Wheww….I must admit I am glad that the month of October is behind us. I praise God for all that I have learned through the power of His Spirit and the inspiration of His Word throughout the month. We at The Blue Point Bible Church (www.bluepointbiblechurch.org) have been “going through hell”.
It was such a blessing to see how Biblically mature the congregation that I pastor truly is. We invited speakers from both persectives – Annihilationism or Eternal Conscious Torment (However, I believe I made it clear throughout the month that we in no way, shape, or form will endorse “Universalism” being preached from a ‘Christian pulpit’). This time allowed us to show how we truly are like the “noble Bereans” who listened to the Apostle Paul with eagerness and searched the Scriptures to see if what he said was true in Acts chapter 17.
In this blog, I want to share some of my post-conference thoughts and give you the opportunity to listen to all that we learned during this conference, on podcast. In this blog you will find both the podcast links and some of my notes during the conference.
On October 5th, I opened the conference with a modern day focus on Revelation chapter 22. This was foundational to all that I learned and was convicted of throughout the month, especially in regards to a consistent preterist perspective. You can listen to that podcast here:
Brother Joe Daniels and his wonderful wife, Ginny, came to visit at the beginning of the month. Brother Joe told me he enjoyed my message that morning, however in the evening he was willing to preach his position on ‘Eternal Conscious Torment.
Joe Daniels has some amazing articles on the “Deity of Christ” in the TFC Magazine that you can view by visiting this link:
As an avid defender of Christ’s Deity (something all of us Christians should be doing), Brother Joe started off with quoting John 8:24:
Jesus speaking, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins”.
Simply put, you must affirm that Jesus Christ is God, or….you die in your sins. That is not an interpretation. That is the direct words of Jesus, our Lord. The punishment? Dying in your sins.
Brother Joe rightly established that he does not believe in the “hell” many speak of as a final place of punishment for the wicked, instead he believes the final place is “the lake of fire” (see, Revelation 20:13-15).
Joe then quoted Matthew 26:24 to establish his case for punishment beyond mere non-existance.
“The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born”.
Clearly Jesus is speaking in reference to being betrayed by Judas. While it was prophecy being fulfilled, the will of God, that He suffer as the sacrifice, it is still damning that someone would give him over to be killed. The point Brother Joe was trying to make was that this text demands that Judas’ fate is worse than non-existance (having never been born). I must admit, that seems to be good reasoning. However, I believe understanding the style of metaphor that is prevalent through Scriptures helps us clarity how exactly Jesus was speaking. “David prays that his enemies’ arrows be “like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.”. He asks for the LORD to make his enemy’s plans come to nothing. Having the opportunity to live and see the sun is very important. It is a terrible fate to never have had that experience. It is a life that is wasted. But what Jesus said about Judas was that his fate was worse than that of a wasted life. It was a life that could have been lived for Jesus, but was not. Judas was a disciple. He learned what the other disciples learned, saw the miracles that they saw, but he ended up turning away from that. His life was truly wasted, and that made it worse for him than for the man who was never born. David’s prayer would suggest that the reason Jesus pronounced a woe upon Judas was not so much what Judas would experience in hell as what he refused to experience in his life” (1).
Joe quoted the verse mostly used by those who adhere to the ‘Tradionalist view’ of Eternal Conscious Torment, that being Matthew 25:41-46. I believe this has more to do with understanding that ‘eternal’ doesn’t necessitate a duration of time, rather can mean something that is eternal in its results. When something is eternally destroyed, it is not continually destroyed, right? No, it’s simply destroyed once and for all. While I enjoyed Joe’s presentation, I continually waited to hear how he would explain the ‘wicked’ have something that lives on. Joe appealed to the ‘image of God’ in Genesis, and offered his understanding of the Biblical anatomy of man according to the Bible- thus giving all men something that naturally gives them eternal life. Joe also mentioned his understanding of “The Eternal Day” (to which he has an accompanying article available through him), which gives him an understanding of “Eternal Judgment” that is ongoing for every Believer.
Joe continually asked that those who hold to an Annihilation perspective explain what is so bad about ceasing to exist? He appealed to passages in Scripture that speak of torment, punishment, stripes, and degrees of punishment. It was clear from brother Joe’s message that he indeed believes that there are some sins worse than others (his continually appeal to judgment upon Adolf Hitler versus the judgment upon someone who was as kind and loving as Mother Teresa, yet did may not have come to faith in the Deity of Christ?)
There was much that brother Joe shared that I disagreed with (the ‘image of God’ giving all men a state of immortality, degrees of punishment, my subjective desire to see wicked people like Adolf Hitler suffer, future eternal judgment, and his conclusions of Eternal Conscious Torment), however I so appreciate his willing to not only speak upon the topic, but also answer questions and come to Bible study after he spoke for another 2 hours! Yes, we at B.P.B.C.are hungry for the Word of God. Plus, it gave us some time to fellowship and enjoy some Miller Lite.
You can listen to brother Joe’s presentation at this link: http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/209910-the-scary-topic-of-hell-conference-guest-speaker-joe-daniels
As you can imagine, we are a congregation that understands and adheres to ‘Conditional Immortality’, especially due to the diligent study and writing of a book done by our former pastor, Clair Chandler. His book is now out of print, however I own a copy and can share prints, notes, and details – Immortalizing Evil. The next morning everyone at Adult Sunday School had questions and wanted to examine the Scriptures. Surely we are a blessed lot over here on Blue Point Ave.
As I examine what the Scriptures said in regards to the final state of the Wicked, especially as I understood the context as a I mentioned the previous Sunday, I was really becoming convicted. Recently, I explained it as an allegory of standing outside the gates looking around at the final state of the wicked, I was gripped with an evangelistic attitude. Now I will admit….this can be from reading a host of Rick Joyner style books (ha ha, Google his books), or it could be an over-active imagination. However, I truly believe that when we understand the context of the narrative revealed in Scripture, we are given a reality of lives lived outside the kingdom of God. This should break out hearts. I announced to the church that I will be looking to publish a book on these details of not only the finality of the state of the wicked, but how that should compel us to live as citizens of the New Jerusalem.
The following Sunday, I preached a sermon detailing The Narrative Context of the Lake of Fire which you can listen to at this link: http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/211666-the-scary-topic-of-hell-the-narrative-context-of-the-lake-of-fire
Pastor Bruce Bennett of The Word of Truth in Farmingville, New York, was among those who responded to my call for speakers upon this topic of “hell”. Pastor Bennett started his presentation by listing a bunch of verses that point to judgment – Matthew 11:20-24, Matthew 13:41-43 and 47-50, Mark 9:42-44, and Luke 12:47. Bruce spoke the place which Jesus calls the place of unquenchable fire, detailed his understanding of ‘demonology’, death as seperation from God, the valdity of near-death experiences as well as outer-body experiences, yet he would not take a stance on pertinent issues of the topic. For example, Pastor Bruce Bennett did not explain whether he holds to Eternal Conscious Torment or Conditional Immortality (he erroneously labeled “Annihilationism” as heretical the entire time, yet not realizing the views within the Annihilationist perspective are varied and Edward Fudge and his followers refer to their position as “Annihilationists”). It would be the details of such a discussion that would show the distinction of the so-called Evangelical understanding of ‘Annihilation’ versus the understanding of cult style groups such as Jehovah Witnesses. Pastor Bennett also would not detail whether he understood the passage of the Rich Man and Lazarus as a parable or a literal story, which would have gave more clarity to what he believes on this topic.
Pastor Bennett’s presentation was focused more on understanding a necessity of “future judgment”. There are some who understand Full Preterism who adhere to a “future judgment” scenario, as I have shown through my messages this series- I don’t believe context allows for that. I believe judgment has been rendered. One is condemned or not. One has put on the robe and entered the gates of the New Jerusalem and ate of of tree of life, as per the imagery in Revelation chapters 21-22. In Christ, I am free of condemnation (Romans 8:1). I can however understand the ‘Futurist’ position of calling for future judgement, and even the desire many Preterists have to force that in our future, yet its false and outside the context and full understanding of the narrative of Scripture, especially the imagery of Revelation.
Unfortunately, I lost the audio of Pastor Bruce’s presentation that night. I am terribly sorry. However, with as much force and use of the term ‘heretic’ for those who do not agree with his understand as he preached, hopefully he would be willing to preach the same message from his own pulpit and allow his church to hear it and you through podcast.
I have thanked Pastor Bennett for his willingness to visit our church and speak before us. His knowledge of Scripture is clear, all the while we surely disagree with how the context of Scripture flows and our understanding of details that build not only our eschatology, but our frame of Scripture.
The following Sunday morning I preached by current understanding, or you might rightly so call it my current ‘misunderstandings’ about how we have gotten so confused about the topic of man’s material and immaterial nature. Also, how this confusion and thus confused us in regards to man’s mortality. How dare we allow confusion to reign on this topic and offer the blessing of ‘immortality to the wicked’! No no no. You can listen to details on this at this link:
Thank God for Pastor Steve Schilling. He would follow up my somewhat confused view with some clarity on the topic for us. You can listen to his message by visiting the following link:
The next Sunday, you might say in a rather feisty mood I exhorted The Blue Point Bible Church and all who call themselves Christians that we must “Challenge Tradition” in regards to not only the topic of hell where confusion reigns, but also the topic of Eschatology. Praise God that the reformation is already under way. You can listen to my message by visiting the following link:
It was that Sunday night that I have to make a big deal about. This was when I gave the details of what I believe we must be doing in regards to our understanding of the current state of the Wicked. I firmly believe that all the Bible knowledge in the world is worthless if you are not in tune with the Spirit of God and drawn to application. Yes, you can quote me on that. Many of my church members and others on Facebook exclaimed their heartfelt attachment to some of the things I mentioned. You can listen to that message through the following link:
To finalize our series, and something that proved to truly show our clarity on this message was listening to Pastor Gregory Wilk from Abundant Life Ministries in Holbrook, New York. Pastor Greg is a man that I have enjoyed getting to know for a couple weeks and he truly has a pastoral heart. We have already discussed our differences in regards to eschatology, and both of us are humble enough to admit we can further study and we do not need to ostracize one another or speak ill of. As Pastor Wilk well put it, “I respect your pastor and his position” all the while being willing to expound of his understanding and provided charts and details! I mentioned that night that this conference was not put together to defend a position or to even affirm, instead it was to give those of us who seek to be diligent in regards to “searching the Scriptures” an opportunity to hear the different sides. You can listen to Pastor Greg Wilk’s presentation at the following link:
While I may not agree with him, I appreciate Pastor Greg’s willingness to take a stand upon his “Dispensational Truth”. Pastor Greg began his presentation using a chart from Clarence Larkin’s book, Dispensational Truth. You can access the entire book for free in file format by visiting the following link: http://www.preservedwords.com/disptruth/contents.htm
Also, Pastor Greg mentioned that he was using a Dake Bible which was put together by Pentecostal theologians.
Right from the outset of Pastor Greg Wilk’s presentation I began to see where and why we disagree not only on this topic of hell, but other areas as well. It seems that when Pastor Greg speaks of “the Spirit world” this necessitates the beginning of an “other world” story. For example, I was both excited and shocked to hear Pastor Greg in speaking about a ‘pre-adamic race”, however it immediately turned to talking about the fall of an angelic being named Satan which he derives his interpretation from Isaiah chapter 14. He told the story of the fall of these angelic beings, and God’s destruction of them with chaotic waters. Pastor Wilk then harped on the term “replenish” found in Genesis 1:28. Scholars in the realm of ‘textual criticism’ have long since proven the Hebrew term translated as “replenish” does not necessarily mean to fill again, but rather to fill completely. Also, many scholars in the textual analysis of Ancient Near Eastern writings have called for the re-examination of Biblical writings, phrases, and understandings in light of what we have learned from ANE texts.
Pastor Greg continued to espouse the doctrines of the Church of God (while admitting that at times he can be quite the ‘rowdy reformer’ type), and detailed his understanding of Satan’s dominion on earth and his yet future judgment and damnation to the lake of fire. Pastor Greg’s position is dealing with the contamination by angelic confusion that he supposes happened in Genesis 6, and thus Satan seeking t bring man down- something he has personal testimony in.
There were many questions asked of Pastor Greg after his presentation, and sadly I noticed that we didn’t get all that time recorded on our podcast. I can say, Pastor Wilk answered honestly and usually quoting from the notes he brought from the Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible. For example, when asked about the passage in Luke 16 dealing with the rich man and Lazarus, he simple offered that it does not sound like a parable and said the notes explain it. Also, he asked asked about “immortality” and how according to 1 Corinthians 15, we understanding this to be talking about those in Christ (the Corinthian Church) who would put on immortality, not everyone. Pastor Greg graciously responded that he had not heard that point before. I love when leaders are humble enough to admit there are things they can continue to study.
And that was our conference……
It surely was a great time to learn and challenge ourselves. I was able to read through Edward Fudge’s books – The Fire That Consumes (which is more of a ‘reference encyclopedia rather than a book) and Hell: A Final Word. Also, Mrs. Majorie Chandler sent me a copy of Pastor Clair Chandler’s book which I was able to enjoy.
This month surely solidified my position on the lack of ‘immortality’ for the Wicked, and the complete “death” they suffer as a final state outside of Christ. I see no room for a yet future judgment or this seemingly opposite the clear words of “destruction”, “death”, and “perish” view of ‘eternal conscious torment’. To me the following verses sum up a simple understanding of what happens to the life of the wicked after judgment – 2 Peter 2:6; 2 Peter 3:7, Jude 7, and a cross reference with Genesis chapter 19.
I look forward to continuing to be consistent in regards to fulfilled Bible prophecy and seeing what Scripture meant in its proper context, to the original audience, and only then seeking to apply what I have learned for a modern application. Surely there will be more to come as I put together my writings for my soon to be published book – Wicked: A Biblical Narrative
Until then…you can follow along with our podcast at The Blue Point Bible Church as I seek to go through the month of November offering clarity on what exact are some of the blessings and promised realities we have as those who belong to Christ. Again, our podcasts can be listened to at the following link: www.buzzword.com/11630
Again, I want to thank the willingness, the gracious, and the blessedness of the congregation at The Blue Point Bible Church for being willing to go through this series.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Michael Miano
*I do not necessarily agree with the conclusions nor the methods used to draw them of all these listed sources.
(1) – http://www.afterlife.co.nz/2013/bible/new-testament/judas-eternal-sin-christian-beliefs-of-hell/