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Monday, November 11, 2013

Why Conditional Immortality Destroys The Gospel

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Why Conditional Immortality Destroys The Gospel -  Michael J. S. Austin, Ph.D.


Evangelicalism has become wider and broader. Boundaries that 40 or 50 years ago were clearer have become fuzzy and indistinct. One prominent belief that has become more acceptable to many is Conditional Immortality. I accept my title sounds rather blunt, so I must, as fairly as I can, show you how this belief is destructive of the gospel. More than anything else hinges on our understanding of the gospel of God's grace and the salvation that it brings. Don't stay fuzzy about this issue!
1. BAD NEWS FIRST
If, as I contend, conditional immortality destroys the gospel, I shall need to tell you what is being destroyed and the way in which it takes place.
Following the historic Genesis fall, the biblical portrayal of the natural condition of mankind in relation to God, is one of extreme peril. Our condition is described as 'lost' (Luke 19:10), 'condemned' (John 3:18), 'dead in the trespasses and sins' (Ephesians 2:1), 'darkened in... understanding (Eph. 4:18), 'alienated from the life of God' (Eph. 4:18) and under the just 'wrath' (Eph. 2:3) of God.
We are in extreme danger and subject to the worst of possible outcomes - to be banished from the favour of God and remain forever under his holy wrath in deep anguish (Matthew 25:46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Revelation 14:11). These and many other descriptions give a truly shocking picture of our plight. Let no one fall into the illusion that this is scaremongering exaggeration to frighten religious people to toe the line. Today there is a lot of pressure aimed at weakening the Christian's resolve to proclaim the just judgement of God and the unsearchable riches of Christ - both go together.
Many have the idea that the teaching of eternal punishment given by the Sovereign Lord himself (e.g. Matt. 25:46, Mark 9:44, 48) is way too harsh, and that a God of such great mercy and compassion would never do such a thing. Notice how the natural mind sets itself up to judge what it thinks is fair, and how it insinuates that God is not fair, as it prefers to indulge in wishful thinking! So, now the popular view is that the harsher views that once prevailed were censorious and judgemental, but now, with more enlightened views of God's fatherly compassions, we have a more benign and mature view.
2. ASTONISHING ESCAPE
Have you noticed how this new thinking questions the necessity of Jesus' death and the biblical meaning given to it? It is precisely from such an appallingly serious condemnation that the Son of God himself, no less, left heaven's glory for. This is why he came and identified with our awful plight and then went to the cross to endure in full the terrible condemnation due to sinners to save them from that most dreadful end! If you think God will not send lost sinners to hell, why did Christ die as the Saviour of sinners? This is why Scripture extols the height and depth of the love of God, and marvels at the riches of his grace; this is why salvation is called a 'great salvation' (Hebrews 2:3) and why so much praise and overflowing love and amazed gratitude are the hallmark of the New Testament epistles.
This is why powerful and stirring challenges ought to be made when the gospel is preached. Salvation is something vast - how we need to grasp that! This is not some trivial little happy story; this is the goal of the ages of eternity, in which GOD judges for ever the great rebellion, displays his infinite grace in saving and preparing a spotless bride for his Son, vindicates his honour and begins to usher in a whole new creation!
3. GREAT SALVATION
When, once, you begin to see the gospel in this light, it is no surprise that such a cost was poured out by the Lord Jesus as he shed his blood, and how this reveals that God has gone to the extremities of immeasurable grace to save a multitude of hell-deserving rebels! This is why anything that impugns this gospel must be exposed and its true colours made clear so that you untangle yourself and stand firmly in the true freedom of God's grace.
Now, that I have summarised the gospel, we turn to see how Conditional Immortality both undermines and destroys grace - the wholly undeserved favour of God. Is that a trivial thing? No, it's appalling. How is that? Under this new scheme, both justice and mercy are appealed to, to provide a way of escape for unsaved sinners who remain outside of Christ, because the penalty now envisaged to be their due is way less serious than I have outlined from Scripture, and a new escape route for them is provided.
Immortality is given conditionally only to those who put their faith in Christ, but for the rest, there is an insinuation that eternal, conscious punishment is too severe and now the lost sinner may expect a quick deliverance from hell, perhaps after a short spell of suffering, into the black nothingness of annihilation. For this, any remaining unsaved sinners are resurrected for judgement and then, or soon after, evaporated, extinguished and their personal being in the image of God is de-created into nothingness as annihilation is now considered a more fitting outcome for both justice and mercy. However, we ought to note that 'destroy' in God's word never means extinction of persons into nothingness (see Matthew 10:28).
4. SALVATION NEVER MERITED
But if annihilation which is essentially an escape from God's just condemnation is merited on grounds of justice and compassion, how can salvation into endless bliss be wholly unmerited, if it was already the sinners' right to escape from eternal condemnation by another route - annihilation? Now people who are unsaved can soothe their anxieties by contemplating a wonderful deliverance into annihilation into which he or she may escape as their merited reward. Oh, what a deviously diabolical scheme of alternative salvation this is that impugns the just judgement of God!
Here is a new gospel, adapted to our times, where you are never so bad as to deserve what Scripture teaches is your just reward - eternal conscious punishment.
5. JESUS PAID IN FULL - COMPLETELY UNDESERVED!
Let's be clear, grace that is deserved is not grace - it's a reward. If eternal, conscious punishment is not utterly just, why did Jesus, as the sinners' substitute, suffer their just punishment for them? Why did the Son of God himself suffer such terrible judgement if sinners did not in fact deserve such retribution? Annihilationism questions the biblical purpose of Jesus' death, because it now thinks Jesus died to save people from nothingness. But that's not the glorious gospel of Christ! Conditional immortality muddles and destroys the penal and substitutionary atonement of Christ, in which the eternal Son willingly gives himself into the Father's awful wrath, bearing that wrath on behalf of a multitude of people. Do you see how it destroys the gospel of the immeasurable riches of God's grace in salvation by altering the biblical teaching on eternal punishment and introducing a false, two-tier system of escape?
This is why we must continue to make clear that the one eternal salvation gained at the cost of the Saviour's lifeblood is free and completely undeserved and in this we shall glory for all eternity to 'the praise of his glorious grace'! (Eph. 1:6). The everlasting glory of God's grace and the very nature of salvation itself is the issue here - a salvation from a lost, conscious eternity into an eternity of glory with Christ. Do everything in the power he gives you to magnify his name and his grace.

Michael J. S. Austin, Ph.D. has authored several books and many articles that offer answers for many of life's big questions - 'Is biblical Christianity finished, or does it still speak to the 21st century?' Take a look at my e-book, 'I saw Him Die - Viewing Jesus' Death TODAY' for a challenging view of the crucifixion and what it means. An urgent message! Use the following link: http://www.amazon.com/saw-Him-die-Viewing-ebook/dp/B007TX696U/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_t_2 My title, 'Darwin's Puzzle - Unravelling the Riddle of Reason' discusses how the evolutionary beliefs of Charles Darwin destroy human reason. He admits this when he says he inherited his thinking from monkeys. This book also shares the good news of salvation through Christ. And try this link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007ZE34GG Use my books and articles to help you find faith in Christ, or to strengthen your faith. Also find titles on other websites - Thank you! Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_J._S._Austin,_Ph.D.  Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/7369929

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