URL: http://www.crosswinds.net/~gwmatteson

This is not a valid URL. Do you have the correct one?

YBIC,

—Ewin, Missouri

Response: A number of people called or wrote about this. That was the correct URL, but the site is now gone and nobody seems to know where it went. If we find out where it is available again, we will print it.

—NSE

Questions on Eternal Judgment

Letter: January 18, 2000

Dear Norman

I have read with interest your writings on the subject of “eternal judgment”. Your belief that Luke 12:42-48 indicates that the beatings with few or many stripes shows that truly converted Christians will not automatically go into the Kingdom at Christ’s return raised a question.

I understand your point that there would be no point in God punishing someone if they were either going into the Kingdom or the Lake of Fire. You used the example of a trainee pilot, who was refused his license until he had a further period of training. How does this square with scriptures like Ephesians 1:13-14, which describes the sealing of the Holy Spirit as the guarantee, that we will receive salvation in its fullness at Christ’s return?

Thanks for all the efforts that you put into Servants’ News. I always find each issue very interesting.

—Philip Perry, United Kingdom

Response: Read the verses as they are:

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Eph 1:13-14).

Christ gives us a little of His spirit now—like a down payment on our eternal inheritance. He will not leave us (Heb 13:5). But that does not prevent us from leaving Him. Blasphemy against that Spirit, that down payment in us, can put us into a situation where we cannot be forgiven (Matt 12:31). A down payment can be given either a short time or a very long time before the final payment. Ephesians 4 says nothing about the resurrection in which a believer might receive their inheritance. If a person is not in the first resurrection, that Holy Spirit will continue as their down payment until they have learned what they need to learn and receive their Eternal inheritance. A person can choose to reject that inheritance, either now or in the second resurrection. “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power” (Rev 20:6).

—NSE

Eternal Judgment for Angels Only?

Letter: March 11, 2000

Thank you for sending the Nov/Dec 1999 issue of Servants’ News which included your paper on the subject of “Eternal Judgment,” and also for being interested in constructive comments and criticisms from others. As you indicated the Bible has a whole lot to say about this subject.

Early on in the article you apparently sense that your readers may stop reading your paper because “it advocates salvation by works,” and therefore you asked that we continue to finish the section because you believe “we are not saved by our works.” The paper does give the indication that you may be striving to “have your cake and eat it too.” What do I mean? On one hand it appears you believe that salvation is a “free gift” only for some who are in certain categories, yet on the other hand if one doesn’t come up to a particular “categorized standard (like strings/conditions attached to the free gift),” then salvation is not a free gift after all. This all makes it sound like God is an “Indian-giver,” one who gives something out, and then later takes it back.

Response: I would prefer to think of God as a good parent”—one who gives good gifts to his children when they are ready to use them in a manner that they do not hurt themselves and others. A parent may promise to give a child a car as soon as he or she appears responsible enough to drive it. The son or daughter does not have to pay a cent—it is a gift. The child’s responsibility in no way pays for the car—the parent’s money does that. But if the apparently responsible child begins to drive irresponsibly and crash into people, should not the parent take the car away?

Letter: To be more specific, you have noted within the paper that, “We are not saved by our works,” yet you conclude your paper with four general categories of people. You have concluded that one category (People who cannot or will not live a righteous life in any environment) can “... only be given eternal destruction.” This category of people, for whatever reason, has not come up to some “standard” so that they could be “qualified” enough to earn eternal life. By having three other categories of people you are concluding, although you apparently don’t want to admit it, that eternal life is gained as “salvation by works”.

Response: I suppose that depends on your definition of “works”. Most people think of “salvation by works” as a process of doing various religious things, good deeds to others, penance, etc. None of these things earn salvation. But if you consider repentance, baptism or calling upon God for deliverance as “works”, then indeed “works” are required for salvation. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

Letter: I would like to mention some “food for thought” scriptures you have not cited which we may consider as “iron sharpens iron” constructive criticism from God’s Word. As you know and stated, it’s a big subject.

James 4:5 says, “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” James is telling us, Christian, Firstfruits, God’s Church, The Bride in “the making,” that there is something “in” us, and it doesn’t do good. Unless James lied there are no exceptions to this. In other words, if this “spirit” is in Christians, then it must also be “in” all humans as Christians are Firstfruits that God calls, or drags, out of “the rest” of humanity which are of this world, of Satan’s kingdoms. This is not talking about the “spirit in man.” How does one get rid of this “spirit” that is “in” each of us? Could this “spirit” impact one’s salvation? Could it impact the “eternal judgment” one would receive?

Response: Understanding what James meant here is fairly easy if you read the rest of chapter 4. James was talking to people with big problems—some murders (v 2). But he answered your questions: “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

That spirit in us can affect our salvation! We have to humble ourselves to receive grace (I hope that isn’t a “work” to you). God also tells us to submit to him, resist the devil, and cleanse our hands (clean up our act). It is the power and grace of God that provides salvation, but if we have an attitude of pride, God promises to “resist” us.

Letter: A verse like this has helped me understand The Apostle Paul, when he said, “...sin that dwelleth IN me.” (Romans 7:17) In fact, a little later it appears that Paul took no responsibility for this sin in him for he stated (verse 20), “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Paul appears to be in agreement with James. Paul, a long-time Christian veteran near the end of his life, told us that this was the reason he did evil things he didn’t want to do, and that he had a problem doing good—just like what happens in our lives today. Paul admitted, in my opinion, that another force, or “spirit,” was operating within his flesh. A Christian is not immune from that “spirit”.

Response: I agree that Paul still struggled with sin till his death, that I still struggle with sin, and that every believer I know struggles with some kind of sin—however small it might be in some cases. But he explains how all that works: “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:20). “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live”. We must all be about the process of putting to death the deeds of the flesh and “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2Cor 10:5). Christ will judge whether we have done that well enough to be in the first resurrection, or what will be necessary for eternal life at a later time.

Letter: Did Christ have this sin “in” Himself too? Very possible, for Ephesians 2:16 states, “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:” Additionally, my Authorized King James Bible in the margin indicates that “in Himself” is the more appropriate translation for the word “thereby.” It sounds like Christ was able to do something about what was “in” Him, whereas The Apostle Paul was, like us (?), helpless. Perhaps “enmity” is another word for the “sin” mentioned by The Apostle Paul, or “spirit” mentioned by James.

Response: I think your translation and understanding of this verse is correct. Christ had this spirit in him, but he conquered it. Hebrews 4:15 explains it: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin”. We are not like Christ—we cannot do this, but we are commanded to call upon Christ for his deliverance—and to make every right decision that we can make.

Letter: Additionally, your paper makes mention of an “unpardonable sin”, a phrase nowhere found in God’s Word. In fact, you quoted Matthew 12:22-32 and Luke 1-12; however, you may want to also consider the parallel scripture Mark 3:28 where Jesus Christ is quoted as saying, “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:” This verse is very clear and says, however God will do this, that “... all sins shall be forgiven unto men...” Wow! This sounds like some very good news. Does Christ really believe this? Did He lie to us? Well, we know, He can’t lie. He did speak His Father’s words, and our Father can’t lie. Even blasphemies “of men” are forgiven! That’s incredible! The Apostle Paul admitted to being a “blasphemer,” so the rest of that verse would certainly be “good news” for him, and any like him.

Response: My paper specifically says: “what theologians often call the ‘unpardonable sin’.” I realized that it is not in the Bible. I accidentally removed the quotation marks from “unpardonable sin” in the subtitle, so I will restore them—thank you.

There are many places where some gospel writers leave out details that others supply. Because Mark does not continue with the details included in Matthew, should we assume that Christ did not say what Matthew records? All of the manuscript resources I have indicate these words belong in Matthew. If we want to understand Christ, we should go to the most detailed account, not the shortest.

Please notice that even Mark does not say “all sins will be forgiven for all men” He just says that it is possible to forgive all sins, but then qualifies that in the very next verses which list sins that will not be forgiven: “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin. He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.’”

Letter: This isn’t all. Where does our Father fit in with this matter of eternal judgment? What about 2 Corinthians 5:19, where The Apostle Paul stated: “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” What a blessing! Did The Apostle Paul lie here? Again, it appears, however God does this, that He intends to not impute trespasses unto men, humans.

Response: No God does not lie, but this verse does not say, “not imputing all trespasses of all people who have ever lived.” Who is this verse addressed to? Read verse 17, earlier: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation...” Paul does not end the chapter by saying “good news, everybody is saved no matter what they do,” but he says: “...we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2Cor 5:20-21).

Letter: What happens to your category 1 people if Mark 3:28 and 2 Cor 5:19 are true? From God The Father, and Jesus Christ’s point of view it appears there will not be any category 1 people that will “... be given eternal destruction.”

Response: Neither of these verses say that God forgives all the sin of everyone. Whereas there are dozens of scriptures that tell us what to do to have our sin forgiven. Those things that we do, do not forgive our sins—they don’t pay for the car, to revert to our original analogy, but they are the things that are required in order to have and use the car. Your letter has said little about many of the other scriptures I quote that show some people will not have eternal life. To ask your question, “Are these scriptures lies?”

Letter: Finally, you did cite Matthew 25:31-46 and subsequently said, “... none of these scriptures give us detail on how Christ judges!” I’d like to mention only two of those verses, namely:

Matthew 25:34 “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” and verse 41 “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”

Verse 34 is referring to humans, as one category, represented as sheep, and Christ does not mention any “strings/conditions” attached, and yet it’s a “done deal” from the “foundation of the world.” Could it be because God and Christ will not impute “all sins/trespasses” to “men,” that Christ saw no need for giving any details. Verse 41 is referring to a second category of “beings,” which are cursed angels, not humans, going “into everlasting fire,” which is everlasting punishment (verse 46), and never to be reversed. It appears from God’s perspective that there may only be two categories. I personally find it very difficult to try to get around these verses but again, as you mentioned it’s a big subject.

Response: I can see how Matt 25:41 might be confusing. Since it says the fire is prepared for “the devil and his angels”, you assume that it is for “spirit beings” only. The problem is that the word “angels” is supplied by the translators. The Hebrew malak (Strong’s #4397) is translated “angel” 111 times and “messenger” 98 times. The equivalent Greek aggelos (Strong’s #32) is translated “angel” 179 times and “messenger” 7 times (Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2 Luke 7:24,27; 9:52; 2Cor 12:7, Jms 2:25). The words malak and aggelos simply mean messenger—it is left to the reader to determine if it is a divine messenger or not. Young’s Literal Translation consistently translates aggelos as “messenger”, so Matt 25:41, YLT says the fire was “prepared for the Devil and his messengers”. (You can check all the uses of these words with a Hebrew or Greek concordance, or a computer Bible.)

Similarly, Matthew 25:31 speaks of the Son of Man coming with “all the holy angels”, but the YLT says “holy messengers”. The word for “holy” here is hagios, the same word that is translated “saints” many other places. It seems that this judgment is carried out when Christ returns with his saints (1Thes 3:13, 2Thes 1:10; Jude 1:14)—the first resurrection. Neither this verse, nor verse 41 specifically says it refers to spirit beings—that was the translators idea—these can be human (or formerly human) messengers.

Do you really believe that the purpose of Matthew 25:31-46 is to compare the fate of humans and demons? If that is the case, why does it even mention helping the needy? Cannot Christ tell the difference between humans and demons without keeping track of how many needy people each of them helped? Will demons be eternally punished because they do not help the hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, etc? Are demons supposed to take strangers into their houses? (I hope they do not ask me in!) To make sense, this parable must be about two kinds of humans (sheep & goats) that can choose who they become. It says “all nations will be gathered”, not “nations and demons”. Eternal life is offered only to those who helped others in need. Have all humans done that? No. I have read books by people who say “only suckers help others in need”. If Christ, as you previously suggested, forgives all sins of all humans all the time, why should anyone ever help anyone else?

Letter: I have personally found it very helpful reading a short article titled: “Is it Man or Is it Angel?” published for free by God’s Church, currently known by its publishing name Church Outreach Program [directed by Robert Roenspies], with an address of P.O. Box 6111, Elgin, IL 60121. That short article, in my opinion, helps shed more “light” on the subject of “Eternal Judgment.” In portions of God’s Word, the word “man” or “men” does not always refer to human beings (e.g. Exodus 15:3; Daniel 9:21; Revelation 21:17).

Response: If you disagree with what I wrote, just skip my writing and read all the Bible quotations and ask the Eternal to show you what the Bible says. I agree that the words “man” or “men” as found in the Bible come from a great variety of Hebrew and Greek words and can sometimes refer to a spirit being. However, I do not think you can begin to prove that every verse that talks about eternal judgment or punishment is talking about spirit beings and not people.

Letter: Norman, if your paper is not your “final word” on this marvelous subject of “Eternal Judgment”, you may want to consider providing some additional explanation about some of the verses above cited from God’s Word — in particular Mark 3:28; 2 Cor 5:19; Matt 25:34, 41 and 46. You may want to consider and make it part of an expanded paper which includes the eternal judgment that God has in store for Satan and the demons as well — perhaps even use different categories than you already used in your paper. Satan and his demons would definitely, in my opinion, fit into the Category 1 you mentioned, and God does have a “sentence” for them.

Thanks for your efforts and sharing your thoughts on this subject. And you may publish the above within Servants’ News, as “iron sharpens iron” for others, if you wish.

—John Gordon, 119 Pine Street, Nashua, NH; branch00@aol.com

Response: Thank you for writing. It is questions such as yours that help me to evaluate how thoroughly I have studied. I do have a short appendix on judging angels coming, but my primary purpose is to help people be ready for eternal judgment. I do not believe God wants me to teach angels what will happen to them, so I will not try to be exhaustive in this area.

Finally, I have a question for you. If God is going to forgive all sin and give eternal life to everyone, why has He allowed so much suffering? Why does He allow Satan to affect us? Why doesn’t he just give everyone eternal life and perfect character as soon as they are born? Also, what is really wrong with committing mass murder or suicide? Won’t God forgive all of that—and aren’t you just sending people to eternal life all the faster? My understanding of the Bible says that we have a purpose down here and the decisions we make do matter! But how do you answer those questions?

—NSE


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