TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE INCONTESTABILITY OF APOSTOLIC WITNESS
its largest sense, the purpose of this treatise has been to provide a
deeper penetrating light from the Holy Spirit on the nature of the truth
we have been called to believe, and in turn on the battle for preserving
that truth ahead of the appearance of the man of sin whose goal is to
seat himself as "God" among us (II Th. 2:4). Paul tells us this man’s coming will be with “all
deceivableness.” (When you think of “deceivableness,”
think of crafted “subtlety”
and seductive appeal to “making
one wise,” all spoken from a tone of “feigned
humility” (II Th. 2:10 →
II Cor. 11:3; Gen. 3:1→
4-6; (Col. 2:18a (KJV-3rd
Behind this treatise, the Lord’s burden is to help prophetic readers understand the real lay of the ground on which they fight in the war for spiritual truth. To war effectively, one must not only have his weapons in order, but he must also know the ground on which he stands and the battle is fought. The general who best understands the terrain will command the battle to victory.
So our purpose is to get beneath the mere war of words over revelationist doctrine to understand the ground. Knowing that ground is to perceive the difference between scripture as Spirit-inspired words and inspired witness. Where this discernment is made, the battle is no longer defined by the smoke of debatable word interpretations (on which any spirit can spin a “revelation”). It is now defined over the real issue—the issue of belief vs. unbelief of Spirit-sworn testimony.
§ Words vs. Witness
Mt. 21:25 …And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’
One of the most unfortunate words used in the proving of spiritual truth is the word “scripture.” Scripture is an impersonal nondescript term that informs us that the words so identified are authored by God. While that is true, it doesn’t tell us anything about the intent of the words. To say that “God says…” is only to say that God has spoken, and nothing more. That is as far as the word scripture can take us.
But acknowledging God has “spoken” says nothing about His heart and mind behind what He has said. Absent this, men vainly approach an issue and say “But scripture says this” as if to prove a point, from which the equally vain retort comes “But scripture says that.” So it goes, back and forth—empty word clashing. The devil also knows that appeal to “scripture” in discussion proves nothing. He is a master therefore at inciting men to haggle over word parsings under the banner of “scripture says” in order to blind from the actual Spirit intent behind the words.
The reality however is that scripture is not an impersonal body of spiritual truth just comprised of inspired words whose meaning is to be “figured out” by generations to come. Scripture is actually written through the hearts and minds of men who were charged to bear witness to what they had heard and seen. In giving their testimony, these men were assigned to communicate, not just spiritual words, but divine intent and meaning.
when the apostles and prophets spoke, the onus on the hearer was not to
“interpret the meaning” of what was said, but to believe
what the apostle or prophet said. The imperative to believe a testimony
carries the innate presumption that the witness intends to be plainly
understood (not to disguise his meaning) and that the hearer already understands what the
witness means. There
is nothing to figure out. There is nothing to "parse." And
so there is nothing to argue about. The
hearer knows what the witness means and he either believes
what the witness said or he doesn’t. That is the power and
significance of witness and testimony.
So when we search throughout the scriptures, while it’s true we do find a few references to “scripture” as an objective body of God-inspired writing to which we are accountable, the overwhelming emphasis is not on scripture as such to be understood, but it is on the unveiled testimony of apostles and prophets to simply be believed. Let’s look at some of these references to appreciate their strength:
Jn. 3:11 [Jesus] "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony… 5:33 "You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth…. 15:26 "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, … He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning….16:13… He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come…. Ac. 1:8 … you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses …."Jn. 18:37…For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."
Ac. 2:40 And with many other words [Peter] solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"…
Ac. 5:32 [Peter:]"And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him."… 10:39 "We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. … 42 "And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." I Pt. 4:18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?"... 5:12 ... I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!
Ac. 22:15 [Ananias / Jesus to Paul:] 'For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard…. 26:16 … for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you;
Ac. 20:24 [Paul:] "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course …, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God….I Cor. 15:15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised….II Th. 1:7…the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of [age-during] destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 ... -for our testimony to you was believed….Tit. 1:12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." 13 This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith,
§ Doctrine as Testimony
So we see that in communicating the truth, Jesus and the apostles emphasized the authority of their apostolic testimony to be believed, not the meaning of their words to be deciphered and debated in the form of “scripture.” We pointedly note that this testimony is not just to the story of Jesus, but includes the doctrine that attends that story—the “all truth” which the Holy Spirit was given to impart to the apostles.
What doctrine does this include? It includes Peter’s witness that the judgment of the world is the end reference point to be escaped by salvation and that God’s true grace is only contrasted against the last end of apostates. It includes Paul’s testimony that the disobedient will pay the penalty of open ended destruction. And it even includes the “politically incorrect” witness that Cretans are “always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” None of this is apostolic “theology” to be interpreted and thus debated. It is all testimony to either be believed or rejected at face value.
By contrast, the secret to sustaining revelationist doctrines is to eliminate accountability for believing plain apostolic doctrinal testimony as already given us, and instead base teachings on crafted associations of scripture “words” and their isolated meanings—thus to say, “See, it’s in scripture.” These doctrines are then further sustained by creating a substitute form of “witness” to them, whether by the agreement of a group of people who all believe the teaching, or in the form of one’s own private “inner witness,” or both.
This is how all cultic teaching begins and operates. Revelationist doctrines such as Christian Universalism must be additionally platformed on evincing a subjective “inner witness” in hearers and appeal to “all the others” who believe the "same way" about the scripture “words”—all to dodge believing the simple straightforward testimony of the apostles already before us.
§ The Testimony of the Apostle to the Hebrews
What this means is that, in the end Christian Universalism proves out false, not because a myopic argument is proven defining a single word like “all” or “forever,” but because to believe Christian Universalism, one must disbelieve straightforward apostolic testimony. This is easy to demonstrate on just one point of witness. Here it is, with key phrasings emphasized:
Heb. 10:26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge His people." 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
So what do we have here? Is it just a bunch of inspired fragmented “words” that have to be deciphered and dissected for meaning? Or do we have the wholesome testimony of the Holy Spirit through an apostle speaking to immediate hearers who would be expected to perfectly understand what the apostle was saying?
There is nothing to debate here. A man is bearing witness, not only to his immediate hearers and readers, but to those of every generation to follow.
To what does he testify?
He testifies that once any of us willfully practices sin after having received God’s truth, then the sacrifice of Jesus (our only means to salvation) has no more effect. It cannot re-save us a second time, and thus the only expectation left is to be incinerated as an enemy under God’s terrifying fury without any further mercy.
Is there any question about what he “means”? No. He’s writing to me, a Spirit-filled believer in Christ, personally in point blank exhortation. Nothing is "prophetically hidden" from me. I know what “no longer remains” means. I know what “but a terrifying expectation of judgment” means. I know what "consume" means. I know what “without mercy” means. He is using specific terminal language that admits of no alternatives. He uses no language having elastic meanings under different conditions.
The man's testimony is resolute and impassioned. His forcefulness tells me he means what he says, leaving me no hint of doubt he could mean anything else. He expects me to believe him without question.
So there is no
question about meaning in this testimony. There is no single "word"
here to parse. There is nothing I have to dissect for context. There
is no word here subject to subtle hidden "prophetic meaning." His
solemn witness is inherently complete. The
only question that exists is,
“Do I believe his testimony to me?”
Either I believe this man or I don’t. And if the man is right, and if I don’t believe him, then I am guilty of unbelief, and I will pay the price for my unbelief according to the price to which the man testifies. I will face the terrifying incinerating fire of God for which there is no further mercy because there is no more application of the blood of Jesus for me in the hereafter.
That is how simple
this really is. There is nothing else to “debate.” And to debate the
"meaning" of his words is therefore just a smokescreen, a red
herring, a dodge to mask my own unbelief.
Did the man say anything to me about the meaning of aionios or a time limit or some other "way out" or the possibility of “reformation” or “purging” by this fire? No, he didn’t. If he had meant to, he would have testified so. That is the nature of testimony. The meaning is already fully embedded within it.
Well then, did or could any other apostle say anything to contradict this man’s testimony? No—not if the scriptures are one inspired Book. This returns us to the opening of Part 1 where we said that, no matter how many dozens of debatable positive spins of scripture “words” supporting Christian Universalism are added to just one negative testimony against the possibility of further salvation after its willful rejection, the only result can be the negative denial of ultimate reconciliation.
Consider. If one apostle’s or prophet’s testimony contradicted another’s, one of them would have to be lying. And if either of them is lying, then the Bible is not the word of God. Thus, either this man in Hebrews is telling the truth (there is no further remedy for sin after this life) and no interpretation of any other apostle’s words can contradict that, or else the scripture whole is false.
So for Universalists
to assert that there actually is “other scripture” that “shows” that
“all” men will be reconciled to God after they sin willfully when
this writer plainly testifies that there is no more sacrifice or
mercy after this life, can only serve to advocate that the
scriptures are false. In that case, Universalists should just throw
the Bible out.
§ A Direct Challenge to Dedicated Universalists
Then what is the only real issue? The issue is that you, as a fully persuaded Universalist, do not believe this apostle's solemn testimony. And if you do not believe, you will suffer the consequences of your unbelief, because the man is telling the truth straight from the Throne of God. That is all there is to it. End of story.
- A Private Witness?
But you may then say, “But I have my own ‘inner witness’ from the Holy Spirit that universal reconciliation is true.” (I’ve heard the same thing from Mormons and New Age cosmic humanists. Mormons say, “I have a ‘burning in my bosom’ that Mormonism is true.”)
But I’m sorry. You
do not have any such witness from the Holy Spirit that universal
reconciliation is true. How do we know this? We know this chiefly in
The first more general way is that, the Holy Spirit does not argue for His truth ever by appealing to naturalist concepts of God’s “fairness” to support it, as all of you do. If you truly had the witness of the Holy Spirit, you would stand on that witness and the scripture alone, without proffering argument primarily designed to placate the world’s view of God’s “unfairness” in sending men to hell forever. All Universalist arguments are ultimately based in appeasing the world’s view of and offenses over God and His ways.
Yet no apostle ever argued this way. The apostle to the Hebrews did not. And Jesus certainly did not! The Holy Spirit never seeks to appease human perceptions of God to win man to His truth. To the contrary, He says His truth will always offend the natural man. By this we know you do not have the witness of the Holy Spirit.
The second way however which is more important and more immediate to our discussion is that the Holy Spirit cannot lie against Himself. The Holy Spirit will not testify to you through the apostle to Hebrews that there is no more sacrifice for sins past this life, and then inwardly tell you—a nobody generations removed from the founding apostolic line—that there still is some kind of sacrifice available or some “other way” for God to show mercy on the willfully disobedient through hell and the Lake of Fire. That would make the Holy Spirit a liar.
If then your “inner witness” to universal reconciliation contradicts the witness of the inspired apostle, then either the apostle’s witness is false and those of us who believe him are deceived, or else your inner witness is false and you are deceived and those with you who all claim the same thing.
As John said it well, “He who is not from God does not listen to us.” And if you aren’t listening to the writer of Hebrews, if you are trying to do word gymnastics outside his simple testimony, then you are the one bearing a false witness against God’s true revelational testimony—not those who believe the apostle’s testimony whom you charge with “uncompassion” and “carnal minded theology” and …and….
It’s time for you,
the dedicated Universalist, to simply come clean and be honest. This
is not a challenge to you to change your belief about hell and the
Lake of Fire, only to be honest
about it. Admit that you just don’t believe
the apostle's testimony
about it. He says the blood has no saving effect past the judgment
through the fire. You say it does. You don't believe him.
So why go through the convoluted sham of stitching isolated “scriptures” together, redefining all the negative words you don't like and quibbling about tunnel-focused word interpretations in order to disguise your unbelief of the plain testimony as if you did believe him? Why not just honestly say, “I don’t believe the apostle’s testimony, and I think there is a different way to reconciliation with God past Christ’s sacrifice and another meaning to ‘salvation’ after the judgment and through the fire (because there just has to be)”? Why not just admit you believe in a different gospel than the apostles and be done with it—like the rest out there honest enough to admit they don’t believe the apostles either, or that hell even exists, or that Jesus is the only way to God?
- Apostolic Fallibility?
One has said to me, “But the apostles were frail men just like us, and they didn’t get everything right.”
Let’s go up to
visit the New Jerusalem for a moment. Take a look over there at
the foundation stones. Do
you see any names written on them?
Whose names do you see? Is it the twelve apostles?
Do you see your
name or the name of any of your Universalist gurus on those
No? Why not?
Here is why. It’s because the Lord laid the foundations for our cosmological beliefs about salvation through the testimony of those men, and not through you. You have no ground then to assert any superiority of your “inner witness” over their testimony by citing their frailties on a par with yours. If you question their revelation by their frailties, and they are the foundation stones, how much more do you indict your own beliefs because of your frailties?
- Who Then Is the Liar?
“…The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given….” Similarly, he who does not believe the God-inspired testimony of His apostles makes them out to be liars. To disbelieve someone’s testimony is to call someone a liar.
So then, we have to weigh between the testimony of the apostles and the disbelief of those who do not accept that testimony. If the apostle says, “there is no more sacrifice for sins,” and you say “the blood of Jesus avails in hell after one has willfully sinned here,” who is to be believed, and who is the liar?
If the apostle says that the punishment for willful sin is incineration “without mercy” and you say that hell’s fire is the mercy of refinement, who is the liar?
But if you say, “Well, this other apostle or
prophet said this over here, superseding the author of Hebrews,”
then either one or both of them are liars, which means the
scriptures are lying—or else it means you
are lying against both their testimonies.
Guess who the liar is…..
§ Conclusion to All
Once we understand the testimonial nature of apostolic doctrine—that it is straightforward common language inspired by the Holy Spirit to be believed at face value—not mystical language to be “prophetically” redefined and reinterpreted—we then understand the real nature of all Universalist word-smithing, appeal to debatable “interpretation,” and insinuations of “carnal mindedness” against the unpersuaded. It is all just to evade embrace of Spirit imparted testimony which man does not want to believe. That’s it. That’s all.
Under this most
simple of all light, Christian Universalism is revealed to be
nothing more than a humanly motivated, scripturally disguised,
complex construct of unbelief clothed in a garb of false
revelational superiority. And so, in the face of point blank
apostolic contradiction and denial of this teaching, the only
question is, “Who do we choose to believe?"
Belief versus unbelief of the apostle's testimony, not the "meaning" of "the scriptures," is the only true issue of debate underneath the Universalist controversy. All other argument is but an illusion under a deception.
This expose ends the debate.