Anchor Points to Peace in Biblical Interpretation in the Face of Ultimate Human Destiny


By Gerry Beauchemin author of “Hope Beyond Hell.”
http://www.hopebeyondhell.net


The most crucial study ever undertaken is the study that determines the ultimate destiny of human beings. What could be more important? There are three views held by Christians, all defended by Scripture:

* Eternal Punishment
* Annihilation
* Ultimate Reconciliation

I have reached the conviction of Ultimate Reconciliation as truth. It has the greatest Biblical, historical, moral, and logical support. It is the only view that provides peace to those who love their neighbors “as” themselves. It honors and glorifies God. The revelation of God’s unlimited power and unfailing love for all people has brought countless thousands of believers in Jesus Christ true and lasting peace. I believe the peace I have come to know in Christ is the result of having applied (even without realizing it) the following critical anchor points in Biblical interpretation. Each of them has solid Biblical support. Our natural human tendency regarding death and judgment always tends toward fear and anxiety. In order to protect our peace, we must make a determined effort to remember the following anchor points as we reflect on the Scriptures.


Twelve Anchor Points

Passion of heart
Loving God in truth
Knowing the Scriptures
Knowing God’s power
Judgment has purpose
God trumps death
Meaning of “Forever” “Everlasting” “Eternal”
Elected to “bless,” Not to “bliss”
Purpose of the ages
Metaphor is abundant
Conscience must rule
Meditate on what is lovely

Jesus prayed, “I praise you, Father… because you have hidden these things [about judgment] from the wise and learned, and have revealed them to little children” (Mt 11:25 NIV). Are any of the book authors and spiritual teachers or pastors in your life among the “wise” and “learned” that Jesus referred to here? How can you know? What is it about your mentors that have won your trust? Is it their preaching style, power of persuasion, academic degrees, resume, charisma, humility, love, authoritative nature or high self-confidence? What is it? How can you know if God has not hidden His truths from your teachers (about judgment) as seen in this passage? First of all, beware of the possibility of error. Then pray for truth. Test what you hear by searching the Scriptures for yourself. And, finally, be sensitive to the Spirit’s voice guiding your heart. “Our sufficiency is from God…not of the letter but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:5-6). The mark of a true teacher (the acid test) is this: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of Peace, who bring glad tidings of good things “(Rom 10:15, Isa 52:7, Nah 1:15). The angelic messenger said, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy for all people” Lu 2:10. Is the message you are hearing truly good tidings of great joy for all people?

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of Peace” (Rom 10:15).
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Passion of heart: Do our hearts burn within us?

In Luke 24 two disciples on a journey were discussing the momentous events of Christ’s resurrection. When Jesus joined them as they walked, their eyes were restrained so they did not know Him. Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (v 27). That evening while at dinner, they recognized Him, then, He vanished. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us?” (v 32). They hurried back to Jerusalem. Once His disciples were reunited, Jesus stood in their midst and said “Peace to you,” – His first public words after conquering death! He repeats it, “Peace to you!” (Jn 20:19, 21). And once again Luke says (v 45), “He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”

We cannot understand the Scriptures unless Christ opens our hearts to them. And when He does, something burns within (v 32)! That’s because God’s message is the GOOD NEWS of PEACE (Acts 10:36 NIV). Please get this: When Christ opens our minds to the Scriptures (v 27), our hearts burn within us (v 32). His words fill our hearts with peace, even “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1Pet 1:8). If the message we are hearing is not producing joy with a burning effect in us, filling our hearts with peace, maybe we are not hearing from God.

Bible reading without hearing from Christ is lifeless. It is about communing with Him, not of duty, but desire. It is our desire for Him that causes our hearts to burn when we hear His gracious words. They “marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” (Lu 4:22). When is the last time you “marveled” at His wonderful words, and your heart burned within you?

When our hearts burn within us we know that God has talked with us.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Loving God in truth

“We love Him because He first loved us” (1Jn 4:19). We have truly experienced God’s love when we feel totally safe in his loving arms. Such Love never abandons us or our loved ones (Heb 13:5). We can be confident that He will complete the good work He begins in us as He promised (Phil 1:6). He is ever interceding for us before God (Rom 8:34). Can anything separate us from His love? No. Nothing can. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us! (See Rom 8: 35-39) Have we anchored our hearts in His love?

Reading the Scriptures is like the above story of the two disciples. The climax comes when Christ shows himself to us! He IS the living Word and the Truth (Jn 1:1-14, 14:6). He is not the “letter” that kills, but the “Spirit” that brings life (2 Cor 3:6). The main reason we should read the Scriptures is to know Him (Jn 5: 39-40). But reading the Scriptures alone is not enough. Not quite…

“He who has My commandments and keeps them is he who loves Me, and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (Jn 14:21; Mk 10:21). Does this mean Christ only loves those who love Him? No. It means He loves them more intimately. Remember “the disciple whom Jesus loved” mentioned five times in the gospel of John? (Jn 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20) Jesus had a closer relationship with John than He did with Peter and James. But He still loved Peter and James and all His disciples; in fact, the whole world, so much so that He weeps for us and gives His life for all humanity! (Mt. 9:36, Lu 19:41; 2Jn 2:2). The essential point is this: Christ reveals Himself to us in a special way and sense when we love Him through keeping His commands. And what is His greatest command? To love our neighbors as ourselves; it’s called the royal law (Ja 2:8).

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments…” (1Jn 5:3). I have great news for you. Do not fret this passage! There is a second clause that will grip your heart. “And His commandments are not burdensome.” Did you get that? Not burdensome! Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28-30). Do you believe His encouraging words? And why are His commands not burdensome and His yoke is easy? Because “God is at work within us, giving us the will and the power to achieve His purpose” (Ph 2:13 Phillips Modern English). We are His workmanship and God always completes His projects (Eph 2:10; Ph 1:6). “The grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (1Tim 1:14). Even faith and love are His gifts to us, as they are “in Christ” – thus are part of His work in us. (See also Eze 36:25-27; Rom 2:10-11)

As we love Him (by loving others) He manifests Himself to us in a special way.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Knowing the Scriptures

Jesus said “You err not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Mt. 22:29). We must keep the totality and summary of God’s revelation and promises (the global picture) at the forefront of our minds when interpreting individual passages. Mt 6:22-23 says that if our “eye” is good we will be full of light [understanding], but if our “eye” is bad, we will be full of darkness. Our view of God’s character in His inexhaustible love for all people is our “good” eye and it will of necessity dictate our interpretation of all Scripture filling us with light. But I say with great sadness that the converse is true for those who view God as an eternal tormentor. Their “bad” eye guides their interpretation of all Scripture filling them with darkness. It is so sad.

The God I know and love is the One who has demonstrated His love for all humanity on the cross. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself…” (2 Cor 5:19, 1Jn 2:2, Isa 53:6). God confirms His all encompassing love to all humanity through numerous promises and proclamations to bless all people. This is particularly seen in the message of the Gospel as the Apostle Paul states it in Galatians 3:8, which Peter amplifies in Acts 3:25-26, and which Moses announced at the beginning of the Old Testament in Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; and 28:14. God has given us “exceedingly great and precious promises that through these we may be partakers of His divine nature” (2Pet 1:4). What are those “exceedingly great and precious promises?” (Appendix I of “Hope Beyond Hell” contains 186 wonderful promises and proclamations that I treasure and hope you will too.)

Mercy Aiken wrote: “Traditional doctrines teach us to interpret the “victorious” Scriptures in the light of the “judgment” Scriptures. But what if God wants us to see it the other way around? Is not Christ’s victory the greatest revelation in the Bible? Standing on this highest peak – that is, the finished work of the cross, causes us to see a much larger and far more beautiful panoramic view of God’s plan throughout the ages.”¹ Paul said, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1Cor 2:2)!

On the practical side, please visit http://www.hopebeyondhell.net/blog/further-study-links/ for resources I recommend to help you in your Bible study.

May the crowning glory of Christ crucified for all (Is 53:6, 1Jn 2:2) and His exceedingly great and precious promises (2Pet 1:4, Phil 4:8) guide our interpretation of all Scripture.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Knowing God’s Power

Jesus said “You err not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God (Mt. 22:29).” Even a profound knowledge of Scripture in itself is not enough. We must know God in His unlimited power in achieving His total will in the lives of all His creation. Abraham “did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was …fully convinced that what God had promised He was also able to perform” (Rom 4:20-21). “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine according to the power that works in us” (Eph 3:20). I can imagine some awesome and powerful things about God, especially when meditating on His “exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Pet 1:4). I believe He has the power and will to fulfill all His promises. Do you?

Only in knowing God’s unlimited power to fulfill all His promises can we have true peace.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Judgment has Purpose

Each time we encounter a judgment passage, any threat whatsoever, we should recall that God always has a righteous purpose in it. “For when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isa 26:9). “You have appointed them for judgment, O Rock, You have marked them for correction” (Hab 1:12). God integrates both mercy and chastisement in all our lives. It is not “either, or” as our tradition has implied. (See chapter three along with “Mystery to Ponder” in chapter four of “Hope Beyond Hell”) For example:


Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.
If you forgive… your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive… neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

(Mt 5:7; Ja 2:13; Mk 11:25-26)

All God’s judgments are righteous, purposeful, and according to our works. God integrates and applies both mercy and judgment to each of us as He deems necessary and best for our good.
_____________________________________________________________________________________


God trumps death

Death and destruction do not mean annihilation. And even if they did, God will resurrect all people, either in the first or the second resurrection. The phrase “eternal death” is not found in Scripture. God has the last word, not death. “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him” (Luke 20:38). “For to this end Christ died, rose, and lived again that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (Rom 14:9). Lordship implies hope, not hopelessness. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1Cor 15:26)! And when death no longer exist what’s left? Life! “The Gospel was preached also to those who are dead” (1Pet 4:6). “Oh death where is your sting, Oh Hades where is your victory” (1Cor 15:55)? “Fear not, I…have the keys of hell (Hades) and of death” (Rev 1:18). Scripture loudly proclaims hope beyond death and hell for all people! See chapter three of “Hope Beyond Hell.”

Death and destruction are not the last word with God.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Meaning of “Forever” “Everlasting” “Eternal”

Each time you come across the words “forever” or “everlasting” or “eternal” in your English translations in the context of judgment warnings, recall that they are based on the Greek words “aion,” “aionios,” and the Hebrew “olam.” These words indicate a period of unknown or limited duration, unless the context implies eternal by association with God or His worship. “Aionios” also refers to an essence of character apart from the idea of time as seen in John 12:50; 17:3; and 1John 5:20. Understanding this fact helps us to harmonize the promises of God for all humanity with His judgment warnings, whatever they may be. This fosters a deep peace in us that is sure and steadfast, one which continues strong in all our Bible reading and meditation. For more on this, see chapter one of “Hope Beyond Hell.”
Also http://www.hopebeyondhell.net/Eternity.html
http://www.hopebeyondhell.net/Church-History.html

The Greek and Hebrew of “forever,” “everlasting,” and “eternal” in themselves do not carry the sense of infinite duration.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Elected to “bless” Not to “bliss”

God promised Abraham and his seed that they would be heirs of the world! (Rom 4:13-16) With this comes great purpose and responsibility. We, the members of Christ’s body, are His “elect” called to “be” a blessing, not merely to be blessed. “…And you shall “be” a blessing (Gen 12:2). “He saved us and called us with a holy calling… before time began” (2Tim 1:9). “He brought us forth…that we would be a kind of first – fruits among His creatures” (Ja 1:18 NAS). “First – fruits among His creatures” naturally implies “second” fruits. Who are they? They must be those whom God will reach in “due time” (1 Tim 2:3-6). Christ will draw [lit. drag] all to Himself (Jn.12:32). See chapter five of “Hope Beyond Hell.”

Understanding the role of election in God’s plan for the world helps us make sense of many difficult passages.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Purpose of the ages

The fulfillment of God’s will to save all people is not limited to this age or life-time. Ephesians 2:7 speaks of the “ages [plural] to come.” God’s salvation plan spans the ages and our role in election takes place in the context of the ages. We will rule and reign with Him (2Tim 2:12, Re. 20:6). Some will rule over one city, others over many (Lu 19:17-20). But whom will we govern and for what purpose? See chapter five of “Hope Beyond Hell.”

Understanding that God works through the ages also helps make sense of many passages.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Metaphors abound in Scripture

Greek scholar William Barclay writes, “It was the eastern custom to use language in the most vivid possible way. Eastern language is always as vivid as the human mind can make it.” 2 As well, Thomas Allin, author of “Christ Triumphant” writes,

The whole Bible is oriental. Every line breathes the spirit of the east, with its hyperboles and metaphors, and what to us seem utter exaggerations. If such language be taken literally, its whole meaning is lost. When the sacred writers want to describe the dusky redness of a lunar eclipse, they say the moon is ‘turned into blood.’ He who perverts Scripture is not the man who reduces this sacred poetry to its true meaning. Nay, that man perverts the Bible who hardens into dogmas the glowing metaphors of eastern poetry ¬- such conduct Lange calls ‘a moral scandal.’ So with our Lord’s words: Am I to hate my father and mother or pluck out my right eye literally? Or take a case by Farrar: ‘Egypt is said to have been an iron furnace to the Jews (De. 4:20; Jer. 11:4), and yet they said, ‘it was well with us there,’ and sighed for its enjoyments (Nu. 11:18).’ Therefore I maintain that no doctrine of endless pain can be based on eastern imagery, on metaphors mistranslated very often, and always misinterpreted. 3

Take the terms “fire” and “burning” for example. It is unfortunate that these terms are taken literally when the judgment context demands a metaphoric application.

We must not take literally the countless metaphors of Scripture.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Conscience must rule

Paul writes, “We…commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2Co 4:2). So does Christ. He exhorts us to “judge for ourselves what is right regarding the very subject of judgment (Lu 12:57).” Paul says to “test all things and hold fast what is good” and to “judge for ourselves” what he says (1Th 5:21, 1Co 10:15). You see, testing what is “right” and “good” calls into action our God-given conscience. We are to test Paul’s own words, Scripture itself, by the witness of the Holy Spirit in us. God’s truth will not violate our conscience, His moral witness in our heart. It is His alarm system, if you will, protecting us from error.

Some of the world’s most horrendous acts of hate and cruelty have been committed by religious extremists who have had their conscience seared by religion. This was tragically seen in New York City on Sept. 11, 2011. Christians are just as guilty. Remember the Inquisitions and the Crusades? That same spirit is alive and well in Christianity (Lu 9: 54-56). It dwells in the hearts of many popular Christian writers, teachers, speakers, public personalities, and Bible translators. God alone knows who they are. But I know how my conscience is grieved when I hear their words and read their writings.

Like Paul, I appeal to your God-given conscience. Judge and test what is right. Be alert to mistranslations and misinterpretations. We have well over 50 English translations of the Bible. Which ones should we trust? I use the New King James Version because the footnotes provide the Greek manuscript variants. I often refer to from 6-12 translations, sometimes 20 if needed.

Note carefully: When the subject of our Bible study puts in question a central tenant of our tradition (such as judgment), we especially need to keep in mind the bias of translators. We must do our own research, compare translations and rely fully on the Holy Spirit. As we are faithful to study and show ourselves approved before God, He will unfold His truth to us. Do not trust any translation at face value. For example, I was shocked when I read 1Peter 4:6 in a very popular translation. It added a three letter word (which is not present in the Greek) which changed the entire meaning of the passage. This was obviously done to deny any hope for salvation after death. By adding “now” before the word “dead” the translators attempted to deny that the gospel was preached to the dead while being in the death state. How tragic! The context, starting at verse 3:18, clearly supports the actual Greek text. There is no justification for adding the word “now.” This is blatant proof of textual manipulation to support the theology of Bible translators. Let us beware!

Whatever seems unjust to our God-given conscience most likely is unjust. Let us trust God’s testimony in our hearts. If a passage seems unfair, unjust, or out of character with a loving and just God, then it has probably been mistranslated, or we are misinterpreting or misunderstanding it. So what should we do? We give it to God and put it aside. We allow Him to unfold its meaning to us in His good time. He has not limited Himself to any “difficult to understand text” in teaching us any necessary or critical truth. The Scriptures abound with clear and unambiguous teaching to guide our lives and reveal God’s ways and character. We need to form our theology from the whole of Biblical revelation and not only certain isolated parts.

I trust God’s still small voice in my heart when interpreting the Scriptures. See chapter eight of “Hope Beyond Hell.” Also “The Judge Does Right.” http://www.hopebeyondhell.net/blog/shall-not-the-judge-of-all-the-earth-do-right-by-thomas-allin/

Truth will not violate our God-given conscience.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Meditate on what is lovely

Paul exhorts us to meditate on what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy (Ph. 4:8). This point has become my plumb-line. I do not allow any passage that seems contradictory to God’s character (as seen most fully in Christ) negate or nullify His “exceedingly great and precious promises” – that which He has burned in my heart. True and lasting peace is not possible unless we:

a) Anchor our hearts in God’s great and precious promises (Ps 119:11, 2 Pet 1:4)

b) Rest in His loving and merciful character (Heb 2:13, 13:8, Jn 14:9)

In doing this we will keep our hearts from doubts and fears when confronting unsettling passages. Jesus Himself exhorts us in this: “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1).

Fearful texts are fearful principally because of mistranslations, misinterpretations, and man’s traditions. Jesus and Isaiah warned of this: “You invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition” (Mt 15: 6 NAS). “Their fear toward me is taught by the commandment [tradition] of men” (Isa 29:13). What causes more fear than the thought of an eternal torture chamber awaiting all of us? Praise God there is no torture chamber. He disciplines us, His children, with firmness and love for our good. That is why Jesus could say “Peace to you” (Luke 24:36). The fact that peace is even possible for any believer undermines any theory of an eternal Hell. Peace is simply impossible to experience when an eternal hell is hanging over us. I know. I lived it.

“Peace I leave with you…Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn 14:27). The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, … (Ga 5:22). “The Kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy…” (Rom 14:17). Peter said, “you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1Pet 1:8). In other words, the fruit of our Christian experience should produce indescribable joy! To make this your experience:

Let us memorize His precious promises – those of peace and comfort. A few each day, adding more as He unfolds them to our hearts.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Peace at last

This is what we may experience once these twelve points are well anchored in our hearts:

Our hearts will burn within us, knowing God’s deep and lasting peace – the fruit of His unfailing love.

As we experience His love, we will begin to love others “as ourselves” – the truest expression of our love for Him (1Jn 4:19-21). Such love unveils the Father and Son to us revealing their wonder and glory (Jn 14:21).

God’s limitless power assures us He will fulfill all His wonderful purposes for creation.

Death no longer terrorizes us as it poses no barrier to God’s saving work in the lives of those we love most dearly. We can rest assured about their destiny as well as own.

God’s judgments are truly honorable, respectable and just. We need no longer be embarrassed or ashamed when sharing the Gospel with those grieving over lost loved ones.

Even the phrase “eternal punishment” in Matthew 25:46 lifts our spirits, because we know what it really means in Greek* and what it does not mean. What a relief!

As we meditate on what is noble, lovely, and of good report, we anchor our peace even deeper. We treasure His exceedingly great and precious promises, keeping them close to our hearts, minute by minute, every day. They literally transform us just as Peter said they would (2 Pet 1:4).

We see all people differently – through God’s eyes – as each person is His child, deeply loved by the Father and Creator (Acts 17:28-29). He never abandons anyone. And as a result, neither do we abandon hope for any person, even the worst of people, as we begin to truly love them “as ourselves.” It is no longer about “me” and Jesus, but about Jesus and everybody else!

The idea of “election” is not puzzling or unfair to us anymore. It is a special call from our King to serve Him – not for our own personal glory or bliss, but to bless the world.

Our time on earth takes on a wonderful new meaning when we discover God’s purposes for this age and for the ages to come.

We appreciate more than ever God’s still small voice speaking in our conscience. His voice is our trusted friend, our guardian, protecting us from grave error.

And God’s extreme poetic and parabolic style of speech, though shocking at times, does not unsettle our peace as it once did. Even the terms “fire” and “destruction” have lost their terror since we have discovered their transforming power and essence. “We went through fire…but you brought us out to rich fulfillment” (Ps 66:12; Mal 3:2-3, 6; Mk 9:49; Jn 12:24).

Our life’s experience can be summed in one word. Peace. “Peace to you” said Jesus (Lu 24:36).
Please read and study “Hope Beyond Hell.”

Gerry Beauchemin
© October 13, 2011

1 Aiken, Mercy. If Hell Is Real. www.tentmaker.org/articles/ifhellisrealprintable.htm
2 Barclay, William. Daily Study Bible Series. “The Gospel of Luke.” Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978. 1963
3 Allin, Thomas. Christ Triumphant. 1878. Rpt. 9th ed. Canyon Country, CA: Concordant, n.d. 265-266.
* See Hope Beyond Hell chapter one for a detail examination of this text.