The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: I

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In Adam or in Christ (CMPA)

It was in no spirit of controversy that we set out to write about judgement and responsibility. Our sole aim has been to make a contribution to the healing of a breach between brethren by presenting what we believe is ScripturaI truth for our common acceptance. We make no claim to have dealt completely with matters which have to do with the rich depths of God's wisdom and knowledge, His unsearchable judgements and His ways past finding out. In trying to avoid the well-worn phrases of the old controversy, we have come to realise how easy it is to slip into the use of them and how hard to define in other terms the truths one is seeking to convey.

The study of itself has been rewarding. Our own understanding has been greatly enlarged, both of the theme itself and of the difficulties of those brethren who have wrestled with it in the past. We are convinced that some of the causes of the division long ago lay in difference of emphasis which then led to divergence of view.

The path to reunion and unity will never be found by attempting to unravel the past or press our own point of view on others today. Nor does the way lie through mutual suspicion, charge and counter-charge, the giving or the taking of offence. It is God's truth we seek and the way to it is His alone. It is the way of forbearance, love and common understanding, of one another and above all of His Word.

In the name of Him who is holy, our God who is a consuming fire, and of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who died for us but who cometh quickly as the Judge of all the earth, we beseech you, brethren, to accept our work in sincerity, to read it prayerfully and seek together to work out a basis for unity which is both Scriptural and good.

Our Approach to the Theme

Our theme must be approached with reverence and godly fear, in trembling yet with thankful heart, for it treats of judgement and salvation, of what we are by nature and what by God's grace we may become. Our need to understand our natural estate before God and our responsibilities to Him is vital, for His judgement will soon be no more a matter of words and phrases but a reality. Then indeed the reproach of a Brotherhood at variance over one of the cardinal principles of our common salvation will be brought home to us and too late we shall realise that the Kingdom of God was not a matter of disputes between brethren, rival theories, phrases of our own making and of doubtful or ambiguous meaning, but "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit".

Rom 14:17

We shall endeavour therefore not to press Scripture into the mould of past or present controversy or impose upon it interpretations which follow purely human reasoning on matters of which Scripture itself does not precisely speak. We do not seek even to defend one side or the other in points previously at issue; but only to follow the whole counsel of God in the matter and present it in such a way that He may approve and all our brethren say Amen to it.

The Principle of Responsibility

"By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin." Paul's statement in Rom 5:12 emphasises the fundamental importance of the Genesis record for our study, since in the experiences of the "one man" the principles of responsibility and judgement are laid down.

The responsibility of Adam to God was based upon the relationship of a created being to his Creator and Sustainer. God had given the man "life and breath and all things", going beyond the provision of that which was "good for food" in making things pleasant also to the sight. When Adam's happiness was crowned by the making of a help meet for him, he had all that was necessary for his continued existence, the enjoyment of his life, and the development of his mental faculties. His moral, or more Scripturally, his spiritual development, depended upon his honouring God's commandment by the discipline of both mind and body.

Act 17:25,28; Gen 2:9,16-17,20-23.

To indulge in philosophical speculation about the nature of man at this point (for it can only be philosophical in the absence of direct revelation) is to ignore the fact that the Scriptures deal with man not merely as an organism but as a whole being capable of fellowship with God. Adam was to "live before God", by reason of his obedience, and no doubt he would eventually have become "partaker of the divine nature", if he had shown himself able to follow the path of self-discipline and to worship and serve his Creator alone. It is helpful to bear in mind this concept of "wholeness", since it throws light upon what follows in the record, and reveals a principle at work in the processes both of condemnation and salvation. The Scriptures are primarily concerned with "the life of God"; the ultimate purpose of man's life is oneness with his Creator in nature and attributes -- the manifestation of the glory of the Lord. Salvation begins with the renewing of the mind, followed by the sanctification of the spirit and is completed by the resurrection of the body; condemnation affected man in the same order: he was affected in mind and conscience first, then in bodily sensations, and finally he was to die.

Gen 17:18 ; 2Pe 1:4 ; Rom 12:2 ; 1Pe 1:2; 2Th 2:13; 1Co 15:51,52

We have no need to speculate either about the role of the serpent in the temptation or about the nature of the temptation itself when sin and its consequences had not yet entered the world. Paul declares that the serpent "beguiled" the woman, which implies a response on her part. The whole incident was a transgression; that is, the woman first and then the man knowingly did what they had expressly been forbidden to do. It was disobedience to an explicit command, known to be a command of God, which constituted the first sin, and since ignorance could not be pleaded as an excuse, when questioned by God the man and the woman could only state the facts: their reason and their desires had led them to listen to a voice other than that of God, the man to that of his wife, and the woman to that of the serpent. They had thus chosen the alternative to obedience to God's command: by seeking their knowledge and satisfaction from the created world they had defied their Creator.

We now see the nature of "responsibility". The word itself does not appear in Scripture (at least in AV or RSV), but its link with the idea of "giving of an answer" or "rendering an account" to one who has the right to ask is clearly seen in Gen 3. The Lord God put to Adam three searching questions to which the answers were all-revealing: "Where art thou?"; "Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?" Adam could only give the answers of a bad conscience: he had hidden himself because, being naked, he was afraid of God, and had indeed eaten of the tree because his wife had given him the fruit; to which Eve added her confession of guilt by deception.

Gen 3: 9-13

Condemned by God

The sentence which God pronounced was immediate and terrible: some aspects of it had arisen instantly as a result of their bad conscience -- the sense of nakedness, the fear, the shame. The rest were to follow in their now degenerate life before their physical decay brought them to the grave.

We can now examine further the relationship between salvation and condemnation. Just as Paul draws an analogy between the sin of one man which brings the death of all, and the righteousness of one man by which all can be saved, so it is possible to see the parallel between the process of the Divine sentence and its removal. Evidently Adam's conscience had been affected and some of the consequences of his sin were already active within him, as he felt his nakedness and was ashamed before God. He was condemned already, in the sense of knowing he was guilty, by his own act and out of his own mouth. Nevertheless, God condemned him to death and ensured that there was no way of evading that penalty (Gen 3: 23). In the same way, the man obedient to God's command can first render "the answer of a good conscience", "be transformed by the renewing of the mind"; and sanctify God in both body and spirit. His release from the bondage of corruption, however, is the last stage in the process of his salvation.

Gen 3; 1Pe 3:21; 1Co 6:20; 2Co 7:1

Judgement and Condemnation

It is important to stress, even at the risk of some repetition, one aspect of the judgement on Adam which has a bearing upon the whole principle of judgement we are considering. There were immediate consequences of his sin and the life of joyful fellowship was evidently over since Adam tried to hide from the presence of God in the garden. But there was still a definite formal "hour of judgement", when Adam and Eve were brought before God, and the sentence both in such effects of their transgression as they had already experienced and in its ultimate issue in their death, was unmistakably seen to be the sentence of God, formally pronounced in their presence.

Gen 3:9,10,16-19

It is well also to be aware of the range of meaning in the words "condemned" and "condemnation". Strictly speaking the English word judgement of itself implies neither the guilt nor the innocence of the party involved; in fact, the process of judgement is intended to reach a decision on that point. Condemnation, however, is the judgement in the court against the accused, as the NT term "katakrima" implies: it is a verdict of "guilty" and implies also the displeasure of the court. The penalty for the crime being determined, the guilty man is then sentenced to pay it -- or condemned in its secondary meaning. In the case of Adam and Eve "condemnation" carried both senses: they incurred the divine displeasure, being guilty, and were condemned to death. Their sin involved deeds done in the body as a result of the intent of their mind -- it was a question of morality. The sentence of God likewise affected the whole man and hence in Scripture "death" can have both a spiritual and physical connotation.

Exo 23:6; Isa 1:27; Mat 12:20; Exo 22:9; Mat 12:7; Mark 10:33; 14: 64

Alienated from God

Although "the Lord God made coats of skins and clothed them", which in view of later records we are justified in interpreting as the institution of sacrifice as a means of approach to God, the man and his wife were nevertheless excluded from the garden. The actual words of the Lord God are: "Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever; therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden." So Adam and Eve, both by personal transgression and by divine edict, were alienated from the life of God as they had formerly experienced it. There could be no possibility of their continuing as "one of us" and sharing a divine fellowship, for their life was to be one of shame, fear, pain and sorrow, and theirs was to be a "living death" until physical death brought it to an end. Yet there was a "way of the tree of life", which though not yet opened up, offered hope of eventual restoration to those who should be granted the privilege of treading it because they had overcome.

Gen 3:22-24; Rev 2:7

We must carefully distinguish between the two periods of Adam's life, and avoid drawing conclusions about our own case from one period which properly belong to the other. The transgression that allowed sin into the world, bringing with it the spiritual and physical death that were its punishment, took place in the Garden of Eden. It was unique in being the first and only such transgression, and it was unique in its far-reaching consequences for Adam's seed. In the garden also the judgement took place and the sentence was pronounced. After Adam's expulsion from the garden and exclusion from the tree of life, his life was lived in the conditions produced by his transgression and in relation to the arrangements for worship and the covenant God had made with him. It is to this period alone therefore that any questions of Adam's future judgement and relation to eternal life -- his "probation" in our terms -- must be referred. For the Scripture is thenceforward concerned with Adam and all his descendants on the basis of their mortality and their own sinfulness and their relationship to God's promises, whereby they could become partakers of the divine nature if they escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Adam and Eve had first been alienated from God by their transgression, but had become separated also by their nature. They were what they were because they had sinned: and because of what they had become they would never be free of the propensity to sin and the possibility of sinning until that nature was destroyed.

2Pe 1:24

However, since "alienation", like "condemnation," carries more than one shade of meaning, it will be well to comment on them here. The Scripture words translated "alien" and "alienate" in the NT ("allotrios", "apallotrioo") bear similar basic meanings. The primary sense is "belonging to another", "another man's", "stranger" as in the phrase "a strange land" where "strangers" dwell; that is, a "foreign" country. The idea of hostility or estrangement is a possible and frequent, though not necessary, secondary meaning; in practice, however, to our minds "alienation" usually bears these overtones. The NT references to alienation are three (All are connected with the verb "apallotrioo", the prefix "ap" signifying "away from". The whole participle expression means "having been alienated away", which is substituted here for the AV version):

"At that time ye were without Christ, having been alienated away from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph 2:12).

"As other Gentiles... having been alienated away from the Life of God through the ignorance that is in them" (Eph 4:17,19).

"You... were sometimes having been alienated away and enemies in your mind by wicked works" (Col 1:21).
The tenor of these verses is plain and consistent: both senses possible in the word "alienation" are present. In Col 1 the term "alienated" is actually reinforced by the word "enemies", and the concept obviously goes beyond that of merely "foreigners". The former estrangement of those now reconciled had been because they were "enemies in your mind in your evil works" (RV). The first man had alienated himself from God in the garden because he became a stranger to the life of God by his own will. Thereupon, being expelled from the garden, he had been condemned to live with the consequences he had brought about. His progeny were not only living with those consequences but had become, of their own will, strangers from God. Eph 4 :19 shows that "the other Gentiles", that is, those who had not been reconciled, were not "ignorant" because they did not know God, but because they chose not to know Him -- their understanding had been darkened, they had ceased to care ("being past feeling") and had "given themselves over" to lasciviousness and uncleanness (Rom 1:21,28 agrees with this). Similarly the Gentiles referred to in Eph 2 were not merely "allotrioi", aliens or strangers, who although foreigners and not yet circumcised might be "the stranger within thy gates", whom Israel was commanded to love. They were those without God in any sense ("atheoi"), separated by "the enmity" (v 15).

So in the day they sinned, Adam and Eve were "without God", and as we have already seen, their expulsion from the garden showed how complete was that alienation from the life of God. They were under "the wrath of God", having chosen wicked works, being willfully ignorant, not of the specific commandment, but of the mind and purpose of God. So would they have remained had it not been for the hope, the sacrifice and the covenant of promise. The basis of any future acceptability with God was faith, the manner of their approach was through sacrifice; the infirmity of their fleshly nature, however, would remain until the consummation of all things in Christ. How Adam and Eve fared in this new sphere of probation we do not know and we gain nothing by speculation.

Neither are we one whit advanced in our understanding by attempting to isolate the physical effects of sin from the moral or spiritual. The term "flesh" in Scripture, with reference to sin, refers to "deeds done in the flesh" for which man's mind and heart are responsible. "Flesh" merely as a physical substance has no will and cannot therefore be considered as guilty; nor is it of itself an evil substance. Since the days of Adam's sin, to partake of "flesh and blood", however, is to feel within oneself the motions of a will not naturally subject to the law of God.

Rom 7:18; 8:13; Gal 5:19-21

In Adam All Die

Thus "by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Thus was inaugurated the universal reign of sin and death: sin "came in" and death "came upon" all men as a consequence of one man's action, declares Paul in his fundamental statement in Rom 5:12. It is a plain statement of the relationship of all men to Adam, since the Apostle is not here speaking of the personal share which the man and the woman had in the original transgression, as he is in 1Ti 2:14: "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." The Romans passage deals with the man as involving the succession of the race for "he begat a son in his own likeness and after his own image."

Rom 5:12; Gen 5:3

The "wherefore" of Rom 5:12 helps us here, since it links the section (Rom 5:12-20) firmly with what goes before. The theme of Rom 5:11 is justification by faith, peace with God, access by faith, reconciliation, and joy in the atonement. And how is this happy consummation to be reached? The answer is: by one man. The principle of reconciliation is therefore the same as that of the condemnation, though the process in detail is different. In the disobedience of one man all are involved by natural birth and without their own volition. In the perfect obedience of one man all can become involved by a new birth. But in the process of being begotten unto perfection and life, our faith and voluntary obedience are an essential part.

Rom 5:12-20; John 3:3-5; 1Pe 1:22,23

For the moment, however, we are still concerned with the consequences of being "in Adam". "Sin entered... all have sinned". Here is sin seen both as something in which all men are involved, and as something which develops itself in our conduct: it is both the propensity to sin and the habit of sinning. The very metaphors Paul uses emphasise its universal character: all are "under sin" (Rom 3:9) and "sin has reigned" (Rom 5:21). All men are subjects of the same powerful monarch. And since it "reigns unto death", then Paul can also say that death reigns too, for the law of sin and death was pronounced in Eden when the Lord God said unto the first man: "In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die".

In the effects of sin on the first human pair is to be seen a pattern of the disorders, mistrusts and passions that would henceforth continue to ravage human life and society. "Desire" and "dominion" entered into relations between the sexes; man was banished from God's presence and was afraid to seek his Creator, and he had to battle against evil in the created world; while on the physical level life was a painful and ultimately hopeless struggle to renew and sustain its basic processes. For the whole human race was born outside the garden, alienated from the life of God. "The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Indeed, "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" and in his parallel phrase Paul tells us why: "neither doth corruption inherit incorruption". Corruption is both physical decay and all that is associated with the life and morality of man born of corruptible seed, the servant of corruption -- corrupt manners, corrupt deeds, corrupt speech. In short, the image of Adam, the earthy.

Gen 3:16-19; 4:4; Rom 8:7,8; 1Co 15:50; Gen 6:5,11,12; Eph 4:22; Jude 1:10

"As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy", and in Adam all die. "By the offence of one, judgement came upon all men to condemnation." In dealing with the things of God which lie so completely beyond our understanding except by His revelation, we are not spiritual but carnal if we construct rival or mutually exclusive theories of God's judgement and mercy based on our own use and usage. The fact is, in Scripture there is both a racial and an individual condemnation, as can be clearly shown. The former is the consequence of being born "in Adam", the other of personal transgression. The unique responsibility of Adam derived from the fact that he was the ancestor of the human race and had been created to have dominion over the works of God's hands. The command to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth meant that everything subsequently hung upon his obedience to the explicit command relating to the tree of knowledge. What the earth would have been like peopled by the offspring of a spiritually mature Adam we cannot know. We do know that "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now", since not only man but all else has been involved in the consequences of Adam's transgression. Again, we get a glimpse of this principle in reverse, so to speak, in Isaiah's vision of the harmony of the beasts and the removal of hurt and destruction when righteousness reigns upon the earth.

Isa 11; Rom 8:20-23

Corporate Involvement in Transgression

This principle of corporate involvement in transgression is well illustrated in Scripture, both in general statement and historical event, although in considering it we must not take a wrong turn by failing to give due consideration to another and parallel Scriptural principle referred to below. Fathers who transgress the second commandment have their iniquity visited upon their children, unto the third and fourth generation. When Achan "took of the accursed thing" at Jericho, it is written that "Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing", and the Lord told Joshua: "Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them." It is interesting that the specific penalty was paid by Achan and his family, and that Israel as a nation suffered the consequences of his sin in their defeat before Ai. That one man's deed is treated as a national sin is not to say that all the people participated in the covetousness -- at least not in fact, even if their heart was covetous. But the nation is not merely a number of individuals; it is a Divinely constituted organic whole. Thus, Adam was not merely an individual man, but the progenitor of the human race of which he and his wife were then the sole representatives. In his phrase that "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned", Paul is therefore saying more than that all men have sinned personally, true though that is, with the single exception of Christ.

Ex 20: 4-6; Jos 7:1,11; Rom 5:12

We have, however, already pointed out that there are overtones of moral guilt and estrangement involved in terms like "condemnation" and "alienation". The involvement of the race in the punishment of Adam, is not the same thing as imputing to all the guilt, as distinct from the consequences, of his iniquity. Again, the analogy of Israel helps us here. Caleb and Joshua were forced to wander forty years in the wilderness, being members of the sinful nation condemned so to do. But being alone judged personally faithful to the Lord and His covenant, they did not perish with the rest, but entered into the promised Land. It will help us later if we bear in mind also, that this death in the wilderness and the escape from it, were related to a particular transgression in the given context of the wilderness and not to questions of the subsequent probation either of the nation in general or of the two men in particular, who eventually died. Also, in the case of visiting "the iniquity of the fathers upon the children", we must not ignore the qualification "of them that hate me". Hereditary and environmental factors resulting from a father's dissolute way of life involve innocent children, but there is mercy (unto a thousand generations, not just three or four) for children who forsake their father's ways and "love me and keep my commandments". For we, like Israel, are forbidden to say, "The fathers have eaten a sour grape and the children's teeth are set on edge", thereby imputing guilt to subsequent generations for something not particularly their transgression. So while Scripturally there was an original sin, the consequences of which lie heavily upon all men, there is no such thing as "original sin" for which subsequent generations are to be accounted morally guilty.

Num 14:27-38; 26:64,65; Deu 5:9,10; Jer 31:29,30; Eze 18:2

The Law of Sin and Death

We must now consider the varied relationship of men to God in their life "in Adam", since all are born of his line. Again we must be careful to distinguish things that differ: Paul's theme in Rom 5 is the comparison between the way sin, and therefore death, entered into the world and the revelation of God's righteousness which brings life: both were by one man. So since the point at issue in this passage is not the ground of God's final judgement, which is a matter of personal and individual responsibility, only those effects of Adam's transgression which are transmitted to all his posterity are brought into the comparison. These effects were the inheritance of death and of a sin-disposed nature.

Paul's succinct phrase for the human condition is: "Death reigned"; and the reason: "Sin reigned unto death". He distinguishes also between "sin" and "transgression": transgression is disobedience to a specific commandment, a sin indeed, whereas since the entry of sin into the world, men sin where there is no specific commandment to transgress. Sin was in the world before the law (and the context in Rom 5:14 demands that we understand "the law of Moses"), but the law served to reveal the true nature of sin -- it is the condition of those who are "not subject to the law of God" as well as those who actually transgress it, or to use Paul's language, sin was made to appear "exceeding sinful". So "death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression", not because they were held guilty for what Adam had done, but because they were his race, the human race, an organic whole, who could not be free of the tendency and the possibility of sinning except by the work of the other "one man". "Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned", and we both "have sin" and "have sinned" according to the Divine record.

Rom 5:14,21; 7:13; 8:7; 1Jo 1:8-10

Responsibility and Judgement

Remembering that "sin entered" by Adam's transgression inside the garden, for which he was formally judged and sentenced, and that the total consequences of his transgression, his condemnation, have become the lot of all begotten of him outside the garden, we can now discuss some important, indeed, fundamental aspects of responsibility and judgement. The more the relevant Scriptures are studied, the more evident it is that responsibility to God's judgement extends more widely than we might have thought, although the Apostle's "How then shall God judge the world?" ought to have corrected our point of view. For in addition to the abiding judgement, so to speak, that is, the law of sin and death as of cause and effect, there have been throughout history certain "days of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God", all anticipatory of the final "hour of judgement" or "the wrath to come". Why was this so, if "sin is not imputed when there is no law" ? The answer must accord with the whole tenor of Paul's argument, especially Rom 2:9-16. The law in question is again the law of Moses, and the argument turns not upon the nature of responsibility for sin, but upon the basis of judgement: one cannot sin by transgressing the law where the law is not applicable, and so God does not hold men responsible for transgressing or disobeying it or punish them according to the law's prescription. Death reigned nevertheless, because sin reigned. Moreover, there were at least two notable acts of judgement, one on the whole world in the days of Noah and the other on Sodom and Gomorrah -- both set forth as types of the judgement to come upon the whole world.

Rom 3:5,6; 2Pe 2:5-10; Jude 1:6,7

The ground of the judgement was the filling up of the measure of their iniquity: "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually". "And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is very great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it which is come unto me." So the Lord's spirit would strive no more with those who had shown themselves but of flesh -- carnal in body, soul and spirit. Another Divine principle emerges here: the prelude to judgement of so signal a character by direct intervention of God, is a preaching of righteousness, and the opportunity for the individual, if not the whole community to escape. At the time of their judgement the men of Noah's day and the men of Sodom were "willingly ignorant" because they had deliberately ignored God's warning and call to repentance.

Gen 6:5; 18:20,21; 2Pe 2:5-8; 3:5

There were other "judgements", which took place in less spectacular and more "natural" ways, which Scripture nevertheless declares to be the judgement of God, notably of the nations around Israel, including their conquerors Assyria and Babylon. Here the opening chapters of Amos are instructive, for they reveal two distinct grounds of liability. Judah was punished for despising the law of the Lord, as was Israel for transgressing specific ordinances which represented the everyday observance in practice of the principles of the law: the people of the Lord did not reflect His attributes and glorify His name. The remaining nations were punished for not keeping such of their own code, the "ius gentium" or law of the nations, as was based on Divine principles. Although Gentiles have not the law of Moses, they are still subject to the dictates of their own conscience of certain Divine things which became law for them, and within those limits are judged of God accordingly. For, according to Rom 1:16-32, God has not left Himself without witness even where the more accurate knowledge of His purpose is not understood, although it took the preaching of the Gospel to throw up into relief the full scale of the wrath of God. To this witness the Apostles appealed to introduce their preaching of the Gospel in places where a knowledge of the prophetic witness could not be assumed. For example, at Lystra the appeal was to the witness of the Divine provision of "food and gladness", in Athens to the absolute dependence of man upon the God of all creation.

Amo 1:3-2:8; Acts 14:15-17; 17:23-28

So God has judged the world, and will do so again, on the principle that "the whole world lieth in wickedness", the distinction between the future judgement and all those in the past being that there is "the day of the Lord", "the wrath to come", which is the consummation of judgement, signifying the inauguration of the new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness: it will be "the day of judgement and perdition of ungodly men".

2Pe 3:7-8

Who as individuals will escape this judgement of the world at large we cannot say, since it is one of the things which the Father hath put in His own power. Noah survived because he found grace in the Lord's sight and Lot because his soul was righteous; and we know that there will be nations purged of rebels to form the population of the Kingdom of God. There were those in the past who lived out their mortal life, involved in the general condemnation of the human race and sharing its ills, then died to wake no more. In the coming judgement all on the scene will share in the tune of trouble, which would cause all flesh to perish if the days were not shortened for the elect's sake; but we have no means of knowing the reasons why this or that man not of God's famiIy will escape. We rest upon the assurance that the Judge of all the earth will do right.

Gen 18:25

The Judgement Seat of Christ

Turning now from the "general judgement" to the judgement in particular, we consider those who have sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, and deal with what we may call a closer relationship to Divine judgement, one more personal and well-defined. In one sense Adam's transgression was unique, since it took place with no previous history of transgression or propensity to sin. It was also unique in its far-reaching consequences: it involved mankind as a whole. But personal responsibility to God based upon an explicit command and a relationship with Him is not unique, and the whole question of personal judgement and salvation is connected with it. For his transgression in the garden, the judgement upon the individual Adam was death, a natural extinction after a lifetime of decay. Any relationship he could have to the ultimate purpose of God arose therefore only because of a new factor introduced after his transgression -- the hope of salvation. This concerned his life outside the garden. Here he was on the same terms as all his descendants: by nature prone to sin, under condemnation (that is, sentence)of death and responsible to Divine command and therefore judgement according to the degree of his knowledge. Since his knowledge and the Divine commandment now concerned eternal life, that is, were related to ultimate salvation from death on the basis of God's covenant, then his further responsibility to judgement was also related to the time of consummation yet future.

The men of Nineveh

Before we pursue this question of salvation righteousness by faith and the judgement related thereto, we turn aside briefly to consider the case of Nineveh, which according to Christ has a bearing upon this judgement to come. The men of Nineveh are the most completely documented case of a nation other than Israel who had a prophet of God sent with an explicit message of doom and condemnation which was in effect a preaching of repentance. They could not have refused that message without deliberately transgressing a commandment. They did repent, however, and escaped, not the universal condemnation to death, but the threatened judgement upon the city itself. They are cited by Jesus as an example of the ground upon which the rejecters of his word in his day would be condemned at the judgement of the last day. The king and rulers of Nineveh received and obeyed a commandment to repent as preached by a prophet. What would be the fate of those who deliberately transgressed by refusing to accept the Son of God?

Jon 3:2-10; Mat 12:41

Now the Lord in this passage categorically states: "The men of Nineveh shall stand up ("anastesontai") in the judgement with this generation, and shall condemn it." Although the verb for "to stand up" is used frequently of natural rising to perform normal tasks, it is also regularly used for the standing up of resurrected ones, eg in seven out of eight occurrences in John's Gospel. Of 42 occurrences of the related noun "anastasis", it is only once used not explicitly of the resurrection of the dead, including two or three times of restoration to natural life. The idea that Ninevites will be present on judgement day is a difficult one, but in view of the Lord's personal statement, it would be bold in the extreme to affirm positively that his meaning was merely symbolic. The principle is clearly stated either way.

In Christ

"As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shill all be made alive." Here we return to the twofold theme of "the one man": the one through whose righteousness grace and life abounded just as through another's transgression sin entered and death came upon all. It is important to grasp Paul's meaning in this passage in 1Co 15, since its bearing on the question of resurrection is fundamental. The whole chapter is concerned not with a mere coming out of the grave, an "anastasis" which is of itself neutral as regards acceptance in judgement, but with resurrection to life eternal, which is the sense of the expression "raised incorruptible". He is not dealing in this chapter with the question of resurrection to condemnation, and makes no more than a brief allusion to the Epicurean philosophers' denial of it in verse 32. Their doctrine was that dead men never rise again and there is therefore nothing to fear from a judgement to come; so there is no need for restraint upon self-indulgence: "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die" (cf. Acts 17:32). Paul's word for "made alive" in v 22 is "zoopoieo", to quicken, a term certainly not applicable to "the resurrection of condemnation". His sense is not "all those in Adam die, but only those in Christ ever come to life again"; but "just as death is certain for all the seed of Adam, so eternal life is assured for all who are Christ's." The context again demands that for "in Christ" we do not read "all who have ever been baptized into Christ's name", but "all they who are truly Christ's" (v 23), whether they "wake or sleep" at his coming.

This word "quickened", "made alive", in this important chapter about the resurrection of the body to eternal life, the putting on of incorruption and the bearing of the image of the heavenly, reminds us of our earlier discovery: that in the process of deliverance from sin's bondage the curse of physical death is the last to be removed from Christ's servants (1Co 15:26,54). Long ago the spiritually dead first heard the voice of the Son of God, for the last Adam was made the quickening spirit, and those that heard lived, and passed from death unto life. The hour is close upon us when all those that are in the graves (and John's "all" is obviously "all without distinction" and not "all without exception", as the context shows in relation to those listening) shall hear the call to come forth; though those to be quickened unto everlasting life will be only those that have done good. This will be the consummation of the great salvation initiated when the Holy One of God reconciled us by his death that we might be saved by his life.

1Co 15:26,54; John 5:24-29; Rom 5:10

From Death to Life

The contrast between the state of life "in Adam", its pain and frustration, its degradation and corruption of body, soul and spirit, with the blessedness of being "in Christ" enjoyed even now, is beautifully emphasised in the powerful words of Eph 2:1-9. To appreciate the full force of the cumulative effect of the Apostle's thought, we set it out phrase by phrase, clause by clause, with the verb "quickened" reserved as Paul reserved it until the climax of v. 5. Then, and only then, is the tension, produced by our realisation of our natural state, relieved by the words "But God who is rich in mercy", and those who were dead are made alive:

"And you who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others: But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus..."
Let us ponder this well; and, beginning however dimly to comprehend the distinction between the life of the flesh and the life of the Spirit, ponder also how we shall escape if we neglect so great salvation.

For man's redemption is costly, being wrought only by the precious blood of Christ, called "the blood of the everlasting covenant", since in his death alone the promise of God from the beginning to justify men by faith and grant everlasting life was sealed, and in his resurrection confirmed. The atonement, according to its Hebrew definition, is a covering, and in Greek a reconciliation. Both ideas are exactly represented in the coats of skins which the Lord God provided for the man and his wife according to Gen 3:21, where they are associated with the symbols of His presence. The Divinely appointed garment covered the nakedness of sin for which man's device had proved ineffective, and it enabled man to approach the presence of God where hitherto he had been ashamed. It stopped short of being so complete a reconciliation that expulsion from the garden was avoided, since it pointed to something which could provide more than a ritual sanctification. That the garment was ceremonial and symbolic is seen in the relative rarity of the word for coat here ("kethoneth"), reserved for Adam's coat, Joseph's coat, the linen garment essential to the priest's service, and the symbol of chastity for a king's daughter. It symbolised the blessedness of him "whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered... the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity". It spoke also of the shedding of blood in sacrifice and was connected therefore with the place of propitiation, or meeting place between God and man. This is the literal meaning of "hilasterion", "propitiation" in Rom 3:25; it is translated "mercy seat" in Heb 9:5.

1Pe 1:18-21; Heb 13:20; Gen 37:3; Exo 28:4; 2Sa 13:18,19; Song 5:3; Psa 32:1,2; Rom 4:6-8

The Blood of the Covenant

In view of the possible misunderstanding over the shedding of blood in sacrifice, it is well that we do not mistake the shadow for the substance, or seek to impose upon the one great sacrifice in which altar, offering and priest are all one, all the details of temporary ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. We have to ask why the shedding of blood was necessary and why the blood of Christ is able to reconcile God and man.

Rom 5:9,10

The answers lie in the nature of sin and transgression, since blood of itself has no cleansing power, even though almost all things were by the law purged with blood and without shedding of blood there is no remission. The wages of sin is death, and a sacrifice was both a declaration that this was so and an acknowledgement of the righteousness of God in punishing the guilty. Sin entered the world through faithlessness, in dishonouring the word of God; righteousness, therefore, could only be by faith, and for men with propensities to sin faith lay in believing that God would forgive and in seeking to be obedient to all God required of those who would draw nigh. God set forth Christ, "to be a place of propitiation ("hilasterion"), through faith in his blood, to shew his righteousness, because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; for the shewing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus."

Rom 3:25-26

The very repetition of sacrifice and offering for sin under the old covenant proclaimed their inadequacy; they could not take away the condemnation of the race. This could be done only by one whose relationship to the race was comparable to that of Adam's whose perfect obedience would involve men in its consequences as Adam's sin had in its condemnation. He had to be one subject to death, suffering the consequences of sin in the world, but also to be one personally innocent of sin so that he could be raised from the dead, that men who associated themselves with him in his death, could be justified by their faith in a risen Lord. He took away sin by the sacrifice of himself because, though of identical nature with those who sin, he resisted the propensity even unto death. The very act of sacrifice was necessary to bring about his final triumph over sin. "The blood of Christ", therefore, is a phrase which comprehends all these elements of his sacrifice, and it cleanses because all those who "put on Christ" by baptism are clothed with a perfect righteousness, though not their own. Though still of Adamic nature, they become God's children, having received the spirit of adoption which entitles them to cry Christ's own words, "Abba, Father". This change of status -- "being brought nigh by the blood of Christ" -- is marked by the forgiveness of their personal sins. Their transgression is covered and their sin not imputed. God is both just and the justifier of all who believe in Jesus. The blood is the blood of the everlasting covenant, since from the beginning and in His repeated promises of a seed and of everlasting life, God had declared His intention to seal, in the death for sin of His innocent Son, the new covenant that "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more" -- the new covenant in his blood.

Rom 4:25; 8:15; Mark 14:36, Gal 4:6; Eph 2:13; 1Jo 1:7, Rom 3:26; Heb 8:8-12; Mark 14:24

The Likeness of Sinful Flesh

The identity of Christ's nature with ours cannot be over-emphasised, in view of the declaration that he came "in the likeness of sinful flesh" and that he was "a partaker of flesh and blood". To attempt closer definition is to range over phrases of which Scripture knows nothing, and which need to be fenced immediately against misunderstandings inherent in them. His sacrifice was an essential part and the culmination of his perfect obedience and his death the only means of his own deliverance from a nature with the inherent possibility of sinning. The true meaning of Christ's sacrifice can best be appreciated by a careful study of Heb 10:4-10:

"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me; In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me), to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
Equally important is it to emphasise that being unique in that he was the only begotten Son of God, he was born "a holy thing", and that there was no alienation corresponding to that produced by ignorance, wicked works, or estrangement from the covenants of promise he came to confirm. And we must balance that cry wrung from his lips when he felt utter desolation and horror at the reality of death: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?", with the fact that the Father heard the prayers of His Son, offered with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him out of death. He was heard in that he feared.

Mat 27:46; Phi 2:8; Heb 5:7, RV mg.

The Revelation of God's Wrath

The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation since it reveals the righteousness of God. We must not forget, however, that it reveals the wrath of God also and the certain judgement of those who, when light is come into the world, prefer darkness to light because their deeds are evil. It is not that those who are enlightened may choose whether to accept what God offers or not and merely forfeit the chance of eternal life if they decide to reject. Conscious rejection is not a neutral attitude, but a deliberate transgression of a commandment, and like Adam's transgression, subject to a specific and individual judgement.

Rom 1:17,18; John 3:16-19

For the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ marked a turning-point in the relations between God and man, with the most profound consequences in the matter of judgement and responsibility Previously, as we have seen, God had held men and nations in general responsible and judged them, according to their degree of privilege and enlightenment, with a judgement apparently related to this life only. Israel indeed were judged as the nation whom God had known "of all the families of the earth", but other nations according to a more general principle; although as we have seen, particular judgements were indicted or remitted if there had been a "preaching of righteousness" to be rejected or accepted. In the context of the "last times" of the Gospel era, there was for the world at large an "overlooking of times of ignorance", a "passing over of the sins done aforetime in the forbearance of God" and a "suffering of all nations to walk in their own ways". The burden of the apostolic message, however, was "but (God) now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead." This command is thus clearly linked in Paul's preaching both with resurrection and with judgement to come.

Rom 3:25, RV; Acts 17:30-31

Deliberate Transgression

It is granted, of course, that we have no means of telling what in our day constitutes an effective preaching of the Gospel or at what point the apprehension of it and its personal implications call for a decisive individual response. The apostles assume in their preaching the universal appeal and benefit of the Gospel, and are simply concerned with its acceptance or rejection on the part of those who have understood their message. Having said that, however, and having fully grasped that rejection of the Gospel is a transgression of a specific Divine commandment, we cannot but be impressed by the weight of the Scripture testimony as to the consequences, and to the fact that these consequences are likely to be more far-reaching than we may at first have imagined. Salvation and life eternal have personal and individual implications related to a time yet future. The implications of willful rejection of them can only be related to that same time: and, like Felix when Paul "reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgement to come", we tremble at the thought of our own responsibility.

"Unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, (shall be) indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil" (Rom 2:8,9).

"For which things sake (the works of our members upon earth) the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience" (Col 3:6, cf with v 4).

"The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit 2:11-13).

"I charge thee therefore, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom" (2Ti 4:1).

"It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord" (2Th 1:6-9).

"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation...?" (Heb 2:3).

"If we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth... a certain fearful looking for of judgement." We have "trodden under foot the Son of God" and "counted the blood of the covenant... an unholy thing" (Heb 10:26-31).
The Gentiles who "think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you... shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead" (1Pe 4:3-5). {All ambiguity about the meaning of this passage vanishes when the Greek text is consulted. The verb "shall give account" is in the 3rd person plural, relating to "they" and not to "you".}

Tribulation, vengeance and judgement were threatened in the NT upon men now long dead, but the reference was not the condemnation suffered by all because they were in Adam, or to any general judgement then imminent. It was the individual judgement of the "last day" to which all men must come who have understood the import of the Gospel message, whether they have received it wholeheartedly and with patient continuance, at first accepted and then turned the back or from the beginning counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing by despising the grace of God. For he who had come as a Saviour, to judge no man at that time, except in that his very righteousness convinced the world of sin, has had all judgement committed into his hands. And he has said "He that rejecteth me and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." This phrase "the last day" is found only in John's record. Five times it is used of the resurrection of the dead at the coming of Jesus. The sixth use is the one quoted here and with similar allusions in the other Gospels the phrase helps to build up a majestic and comprehensive picture of Jesus as Judge, when those who refuse him will "hereafter... see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven". It would be rash indeed to seek to minimise the power of the judgement Jesus is to exercise at his coming or to define or restrict its scope.

John 12:44-49; 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24; Mat 26:64

What is not Revealed

The precise manner and details of the judgement we cannot yet know, although the term "judgement seat of Christ" inevitably carries its own imagery in all our minds. The fact that we shall be raised "every man in his own order", which means "his own rank" and not "order of time", suggests that the procedure of judgement also could have some element of classification in it. Account must be taken, however, of the fact that at least some will have their sorrow increased by the sight of "Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and themselves thrust out". Of prime importance to us, however, are not the details, but the principles of judgement and responsibility, and the issues of our own acceptability.

1Co 15:23; Luke 13:28,29

But even though by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Shall God that justifieth? Who is he that shall condemn? shall Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, than was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us?" (Rom 8:31-34, RV with mg).

The Committee of The Christadelphian
September 1975

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