The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Inevitable Appointment

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,  
 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. ( Hebrews 9:27, 28a )

There is no doubt, physically ( biologically ) speaking; men do die but once, at least, in normal circumstances, and that is the way it's supposed to work; that's the way we are built, our biological bodies aren't made to last forever! With certain compensations and considerations, men can live, more or less a longer life then we usually grant human beings, but as Scripture itself attests to; 'The days of our lives [ are ] seventy years; and if by reason of strength [ they are ] eighty years, yet their boast [ is ] only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away'. ( Psalm 90:10 ) Even in the days before the judgment of the flood, God said of them 'his days shall be one hundred and twenty years'. ( Genesis 6:3b ).

The first verse is testifiably accurate, biologically speaking; about 70 or 80 years is a fairly normal and average lifespan, and although some have lived as much as a decade or more beyond a century, others have only lasted 30-50 years. The second verse that we read here, though, is where things could get a bit confusing. Is this the point where men began to live for a shorter time, as some have speculated, or is this 'one hundred and twenty years' symbolic of a certain period of time allotted before judgment falls, as others have speculated? There is no question that this is somehow related to eschatological matters, for several mentions of the flood judgment of Noah's day can be found in The New Testament Scriptures, Matthew 24:37-39 and II Peter 3:6, for example.

I believe that, when read in the covenant context; Hebrews 9:27 & 28, as quoted above. is not making a biological statement, and, in that sense, not even a spiritual statement about some personal judgment, but rather, is a wholly eschatological statement, one that is altogether related to the coming events of AD66-70.

To find context for the verse above, from the letter to the Hebrews, we must go back to near the beginning, in Genesis 2:16 & 17, where Adam was told, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.' As we read in the next chapter ( 3 ), although Adam did not physically die, as one might think from God's words, he did experience the adverse judgment of separation from the blessings of the Presence of God; from that day forward, he no longer had access to the Garden where he was used to walking with God in the cool of the evening, and because he had tried to gain wisdom before he was ready for it, he must undergo the struggles which that decision had saddled him with.

The book of Hebrews, as anyone can easily ascertain, is a book of 'betters', a better covenant, a better mediator, a better sacrifice, etc. The writer to the Hebrews, in our central verse above, is simply showing us, in different, but similar terms, how Jesus' sacrifice is better than the old; as Adam had been condemned to death, or separation from God, thus necessitating all the blood-sacrifices to symbolically bring man ( adam ) back into the Presence of God, so now the One, True Sacrifice, to which all of this simply pointed, was sufficient to permanently bring man back into the Presence and Blessings of God. The writer is simply making another comparative statement about the betterness of Jesus, and of the New Covenant, not a statement about the biological cessation of existence, and a personal judgment!

Does/did God judge His people individually?

As I've quoted before, the Gospel of Matthew ( 1:21 ) states that Jesus came to save His people from their sins. This, in context of the writings of Scripture ( at that time, the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek Septuagint ), told Mathew's original audience that the Israelites, that seed of Abraham that, by faith had remained true to the faith of Abraham, were the recipients of that salvation. They would have understood, from passages like Ezekiel 37, the famed 'valley of dry bones' passage, that although individual bodies, as part of the corporate body,  would be raised, but that rather than individuals who were dead, or dying; it was the corporate body of Israel that had died, and needed this salvation, this resurrection that the prophets had foretold, and of which Matthew wrote!

As I've also discussed before; judgment has come to have only a bad connotation. Many Christians ( 'mea culpa' ) are quick to say, when they observe a people or nation, even a certain individual undergoing tribulation, of whatever sort, 'that person ( nation, people ) is under the judgment of God!' This may be true enough, but not necessarily in the way that we're used to thinking! Judgment is simply a mental decision about a person, place or thing. 'That girl is pretty', 'that guy is handsome', are two examples of judgments that we make everyday that are, in most cases, what we would call 'a good judgment'. How we act upon our judgment, and how the girl or guy responds may determine if we have made a true and just judgment. 'That person is doing wrong' is an example of an adverse judgment, and again, our action, based on that judgment, and their reaction to that judgment, may determine whether it turns out to be 'a good judgment', or whether it has a lasting, rather than cleansing, effect!

God works in the same manner; in AD70, or rather 66-70, God implemented the final and lasting ( age-during ) effects of His adverse judgment of His old covenant people, and at the same time brought the effects of His righteous and kindly judgment upon His true Covenant people ( also age-during), which resulted in their salvation!

So; is it truly appointed to all men to die and then to be judged? I believe not! The writer's words, in Hebrews 9:27 & 28 were not meant to convey this idea to men and women thousands of years in the future, but rather to bring comfort to those who knew that with this one final sacrifice of the Christ, His death on the cross,no more would they have to be eternally separated from their Creator because of an adverse judgment against their sin; they, through the Christ, had been judged, and judged righteous ( II Corinthians 5:21 )!

Charles Haddon Shank

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