THE TRUTH ABOUT ORIGINAL SIN
'Whatever Happened to Ned?')
The Biblical claim that every member of the human race actually and consciously disobeyed God together with Adam, in the garden of Eden, is central to the Christian message. The apostle Paul describes a direct link between Adam's disobedience and the sentence of death hanging over each one of us, stating 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"
Romans 5:12, Romans 3:23
I have explained the union between Adam and the human race, and a similar union between Jesus Christ and His disciples, in my web pages entitled
People oppose this teaching for a variety of reasons. This web page, however, does not address those who oppose Christianity openly and directly. Rather, it addresses those who claim to be Christians while at the same time they deny this essential truth of the Christian faith. How do they do this? By claiming that we, as Adam's offspring, inherit the consequences of his actions without having actually sinned ourselves. They say that 'we have sin', but deny that 'we have sinned'. In other words, they drop the ...ned from the verb 'sinned', converting it into the noun 'sin'. Hence the subtitle of this web page is "
To understand this error about Adam's relationship with mankind, we must first understand the direct impact that Adam's sin had upon himself. When Adam rebelled against God, two things happened to him:
At the heart of every false explanation of our connection with Adam lies the idea that the rest of mankind has inherited either 1) the penalty or 2) the enslaving power of Adam's sin, without having actually sinned ourselves. The Bible declares that a person can only become guilty of sin, or enslaved by Sin, if he himself has chosen to disobey God (just as it occurred with Adam). This direct cause and effect relationship is proclaimed throughout the Bible, and is written in our consciences as well. To teach that Christianity contradicts these basic principles of truth and justice represents an attack upon God and His word of the darkest kind, and at the most fundamental level. Such explanations portray God as a lying judge who condemns people for sins that they have not committed, and make Him the ultimate cause of our moral bondage. That is why the apostle John condemned this heresy categorically:
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him (God) a liar, and His word is not in us.
1 John 1:10
The majority of fundamentalist evangelical Christians insist that they take the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden literally. But when confronted with the idea that they themselves were present in Eden, and that our deaths are the direct result of what each of us did in that Garden, suddenly the story of mankind's fall in Eden has less relevance for them.
Early in the history of the Christian church a man named Augustine did much to promote the idea that God is responsible for mankind's problems. Augustine taught the concept of inherited sinfulness, or 'Hereditary Depravity'; that we did not sin with Adam, but that God set things up so that the Sin within Adam's body would be inherited by the rest of the human race through biological reproduction. Augustine promoted this idea because there is a Bible verse that seems to imply it:
Behold, I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
David's Psalm 51:5
Since Augustine believed that David's existence began at the moment of conception, he concluded that the Sin within his body must have come from somebody else (Adam), and that it must have been passed down to him through his mother. Of course if this is true, then God was ultimately responsible for the presence of Sin in David's body, because He created a situation where one person's sinfulness could be inherited by someone else. As I have pointed out however (in my web page titled
Augustine's mistake was two-fold. First, he ignored the explicit statement of God's word that when Adam sinned, we all sinned. Secondly, Augustine leaned upon his human intellect to replace the word of God. Augustine was a scholar, philosopher and debater skilled in rhetoric. He was extensively trained in Greek thought and logic. Many of his ideas represent an attempt to reconcile the Bible with the philosophy of his day. Ultimately his mistake was to exalt the philosophy of man over the word of God and the testimony of his conscience. Augustine rejected the warning of the apostle Paul:
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
The Bible likens this idea, of Adam handing down his sinfulness to his offspring, in terms of a parent eating sour grapes and the children's teeth being set on edge. God says that this is not an accurate description of His ways, or of our relationship with Adam:
The word of the Lord came unto me again, saying "What mean you, that you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'?" "As I live", says the Lord God, "you shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are Mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is Mine: the soul that sins, it shall die".
Ezekiel 18:1-4 (see also Jeremiah 31:29-30)
Augustine is one of the founding fathers of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). The RCC calls him one of the 'Doctors' of the church, and much that Augustine taught is foundational to Roman Catholicism. Because Rome believes that a person's primary problem is inherited depravity, it focuses on dealing with that issue. Rome defines salvation as deliverance from hereditary depravity, and the living of a holy life as the result of that deliverance. Holiness is obviously something to be desired, but is Rome correct in its understanding of the problem, and the solution for it?
The RCC teaches that an infant can be 'born again' through baptism by a Catholic priest (see the subheading 'Sacramentalism' in
It is around this very question, regarding the nature of our involvement in Adam's sin, that Rome has gone astray. Our involvement in Adam's sin was a matter of personal choice. Therefore regeneration (being born again) must also be a matter of personal choice, and must wait until a child is able to understand his sin, judge himself for it, and to come directly to Christ in the pursuit of reconciliation with God. As I shall point out later in this web page, a little child is capable of genuine repentance and faith because, as a person absolutely dependent upon others, he can appreciate mankind's original mistake of not trusting Almighty God. Jesus made it clear that little children are very capable of understanding spiritual truth, and that they should be accorded the utmost dignity by His people (for further information on the RCC, see
Two other errors (beside infant baptism) flow out of Rome's error concerning our involvement in Adam's sin. First of all, the RCC teaches that if people are not in a right relationship with God when they die, they will receive a second chance to get rid of (purge) their sins in a place called 'Purgatory'. Once these sins have been purged, they can move up to heaven. Secondly, Rome teaches that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was born without any sinfulness. This idea is called the 'immaculate conception' of Mary ('immaculate' meaning spotless, or sinless). It is Rome's basis for the worship of Mary.
Both of these doctrines have their roots in a single false belief; that none of us truly sinned in Eden. In accepting this erroneous view, Roman Catholics are led to reach two logical conclusions:
Rome claims that Mary has remained a sinless virgin ever since and has deified her, elevating her to a level of worship equal to Christ. Many expect that Rome will soon proclaim Mary as a co-Mediator and co-Redeemer of mankind along with Jesus. Rome has done all of this despite the fact that 1) there is not a single mention of Mary's sinlessness in the Bible, 2) Mary called God her Savior in Luke 1:47, and 3) the Bible refers to Jesus' brothers repeatedly, even naming them, and refers to His sisters as well (hence denying Mary's perpetual virginity, Matthew 13:55-56).
Rome's false doctrines are leading millions of people astray, causing them to worship and trust in a human being (Mary) instead of God, and to enter into eternity with the false hope that they will have another chance to get right with God in Purgatory. Not only does Rome err on these points, but she also makes huge amounts of money through the promotion of Mary-worship, and by selling "Masses for the Dead" that supposedly free people from Purgatory. God's word is clear on these subjects:
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven (other than Jesus Christ) given among men, whereby we must be saved.
It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.
Because Rome has subverted God's word and sold her religious influence for money throughout the world, God describes her as "the mother of whores, and of the abominations of the earth" (Revelation 17:5).
The simple fact is that we all die because each of us was literally and consciously present in the Garden of Eden, and committed the exact same act that Adam did, in union with him. That being the case, the reason that people are born enslaved to Sin is not because our parents have passed this condition on to us, but because we ourselves chose it when we disobeyed God in Eden. Therefore, the correct conclusions concerning purgatory and Mary are these:
A just God would never create a world in which one person can physically pass sinfulness on to another. Such an idea is abhorrent to Him, and contradicts His word. Jesus clearly taught that the person who commits sin becomes a slave of sin, not the child of such a person (John 8:34). The doctrine of 'Hereditary Depravity' is a falsehood and a twisting of the scriptures.
With the coming of the Protestant Reformation, a new view of mankind's relationship with Adam was proposed. Rather than describe our problem as sinfulness inherited physically from Adam, the Reformers taught that there is an even greater disconnect between Adam and ourselves. The Reformers taught that Adam acted as our representative in Eden, having been appointed by God to act in our place. God then simply 'imputed' Adam's choice to each one of us afterward, charging each of us with his crime and condemning each one of us to death.
This concept is known as the 'Representative' or 'Federal' headship of Adam. Although there are a number of justifications that Protestants give for this doctrine, the ultimate one is based upon the 'sovereignty' of God; that God, in His infinite wisdom and majesty as Creator of the universe, can do whatever He wishes and no one should question His judgment. God's supposed wisdom in falsely accusing all of us was that by imputing sin to innocent people, He would someday be able to impute righteousness to wicked people. But this supposed 'logic' is invalid, because it portrays God as an unjust Judge:
He that justifies the wicked, and he that condemns the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.
To understand why the Reformers invented the 'Representative Headship' of Adam, one must realize that they were reacting to Rome rather than listening to God. Rome had produced a 'slavish legalism'. Having embraced the false doctrine of Hereditary Depravity, and the claim that her priests had supernatural powers to fix this depravity (through Rome's sacraments), Rome found it necessary to push for 'holiness' within all of its church members; in order to prove that Rome's teaching was correct and its sacramental solution for the problem effective.
Rome was in essence giving people 'Superman costumes' and telling them that they could leap over tall buildings (morally and spiritually speaking). At the same time Rome used a sense of guilt to extract ever more money and service from its followers. Rome had the trappings of the 'Christian' religion, and used many of the same terms found in the Bible, but in reality her followers had no real resource for holiness except their knowledge of right and wrong. Beneath the outward facade of Christianity, Rome's way was the way of Adam in Eden; justification through the works of the Law (see
Many of the Reformers were raised as Roman Catholics, and struggled tremendously to achieve righteousness in Rome's way. Luther was a Catholic priest and was zealous in his efforts to be holy, as a great many Catholics are today. But he experienced profound frustration and heartache as he wrestled with indwelling Sin, trying to achieve the moral purity that Rome claimed was possible through its sacraments. When God's light finally broke into his life, he joyfully shouted the liberating truth from the housetops; that salvation from the penalty and power of sin does not come through Rome, but directly from Christ Himself, and is God's free and gracious gift to every person who acknowledges his sins and comes directly to God, embracing salvation in Christ alone.
In response to Rome's slavish legalism, rather than revisit Augustine's false claim that our problems flow out of God's sovereignty, the Reformers decided to double down on Rome's error, taking Augustine's decision to blame God for our circumstances to a whole new level. In order to escape the emphasis upon subjective experience inherent in Rome's doctrine of inherited depravity, the Reformers rested the issues of condemnation and justification upon something that is wholy apart from anything that we actually do or experience; the 'imputed' sin of Adam and 'imputed' righteousness of Christ. But in their misguided effort to correct the error of Rome, the Reformers threw the 'baby' of God's truthfulness and justice out with the 'bathwater' of Roman error.
To be fair, the entire Protestant Reformation did not embrace the 'representative headship' of Adam. There were two separate streams of thought among Protestants: Calvinists and Arminians.
Calvinists retained much that was central to Roman Catholicism. They continued to embrace Augustine and the doctrine of Hereditary Depravity. Many also continued to practice infant baptism. In addition many supported the union of church and state, and the involvement of Christians in war. It was the Calvinists, with their emphasis upon the sovereignty of God, who invented the claim that God had chosen to impute Adam's sin to the human race, and Christ's righteousness to 'the elect'. For the Calvinist, this position represented a great bulwark against Roman Catholicism.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
The simple fact is that it is only within the context of our real moral freedom and responsibility that any person closes with Christ in salvation, or perseveres in Christ to eternal life.
I once heard a Reformed Baptist pastor try to justify the imputation of Adam's sin by claiming that Adam was as capable a man as ever lived. He said that if Adam could not resist Satan's temptation in Eden, then none of the rest of us would have either. There is a fatal flaw in this logic, however. Whether or not we choose to sin has nothing to do with our capabilities; it is a 'personal' decision. A child with Down Syndrome can recognize God's moral claims and respond appropriately, while a rocket scientist can despise God and persist in doing evil. God does not allow us to be tempted above our ability to resist. That is one of the moral principlesl of His government:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13
And a voice came out of the throne, saying "Praise our God, all you His servants, and you that fear Him, both small and great.
And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God. And the books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Reformed Theologians think they have everything all tied up in a nice little package. Of course when you challenge a Reformed Theologian with Jesus' statement that a person cannot see or enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he has been 'born again' (John 3), he is stymied. When you ask him if the new birth is imputed, or is a subjective reality, he is either silent, or he mumbles something about the new birth referring to sanctification, while justification stems solely from imputation.
The problem that Reformed theologians have with the new birth and 'subjective experiential Christianity' points out their problem; they have provided intellectual answers to deeply personal and practical problems. Their solution is just as useless as the 'Superman suit' that Rome supplies. The Bible distinguishes between justification and sanctification, but they both flow out of the same thing; a 'new-birth' in Christ. Everything that can be received from God is obtained through a real, vital union with His Son; not through some fiction in the mind of a Reformed theologian:
And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life.
1 John 5:11-12
Because they have placed greater emphasis upon reacting to Rome than upon obeying God's word, many Protestants have actually moved farther away from the truth than Rome has. They have yielded the moral high ground to Rome, because she has been correct in insisting that 'a Christian is as a Christian does'. This is one of the reasons that Protestant churches are so cold today, and why so many Protestants are turning to Rome in search of a more meaningful, lively and morally relevant Christianity. This explains the popularity of Rick Warren's 'purpose driven' Christianity as well. Instead of correcting Rome's errors, the Reformers threw the baby of subjective, experiential Christianity (along with its real practical holiness) out with the Roman bath water.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.
Little children, let no man deceive you: he that does righteousness is righteous, even as He (God) is righteous.
1 John 3:7
Reformation theologians have used an important Biblical truth, that God sometimes causes the children of wicked people to suffer, in order to justify their doctrine of Adam's Representative Headship. This concept is clearly presented in God's word, where it describes Him as visiting the sins of the parents upon their children. The experience of the Jewish people over the past 1900+ years, after their forefathers' rejection of Christ and persecution of Christianity, is a case in point.
For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.
Exodus 20:5 (also Exodus 34:7, Numbers 14:18, Deuteronomy 5:9)
Not only do the poor choices of parents such as crime, alcoholism, gambling, and drug abuse have immediate repercussions for their children, but more flagrant sins against God can result in even more long-lasting problems. One of the maxims of the Bible is that 'God is not mocked' (Galatians 6:7). In other words, no one insults God or flagrantly breaks His laws, and gets away with it. God is jealous for the Law and His own honor, and His response to gross evil has been known to spill over upon the children of those who have been especially antagonistic toward Him. There are several examples in the Bible of people who have been either exceptionally faithful to God, or 'over the top' in their rebellion against Him, whose children have been blessed or cursed respectively as a result.
We must remember, however, that when God is 'visiting' the sin of a parent upon his children, He is always clear about it. God never allows any confusion about whose sin lies at the root of the suffering. When a parent has sinned, God says so. When a person is suffering because of his own sins, God is clear about that too. There is no reason for us to be confused about Adam's sin, and our involvement in its consequences. God's word clearly states that each one of us dies because when Adam sinned, each one of us sinned personally and individually at the same time.
It is one thing for a child to suffer as a result of a parent's sin; it is another thing to claim that God falsely accuses the child of that sin, imputing it to him. Even in the midst of visiting a parent's sins upon the children, God proclaims that any child who rejects the ways of a wicked parent will find acceptance with Him:
If, however, a wicked man begets a son that sees all his father's sins which he has done, and considers but does not do likewise, but has executed My judgments and has walked in My statutes - he shall not die for the iniquity of his father; he shall surely live!
Anyone who teaches, as I do, that all children have sinned and that death represents God's judgment upon them, will be accused of hating children and misrepresenting God. Anyone who advocates, as I do, telling children that they have sinned and that they need to come to the Savior because they are only one heartbeat away from everlasting destruction, will be accused of terrorizing them and attacking their sense of self-worth. Knowing this, I wish to set forth my position very clearly and plainly.
First of all, when we sinned in Adam we were not children; we were simply people. We were neither male nor female, young nor old, black nor white, rich nor poor. Each one of us was as fully mature, informed and capable as Adam was, and made our individual choice under the most fair and advantageous of circumstances, just as Adam did. We were truly 'one' with Adam, just as the Persons of the Trinity are 'One'.
Childhood is a phase of our physical existence after Eden. It is a necessary part of physical development, as we progress from an embryo to adulthood. It defines what we are at that point in time, but it does not define who we are. Our children may be new to us when they come into the world, but they are not 'new' to God. He has known each one of us personally ever since He placed us in the Garden, and He continues to interact with each one of us on that basis. Children are born harmless, affectionate and adorable. God has given them wonderful characteristics (beautiful smiles, liveliness and plump cheeks) that endear them to us and elicit our love, prompting us to bond with them and protect them as our Creator intended. We see this same 'loveableness' throughout the animal world, in babies of all kinds, from puppies to polar bears. Children are worthy of our love, and it is very important, both to them and to ourselves, that we love them with all of our might. But we must not let our love for our children blind us to who they are, or to their spiritual needs.
Secondly, I must stress at the outset that God has expressed His earnest desire to save all people as early in life as possible. He desires that every child hear and understand the Gospel (in mama and daddy's arms if possible), and be urged to repent of their sin and believe the truth. This message must be presented gently, lovingly and respectfully; not overbearingly. The Spirit-guided love that flows out of a Christian parent's heart should communicate as loudly and clearly to a child about the validity of Christianity, as any Bible verse does. God forbids parental harshness in the home. This is why Christian fathers are warned that if they are overly strong in their discipline, they can discourage their child (Colossians 3:21). Christian parents are to discipline their children with the realization that they themselves can also be disciplined by our heavenly Father, and that God's eyes are always watching how children are treated (Matthew 18:10, Hebrews 12:5-11). As we examine the scriptures we shall see that many of Jesus' most powerful words and warnings center around the subject of children, and His great desire to evangelize them. Having laid this foundation, please join me in looking at the Biblical description of children as God sees them.
The Old Testament repeatedly points out the universal sinfulness of mankind, including young people. We find the first indication of this in the book of Genesis, where God's thoughts about mankind before the flood, and again after the flood, reflect this fact.
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 it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at his heart. And the Lord said "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth".
And the Lord said in His heart "I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
This universality of human wickedness is reaffirmed later in the Old Testament:
The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that does good, no, not one.
For I knew that you (the people of Israel) would deal very treacherously, and were called a transgressor from the womb.
All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, every one, to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.
Lest anyone think that this universal wickedness is a learned behavior, passed on from adults to children, God lays that idea to rest:
The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent. They are like the deaf viper that stops its ear, which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming ever so wisely.
Many Christians believe that all children who die go to heaven. This perspective is based upon a misunderstanding of a famous passage in the Gospels.
And they brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them. But when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto Him and said "Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
Luke 18:15-17 (also Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16)
When Jesus said "For of such is the kingdom of God", He was not saying that all little children go to heaven. He was not saying that children are innocent (although they are 'relatively' innocent in comparison with adults). In this passage Jesus was saying two things:
The Tree of the Knowledge of Right and Wrong in the Garden of Eden represented the question of whether or not we would acknowledge God's glory, and our utter dependence upon Him (see
And He humbled you, and allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that He might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord does man live.
Deuteronomy 8:3 (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4)
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the Lord and depart from evil. It shall be health to your body, and marrow to your bones.
Little children are very aware of their own limitations, and view their parents and other adults as infallible. They are small in their own eyes, and adults loom large in their view of the world. Theirs is a humility based upon reality as well as practical necessity. If a trusted mother or father tells a little child that reindeer can fly or that the tooth fairy has come, he or she will believe it implicitly because the child trusts in the parent's love and in mama's and daddy's wisdom. This is one reason why we love our children so much; because their humility and regard for others is so devout. Children don't believe adults because they are foolish, but because they are smart. Likewise faith in God is not the product of a foolish mind, but of a sound mind that acknowledges God and has rightly concluded that trusting Him implicitly is the smartest thing that a person can do:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments: His praise endures for ever.
As children enter into adolescence they begin to question everything. Many parents perceive this newfound independence as a turn to 'the dark side', but it is not; it is a part of the child's metamorphosis into adulthood. Questioning is a necessary part of our transition from dependence to independence. Young people must know why they believe what they believe if they are to make it in the 'real world'. Truth-testing is an intellectual survival skill. While young people may exhibit increasing wickedness as they grow older, challenging accepted thought is not necessarily a part of that. Faith in God does not come out of childhood indoctrination, but from independent conclusions that each one of us must reach for ourselves.
When Jesus said 'Let the children come to me', He was encouraging child evangelism; indicating that children are fully capable of repentance and faith. The fact that children are humble is very much in their favor where the question of conversion is concerned. Because they understand the necessity of trusting those who are wiser, they can readily understand the foolishness of not trusting God. So when they are told that death is the result of their own past refusal to believe God, and that the idea of achieving righteousness through a knowledge of right and wrong is false, they can readily understand.
My interpretation of Luke 18:15-17 (above) is confirmed by a passage in Matthew 18:1-14, where Jesus set forth almost everything that He wanted to say about children. In the first 4 verses of this passage, Jesus repeated the idea that He put forth in Luke 18:
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And Jesus called a little child unto Him, set him in the midst of them, and said "Verily I say unto you, except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Again, Jesus told His disciples that they must exercise child-like humility toward God in order to enter heaven, and continue in that reverence for God if they would be great in the kingdom. As I have already mentioned, the strongest and wisest of us are mere babes in comparison to God. Failure to see ourselves in that light is a non-starter with God.
In verse 5, Jesus went on to instruct His disciples to always approach children with God in mind.
And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receives me.
In this verse, when He spoke of receiving a little child in His name, Jesus was talking about interacting with children as a Christian. Christians are to be 'ambassadors for Christ' to the world. This means approaching children with humility, with an appreciation for their preciousness to God, and in a way that glorifies Jesus in the child's sight. Whatever we do in our relationships with children, from mundane everyday interactions to sharing the Gospel with them, everything should be done with a view to glorifying Christ and bringing children closer to Him.
In verses 6-9, Jesus addressed those who do the opposite of that which is commanded in verse 5:
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! Wherefore if your hand or your foot offend you, cut them off and cast them from you: it is better for you to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if your eye offend you, pluck it out and cast it from you: it is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
Someone might think that Jesus was saying that all little children believe in Him; that their relative purity makes them all 'believers' in God's sight. This is not true, as we shall see in the following verses. Jesus was talking about a little child who has come to believe in Him through the preaching of the Gospel, and has then been led astray. Jesus was warning about the severe judgment that will fall upon those who cause young Christians to stray and perish.
In the final verses of this passage, we see how God views little children. Children are people whom God has lost, and whom He wishes to recover:
Take heed that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think you? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine and go into the mountains, and seek that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
In these final 5 verses, we find a message that is consistent with the rest of the Bible; that children are people who have sinned with Adam, and whom God is eager to save. Here we are warned not to despise children, or to think that they are incapable of genuine repentance and faith. In our materialistic world we tend to view adults and children as 'productive' and 'nonproductive' members of society respectively. God does not see us in these terms however. Children are often trampled underfoot in an adult world, but Christians are not to think or function in this manner. Children are as able to understand God and His word as adults are, and are just as capable of an intimate relationship with Him. I fully expect that some of the greatest saints in the kingdom of heaven will be children who came to Christ at an early age, and died before they ever had a chance to progress beyond childhood.
I once read the biography of a Baptist evangelist named John R. Rice. Rice had come to genuine repentance and faith in Christ at a very young age, but his parents could not believe it. In their minds true conversion required greater maturity. Somehow Rice had come to clearly understand his need for the Savior during his tender years, and he had been able to pray to Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit. But it would be several more years before anyone took him seriously. How common this is. The fields are white and ready for harvest in so many nurseries, but many Christian adults either don't believe that little children need to be saved, or that they can be saved.
Beyond this failure in the church, the world at large does everything within its power to thwart the proclamation of the Gospel to children. This begins by hiding the true meaning of death from them. The world claims that it is merely looking out for the child's interests, and that no decent God would pass a sentence of death upon a child. It insists that maintaining a child's self-esteem represents the essence of proper nurturing. Self-worth is a central principle of the Biblical message; the worth of each one of us as a human soul is immeasurable. Self-esteem, however, represents the very seed from which every evil in the universe has sprung:
How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. I will be like the most High." Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
I once heard a Baptist pastor give a sermon against abortion. He rightly described the wickedness of it. He then went on, however, to state that there is a silver lining to this great crime. He said that all of the infants that have been aborted will go to heaven forever. My first, mocking response to his statement was 'Great! Let's abort as many as we want to! What crime is there in it? We are sending them to heaven, and delivering them from all the temptations and possible damnation that might result from a life here on earth. Those who abort their unborn children need not mourn for them or feel guilt; they should be praised for it.'
My second response is 'This is grave error'. It is a fundamental denial that all have sinned, and that death is God's response to our sin. Evangelicals have taken Jesus' statement that the Kingdom of Heaven "belongs to such as these", and have understood Jesus to say that all children go to heaven. This is untrue (as I have discussed and explained above). This belief is unscriptural, and withholds critically important truth from children. Furthermore, teaching that children are innocent until they reach an age of 'moral accountability' may prompt parents to withhold moral truths from their children, in an instinctive attempt to keep them 'innocent' longer.
The belief that children have no real guilt directly contradicts God and deprives them of the opportunity to close with God at the earliest possible age. It also sets up a fictional Christianity, where children and parents are both given false assurance about the child's future, because the child has been encouraged to pray the 'sinner's prayer' and 'give his heart to Jesus' without truly understanding God's word. This is a process that I refer to as 'the Baptist sacrament'. It is a sacrament that is just as meaningless as the baptism of infants, and just as deceptive, because it withholds real scriptural truth from families, and deprives them of the opportunity to truly address the issues that stand between themselves and God.
Children know instinctively what death is about, and they want to see whether or not their parents and their pastor understand it as well, and are willing to be forthcoming with them about it. They can smell a fake, and can tell when adults are handing them nonsense. When they are given falsehood and empty religious rites, they inevitably end up disrespecting their parents, their pastor, and their church, because they couldn't help them with the most important and fundamental issue of life; death, and how to overcome it. Pastors and parents must teach and model a Christianity that really works. Their children may not choose to subscribe to Christianity, but such pastors and parents will have fulfilled their responsibility before God to properly inform their children about the truth.
BACK TO EDEN
When God placed Adam and Eve in Eden, He warned them that if they ate from the forbidden Tree, and learned right from wrong, they would die on that very same day:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.
However, Adam and Eve did not die on the day when they disobeyed God. In their desire to explain this contradiction and defend the honor of God and His word, many Christians teach than Adam and Eve died 'spiritually' on the day that they sinned; but the Bible says nothing about 'spiritual death'. One of the proof verses that Christians quote regarding this so-called 'spiritual death' is found in Ephesians:
And you has He (God) quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.
According to this view, Paul is supposedly telling these Ephesians that before they became Christians, they were spiritually dead. But this is not what Paul was saying. Paul was writing about the new birth, where a person is first crucified with Christ and put to death (because of his "trespasses and sins") before being resurrected to a new life with Christ. Paul was simply describing the two stages of the new birth.
While it is true that a non-Christian has not experienced the new spiritual life that God offers through Christ, and so in a sense is 'dead' (or insensitive) to many spiritual things, and some non-Christians may evidence a coldness and hardness of heart toward God and their fellow man that might also might be described as 'deadness' of the soul, the non-Christian is not spiritually dead. In fact, it has been my experience that non-Christians are often more interested in and sensitive to spiritual questions and issues than many professing Christians. There is a certain haughtiness within the evangelical Christian church concerning how spiritually alive and competent they think themselves to be, and of how spiritually incompetent they think the rest of the world is. Many Christians think they are alive, when they are dead (Revelation 3:1), and think they can remove specks from others' eyes when they don't see the planks in their own (Matthew 7:3-5).
My reader may feel that this discussion is too 'hair-splitting' and abstract, but it is important to define death Biblically. Death is a judgment pronounced by God, not a condition, and the Bible clearly defines it. Although they did not die on the day that they sinned, God did pronounce a sentence of death upon Adam and Eve that day:
In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, until you return unto the ground; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.
God pronounced a sentence of destruction upon Adam and Eve; they would struggle every day for the rest of their lives to avoid death, finally losing that battle and returning to the material earth from which they were taken. It was a sentence not only pronounced upon Adam and Eve, but also upon every one of us who existed within Adam, and committed the same act of sin with him. This sentence of simple destruction is referred to later in the Bible as the 'first death'.
As I have mentioned, Adam and Eve did not die on that day that they sinned, and the reason why is presented in Genesis:
Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
Although Adam and Eve did not die on the day that they sinned, innocent animals did die on that day, in order that Adam and Eve might be properly clothed. When Adam and Eve learned right from wrong, the first thing that they tried to do was to deal with the issue of human sexuality by making clothes for themselves out of leaves. This approach to morality is referred to in the Bible as the 'works of the Law' (see
In postponing His judgment upon mankind, allowing a sacrificial animal to die and thus purchase more time for us, God was giving many people the opportunity to hear about the promised Savior and repentantly trust Him, turning from the error of their ways. But with that postponement of judgment, God also made it possible for people to despise His warnings and His mercy, and to pursue further warfare against Him. And so while God made salvation possible for man, He also made it possible for people to bring greater punishment upon themselves. It was because of these two potentials, for saving grace and for greater damnation, that God established a spiritual realm where human souls would be kept after death, referred to as Sheol in the Old Testament, and as Hades or Hell in the New Testament. Instead of judging and destroying all of us completely and at once, as we deserved, God's grace and forbearance made it necessary to preserve our souls (after death) for a second judgment.
The word 'hell' is an English term meaning 'the hidden or covered place'. It refers to the unseen world where people go when they die. It is the word that the English translators used for the Greek word 'Hades', which is found in the original Greek versions of the New Testament. The word 'Hades' refers to this same unseen realm. Most people think of Hell as a place of punishment, and for that reason I will use the word 'Hades' instead.
When God first established Hades (Hell), this was not completely true. It was the place where all souls went after death, whether righteous or unrighteous. This was the case throughout human history until the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished His sacrificial death upon the cross. Before Jesus died, righteous people who died had to wait in a part of Hades called 'Paradise' or 'Abraham's Bosom', unable to go up to heaven and enter the presence of God until Christ's atonement for their sins had been accomplished. The wicked awaited the final judgment of God in a place of punishment called 'Torments'. Jesus described this initial two-part nature of Hell in His story of the rich man and Lazarus:
And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame." But Abraham said "Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things. But now he is comforted, and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they which would pass from here to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from there."
Jesus taught that the wicked suffer physical torment in Hades, even though they have no bodies. Hades is not some long vacation where souls sleep or wait around to see what their eternal fate will be. Nor is Hades the final residence of the wicked. That is a place called the Lake of Fire, which I will describe in the next section.
It is intriguing to wonder what would have happened to all of those people in Hades, as well as to the living on earth, if the Lord Jesus had decided against dying on the Cross. What would have been our fate? I believe that God's judgment would have reverted back to the punishment He pronounced in Eden. The righteous would have had their hopes extinguished in destruction, and the wicked would have had their suffering end in that same destruction. But alas, that is not the case. Because He poured out His soul unto death and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12), Jesus was able to make His Father's plan a reality.
The story of Joseph's life in prison (Genesis 40) is a picture of Jesus' accomplishment. Because of his faithfulness when treated like a criminal (even though he was innocent), Joseph was empowered by God to announce forgiveness to the butler and destruction to the baker. So also the Lord Jesus entered into Hades after His death, proclaiming salvation to the faithful and certain eternal judgment to the wicked. As they were both dying, Jesus told the thief next to Him that they would be together in Paradise (the righteous side of Hades, Luke 23:43) that same day; and so they were.
Today when a faithful Christian dies, he does not go to Hades. Paradise has moved, and is now in heaven with God. We see this in the statements of the apostle Paul about his own expectation of life after death, and in other new Testament references which describe Paradise as being with God:
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord (For we walk by faith, not by sight). We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted by Him.
2 Corinthians 5:6-9
How that he (Paul) was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
2 Corinthians 12:4
He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
The Bible describes a connection between death and hell. Death is the destruction of the physical body, and Hell is the place where the soul of the non-Christian goes after physical death, to await the final judgment of God. The Bible describes a day where death, Hell and all those who have been waiting in Hell will be cast into 'The Lake of Fire'. This Lake of Fire is called 'the Second Death':
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Although Jesus depicted Hades as a place of flames and torment in Luke 16:24, He also referred to a fiery judgment which He called 'Gehenna'. Gehenna means 'Valley of Hinnom'. This valley was a ravine on the south side of Jerusalem where dead bodies, sewage, garbage and all other kinds of refuse were thrown. Many of these things were set on fire as a means of disposal, and the fires burned continually. And so Jesus used the perpetual burning of this filth as a picture of God's coming destruction of the wicked. The Valley of Hinnom was especially appropriate as a symbol of God's judgment because, several hundred years before Christ came, the Jews had set up an altar to the pagan god Molech in this valley, and had burned their children alive as sacrifices to it. Thus Gehenna was a valid reminder that there are some people who will indeed deserve to burn forever.
Unfortunately the authors of the King James Bible translated Jesus' word 'Gehenna' as 'Hell', rather than simply leaving things alone and preserving the original word that Jesus used; allowing the distinction between Hades and Gehenna to appear in the English version. Some Bible students believe that Gehenna is a reference to the Lake of Fire, whereas if Jesus had been talking about Hades, He would have used the word 'Hades'. Below are a few passages where Jesus used the word Gehenna, but where the King James version substituted the word 'Hell':
But I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother 'Raca' (meaning 'stupid' or 'empty-headed') shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say 'You fool' shall be in danger of Gehenna fire.
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.
And if your eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: it is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into Gehenna fire.
And if your hand offend you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Gehenna, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.
Jesus also used other words and phrases to describe God's final judgment:
The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
And cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone (sulfur): which is the second death.
Some have wondered whether the Lake of Fire is symbolic, or something that real people will experience with real physical bodies. The Bible indicates that we will all face God's judgment in real physical bodies, whether as Christians or non-Christians. The Bible speaks of two separate resurrections of the dead; a first resurrection of the righteous unto eternal life, and a second resurrection (1000 years later) of the unrighteous unto eternal judgment.
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father has life in Himself; so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. Marvel not at this. For the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them. And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
The apostle Paul described the resurrection of the righteous in some detail. He described it as an event where the bodies of dead Christians would be resurrected from their graves and brought up into heaven, while at the same time the bodies of living Christians would be instantly changed, also becoming immortal (indestructible) rising (being 'raptured') up into heaven:
Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?" The sting of death is Sin, and the strength of Sin is the law. But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:51-57
The second resurrection (of the unrighteous) is described in Revelation chapter 20. It is commonly referred to as the 'Great White Throne Judgment'.
And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God. And the books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
It is my personal belief that both of these resurrections will be literal and physical, and that in both cases those who are resurrected will have 'supernatural' bodies that are capable of continuing forever. For some people these bodies will be enjoyed in eternal bliss with God; for others, their bodies will enable them to be exposed to intense prolonged heat without being destroyed.
Some people object to the idea of a 'Lake of Fire', and someone burning eternally there, claiming that such a punishment is too cruel and inhumane. They claim that no good and loving God could conceive of such a thing. Jesus taught, however, that there would be varying degrees of punishment for the wicked. He warned that people would suffer in the last judgment according to the knowledge of God that they had been given, and according to the opportunities they had received to obey God during this life:
Then began He (Jesus) to upbraid the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not. "Woe unto you, Chorazin! woe unto you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And you, Capernaum, which are exalted unto heaven, shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in you, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.
Who will render to every man according to his deeds.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
There may be some who, when they read these verses, will say to themselves 'I had better do more good deeds, so that my righteousness will outweigh my sins on the day of judgment'. This approach, however, represents the 'works of the Law'; our fundamental mistake in Eden (see
The variation in judgment that Jesus described applies to Christians as well as non-Christians. The Bible warns Christians that they can ultimately fail to enter heaven, if they refuse to obey their Savior and give themselves to Him for the purpose of glorifying His salvation before others as well (see
When I say unto the wicked 'You shall surely die', and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand. Yet if you warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Again, when a righteous man does turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die: because you have not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man, that the righteous must not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also you have delivered your soul.
The Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looks not for Him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to His will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!
1 Corinthians 9:16
Wherefore we labor, that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
2 Corinthians 5:9-11
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose you, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that has said "Vengeance belongs unto Me, I will recompense" says the Lord. And again "The Lord shall judge his people". It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who secretly shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
2 Peter 2:1
Jesus described Gehenna as a place where the fires continue forever:
And if your hand offend you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Gehenna, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.
But although Jesus said that the fires of 'Gehenna' will never end, implying that it will be possible for some to burn there forever, He did not state that everyone who is cast into this fire will burn eternally. The book of Revelation describes only three beings who will burn forever and ever in the Lake of Fire:
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
The devil and the false prophet are individual persons. But as I have explained in my web page on
And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice "If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends up for ever and ever. And they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receives the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
This is not to say that there are not others who will burn eternally as well, but the Bible is very specific about Satan, the Beast and the False Prophet.
The Bible clearly states that there will be degrees of punishment for the wicked, according to our works. It presents to us a range of judgments extending from the 'first death' (our simple destruction and cessation of existence), which is the result of our sin in Eden, to an everlasting burning in a Lake of Fire and Brimstone created for Satan and those who have followed him most closely.
Given this range of judgments, I believe that when a little child dies (or someone older who has never had the physical or mental capacity to understand moral issues), he goes to a place called 'death'. The Bible not only teaches that some of the lost go to Hades, but that some go to a place called 'death':
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
I believe that 'death' is a place of 'soul-sleep'. The person residing in 'death' has not done any further good or evil after his sin in Eden, and therefore does not merit Heaven or Hades, joy or sorrow. This is the place, for instance, where the 50 million+ babies aborted in the United States since 1973 now reside (after the Roe v. Wade decision). When death 'delivers them up', they will not stand before God as infants or children, but as the fully capable persons that they were in union with Adam. I expect that they will confront, before God, those who murdered them when they were in the womb, and denied them the opportunity to hear the Gospel and become partakers of God's gracious gift of eternal life. I believe that their eternal fate will be simple destruction and the end of existence. This alone is a terrible fate to contemplate. Life is precious. We, as human beings, are precious. For anyone to perish eternally represents an unspeakable horror, but these are the wages of death about which we were all warned. How much greater shall the punishment be for those who have removed infants from the womb and destroyed them for the sake of convenience or population control.
Though my reader may reject what I am saying about children on an intellectual level, instinctively we know that this is true. This is why we cringe at any thought of harm coming to our children; we know that their very existence is threatened. We live in a schizophrenic (double-minded) world, where we insist that all children (and dogs) go to heaven, but where we recoil in horror at the prospect of our children actually dying. This is because at one level we are in denial about the truth of God's judgment, while at another level we know that death is something to be avoided at all costs. This is a spiritual schizophrenia that only repentance about sin can heal.
As I have pointed out in this web page, and in my web page on
It is important to teach our children about safety and listening to instructions. It is even more important that we teach them about death, about why each of us is exposed to it, and about how we can obtain forgiveness and eternal life by coming repentantly to the One who died to save us. Keeping our children safe is important, but it cannot compare in value to their being born again, and having the assurance that if they do die, that which awaits them on the other side of death is not to be dreaded. Again I must say, as I have pointed out above, that the new birth is not accomplished through sacraments or by pressuring our children to 'give their hearts to Jesus'. It is a matter of introducing the word of God accurately to them, praying for them, living as we should before them, and allowing the Spirit of God Himself to work with them. Some may come to Jesus early, and some later, but a false conversion is to be avoided, as it only deceives the child and sets back any real work of God in their lives. Christians don't make Christians; only God can make a Christian:
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
When one asserts that children have sinned against God, powerful emotions come to the fore for two reasons:
Satan presents himself as 'an angel of light' (2 Corinthians 11:14). Nowhere does he do this more effectively than through those who, in attacking this fundamental claim of Christianity, pretend to love and champion the interests of children. In Eden Satan seduced the human race by saying 'You shall not die' (Genesis 3:4). Now he continues his deception by saying that 'You have not sinned', 'Death is not what it seems', and 'You have nothing to worry about'. Satan says 'You are good, and anybody who tells you otherwise is wicked'. This 'positive view of mankind' underlies much of today's 'modern thought', and now provides justification for much of the world's hatred of Christianity.
Today's 'New Gospel', promoted by Oprah Winfrey, Marianne Williamson, Neale Donald Walsch, Robert Schuller, Barbara Marx Hubbard and others, teaches that God is in all of us, that each of us is God, and that to suggest that we are separated from God or that we should fear Him represents an assault upon the dignity and 'civil rights' of the human soul. This 'New Christianity' promotes the oneness of mankind (something that is actually true), but fails to address the overriding question: which of the two 'mankinds' should we be 'one' with? The first (in Adam) or the second (in Jesus Christ)? They would insist that we have never been one with anyone but Christ Himself, and that all talk of us ever having been separated from God is heresy. Neale Donald Walsch's 'God' tells him that Hitler went to heaven, and that he was blessing the Jews whom he murdered, because he was freeing them to fly, like butterflies, into blissful spiritual realms. Walsch knows better, as do all of us. Those who embrace such darkness will deserve the condemnation they receive.
This pseudo-Christianity, and the demonic spiritual beings behind it, are already calling for the evolutionary 'selection' and extermination of all those who refuse to recant their beliefs regarding the universal sinfulness of man; claiming that such 'negative thoughts' are a cancer in mankind that must be excised before the human race can evolve onward and upward to fulfill its divine potential (see Warren Smith's free online book, Reinventing Jesus Christ, for a thorough description of this rapidly approaching world religion). This call to throw off the moral yoke of Biblical Christianity was foretold in Psalm 2, along with God's response to it:
Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Messiah (Christ), saying "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure: "Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion (Jerusalem).
I (Jesus) will declare the decree: the Lord has said unto Me "You are my Son; this day have I begotten you. Ask of Me, and I shall give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel".
Be wise now therefore, O kings. Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.
This 'man exalting, evolutionary paradigm' characterized Hitler and the Nazis, leading them to everlastingly shame themselves and Germany, and to ultimately fulfill the Bible as never before. Now Satan is again deceiving mankind with the same lies, which will ultimately lead to a worldwide holocaust making the Nazi experience pale in comparison. Mankind will indeed rise as one against Jesus Christ, viewing the 'Mark of the Beast' as the seal of a true faith, rather than a mark of rebellion, and will oppose God with all the strength they possess; but it will be put down by the bodily return of Jesus Christ to cast the Beast and the False Prophet into the Lake of Fire, ruling the nations with a rod of iron, just as the Psalmist said He will.
Personally I believe that the early church suffered greatly because it faithfully proclaimed the message that 'all have sinned'. The early church was severely persecuted and branded as 'anti-human' because of its insistence that each member of the human race was guilty and needed to repent. Because the conflict between God and Satan is centered around the claim that all have sinned, and because the battle is at its hottest around the subject of children, Christians have retreated from this truth since the ascendance of Constantine, the Roman church and Augustine. Since that time the truth of God's word has been largely obscured and suppressed. These things cannot obscure, however, the testimony of death itself. Though the church has chosen silence, the fact that each of us has sinned confronts us from the moment when we are first able to perceive death for what it is.
It is important to acknowledge that God's word can be used abusively. Many professing Christians have used fear and guilt in many evil and perverse ways, attempting to control or influence people, while supposedly serving Christ. In addition it must be admitted that many children have suffered physically and psychologically at the hands 'religious parents' and churches who have used the Bible to justify their abuse. None of this can be denied. Professing Christians who act in this way are serving Satan, bringing shame and disrepute upon God and His word, and will ultimately answer to Him for it.
It must be pointed out, however, that the use of indoctrination and false guilt is not unique to Christianity, or even to religion; it is something that human beings do across the board. Christianity cannot be nullified by its abuse, any more than the practice of medicine should be abandoned because there are 'quack doctors'. The reality of God's judgment upon all mankind speaks more clearly, and shines more brightly into each of our lives, than the foul things that false Christians do. It is like a penetrating sunshine under which the mold and bacteria of falsehood cannot survive. Those who use hypocritical Christians as an excuse for ignoring God's warnings will find out ultimately that they have only cheated themselves. Each one of us will be judged according to our works, no matter what pseudo-Christians do. God has written His law upon each of our hearts (Romans 2:15), and has also provided the means for each of us to test His claims (see
I vaguely remember the first time that I perceived the horror of death as a little boy, and confronted the fact that both I, and every person whom I would ever know, will die some day. As I recall, it centered around the death of an animal. It spoke clearly to me, in unmistakable terms, that Someone who is immortal had the power to impose mortality upon me. I knew in my heart that the Creator is righteous, and that He would never impose death upon me if there wasn't a problem in our relationship. I knew that I had done something to offend Him. Much of my subsequent life was spent in trying to ignore or deny this important truth.
The fear of death saturates our lives. Nothing affects our everyday decisions more than the possibility of death for ourselves, or for those we love. The reality of death is set like a hook within our souls, just like a hook sets itself in a fish's mouth. God wants to use that hook to bring each of us to Himself; but we run, dive, thrash and fight, doing everything within our power to spit that hook out, denying that death means what it seems to mean, and that it is speaking personally to us. Above our everyday spiritual struggle, God proclaims openly throughout the world that His Son has died in our place, and that He has now been raised from the dead, forever victorious over it. The Gospel of Jesus Christ stands as the only answer for that which most deeply concerns us, and its message has now been powerfully trumpeted into every corner of the world. Its message is simple; death is your problem, and Jesus is your answer.
Satan greatest energy is spent in denying the meaning of death. His theme has always been the same. He deceived mankind in Eden by saying that we would not die. Now, as death hangs over each of our heads, he tells us that it is not what it appears to be. He tells us that we have not sinned, and that there is no second death awaiting anybody. He tells us that a loving God would never create an eternal lake of fire for anyone. Every day we are told that death is just a new beginning, and that good things lie beyond the grave. Satan tells us to cheer up, and says that people who focus on death are morbid and dysfunctional. He saturates our lives with humorous entertainment and other frivolous distractions.
God contradicts Satan. He encourages the sober evaluation of our predicament. He tells us that a path of mourning, rather than cheerfulness, is the one that leads to life and joy. This is also why God condemns drunkenness, drug use and revelry (wild parties); they represent a denial of the seriousness of life:
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 (written by Moses)
It is better to go to the house of mourning (the funeral home), than to go to the house of feasting: for that (death) is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. Be afflicted and mourn and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.
Our choice is really between sadness now or sadness later. If we are willing to give up our gaiety and partying now, there is every chance that our sober consideration of life, death and eternity will lead us to salvation. But if we choose to ignore God's warnings, the second coming of Christ will bring a mourning for which there will be no remedy or end:
Behold, He comes with clouds and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.
In his first letter, the apostle John identified Christian orthodoxy with a proper belief in God the Father and God the Son.
Who is a liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son. Whosoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father: he that acknowledges the Son has the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you which you have heard from the beginning. If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, you also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.
1 John 2:22-24
Clearly, a proper understanding of the Father and the Son is central to Christianity. But I would submit to you that John is talking about more than the Trinity here. Orthodoxy is not only a matter of understanding Who the Trinity is, but also of understanding how the human race has been created in the image of the Trinity. John is talking about a foundational truth that explains our sin in Adam, and our potential redemption in Christ, because our union with each of these men is like the union between the Father and the Son. John is not only talking about who God is, but also about who we are, and about how Christianity works. These truths are so deeply interwoven that they cannot be separated from one another.
The apostle Paul taught that the connection between Adam and mankind was a foreshadowing of the connection between Christ and His Church. He said that Adam was a 'picture' or 'type' of the coming Savior (Romans 5:14). He also described Jesus as the 'last Adam' (1 Corinthians 15:45). Jesus has described the connection between Himself and Christians; it is like the union between Himself and His Father:
As the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats Me, even he shall live by Me.
Yet a little while and the world will see Me no more; but you will see Me. Because I live, you shall live also. At that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
That they all may be one, as you, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that You have sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one. I in them and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
It is this real union between Christ and His disciples, and a corresponding union between Adam and the entire human race, that is foundational to Christianity. To deny it, ultimately, is to deny the Father and the Son. Jesus didn't command that converts be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit only because He wanted them to understand the Trinity (Matthew 28:19), but also because it is impossible to understand the underlying reality that baptism symbolizes (union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection) without understanding the Trinity.
To my fellow Christians and to all men, I extend the invitation to come to the God who created you, whose image is stamped upon you, and whose Trinitarian nature can explain your circumstances to you. The Father has determined from eternity past to glorify His Son, and He has made His unique connection with His Son the key to understanding all things.