the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation …of eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:1-2b).
The sixth and final elementary principle of Christ enumerated in Hebrews chapter six concerns the eternal state. It is commonly understood that “eternal judgment” refers to the decision made concerning each person who stands before the judgment seat of God. In short, each and every person is judged to be either a sinner saved by grace or a sinner who has rejected the grace of God in Jesus Christ. The sentence passed will not be subject to appeal or reversal. What is decided then will be determined forever. On these points most evangelical Christians agree. However, problems arise when we move to a discussion of the attending aspects of this elementary principle: where will sinners and saints will spend eternity?
The orthodox Evangelical opinion saysthe wicked have their doom forever fixed in hell at the judgment. This doctrine is well attested in Scripture. After all, we are talking about “eternal judgment.”Moreover, the Bible clearly says the unregenerate will go away into everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46), shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thessalonians 1:9)in a place where ‘Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched’ (Mark 9:48). Thus, the Bible clearly teaches a doctrine of eternal punishment for those who reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Nevertheless, many who claim the name of Christ reject this obvious truth. They say a truly loving God would never condemn a person to eternal torment. Instead, they suggest “eternal” and “everlasting” are examples of hyperbole – when applied to the unsaved of course. According to their point of view, a loving God might punish unregenerate people for a time, but sooner than later he will simply annihilate them and the unsaved will pass into nothingness. To these less than orthodox Christians, the eternal state of the unsaved is simply …nothing – a position not unlike most ardent atheists.
Clearly a discussion of the elementary principle of Christ concerning eternal judgment continues in the Church today. And it is not just the more liberal wing of the Church that is guilty of shunning meat. Although Evangelicals generally accept the doctrine of eternal punishment for the unregenerate, many are confused about the eternal state of Christians. Evidence of this is found in the popularity of books like Heaven Is For Real and the now discredited The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven. The multimillion copy best seller Heaven Is For Real is wildly unbiblical and representative of American Folk Religion rather than the Christian faith. Yet millions of people who self-identify as Evangelical Christians consider the tome (and the subsequent movie) a reliable consideration of heaven and life in the “here-after.”
Another way the Church stumbles over the elementary principle of Christ concerning eternal judgment is in holding to the belief that Believers will spend eternity in heaven after the final judgment. However, the Bible does not teach this. Instead, the teaching of the Bible – end to end – is that heaven is a temporary resting place for those who die in Christ. The truth is, followers of God in Christ will spend eternity on a renewed earth.
More on this topic in a couple weeks.