"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" Introduction To The Epistle by Mark Copeland


  Introduction To The Epistle


1. The Epistle to the Hebrews is a unique book in the New Testament...
   a. It begins as an "essay" - He 1:1-2
   b. It progresses as a "sermon" - He 2:1-4
   c. It ends as a "letter" - He 13:23-25

2. Its contents are deep and challenging...
   a. Many Christians find it difficult
   b. Some equate its difficulty with the book of Revelation

3. But for Christians who are willing to take the time to read and 
   reflect upon it...
   a. They are REMINDED of how blessed they are to have trusted in Christ
   b. They are IMPRESSED with the superiority of Christ and His New 
      Covenant over Moses and the Old Covenant
   c. They are WARNED of the danger of apostasy and the need for 
      steadfastness in their faith

4. With this lesson, I wish to begin a series of expository sermons 
   based upon this epistle...
   a. Yet just as one should not begin a journey without some idea of
      where they are going
   b. So it is beneficial to begin with a preview of this epistle, that
      we might have an idea...
      1) Of where we are headed
      2) And what we can expect to find

[Such a "preview" or introduction would naturally include some 
information on...]


      1. The author does not identify himself
      2. Many believe it to be the apostle Paul (e.g., Clement of
         a. This seems unlikely in view of the author's statement:  
            "...was confirmed to us by those who heard Him," - He 2:3
         b. For Paul declared that he had not received the gospel from
            or through men - Ga 1:11-12
         c. Yet there are many arguments which favor Paul as the author
            (cf. New Testament Commentary on Hebrews, Robert Milligan, pp. 5-19)
      3. Other names have been proposed over the years:
         a. Barnabas (suggested by Tertullian)
         b. Apollos (suggested by Luther)
         c. Priscilla (suggested by Harnack)
      -- In the end, we can only say with Origen, "But who wrote the 
         epistle, to be sure, only God knows."

      1. The general consensus is that this letter was written to 
         Jewish Christians
      2. But there is uncertainty as to where they and the author were
         at the time of composition
         a. Most believe the recipients were in Palestine, and the 
            author in Rome
         b. Others suggest the readers were in Rome and the author 
            elsewhere, based upon a possible implication in He 13:24
      -- In any case, they were Jewish Christians whom the author knew
         personally - cf. He 10:34; 13:19

      1. We know it was prior to 96 A.D., for Clement of Rome quotes 
         from Hebrews in his letter written at that time
      2. There are certainly strong implications that it was written 
         prior to 70 A.D.
         a. There is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple
         b. The author writes as though priests were still offering 
            sacrifices - He 8:4; 10:11
      3. If the Jewish Christians were in Palestine, it was likely 
         before or at the beginning of the Jewish Wars (ca.66-70 A.D.),
         in light of He 12:4
      -- The time frame of 63-65 A.D. is often suggested

      1. To prevent his readers from abandoning their faith in Christ - cf. He 2:1-4
      2. To encourage his Jewish brethren not to go back to the Old Law
         a. By showing the superiority of Christ and His Covenant cf. He 8:1-2,6
         b. A key word found throughout the epistle is "better"
            1) Christ is "better than the angels" - He 1:4
            2) We enjoy "the bringing in of a better hope" - He 7:19
            3) Jesus has become "the surety of a better covenant"- He 7:22
            4) He is also "the Mediator of a better covenant, which was
               established on better promises" - He 8:6
            5) The heavenly things benefit from "better sacrifices" - He 9:23
      -- Indeed, the purpose of this epistle was to exhort his readers- He 13:22

[With this background to the epistle, let's continue our brief survey
of the book by noticing...]


      1. Better than the prophets, as a much better Spokesman - He 1:
      2. Better than the angels, by virtue of His Deity and humanity 
         - He 1:4-2:18
      3. Better than Moses, for He is the Son who provides a heavenly
         rest - He 3:1-4:13
      4. Better than Aaron, as His priesthood is a superior one - He 4:16-8:6

      1. For it is based upon better promises - He 8:7-13
      2. For it is based upon a better sanctuary - He 9:1-28
      3. For it is based upon a better sacrifice - He 10:1-18

      1. To draw near to God and hold fast - He 10:19-39
      2. To run the race of faith with endurance - He 11:1-12:29
      3. Miscellaneous exhortations - He 13:1-25

[A unique feature of "The Epistle To The Hebrews" are the warnings
throughout the book.  As we conclude this introduction, perhaps it may
be profitable to summarize...]


      1. Through neglect we can easily drift away
      2. The solution is to give the more earnest heed to the things we
         have heard

      1. Through sin's deceitfulness we can become hardened and develop
         a lack of faith by which we can depart from the living God
      2. The solution is exhort one another daily and remain steadfast

      1. Like Israel in the wilderness, we can fail to enter our rest
         through disobedience
      2. The solution is diligence and heeding the Word of God

      1. Dullness of hearing can make it difficult for us to appreciate
         the extent of our blessings in Christ, and even falling away 
         to the point of crucifying the Son of God afresh!
      2. The solution is grasping the first principles of the oracles 
         of God, and then pressing on to spiritual maturity and 

      1. It is possible to so despise God's grace as to no longer have
         a sacrifice for sins, but only a certain fearful expectation
         of judgment
      2. The solution is to hold unto our confidence in Christ, and 
         believe with endurance

      1. It is possible to refuse to listen to the One who now speaks
         from heaven!
      2. The solution is to look diligently to the grace of God, 
         receiving it in such a way so we may serve Him acceptably with
         reverence and godly fear


1. With such warnings, this book is indeed a "word of exhortation"! 
   - He 13:22

2. As we proceed through the book in the coming lessons, it will be my intent...
   a. To REMIND you of how blessed we are to have trusted in Christ
   b. To IMPRESS you with the superiority of Christ and His New 
      Covenant over Moses and the Old Covenant
   c. To WARN you of the real danger of apostasy and the need for 
      steadfastness in our faith

My task will be easy if I am faithful in letting the book speak for 
itself.  That is my hope and prayer...

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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To Whom Does Matthew 19:3-12 Apply? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


To Whom Does Matthew 19:3-12 Apply?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

In order to sort out the proper application of the discussion on divorce in Matthew 19, one must take into account several contextual indicators. 

First, observe that in the context of the passage, Jesus addressed Himself to Jews (vs. 3—“Pharisees”)—not ChristiansHe answered their question: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” (vs. 3).

Second, if Jesus’ answer applies only to Christians (as some claim), then He did not help His Jewish inquirers and, in fact, He completely dodged their question. But He made clear that His answer did apply to them and to everybody else, for three reasons:
  1. He said, “Have you not read” (vs. 4) and “But I say unto you” (vs. 9). He was speaking to them!
  2. He used the term “whosoever” (vs. 9)—an all-inclusive term that means anyone and everyone.
  3. In verses 4-5, He appealed to Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24 for His answer to their question. The instruction from Genesis predates the Mosaic period in its original context. Consequently, the teaching of Genesis (i.e., that God has intended from the very beginning of time for one man to be married to one woman for life, with the only exception being fornication) is teaching that applies to mankind and humanity in general.
Though (a) during certain time periods (e.g., Mosaic), people grew lax in their sensitivity to this Divine guideline, and though (b) God “winked at” this lax behavior (Acts 17:30), such is no indication that people today are free to ignore the laws of God on divorce and remarriage (Hebrews 13:4).

Third, notice the disciples’ reaction to the stringent nature of Jesus’ declaration: “[I]f the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry” (vs. 10). In other words, if a man is obligated to remain married to his first spouse (with the only possibility for divorce and remarriage being the sexual unfaithfulness of that mate), then the man ought to think twice, deliberating long and hard, before he decides to get married the first time. In marrying, he is committing himself to a lifetime with the same woman (in God’s sight). It may very well be preferable to live single than to risk permanent marriage to a mate who creates misery and is unpleasant to live with (but who remains sexually faithful). This is the gist of the disciples’ remark to Jesus. They understood Jesus’ instruction to be very restrictive. But they then drew an erroneous conclusion by proposing the propriety, even priority, of celibacy.

Fourth, in response to the disciples’ remark, Jesus noted in verse 11 that not everyone can live as they suggested (i.e., single and celibate). The implication is that some, more than others, possess a greater need for companionship and the sexual relationship that accompanies that marital companionship. (Notice that sex is perfectly permissible in God’s sight—after all, He designed it! But, if one desires to indulge, the participant is under obligation to conform to divine guidelines, limiting and confining sexual activity to a scriptural marriage relationship). Jesus then elaborated upon three classes of men (vs. 12) who would be able to pursue the celibate life which the disciples proposed: (1) those who are born physically defective and, consequently, are unable to function sexually; (2) those who are born physically normal, but who are then surgically rendered unable to perform sexually. Though odd to the modern mind, it was a common practice in ancient cultures to render impotent various individuals who sought to function in official capacities, e.g., wards in charge of royal bedchambers, servants who lived in the palaces of royalty, etc. (cf. Genesis 37:26; 40:2,7; Daniel 1:3; Esther 1:10; 2:21; 1 Kings 22:9; 2 Kings 8:6; 9:32; Acts 8:27); (3) those who simply choose to forego sexual relations and marriage in order to devote themselves completely to religious matters (like Jesus and Paul).

Fifth, Jesus’ concluding statement, “he that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (vs. 12), pertains to that which He had been discussing, i.e., the choice to live celibate. He could not have been referring back to the statement of verse 9. Such would be a contradiction. For, on the one hand, He would have been declaring emphatically that those who divorce/remarry unscripturally are guilty of committing adulteryand then, turning right around and minimizing this declaration by suggesting that a person does not have to abide by the stricture if he does not want to. If people are free to decide their own guidelines for marriage, there was no need for Jesus to have even mentioned the matter in the first place. But when has God ever laid down any regulation with the implication that men do not have to obey if they do not wish to? The “saying” (vs. 11) with which He took issue, maintaining that it should not be set in concrete or urged upon mankind indiscriminately and universally, was the saying of the disciples—that men ought to refrain from marriage and live celibate lives. Jesus’ statement in verse 9 is clearly universal in its application and import. The disciples’ statement in verse 10 is clearly limited in its scope and application to the three classes of individuals that Jesus delineated. Only those three categories of persons are in a position (physically, and/or mentally) to “receive this saying” pertaining to abstinence from marriage.

To Judge, or Not to Judge? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


To Judge, or Not to Judge?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

One of the most oft’-quoted verses in the Bible is Matthew 7:1—“Judge not, that you be not judged.” Those engaged in immoral behavior frequently quote this verse when attempting to defend their sinful lifestyle. Certain religionists quote it when being challenged to prove that their questionable practices are backed by biblical authority. A belligerent teenager might be heard reciting this phrase to his parents when they inquire about his occasional association with “the wrong crowd.” Skeptics even quote Matthew 7:1 in an attempt to show an inconsistency in Jesus’ teachings. From church pews to barstools, from the “Bible belt” to Hollywood, Matthew 7:1 is ripped from its context and bellowed as some kind of scare tactic: “Do you dare judge me? Jesus said, ‘Judge not, that you be not judged.’ ” Allegedly, Jesus meant that we cannot pass judgment on anyone at anytime.

Sadly, Matthew 7:1 is not only among the most frequently quoted verses in the Bible, but also is one of the most abused verses in all of Scripture. Its exploitation becomes clear when the entire context of Matthew 7 is studied more carefully. Throughout Matthew chapters 5-7 (often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus publicly criticized the Jewish scribes and Pharisees for their self-righteousness and abuse of the Old Testament. Near the beginning of this sermon, Jesus stated: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The unrighteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was at the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wanted His audience to understand that self-righteousness would not be permitted in the kingdom of heaven; rather, it would lead to “condemnation” in hell (5:20; cf. 23:14,33). A follower of God must be “poor in spirit” (5:3), not filled with pride. He must love his enemies, not hate them (5:44). He is to do good deeds, but only to please God, not men (6:1-4). The scribes and Pharisees were guilty of wearing “righteousness” on their sleeves, rather than in their hearts (6:1-8; cf. 23:1-36). It was in the midst of such strong public rebuke that Christ proclaimed:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5).

In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus instructed us not to do charitable deeds…“as the hypocrites do” (to be seen of men). In 6:5-8, Jesus told us not to pray…“like the hypocrites” (to be heard of men). In 6:16-18, Jesus taught us not to fast…“like the hypocrites” (to be seen of men). Likewise, in Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus was teaching us that judging another is wrong…when that judgment is hypocritical.

But, what if we are doing charitable deeds to be seen of God? Then by all means, “do good to all men” (Galatians 6:10)! What if our prayers are led from a pure heart and with righteous intentions? Should we pray? Most certainly (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Can we fast today, if the purpose of our fasting is to be seen of God and not men? Yes. But what about passing judgment? In Matthew 7:1-5, did Jesus condemn all judging, or, similar to the above examples, did He condemn only a certain kind of judging? Matthew 7:5 provides the answer. After condemning unrighteous judgments (7:1-4), Jesus instructed a person to “first remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” He was saying, in essence, “Get your life right first. Then, in love, address your brother’s problem.” This is consistent with what Paul wrote to the church at Philippi: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (2:4). God never intended for Christians to be recluses who never interacted with those around them. Rather, He gave us the responsibility of helping others by lovingly correcting them when they sin. In Matthew 7, Jesus was not suggesting that a person can never judge. He was saying, when you judge, judge righteously (as when we pray, fast, and do good deeds—do it without hypocrisy—John 7:24). Incidentally, Jesus already had judged the Pharisees. Thus, He obviously was not teaching that we should never judge anyone.

Further proof that Jesus did not condemn all judging can be found throughout the rest of chapter 7. In fact, in the very next verse after His statements about judging, Jesus implicitly commanded that His followers make a judgment. He said: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (7:6). Disciples of Christ must judge as to who are “dogs” and who are “hogs.” Otherwise, how can we know when not to give that which is holy to “dogs”? Or how can we know when not to cast our pearls before “swine”? Jesus said we must judge between those who are “worthy,” and those who are like dogs and pigs (cf. Matthew 10:12-15; Acts 13:42-46). A few verses later, Jesus again implied that His disciples must make a judgment.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them (Matthew 7:15-20).

Question: How can we “watch out” for false prophets if we cannot make judgments as to who the false prophets are? According to Jesus, determining the identity of false teachers involves inspecting “their fruits” and making judgments—righteous judgments.
What does the rest of Scripture have to say to those who regard all judging as being wrong?
  • In his letter to the churches of Galatia, Paul commanded those “who are spiritual” to restore those who have been “overtaken in any trespass…in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (6:1). Certainly, determining who is spiritual and who has sinned involves making judgments.
  • While addressing an issue in the church at Corinth where a man had “his father’s wife” (1 Corinthians 5:1), Paul wrote through inspiration:
    In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus…. I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person…. Therefore, put away from yourselves the evil person (1 Corinthians 5:4-5,11,13b).

    Paul commanded the church at Corinth to purge a fornicator from its midst. This man’s sin was even to be addressed in a public manner. To follow Paul’s command, the church had to make a judgment. Paul also commanded the congregation to “put away” others who were living in a state of sin. When we make such judgments today, they are to be righteous judgments that are based on facts and carried out in love. Such judging should be performed in a merciful spirit (Luke 6:36-37), and for the purpose of saving souls (“that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus”—1 Corinthians 5:5). Judgments are to be made from good (righteous) intentions. But judgments nevertheless must be made.
  • Paul instructed the church at Ephesus to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (5:11). And to the Christians in Rome he wrote: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (16:17). Were churches going to have to make important judgments to comply with Paul’s commands? Yes.
  • Similarly, the apostle John indicated that “whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11, emp. added). To determine whether or not we are going to allow someone into our homes, necessitates a judgment on our part.
  • Finally, if all judgments concerning spiritual matters are wrong, then why would Jesus have commanded His disciples to go and teach the lost (Matthew 28:19-20; cf. Acts 8:4)? Before one ever teaches the Gospel to someone who is not a Christian, a judgment must be made. Is this person lost in sin, or saved “in Christ”? If we are to teach the lost today, then it is necessary to determine who is lost and who is not.
If we never can “judge people” in any sense, as many today suggest (through the misuse of Matthew 7:1), then the above commands never could be obeyed. But, they must be obeyed! Thus, (righteous) judgments must be made.

The popular and politically correct idea that “all judging is wrong” is anti-biblical. Those who teach that Jesus was condemning all judging in Matthew 7:1 are guilty of ignoring the context of the passage, as well as the numerous verses throughout the rest of the Bible which teach that judging the sinful lifestyles of others is necessary. One key ingredient that we need to incorporate in every judgment is “righteousness.” Jesus commanded that His disciples first get their own lives right with God; then they can “see clearly” to be of help to others who are overcome in their faults (Matthew 7:5). As Jesus told the Jews in the temple on one occasion: “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

Things God Cannot Do by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Things God Cannot Do

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Both Christians and atheists generally have assumed that if the God depicted in the Bible exists, He can do anything—since He is represented as being all-powerful. However, this assumption is incorrect. The Bible does not claim that the omnipotence of God implies that He can do anything and everything. In reality, “omnipotence” does not, and cannot, apply to that which does not lend itself to power. Skeptics and atheists have posed queries that they feel nullify the notion of omnipotence, thereby demonstrating the nonexistence of God. For example, “Can God create a boulder so large that He, Himself, cannot lift it?”

Separate and apart from the fact that God is not, Himself, physical, and that He created the entire physical Universe, though He is metaphysical and transcendent of the Universe, the question is a conceptual absurdity. It’s like asking, “Can God create a round square or a four-sided triangle?” No, He cannot—but not for the reasons implied by the atheist: that He does not exist or that He is not omnipotent. Rather, it is because the question is, itself, self-contradictory and incoherent. It is nonsensical terminology. Rather than saying God cannot do such things, it would be more in harmony with the truth to say simply that such things cannot be done at all! God is infinite in power, but power meaningfully relates only to what can be done, to what is possible of accomplishment—not to what is impossible! It is absurd to speak of any power (even infinite power) being able to do what simply cannot be done. Logical absurdities do not lend themselves to being accomplished, and so, are not subject to power, not even to infinite power (see Warren, 1972, pp. 27ff.).

While God can do whatever is possible to be done, in reality, He will do only what is in harmony with His nature. Further, to suggest that God is deficient or limited in power if He cannot create a rock so large that He cannot lift, is to imply that He could do so if He simply had more power. But this is false. Creating a rock that He, Himself, cannot lift, or creating a four-sided triangle, or making a ball that is at the same time both white all over and black all over, or creating a ninety-year-old teenager, or making a car that is larger on the inside that it is on the outside—to propose such things is to affirm logical contradictions and absurdities. Such propositions do not really say anything at all. Though one can imagine logical absurdities that cannot be accomplished, they do not constitute a telling blow against the view that God is infinite in power.

So, no, the concept of “omnipotence” does not mean that there are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do. In fact, the Bible pinpoints specific things that God cannot do. For example, the Bible states unequivocally that God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2). He is a Being whose very essence entails truthfulness. Falsehood is completely out of harmony with His divine nature. Further, God cannot be tempted by evil (James 1:13).
Another impossibility pertaining to God’s power is the fact that He shows no partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25; 1 Peter 1:17). He is “open and above board”—evenhanded—with all His creatures. He can be counted on to interact with human beings as He said He would. His treatment of us centers on our own self-chosen behavior—not on our ethnicity or skin color (Acts 10:34-35; 1 Samuel 16:7).

A third instance that qualifies the meaning of “omnipotent” is seen in God’s inability to forgive the individual who will not repent and forsake his or her sin (Joshua 24:19; Proverbs 28:13; Matthew 6:15; 18:35; Luke 13:3,5). As great and as magnificent as the mercy and forgiveness of God are, it is impossible to bestow forgiveness upon the person who does not seek that forgiveness by meeting the pre-conditions of remission. God is literally powerless to bestow forgiveness through any other avenue than the blood of Jesus and obedience to the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16; 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).

The more one studies the Bible, examining the attributes and characteristics of the God depicted there, the more one is struck with (1) the inspiration of the Bible—since its skillful handling of such matters places it beyond the charge of successful contradiction, and (2) awe at the infinitude of God. Not one of the factors discussed in this article reflects adversely upon the reality of God’s omnipotence. But it is abundantly clear that a person may so live as to render the God of heaven incapable of coming to that person’s aid. It is imperative that every human being recognizes the need to understand His will and to conform one’s behavior to that will. It is imperative that every individual avoid placing self in the precarious position of being in need of that which God cannot do.


Warren, Thomas B. (1972), Have Atheists Proved There Is No God (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).

There Will Be No Signs! by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


There Will Be No Signs!

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

It is not uncommon to hear people discussing the end of time and delineating the “signs” that, they say, are proof that Christ’s return is imminent. These signs include “wars and rumors of wars,” “earthquakes,” and various political/military events that one observes on the evening news. These loud proponents of gloom claim to be representing the Bible in their calculations and forecasts. Of course, to date, every attempt to pinpoint the date of Christ’s return has failed.
The fact is that earthquakes could not have been intended by God to be a sign of the end of the world. Since 1900 alone, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. Many go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small magnitudes. The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) now locates about 50 earthquakes each day, or about 20,000 a year (NEIC Web Team, 2003). Since earthquakes have been fairly constant for the last 2,000 years, and occur on a daily basis, they would be completely useless in attempting to recognize the end of the world. However, if Jesus intended them to be immediate signs, contemporaneous with the first century, they would have served a useful purpose.

Consider for a moment what the Bible actually teaches on this matter. In Matthew 24, Jesus pinpointed numerous signs by which His disciples and Jewish Christians could recognize the occasion of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The signs that Jesus mentioned included “wars and rumors of wars” (vs. 6), “famines and earthquakes” (vs. 7), the Gospel preached to the whole world (vs. 14), and the approach of the Roman armies (vs. 15; cf. Luke 21:20). These events functioned as signals by which the faithful could identify the “end” (vss. 6,14) of the Jewish commonwealth. Jesus provided descriptive detail in response to the disciples’ question concerning the destruction of the temple (vss. 2-3). Just as tender branches and fresh leaves signal the approach of summer (vs. 32), so the multiple signs that Jesus pinpointed would signal the coming of Christ in judgment on the Jewish nation (vs. 33) in A.D. 70.

Then, beginning in verse 36, Jesus turned His attention to the question of the end of time and His Second Coming. Notice the difference! Jesus went out of His way to stress the total absence of signs signaling the end of the world and the Second Coming. He declared that His final coming would be comparable to the Deluge of Noah’s day (vs. 37), in that it will be totally unexpected. Right up to the very day that Noah and his family entered the ark, life was going on as usual. No signs! Jesus said farmers will be in the field as usual (vs. 40); women will be involved in their activities as usual(vs. 41). Jesus even likened the unexpected nature of His final coming to the exploits of a thief (vs. 43). Both Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2) and Peter (2 Peter 3:10) repeat this analogy. As the coming of a thief in the night is preceded by absolutely no signs, so the final coming of Jesus will be preceded by absolutely no signals.

Contrary to the prevailing notions of today concerning “the signs of the times,” the Bible asserts that there will be a total absence of signs to prepare the world for the end of time. The only hope of the entire world is to render obedience to the written revelation of the Bible (Matthew 24:46). Noah preached, apparently for many years, in hopes of alerting the world’s population to the coming judgment upon them. They refused to listen. Likewise, the only “tip off ” available today is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that instructs every accountable individual what to do to be right with God. When one brings one’s life into compliance with those directives, “signs” by which to anticipate the return of Christ are completely superfluous.


NEIC Web Team (2003), “Earthquake Facts and Statistics,” [On-line], URL: http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/eqlists/eqstats.html.

Lonely Love by EE Healy


“God’s Judgments & Punishments” (a review) by Jim R. Everett

“God’s Judgments & Punishments”

(A Review of Homer Hailey’s book, “God’s Judgments And Punishments”)

By Jim R. Everett
  4. MARK 9:48; ISAIAH 66:18-24; MATTHEW 3:12
  6. 2 THESSALONIANS 1:6-10
  8. REVELATION 20:10-15; 21:8


Such is the title of the last book of brother Hailey’s illustrious career. Brother Hailey was writing excellent, resourceful material well past his 70th birthday. However, if I live to be 70, I will probably quit writing. That is not to denigrate others who write so ably when they are much older. I suspect that my mental faculties will be diminished and I would hate to put something in writing that is a not a product of clear thinking.
Brother’s Hailey’s writings have reached far beyond his life and will continue to influence the thinking of myriads of minds. In the many years that I heard him teach and preach he made God’s prophets come alive by a very vivid presentation of God’s justness in dealings with nations — you could almost hear the rattling of the chariot wheels and the crack of the whip. In all those years, never once do I remember him remotely alluding to a denial of individual, eternal punishment. In fact, his earlier comments on Rev 20:10, are exactly the opposite of what he argues in this work. He makes an excellent argument on pp. 398-399, of his Revelation commentary that will be quoted later in this material. However, in the Preface to his book on God’s Judgments, he refers to his comments on Rev. 20:10 -- “The comment on Revelation 20:10 in my Commentary on Revelation is correct to an extent. But it is not the full exegesis of the verse,” (p. xv) — but he did not answer his own argument! And, it seems that he forgot what he wrote many years before as found in “Hailey’s Comments,” pp. 708-711. His thinking and reasoning on “The Nature of Eternal Punishment” there are very sound and irrefutable.
It is regrettable that in his later years he would produce a work that is being used by men like Stanley Pahyer and Edward Fudge to promote their error. And, though LeGard Smith endorsed brother Hailey’s book, he was careful to praise only the part dealing with God’s punishment of the nations and not the second part that deals with the soul annihilation theory. At least, with brother Hailey, one never had a problem knowing where he stood.
A deceased author cannot reply, so reviewing his material requires a fair and honest assessment of his arguments. However, even as one shows respect for those who have passed from this life, it is critical to expose the fallacy of reasoning. And, even as I undertake this distasteful task, I feel like “Who am I?” that I should take issue with one whose knowledge far surpassed my own? However, the greatest of men are not immune to weaknesses that affect thinking processes. Knowing brother Hailey as I knew him, I know that he believed he was right and that he taught what he taught in harmony with his conscience. Brother Hailey frequently pointed out to his audiences that he didn’t care what brother so-in-so believed or taught on a subject — it was what “The Book” taught that mattered to him. He would not want anyone to accept his position because of who he was — that would be an insult to him. In referencing his arguments in this work, he says, “On the other hand, if my reasoning or deductions are illogical, then the error will be on my part and I will gladly retract my interpretation,” (Preface, p. xv). But these remarks did not appear until after his death. His arguments are deficient and his interpretations not true to “The Book” but he has no opportunity to retract them. It is my conviction that if his mind had remained as reasonable as it was in earlier years, he would never have written this book.
In my judgment a denial of eternal punishment will become a real issue within a few years. Recently, I wrote a tract entitled “Watering Down Hell” which was first published in a series of articles in Biblical Insights. In that material I answered the basic arguments brother Hailey makes, because those arguments are common to all those who hold the annihilation view of individual punishment; however, brother Hailey gives a little different twist to some of the arguments. For instance, he affirmed that “their worm dieth not” (Isa 66:18-24Mk 9:48) referred to the persecution of God’s people under the new covenant. And, contrary to the belief that man’s soul is conditionally immortal, he believes Lk 16:19-34 to be truth and not a myth. It seems, without realizing it, he develops a greater inconsistency than other conditional immortalists do. Men like Fudge are forced to a certain consistency upon accepting death as annihilation — Fudge’s position demands that if man’s soul is not immortal, then when he dies, he ceases to exist. And, in seeking consistency, Fudge alludes to a belief that if Christ had not been raised, then he would have ceased to exist. Brother Hailey does not go that far.
In his Introduction, he laid out what would be a two-pronged approach in his book. First, he notes that man is limited in understanding eternal things since he can only reason in a mundane, time-frame reference. To this I would certainly acquiesce and have so affirmed in other materials. But his conclusion is that since Gehenna, eternal fire, the lake of fire, and other such expressions describe things metaphorically, because they are beyond our comprehension, then we must not interpret them to mean that men will be punished eternally. If that were the case, then he should also have affirmed that since eternal life is spoken of metaphorically and is beyond our comprehension, then we could not affirm that it is eternal in duration. Brother Hailey mentions that Heaven is spoken of as having a street of gold and that is not literally true but he seems to overlook the fact that though eternal truths are conveyed in a symbolic way, it does not deny the reality of existence. Heaven is described symbolically just as Hell is described symbolically — we fathom neither fully. But to affirm that since Hell is described symbolically; then Hell cannot mean eternal existence in punishment, necessarily means that since Heaven is described symbolically; then Heaven cannot mean eternal existence in the presence of God.
Next, brother Hailey follows a procedure he said he was first taught as a young man of taking a piece of paper and noting on one side what a passage says and then on the other side what it doesn’t say — not a bad procedure for anyone to follow but care must be exercised so that one does not force an interpretation into the process. For instance, in passages that deal with figures such as the vine and branches, wheat and tares, etc., there must be a consistency maintained in the figures. It would be a distortion of the figure to affirm that branches lived after they were cut off and burned or tares survived their being plucked up. The passages deal with physical vegetation and not the spirits of men. If we followed brother Hailey’s process, we would have to put on the right side of the page that the passage does not say that branches live for ever. And, based on that we would have to conclude that “eternal life” is only age lasting — only as long as a disciple lives. Physical branches and wheat do not live eternally and cut off branches and chaff are consumed by fire. His objection to eternal punishment from the parables (vine and branches, wheat and tares, wheat and chaff) by which Jesus paralleled physical truths with eternal truths demands a distortion of the physical part of the parable. Both reward and punishment are taught but the duration of neither is described in these parables.
As an illustration of the fallacy of requiring more of figures than is intended, Calvinists try to explain away passages that clearly demonstrate the fallacy of “once saved always saved.” One argument on the proverb Peter used (2 Pet 2:20-22) is that dogs are always dogs and hogs are always hogs. They affirm that the reason that the sow returned to her wallowing in the mire was because she was a sow, which meant that the person Peter described only pretended to be saved, but really was not. Based on that approach to scripture interpretation, we might say, “Peter didn’t say that a sow or a dog changed into a sheep.” I realize there is other pertinent information in the whole context but in considering the “proverb” just as a metaphor, this kind of sophistry requires a twisting of the illustration. This is a common equivocation employed by those who take issue with “eternal punishment.”


After looking at passages in the Old Testament where people on the earth were consumed by the earth opening or burned by fire, brother Hailey’s conclusion under his category of “WHAT IS NOT SAID,” was, “That they all burn forever.” However, the references in context to which he referred apply to the physical existence of men while on earth — they passed from existence on the earth; their bodies being consumed either by the earth itself or by fire from heaven. Even brother Hailey’s statement verifies that truth — “These illustrations reveal the meaning of ‘consume,’ and what the scriptures mean by the phrase ‘Our God is a consuming fire.’ It meant total and complete destruction from the face of the earth,” (p. 138). Nothing, in these passages, however, addresses the eternal punishment of their souls, unless, perhaps, by implication from the teaching of other passages that deal with the eternal destiny of the wicked.


In his classification on the right side of the page, “WHAT IS NOT SAID”, brother Hailey wrote, “Nothing about continuous burning, or of being burned again in the future,” (p. 146), yet he contradicts that observation by affirming on p. 179 that the wicked will be raised and cast into the lake of fire. Brother Hailey does not elaborate on this passage but his conclusion conforms to others who hold that view. His position presents a necessary inconsistency. By saying that since Sodom and Gomorrah suffered the vengeance of "eternal fire" which was the annihilation of the cities and their inhabitants, it must necessarily follow that there will be no resurrection of the wicked, for if they have been annihilated by fire and brimstone, and that was their eternal punishment, then they are burned up and for ever gone. On the one hand he argues for “the vengeance of eternal fire” being the destruction of the cities that took place in just a few minutes — “If they serve as an example, what do they teach except that those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire are to exist no more?” (p. 142). On the other hand, he believes that the unrighteous will be raised to suffer “eternal punishment” when their resurrected bodies will experience the second death.
For instance, in his comments on Rev. 20:10 (pp. 178-179), he references Lk. 16:19-31, as a true representation of the state of the dead and that the evil begin their conscious suffering in Hades. That necessarily means that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah went into Hades after they were destroyed by “eternal fire.” But, if it was “eternal punishment” when fire and brimstone consumed them and they existed no more, then how can it be “eternal punishment” at their resurrection? And, if physical destruction equals eternal punishment, one can never affirm the resurrection of the wicked, for at the moment they are consumed that is their eternal punishment!!! Some annihilationists accept that conclusion. Others, however, like brother Hailey who have a greater respect for Scripture, realize the quandary that postulation puts them in by virtue of Jesus’ affirmation in Jn 5:28-29 and other passages, so they theorize that the wicked will be raised and then cast into their physical Gehenna and killed again.
Obviously, the physical cities and people were destroyed by the fire and brimstone; however, if Jude’s picture does not reach beyond the events recorded in Genesis 18-19, then there would be no need to describe the fire as “eternal fire,” because any fire would have accomplished the destruction of physical things.

MARK 9:48; ISAIAH 66:18-24; MATTHEW 3:12

To minimize the duration of eternal punishment as taught by Jesus, brother Hailey’s unique interpretation of Mk 9:48 is that the expression “their worm dieth not” refers to the persecution of the faithful righteous during the present reign of the Messiah (pp. 154-156). There are a couple of fallacies in the way he ties passages together in this section. For instance, he mixes Mt 3:12 with Mk 9:48, and said, “He characterized the fire as ‘not quenched’ with the ‘unquenchable fire’ of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:12),” and from this concludes that God’s wrath “burns up.” While both passages mention “unquenchable fire” they are different in the figures presented. It would have been inconsistent with the figure Jesus used in Mt 3:12 for him to have said that fire keeps on burning the chaff.
The plausibility of his interpretation that the phrase, “their worm dieth not,” refers to the persecution of the righteous under the present reign of the Messiah, is destroyed by one simple fact. In Jesus’ statements in Mk 9:43-48, it is Gehenna that is the anticipated, eternal future of those who live for the pleasures of the world — it is there that “their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” and not the present reign of the Messiah.


I will here bypass comments on the general context of Romans and accountability to law by brother Hailey and address the particular points of controversy that are found in ch. 2:6-8. Paul here defends the justness of God. He makes a specific application to the eternal judgment of men — God will be absolutely, perfectly fair to all men in the final judgment. In Paul’s assessment of God’s righteousness, there is a balance of contrasts that must be observed. God will render to those who by patient continuance in well doing, eternal life. The balance in contrast to “eternal life” is an application to all those, both Jew and Gentile without respect of persons, who do evil — they will receive “tribulation and anguish.” “Tribulation” is a word that means “affliction,” and “anguish” is a word that is also translated by “distress.” Both words appropriately describe conscious feelings experienced. Jesus used the same kind of balance in contrasts in Mt 25:46, and by choosing the word “everlasting” to describe both, he necessarily gave a qualification, of DURATION to both. In both expressions there are quantitative as well as qualitative concepts. But annihilation of the wicked is not an appropriate balance in contrasts to eternal life for the righteous — if the righteous experience glory, honor and peace for eternity, then by a balance of contrasts, the wicked experience affliction and distress for the same period of time.
Brother Hailey observed here that “…the judgment of the final day will bring terrible suffering to the wicked,” (p. 162). That, within itself, is an acknowledgement of conscious anguish of some duration. But annihilation is not suffering — it is non-existence. Or, perhaps, we might conclude from his statement that God is going to lengthen, for some time, his indignation and wrath at the final judgment — that he is going to prolong life in the body of the wicked so they can suffer more — that in some way, the terrible fires of Gehenna will not immediately consume the bodies of the wicked? How long is it, theoretically, supposed to take for the wicked to suffer terribly? To argue for the lengthening of duration for the suffering of the unrighteous is to destroy the most commonly held position of annihilationism; that is, that the body will be burned up immediately and; therefore, the wicked will be extinguished forever. Brother Hailey vacillates between his studied conclusions earlier in his life and an inability to correlate information later in life — intermixing the two without being conscious of the contradictions. Here he presents an unconscious incongruity, because when God is supposed to kill the wicked, then, once they have been killed there is no consciousness, because there is no existence; hence, there can be no affliction and anguish.


Brother Hailey’s comments here focus primarily on the word “destruction” by a brief definition and a comparison with other passages where the word is used. One simple fact he seemed to have missed is that by Paul’s attaching the word “eternal” to “destruction” it would not reasonably be interpreted as “annihilation,” for if the word “destruction” by itself, in this context, means “annihilation” then it would necessarily be eternal in nature — it would be redundant to call it “eternal” annihilation. But “eternal” destruction is associated in this context with a time when the wicked will be punished with eternal separation from the presence of the Lord (v. 9). Logically, in order for them to be separated from the presence of the Lord, they must exist. It cannot be said of non-existent souls that they are separated from the presence of the Lord. Furthermore, the punishment of the wicked with eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord, is offered as an explanation of God’s righteousness in v. 6. There it is said that God would recompense affliction to those who were afflicting them — affliction cannot be recompensed to the non-existent.
In 1 Tim 6:9, which also contains the word “destruction” — “…hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” — brother Hailey comments, “A drowned man is no longer conscious, but is dead.”Obviously, he is no longer conscious of this world’s existence; however, brother Hailey believes that even a drowned man continues to exist. Then he connects Rm 9:22, where Paul uses the figure of men who are vessels of wrath fit for destruction and says, “A vessel destroyed in one’s wrath is no longer a vessel, but a pile of fragments.” The word “destruction” (apoleia) suggests not the loss of being but the loss of well being — while the vessel no longer exists as a vessel it does exist in fragments.


Rev. 14:9-11 — “…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 ascendeth up for ever and ever; and they have not rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” Brother Hailey does not refute his previous argument on the text, for it is irrefutable --
“It should be observed that “they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Torment (from basanizo) conveys the idea of torture, severe distress, and pain of body and mind. The torment of the locusts "was as the torment of a scorpion, when it striketh a man" (9:5); and those who worshiped the beast would be tormented with fire and brimstone, and the smoke of their torment would ascend for ever and ever (14:10f). And now the devil and his former helpers suffer the torment of the lake of fire and brimstone for ever and ever.
There are many who question the eternal duration of this torment, but these must explain away biblical teaching. Jesus said that at the judgment those on His left hand would be told, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels and these shall go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous into eternal life" (Matt. 25:4146). Both the punishment and the life are eternal. In Revelation it is said of these two groups that those before the throne "serve him day and night" (7:15), and the wicked "have no rest day or night" (14:11), and that with the devil they are tormented (25:41, 46), a torment which is "day and night, for ever and ever." There is no day there, for it is "outer darkness" (Matt. 22:1325:30). Since the day is in heaven and the night in hell, and since the one group serves Him day and night while the other group is tormented night and day, it follows that the night endures as long as the day. But since God is the light of the eternal day, the day (and, consequently, the night) will never end. The period of this torment, "for ever and ever," is the same in duration as God, for He lives "for ever and ever" (4:9). If there shall be total annihilation of the devil and the wicked it is not revealed.” (Revelation Commentary, pp. 398-399)
Notice significant parts of these statements in this context:
  1. “If any man…” — There are parts of Revelation that deal with destruction of a nation under the symbol of the beast and the harlot. However, this context deals with the eternal state of individuals who embrace the idolatry of the nation.
  2. “…he shall be tormented…” — To be tormented necessarily requires existence.
  3. “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever…” — Brother Hailey’s position in his book makes a very subtle change in the wording here to explain away the time frame reference “for ever and ever.” He refers back to David’s statement about “the smoke of (God’s) nostrils and the fire out of his mouth (which) devoured,” (Psa. 18:8). Then says, “It is the smoke of His wrath that continues for ever and ever; He never changes,” (p. 175). Notice that brother Hailey’s answer shifts from what is happening to the worshippers of the beast to what comes from God — a change that significantly distorts the meaning of the text.
  4. “…and they have no rest day nor night who worship the beast…” In order for this language to be accurate, there must be existence of the wicked in eternity. It cannot be said of non-existent ones that they have no rest day or night.
  5. This is said of the same individuals of v. 9-10 who worship the beast and upon whom the wrath of God is poured out. These are the same ones who shall be tormented with fire and brimstone. The language of the angel would make no sense, if the ones who worship the beast were annihilated and non-existent.

REVELATION 20:10-15; 21:8

This is an interesting section in that it puts brother Hailey at odds with Fudge, though Fudge commends brother Hailey’s book for a “careful and honest hearing” and then says, “Readers blessed with a Berean spirit (Acts 17:10-11) will give it nothing less.” Perhaps Fudge is not so blessed, for brother Hailey clearly affirms, not only the existence of the evil after death, but, a continued existence in torment in Hades as proven by Lk 16:19-31 (pp. 178-179). Brother Hailey says of Luke’s account, “It should be viewed as historically true for persons known only to Jesus and those of the unseen realm. However, the truth is the same, both teach the same lesson. One of the lessons learned is that the torment of the damned begins in Hades at the death of the individual. It is consummated in the resurrection and the final judgment when the individual is cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death (Rev 20:14-15). ”
In explaining 21:8, brother Hailey says it refers to spiritual death associated with the sins enumerated in the verse (p. 179). He then explains spiritual death by referencing Eph 2:1Col 2:13-14 — “made alive when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins” and the woman who gives herself to pleasure as being “dead while she liveth” (1 Tim. 5:6). His conclusion is that spiritual death is extinction, as will be true of death and Hades, but that conclusion does not logically follow from his premises. Notice that man is not EXTINCT when he is spiritually dead in sins nor is the woman giving herself to pleasure NON-EXISTENT. Death (thanatos) by definition means “separation.” Physical death is separation of body and soul (Jas 2:26) but, as brother Hailey affirms, the soul continues to exist. Unlike what happens to death and Hades at the end of time, whose purposes have ended as time has ended, the second death is not extinction — it is eternal separation from God. And the “lake of fire” for individuals can signify nothing less than what is associated with torment and torment necessarily argues for conscious existence.


If brother Hailey is correct and hell is nothing more than a moment of suffering ending in total extinction, then eternal punishment is an irrelevant fantasy, invented by man. But everyone who sets his hand so to affirm finds himself beset by grave inconsistencies that eventually require him to question the very source of all inspired truth that he, himself, uses to defend his position -- but worse — in time, if he is logically consistent, he will deny man’s cherished hope for eternal life. Without an anchor for his soul, he is then set adrift with no nobler purpose in life than selfish indulgence and no worse anticipation of punishment for his wrongs than, in a moment, being snuffed out into non-existence.
 Jim R. Everett