Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Eternal Reward and Punishments: A Fresh, Biblical Look at God's Love and Justice in Heaven and Hell

Every theological writer knows seminal writing is rare. From the Latin word serere, which means "to sow,' writing that is seminal represents only the seed (semen) for a future and greater harvest of truth. For example, Luther's Ninety-Five Theses (1517) declared it is "faith that justifies," not the sacrament. Luther's writings, though thoroughly biblical, were deemed heretical by the Roman Catholic Church. Five centuries later Luther's heresy has become evangelical orthodoxy, widely accepted by Christians around the world.

Seminal theological writing is rare because as Solomon declared:
 "Is there anything of which one might say, "See this, it is new"? Already it has existed for ages which were before us" (Ecclesiastes 1:10).  
Truth exists independent of its discovery. The only thing ever lost is our understanding of it. "God's word is truth" (John 17:17), so rare is the individual who uncovers truth long lost by God's people. God's word never changes; but our comprehension of it does. The Dark Ages brought about a great loss of human understanding of what it means to be made right with God through faith in Jesus alone. Luther's writing was seminal in that it only uncovered pre-existent and eternal truth. The greatest opposition to Luther's writing on justification by faith came from church leaders who adhered to centuries of church dogma on the subject. Though Luther's teaching seemed new to the church, it was in reality quite old because it was found in Scripture. Accepted church dogma can sometimes be the greatest hindrance to uncovering eternal truth via sola Scriptura (Scripture alone).

It is possible that some seminal theological writing has taken place in the late 20th century and early portions of this century. New Testament scholars such as F.F. Bruce, Edward Fudge, John R.W. Stott, Richard Bauckham, John W. Wenham, and others have written on the subject of death, resurrection, the judgment, and after life, rejecting Plato's separation of soul and body and holding to what they call the biblical truth of indivisible unity between body and soul.

To these writers, the Hebrew word nephesh describes the life of man as soul and body united, with the consequence of sin being death to the whole person, both body and soul. The Bible portrays all men as mortal. The belief that there is an independent, immaterial soul that lives apart from the body is from Plato, and not the Bible, say these New Testament scholars. They point out that the unique and profound teaching of both the Old and New Testaments is the resurrection of dead persons to face either judgment and eventual eternal death (i.e. 'the second death'), or to escape the coming judgment and be granted the gift of everlasting life through Jesus Christ.

In summary, the potential seminal theological writing of these modern scholars revolves around the following biblical truths:
(1). God alone possesses immortality (I Timothy 6:16), and the gift of God is eternal life to only those whose names are "written in the book of life" via their union with Jesus Christ (see John 3:16 and Revelation 20:12).
(2). Death destroys every mortal human being and is called "the last enemy" of those who die in Christ (I Cor. 15:26), but "there is coming a day when all those who are in the tombs will hear His voice" (John 5:29) and be resurrected to life (nephesh) by God's power.
(3). Everyone resurrected from the dead will be either judged and punished for their actions on earth (John 5:29), or will be credited with the righteousness of Christ via their faith in Him and will escape the 'day of wrath'  (Proverbs 11:4), being given eternal life which Jesus earned by His actions when He came to earth (Revelation 20:12).
(4). Since the punishment of the wicked by God is always just and equitable, the Day of Judgment will reveal various sentences of length and intensity, some punishments being more severe than others (Matt. 10:15).
(5). Hell is a holy prison where God's wrath is measured out in direct portion and relation to the sins and crimes committed by each creature judged, with the final end of the unrighteous being their utter destruction, called "the second death" (Revelation 20:14).
Ironically, Martin Luther had a hand in these modern seminal writings.  Both Luther and William Tyndale believed that "the dead are asleep, and feel nothing at all." Time is inconsequential during death, taught Luther, so regardless of the passage of time on earth, the next conscious thought after closing one's eyes in death is the awareness of hearing Christ's voice and feeling the power of the Creator in being raised from the dead.  So when Jesus says, "Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43) to the dying thief who believed in Him, it was indeed that day from the thief's perspective that he was with Christ in heaven. It's a little like going to sleep through anesthesia prior to surgery, only to wake up seemingly an instant later only to discover the long surgery is over. Time as measured on earth is irrelevant in the resurrection.

So, there is technically nothing wrong with a believer in Christ saying at his mother's funeral, "Mom is smiling in heaven today," even though the reality is his mom arrives in heaven the same day as he does. The general resurrection for all mankind occurs on that coming day when the voice of Christ will raise the dead (John 5:28). For those who wonder at the power of God to raise the dead after millenniums of corruption and cellular dissolution, one only has to look at the universe to see the majesty and power of the Creator to call into existence by fiat things that are. On that great day of resurrection, which is the central theme of New Testament Christianity, God's people will experience the perishable being clothed:
"...with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory" (I Corinthians 15:54 NIV).
John Calvin opposed Luther's views on the death of both body and soul, and at the young age of twenty-five he published Psychopannchia, a refutation of Luther's conditional immortality. Calvin took the position that the soul is innately immortal, and most post-reformation evangelicals have followed Calvin's views since.   Unlike 'justification by faith,' Luther's teaching on the conditional immortality of the soul never blossomed into evangelical orthodoxy, even though Luther's writings on this subject were comparable to his writings on justification by faith in both breadth and depth.

What if we are living in a new day of fresh discovery of the eternal truth that God alone has immortality and that the gift of God is eternal life to only those who trust Jesus? What changes? Answer: Our understanding of heaven and hell.

The Implications

The Bible's use of the word "reward" for believers is always singular in the New Testament. Contrary to modern church dogma that various 'rewards' are given to Christians for the way they lived their lives on earth, the New Testament speaks of a singular reward given to all believers in union with Jesus Christ. This reward is eternal life. Jesus earned this reward for us by His perfect obedience as Man. Though He is God, He became Man for us. Eternal life is granted to only those who trust Him:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Notice, the wicked who die apart from Christ perish. If what these modern biblical scholars are saying is true, those who reject the only Savior given to mankind (Acts 4:12) will be raised from the dead to face the righteous condemnation of God for their sins against mankind and their Creator (Psalm 2:12), will serve penal sentences for their actions, and will then perish. Without question, the Bible teaches that hell is real and not imaginary, penal (punitive) and not corrective, and is eternal not temporal in terms of the end result of all punishments meted out by God. 

The Bible's hell is the prison created by God where various sentences of  divine punishment are served by those raised to judgment in order to die a second time as a consequence of their sins. However, it is in hell that  God recognizes good things done in this life by giving a lighter sentence of punishment (Matthew 10:15). Degrees of punishment in hell is not mercy; it is justice. Righteous judges on earth never give the same sentence for different crimes. The punishment must always match the crime to be considered true justice.

So it is with the most righteous Judge of all. A person who dies without union to Christ, but has lived a moral, ethical, and selfless life as measured by the natural law in the heart of every man (see Romans 1:20), will receive a far less severe punishment from God than the rapists, serial murderers, and child abusers who also die without Christ. Therefore, the eternal part of hell is the end result of punishment (i.e. 'the second death') and not the process of punishing.  The teaching of Jesus shows that the eternality of hell is not the torment, but the final punishment of destruction: 
"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
My friend, Kyle Williams, told me he was in a bookstore and saw a book cover with a picture of a man holding a beer in his hand with the title being I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. Christ isn't sitting behind that kind of bar when He judges man. It will be a solemn experience for those without a Savior, and the severity and intensity of divine punishment will be in direct proportion to the wickedness of the thoughts, actions, character, and life choices of the one judged by Christ (see Romans 2). The good news of the gospel is that all those in Christ escape this day of wrath (see Romans 8:1).

As a branch eventually dies after being separated from the tree, so too, every unredeemed sinner raised to life to face judgment before the Creator will be "cast out" from God's presence to eventually die again (Matthew 13:41-43). The process of dying the second death while in hell will vary in degree, intensity and time -- according to the sins and crimes committed on earth; but the final end will be the second death for all the wicked (Revelation 20:14). Let me make it simple and clear. According to the Bible, the wicked will be destroyed (Psalm 37:38).

Those evangelicals who have believed in the eternal torment of the wicked may find it rather shocking to consider that the 'gift of God," which is called eternal life in Scripture (John 3:16), is only given to believers in Jesus and never to those who die apart from Christ. Jesus says those without Christ will perish (see again John 3:16). There are numerous other biblical passages where the end of wicked is made just as clear.

A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.

(Psalm 37: 10-11)
The wicked are like chaff that blows away.
The wicked will be punished with everlasting destruction
 and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
As Edward Fudge writes, "The wicked will not enjoy any of God's blessings that the redeemed enjoy, because they will perish (Romans 2:12). They are anathema, which means marked for destruction (I Cor. 16:22; Gal. 1:8-9). This is not some theoretical statement that might really happen and might not. No, God will destroy them (Rom. 2:12; I Cor. 3:17). Paul says it in every he can say it. The wicked will suffer destruction (Gal. 5:21; 6:8; Phil. 1:28; 3:19). That destruction will be sudden when it comes (I Thess. 5:3), and once accomplished, it will be everlasting (II Thess. 1:9)." (Hell: A Final Word, page 128).

For those Christians who object by saying, "But Jesus said in the parable of the sheep and the goats that These (the goats) will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into life eternal' (Matthew 25:46). Doesn't eternal punishment mean eternal punishment?"

Great question. Yes it does. But the correct answer to your question revolves around what the adjective 'eternal' modifies. Let me explain.

We read in the Bible of "eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:9), "eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12), "eternal judgment" (Hebrews 6:2), "eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46), and "eternal destruction" (II Thessalonians 1:9).  These activities of God represent both His love and grace as well as His righteousness and justice. These five works of God will not be fully known or experienced by us until the age to come.

But there is something very interesting about these eternal activities of God.

(1). Eternal salvation is the result of saving
(2). Eternal redemption is the result of redeeming.
(3). Eternal judgment is the result of judging.
(4). Eternal punishment is the result of punishing.
(5). Eternal destruction is the result of destroying.

Why is it we Christians correctly point out that the Bible teaches the process of God saving us is not eternal,  but the results of salvation are eternal; while at the same time we seem to contradict Scripture and logic itself by proclaiming the process of punishing is eternal, and refuse to see the that it is the end result of punishment (death) which is eternal?

In short, that which is eternal is always the result of the action of God not the action itself. 

Eternal salvation results from saving that stops. Eternal redemption results from redeeming that stops. So too, eternal punishment results from punishing that stops. Eternal destruction results from destroying that stops.

The Principle

The reward of every believer in Jesus Christ is eternal life, a reward won by the perfect obedience of Christ on behalf of His people. The notion that there will be different degrees of enjoyment in heaven based upon one's meritorious works on earth is both contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the principles of grace.

But on the other hand...

The degrees of punishment, retribution and vengeance in hell vary according to the actions of a person in this life. The moral, good and selfless person who rejects Christ will find the process of punishing and the progress toward his ultimate destruction (the second death) less painful, more tolerable, and ultimately unequal to that of a rapist, serial murderer, and other vile criminals. All the wicked will end up like ‘chaff blown away’ (Psalm 1:4), but the process of dying the second death will vary according to ‘the deeds done in the body.”

The Bible declares that this process of dying the second death in the prison of hell will include distress (Romans 2:9), fury (Romans 2:8), tribulation (Romans 2:9) and resentment (Luke 13:28). God’s wrath will be judicially measured and meted out according to the individual's crimes committed on earth (Romans 2:8; I Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9), but in the end, the Lord will remove the wicked."
"The face of the LORD is set against those who do what 
is evil, to erase all memory of them" (Psalm 34:16).
After proofreading this article for me, my wife said, "Wade, it gives me a great deal of comfort knowing that Adolph Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and others who lived such wicked lives on earth will be destroyed by God and not live for eternity." I told her it also could bring great comfort to those who see the inherent beauty of justice, for God will not punish all the wicked the same. Of course, the ultimate plumb-line for truth is not our comfort. Truth will set people free. The truth of Scripture regarding death, resurrection, judgment and eternal life will free people to see the depth and beauty of both God's love and His justice.

Truth is eternal. It is yet to be seen if the writings of these evangelical, Bible-believing, Christ-exalting New Testament scholars is seminal theological writing. Ultimately, the answer to that question will be found in people who are unafraid to question the traditions of men (or the church) and accept sola Scriptura.

I am teaching a series of lessons next spring entitled Eternal Reward and Punishments: Where the Love and Justice of God Meet. It will be my intent to show that the Bible teaches various degrees of eternal punishments (hell) for sinners apart from Christ, and an eternal inheritance or reward (singular) for those who are in Christ. Heaven is equal ground; hell is unequal ground. Though this is opposite of what most evangelicals teach today, just as it was in Luther's day, church dogma may not accurately reflect biblical truth.

More to come....


Anonymous said...

Now, that's some mighty meaty teaching. I'll be chewing on this for a while!

Bob Cleveland said...

I always love it when direct and thoughtful analysis reveals what's so plain in scripture, but seemingly hidden from so many. And contrary to what "everybody knows".

More to come? Please ... get on with the "more".

Victorious said...

Wade, how did you know that topic is exactly the one several of us are discussing on a forum I belong to???

Woohoo! I haven't read it yet, but was sooo excited to see the title that I wanted to give a cheer first!

Thank you!

....off to read..

Jeremy Franklin said...

Read "Two Views of Hell" this semester, where Fudge presents the Annihilationist view.

I like your summary better.

I'm looking forward to hearing the messages. Could you post links to FB when you preach them?

Wade Burleson said...


My Wednesday night studies are usually on our PODCAST site within 24 hours of giving them. These should start January 13, 2014

Wade Burleson said...


You will also be able to find the series in January

Unknown said...

If you liked this blog, you will likely also enjoy the website: www.rethinkinghell.com

Chris Riley said...

I may need to pop some popcorn before I start reading all the responses to this! I mean, crud, Wade, when are you going to tackle tough issues?!! LOL
I wish I could lay out an argument like you can.

David (NAS) Rogers said...

Edward Fudge's academic-focused work is The Fire that Consumes, now in a 3rd edition. His lay-focused work is Hell-A Final Word.

Tom Kelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Kelley said...

Interesting, but not surprising, that you would come to this conclusion, Wade.

This teaching about the nature of the human soul and of hell is not at all new, and it has been well developed previously. Also well developed are objections to this viewpoint from those who hold to the usual historically orthodox teachings.

I see some merit in both arguments, and I consider this to be a secondary or tertiary theological issue, certainly nothing for believers to break fellowship over. However, I take serious exception to the claim that the usual historical teachings of both Catholics and most Protestants about the nature of the human soul are based on Plato's teachings rather than on the Bible. I'm sure you know that there are those who say that the doctrines of grace, which you believe to be taught in the Bible, are also based on Plato's teachings rather than on the Bible.

It's one thing to say "I don't agree with your interpretation of scripture," but it is entirely another to say "What you believe isn't in the Bible; it comes from a pagan philosopher." I feel that sort of theological slam is inappropriate.

So, for that reason, Wade, I have to say that aspect of your objection to the historical position is overruled!

Christiane said...

Surprisingly, the Catholic position, which is definitely one that supports the teaching of 'hell' departs dramatically from one concept expressed in this post, this:

"The punishment must always match the crime to be considered true justice.
So it is with the most righteous Judge of all. A person who dies without union to Christ, but has lived a moral, ethical, and selfless life as measured by the natural law in the heart of every man (see Romans 1:20), will receive a far less severe punishment from God than the rapists, serial murderers, and child abusers who also die without Christ. "

For the sake of those who through no fault of their own do not know Our Lord's NAME, my Church sees a more merciful eternity 'in Christ' for those moral people of good will whose lives have been lived in obedience to the laws written on their hearts.
The Catholic teaching is most clearly stated in this from John Paul II:

" Apart from Christ "there is no salvation." As Peter proclaimed before the Sanhedrin at the very start of the apostolic preaching: "There is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12)."
For those too who through no fault of their own do not know Christ and are not recognized as Christians, the divine plan has provided a way of salvation.
As we read in the Council's Decree Ad Gentes, we believe that "God in ways known to himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel" to the faith necessary for salvation (AG 7). Certainly, the condition "inculpably ignorant" cannot be verified nor weighed by human evaluation, but must be left to the divine judgment alone. For this reason, the Council states in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes that in the heart of every man of good will, "Grace works in an unseen way.... The Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery" (GS 22).

The difference between Catholic teaching and evangelical teaching is an important one. But Catholics rely on the mercy of Christ and strongly take Him at His words in the Holy Gospel of St. Matthew that what is done to the least of His is done also to Him. And conversely, those that openly called on His holy name while not been merciful to others in their way of living, that those people are NOT truly His followers.

Curious Thinker said...

I'm sorry but I have to ask what is your definition of wicked? Are you saying people who are generally good decent people who led good moral lives but because they were not belivers who embraced God in their lives(basically just secular people)they are wicked and therefore will be punished by God and sent to Hell? And what if they did believe in God and Jesus, in heaven and hell but chose to live a secular life anyway? What about atheists, or those who followed other religions outside of the Christian faith? Would you consider them condemened to Hell despite being good decent people? I really can't see God punishing good people who for the most part led moral selfless lives never caused harm to others and tried to do what was right simply for not following God's laws and embracing Christ but lived secular lifestyles. Then there are people who claim to Christians who commit terrible and wicked actions sometimes in the name of the Lord. I don't believe God would welcome them into Heaven. Then again I believe only God could judge who is welcomed into Heaven after death and who is not and I'll leave it at that.

Wade Burleson said...

Curious Thinker,

I will answer your question from Romans 2:

"Now we know that God’s judgment ... is based on truth. God “will repay each person according to what they have done." For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares."

Everyone is without excuse.

Wade Burleson said...


I sure can understand your objection to the statement that innate immortality of the soul and the separate existence of the soul apart from the body is Platonic and not biblical. I am very familiar with Gill and Augustine who would also object if accused of following Plato and not Scripture.

Brad said...

Wade, I noticed that on John 3:16 you are quoting the King James 2000 and on the Matt 10:28 reference you are quoting the NASB. But I can't find what version you used to quote 1 Cor 15:54. Could you expound on your references by putting the version you are using on each?

Gordon said...

Many may find it beneficial to consider what Plato, Dante, Church Councils, Popes, Luther, the Dalai Lama, John Stott and others have said on this matter. We may add to this: history, reason, tradition , culture, language usage, context and current perceptions all of which have some small contribution to make toward our understanding. But, as you have rightly said, the final, authoritative expression of truth must come from Scripture alone, and you have made some convincing points with regard to the punishment of disbelievers.

Relying on Scripture as our final authority does not mean that we cannot have our differences of emphasis and interpretation on some aspects , but we always remain open to be convinced by the truth of the written and living Word.

Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that personal merit will not obtain our salvation.
After exercising the faith in Jesus Christ that leads to conversion, the believer seeks to identify his/her life with the service, sufferings, sacrifice and sanctification of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I am convinced that the extent to which we are faithful and true to Him will not go unnoticed by the generous Giver, who promises to reward us accordingly. "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things" Matt 25: 23.
We are exhorted to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Whether it be through the widow's mite, the cup of cold water or the unseen act of kindness... God is not unmindful of such acts and will reward us openly. While we may be unworthy servants doing our duty, but we are also sons and daughters who will all have a share in Christ's inheritance,to a greater or lesser degree.
May God help us to build our new-born Christian lives with gold, silver and precious stones and not arrive there empty handed when the quality of each believer's work will be tested (1 Cor 3:11-13)

luap said...

Having read the outburst of indignation when John Stott wrote similar views to yours, I applaud your courage and insight in expressing your thinking on this touchy subject..
Now if you can only tell me how to get your podcasts.. I already watch your videos via Vimeo

Thanks as always

George Murray.

Istoria Ministries said...


You can hear Wade on podcast here.

Anonymous said...

What an enjoyable article.

Refreshing. Clear. Biblically sourced. Thanks!

Wade Burleson said...


I used different translations throughout the article based upon clarity. I am not sure the translation of the I Corinthians quote, but if you click on the link, you can find multiple translations available.

Wade Burleson said...


I am very familiar with the belief that the mercy of God through the atonement of Christ covers all of mankind's sins and all will eventually experience God's mercy and grace regardless of their acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior prior to death. I am of the opinion that those in Christ are the only ones who receive the gift of eternal life, and God's just judgment is measured, righteous and equitable for those who die without faith in Christ. In other words, nobody can complain that the Judge did it wrong.

Wade Burleson said...

Gordon, I've often heard I Cor. 3 quoted as the basis for Christians receiving various 'rewards' in heaven. It was THAT text that began my journey away from meritorious 'rewards' of believers in heaven, based on their works on earth. It was Gill who helped me see that I Cor. 3 was saying nothing of heaven ("Day" is wrongly capitalized by translators), but is actually a caution to preachers to encourage people with 'gold, silver and precious metals' (eternal truth) for if you build up Christ's church (the body of believers with whom you serve) with wood, hay (things other than eternal truth), when days of persecution come, the ministry you've built will vanish in the fires of affliction, though you yourself are saved by God's grace.

Here's how Gill put it (NEXT FOUR Comments) - Sorry for the length.

Wade Burleson said...


I started to replicate all that Gill said in his I Corinthians 3 Commentary and realized it was far too long.

So, instead of four posts, just click on this link and go read it for yourself. In my opinion, it is BRILLIANT.

Brad said...

Sorry for posting as Anon earlier, the text you embedded in the article doesn't match any version in the link. That's why I was asking

Wade Burleson said...


Thanks! I'll correct the typo.

Victorious said...

So, instead of four posts, just click on this link and go read it for yourself. In my opinion, it is BRILLIANT.

I don't think the link is working. At least not for me...


Christiane said...

thanks for responding

Actually the teaching that eventually all will be 'saved' is not a Catholic teaching. But the detailed comment I gave does mention another kind of situation,
the 'inculpably innocent' who do not know Christ by name and who, through no fault of their own are not recognized as 'Christian' . . . for them, we see the mercy of God as a hope . . . and for precisely the very reason you mentioned: that we can trust in God's infallible judgment.

For us, there is something called 'the Divine Mercy' and Christ is the source . . . and from Him flows compassion for those 'without a shepherd', not condemnation. We are trusting in that compassion for those who do not know Him through no fault of their own, and who wander this Earth leading moral lives, showing mercy and kindness to others, and possessing good will. For them, we have hope. A lot of hope.

Tom Kelley said...

Thanks, Wade, for acknowledging my point. It is generally not like you to claim that those who have a different interpretation of scripture than you are not basing their views on the Bible, but that's how your statement about Plato comes across to me.

I'm not convinced that what you're saying about the nature of the human soul and the nature of hell is the correct biblical interpretation, as I feel there are significant biblical indicators of the immortality of the soul apart from the ones you referred to. But I don't consider it a major issue and don't mean to object to your viewpoint, just to the characterization of it as THE biblical position rather than as one possible interpretation of the Bible.

Wade Burleson said...


Copy and Paste this link and you'll find Gill's commentary on I Corinthians 3


Wade Burleson said...


No problem. I also believe this is a tertiary doctrine.

I think that I didn't communicate well in writing. The authors in question believe "the Bible teaches."

I see both sides. I taught the immortality of the soul for decades, steeped in Augustian doctrine through my mentor John Gill.

I personally have come to see that the mortality of the soul (in my opinion) is taught by the biblical writers and that "immortality" is a Divine gift from God to those who trust His Son (according to the Scriptures), but have zero problem with those who disagree with my interpretation of Scripture on this matter and could probably teach the immortality of the soul better than they! :)

Wade Burleson said...


I get it.

Sorry for the misunderstanding. "The inculpably innocent" are what the old-timers that I read called "imbeciles and infants" (please, nobody be offended; it's the language of the 18th century). I, too, believe the inculpably innocent are saved by God's grace - because they are in UNION with Christ. In my understanding of Scripture, Christiane, it is not faith that produces this mystical union between the sinner and the Savior, but GOD'S GRACE, and faith in Christ is the evidence of that union.



Wade Burleson said...


I get it.

Sorry for the misunderstanding. "The inculpably innocent" are what the old-timers that I read called "imbeciles and infants" (please, nobody be offended; it's the language of the 18th century). I, too, believe the inculpably innocent are saved by God's grace - because they are in UNION with Christ. In my understanding of Scripture, Christiane, it is not faith that produces this mystical union between the sinner and the Savior, but GOD'S GRACE, and faith in Christ is the evidence of that union.



Wade Burleson said...

Or, Christiane, in the case of the 'inculpably innocent' - God's grace put them all "in eternal union with Christ, the Savior died for them before the foundation of the world (and in the fullness of time in the world), and the Spirit regenerates and saves them. We could discuss my view on this later, but I believe I'm saying pretty similar to what you are saying.

Tom Kelley said...

Hi Christiane,
You bring up interesting points. There are also Protestants who hold to a viewpoint similar to what you describe. They would say that a sincere person who is seeking to know God, follow His commands, and treat others well, but who has never heard of Jesus, will still find mercy and grace through Christ, resulting in their salvation and eternal life in heaven. Some say God would do that by supernaturally revealing Himself to them (such as via a dream, vision, angel, etc.), so that they do explicitly believe in Christ. Others would say that God grants them mercy and grace based on His knowledge that, had they ever heard about Jesus, they would have believed in Him.

But, for the most part, evangelical Protestants teach that unless a person has specifically heard the gospel of Christ and positively responded to Him in faith, then that person remains outside of Christ and thus outside of eternal salvation. Once reason for this is that they believe that, if any person could be saved without hearing about Christ, it reduces the motivation and urgency to spread the gospel as Jesus commanded. Their objection is something like, "Why would Jesus command us to spread the good news, and why would His disciples risk their lives to do so, if it really wasn't necessary for salvation?"

In response to that objection, those who hold to your viewpoint typically say that it is still better to spread the gospel because it gives those who would have been saved apart from hearing about Christ the opportunity to experience the blessing of a greater understanding of the One who saves them. Not sure if you would agree with that response, just laying out what I've heard and read.



Tom Kelley said...

LOL, Wade. I'm glad you are so humble about your teaching abilities. :)

Thanks again for the exchange. Hope you have a blessed Christmas season.

Christiane said...

Hi Wade,
thanks again for response . . .

perhaps 'inculpably ignorant' might have been a better phrase for me to use,
as I do understand very well of God's grace (and am very thankful)
for those who are born and living vulnerable lives challenged by handicaps

Christiane said...

yes, I do agree with that point ... I am in awe of the missionary efforts of all denominations to teach the world about Our Lord

I remember feeling very sad hearing about those 70 Southern Baptist missionaries who could not in conscience sign the BF&M2K and were dismissed from their posts.

I also believe that the sacred Scriptures give us hope for those for whom many would say 'they are lost' . . . and that hope is found in the compassion of Christ Himself for those 'without a shepherd'.

The Good News is for all people of good will. And it is the duty of the Church to bring Christ to the world. Yes, I agree with you there.

Curious Thinker said...

From what I studied in Romans 2 is that Gentiles who are not under the law of Moses or ignorant of it follow natural law within their hearts in which their conscience will either justify or condemn their actions. God gives humans moral laws in their hearts to judge what is right and wrong. In the end God will judge them on their actions.

Wade Burleson said...

Curious Thinker,


Anonymous said...

Pastor Wade: Busy day, quick question. No time to read all queries and replies today, so if asked and answered please just tell me to scroll up :)

My question refers to the literal physical bodily resurrection. Some preachers make it sound like it will be exactly this body. Yet Scripture tells me it WON'T be exactly the same, and uses grain as an example. When I plant corn, I could if I planted it in a glass container watch the body I plant rot to nothing even as the "new body" rises out of the seed.

Can you shed some light on this conundrum? Since Jesus spoke of the dead experiencing, and since there were the others at the transfiguration, how would that relate to this doctrine of soul sleep?



Wade Burleson said...


Can't be the exact same.

This body is the corruptible seed; the resurrection body is the flower (I Corinthians 15).

The 'mortal must put on immortality.'

I do believe the Scripture teaches the resurrected person (1). Will be recognized; (2). Will be in the prime of his or her life without future 'aging,' and (3). Will be 'different' in that I (you) will be able to traverse multiple dimensions for eternity, not just the standard three dimensions with which we are only familiar in our earthly bodies.


Anonymous said...

You have done some excellent, and thorough work here, Wade. I am so thankful for God's work in and through your ministry.

Paul Smith - Springfield, MO

Anonymous said...

I believe the old dogma has contributed to much unbelief. Thoughtful people felt they were forced to embrace an unthinkable belief, that God would create billions of eternal souls knowing that they would suffer eternally. I struggled for decades until I had read the Bible through many times and by just accepting what I read, I came to a similar conclusion.

Tamizh said...

One thing I truly learned form this content. Human life is uncertain and it can't be changed at any cost. But is immortality possible for mankind.