The Practice of Sin (1 John 3)

1 John 3:4-10
Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.

Earlier in his first letter, John tells us that anyone who says they have no sin is a liar and the truth is not in them. In the second chapter he tells us that we know that we have come to know Christ if we keep His commandments. Here in the third chapter he tells us that anyone who is born of God cannot sin. What is John getting at?

To answer this question, John draws a comparison between Cain and the one who practices sin.  Cain sought to establish himself in righteousness by the work of his own hands.  God had demanded the offering of a blood sacrifice.  This sacrifice did not redeem, but it did typify the blood sacrifice Christ offered to God on behalf of His elect.   Cain’s brother, Abel, offered a blood sacrifice in this respect from the first fruit of his flock.  This showed that he understood his need for Christ’s sacrifice.  Cain though, offered some vegetables he had managed to grow with much toil and sweat.

The Scriptures tell us that God had no regard for the work of Cain’s hands, and this angered Cain.  It angered him also that Abel would not take his side against God.  So Cain rose up against his brother Abel and murdered him while they were in the field.

The only righteousness God accepts is Christ’s sacrifice. To practice this righteousness is to rest from all our works of righteousness and rest in His sacrifice alone for  righteousness.  This is what Abel did, but not what Cain did. Cain had no regard for Christ’s sacrifice, because he did have regard for the sacrifice of the work of his own toil and sweat instead.

Self righteous people think of righteousness the same way Cain did, so they read passages like 1 John 3 with respect to their performance.  They think outward morality, the work of their own toil and sweat, is righteousness.  They think God is unjust not to accept their work.  This self righteous way of looking at works trains these folks to assume that the sin John is talking about is poor outward morality.

Self righteousness is the sin John is talking about though.  Self righteousness was Cain’s sin.  Everyone who practices self righteousness practices lawlessness. This sounds like a contradiction to the ears of the self righteous, because if anything they think they have more law rather than none. This is why self righteousness is so deceptive though.  It sounds right to the natural man, but the end thereof is the way of death.

The holy law’s standard of righteousness is absolute perfection. We cannot satisfy this standard. No man can, self righteous or not. No man can keep the law perfectly. This leaves the self righteous man without a place to rest from his works.

Anyone who looks to their performance for righteousness is lawless. They are lawless, because they are living by a law that is not God’s law.  God has no regard for any other law than His own.  The man without a place to rest sets up his own law in opposition to God’s. This is why he is lawless.  God’s law demands perfection, but no one can perfectly obey. The self righteous man knows this, so like Cain, he sets up another standard that he can obey, and this he calls righteousness.

Those who rest in Christ’s sacrifice alone for righteousness are not lawless, but nor are they legalists.  They rest for righteousness in the Christ whose sacrifice has fully and forever satisfied the perfect standard of God’s law.  They do not look for righteousness in  themselves and their futile attempts to obey the law.

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I Am Antinomian

Psalm 119:160 
The sum of Your word is truth, and
every one of Your righteous rules
endures forever.

1 Corinthians 4:6
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written

All truth is propositional.

Another way to say this is, everything true is a proposition.   Not every proposition is true, but everything true is a proposition.  This implies no truth is emotional, mystical or experiential.

God’s word is all truth.  The Bible alone is God’s word.   The Bible is a book of propositions.  Therefore, every truth is a proposition; or as I began this essay, all truth is propositional.

Truth is not something that can be felt, experienced or mystically apprehended.  This means truth can only be understood, misunderstood, agree with or disagreed with.  It cannot be emoted, experienced or mystically apprehended.

John 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

As all other texts of Scripture are propositions, so also John 1:1 is a proposition.  It is a true proposition, because it is the word of God.  It cannot be felt, experienced or mystically apprehended.  It can only be understood, misunderstood, agreed with or disagreed with.

This is essential to understand, because starting with the serpent in the garden of Eden, the enemies of truth have insisted that faith is not only intellectual assent.   What they mean is  truth is not only propositional.  They are telling us truth is also emotional, mystical and experiential.

As I mentioned, this assertion by the enemy began with the serpent.  It began when he told the woman in the garden that God’s proposition cannot be trusted.

God had revealed a proposition to Adam.

Genesis 2:16-17
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree in the garden, 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.”

This is a proposition.  It could not be felt, experienced or mystically apprehended.  It could only be understood, misunderstood, agreed with or disagreed with.

In opposition to God’s proposition, the serpent communicated another proposition to the woman.   His proposition stated that God’s proposition was a lie.

Genesis 3:4-5
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 

The woman found herself confronted with two opposing, contradicting propositions.   The first, a proposition spoken from the mouth of God; and the second, a proposition communicated by the serpent.

Rather than agreeing with God’s word that God’s word is all truth, the woman instead cast about for another way to know truth.  She turned her eyes towards the tree and used sensory experience to divine truth.

Genesis 3:6
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.

The woman cast about for a way to judge between God’s proposition and the serpent’s proposition.   What she found was another proposition, but its source was her own sensory experience.

God’s truth tells us the woman looked upon the tree and saw that it was good for food, and saw that it was a delight to the eyes, and saw that it was to be desired to make one wise.  Rather than agree with God’s proposition, she instead used her eyes to find another proposition.

Knowledge had not ceased to be propositional simply because the woman had used sense experience to divine knowledge.  Truth and knowledge can only be propositional.  This is the way God has created us.  We are created in His image.

The woman had disregarded God’s propositional truth, and had in its place erected her own proposition which she had gleaned by means of her senses.   God had said, don’t eat or you will die.  But her eyes had said, you won’t die because it’s good for food and able to make you wise.

Today, despite the fact that God’s truth says we are justified apart from works; nevertheless, the enemies of truth tell us that we have no right to this assurance if we do not see works in our behavior.

These enemies are telling us that God’s propositions are not the only truth.   They are telling us that truth must be discovered by means of our emotions, our senses, and even mystical experiences.

These enemies of the truth have a proposition they favor:  “Faith is not mere intellectual assent.”

But faith can only be intellectual assent, because all truth is propositional, God’s word is all truth, and God’s word is entirely propositional.  Therefore, faith can only be intellectual assent.  It can be nothing else.

In fact, this even goes for the Son of God Himself.  Christ is propositional.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

In the Greek, Word is “Logos.”  Logos can be translated as word, sentence, logic, and proposition.   We really ought to start reading the text like this way too.   “In the beginning was the Proposition, and the Proposition was with God and the Proposition was God.”

Christ is communicated to us entirely by propositions.  We have never seen Him, handled Him, heard Him.  Even if we could, the propositions we would glean from what we see, hear and touch would not be the truth.  They would be as erroneous as the propositions the woman in the garden gleaned by way of her senses.  After all, the disciples saw, heard and handled Him, yet Peter still argued that He would not die.

The Proposition only told the truth about Himself to twelve men.  He called these men His apostles.  He instructed these men to teach everyone else the truth about Himself which He had communicated to them in propositions.

Today, we have the written testimony of these twelve men.   Their written testimony tells us all the propositions that are true about the Proposition and which He Himself communicated to the men in propositions.  To insist that we can do anything but agree or disagree with these propositions is to lie.

The only way I can know that I have peace with God is by making sure the propositions I agree with are the same propositions of the gospel contained in God’s book of propositions.  There is no other way.

If I root around in my behavior, searching for whatever propositions I can use my eyes to tell me are true, then I am going to come away with a lie, because the first proposition of God’s word is God’s word alone is all truth.  “Do not go beyond what is written.”

I can find no truth in my behavior, no truth in my experiences, no truth in my emotions.  My behavior can tell me nothing true about my behavior.  My emotions tell me nothing true about my emotions.

I am not a sinner because I observe sin in my behavior.   Rather, I am a sinner, because that’s what the word of God says I am.  God’s word alone is all truth.

God’s word says I am justified by God and have peace with Him apart from works. I am sanctified apart from works. I have been redeemed apart from works.  My sin has been put away apart from works.  I am a child of God apart from works.  If I agree with God these propositions  are true, then why would I look to my works for assurance that I have peace with God?

The only thing I can look to is God’s word.   Is His word true?  Yes, it is.  His word is all truth.  Then all I can do is say amen, I agree with His propositions.

The enemies of truth do not detest this because they are confused about the nature of truth.   They know truth is propositional.   Rather, they deny this because they do not like God’s proposition.  They disagree with Him.

There are only two kinds of people who approach God.  Those who approach seeking to hear Him justify them for their conduct and behavior;  and those who seek to receive from Him mercy and pardon by His grace.  Only one kind of person is received by God, and it isn’t the first group.

The enemies of truth despise this, because their eyes are turned inward towards their works, and from their works they have divined a proposition that states they are holy and getting holier.  They insist this proposition is the truth, and they will have none of that stuff about looking to God’s grace alone for mercy and pardon.

Because these enemies of truth have divined from their own behavior a proposition they count as true, they cast a disapproving glance our way, then judge us guilty of unbelief for our behavior.

The truth is we are unbelievers of their proposition.  We don’t believe their proposition is true.  We believe God’s propositions are true.

So when these enemies of truth call us things like Antinomian, recognize the truth they call us this because  we do not agree with their proposition which they have divined from their behavior.   Say amen to this, and then tell them what truth really is.

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Only the Unsaved Have Saving Faith

The born of God have repented of saving faith.

You may be asking, what in the world is he talking about. The born of God have repented of saving faith?

Consider the fact that faith does not save.  It cannot save.  It is incapable of doing anything but receiving what Christ has accomplished for His people.  Why then would anyone describe faith as saving?

To describe faith as saving is to miss the point.  To describe it as saving is to suggest that we need something more to save us than what Christ has already done.  It suggests that we need God to do something inside of us before Christ’s work will work.

Arminianism thinks this way.  Arminianism has in view the idea that although Christ has finished all that He can do on His end; nevertheless, we now need something done on our end before His work will count for us.

To describe faith as saving is to say Christ has done all that He can do, but now we need something done on our end so that His work will count for us.  To describe faith as saving is to oppose the good news of God’s sovereign grace.

By falsely differentiating between a faith that is not saving, and a faith that is saving, men have snuck salvation by works in through a back door that was never there.

For example, Mack Tomlinson’s biography of Leonard Ravenhill gives us a blueprint for how this is done.  On page 362, while discussing Ravenhill’s theology, Tomlinson writes:

“Conversion, as Ravenhill views it biblically, is not simply a decision of the will about Christ based on intellectual information about Jesus.  He knew there was a difference between mere human faith and saving faith.  There is such a thing as purely intellectual faith that gives mental assent to the facts of Christian doctrine.  Such faith saves no one.   Saving faith, on the other hand, is altogether different.  Ravenhill believed that saving faith is a grace that is worked in the heart by the Holy Spirit.  True faith has its object Christ Himself and results in obedience to Him.”  (Mack Tomlinson, The Life of Leonard Ravenhill, pg 362)

Here we find Tomlinson differentiating between two things that simply do not exist – human faith and saving faith.   There is no such thing as human faith just as there is no such thing as saving faith.  Faith is just faith.

Placing an adjective in front of the word faith is like slipping an adjective in front of the word clap.   Do you humanly clap or savingly clap?  Folks, a clap is just a clap.

Nowhere in the Scriptures do we find the apostles questioning a descriptive of their reader’s faith.  Can you imagine Paul writing, “the news of your faith has traveled far and wide, but I want to know whether it is saving faith or human faith”?

Faith means to agree with.  That’s it. That’s all it means.  To assent.

To believe someone’s report about a newsworthy event means we agree with that someone’s report about the event.  To believe God’s good news means we agree with what God has told us about His good news.

Simple enough, right. Except we still find many people in the Reformed and Evangelical community drowning in the nonsense of non-intellectual faith, because they are denying the very nature of truth itself.

All truth is propositional, because God’s word is the first truth.

Acts 15:18
Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made.

2 Timothy 2:13
If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

1 Samuel 2:3
Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

God is the first truth.  He is the cause of His own knowledge.  He knows all things, because He created all things, and not anything exists that He did not create.

His knowledge is consistent with Himself.  He is not confused about what He thinks exists.  He knows the difference between Himself and His creation.  He knows whom He loves and He knows whom He hates.

God cannot lie.  He cannot deny who He is.  He cannot deny that He is the first truth.

Colossians 1:15-16
Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him.

His Spirit inspired, written Word must also then be the first truth.  And since the Bible is entirely propositional from first page to last, all truth therefore, must be propositional.

Proverbs 30:5-6
Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.

Hebrews 1:1-2
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.

1 John 1
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us

2 Thessalonians 2:15
So then brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

Paul assumes that all truth is propositional.  If random thoughts came to mind every time we heard the word traditions, then we would never be able to stand firm in them, because we would always be thinking of something different.   It is only because we can consistently identify in our minds what precisely the traditions are that we can then stand firm in them.

Another way to say first truth is like this:  God’s Word alone is all truth, and the Bible is the Word of God.

Since the Bible is propositional, all truth must therefore be propositional.  And if all truth is propositional, then it must be logical.

In no sense then can truth be understood irrationally.  God, who is the first truth, cannot deny Himself.  Therefore, He cannot contradict Himself.  The only way we can know God is with propositions.

Unbelievers have been fighting truth almost from the beginning however.

Romans 1:18-21
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

The tragedy today is that many of the people who fight truth are found within the ranks of our very own churches.  And not just seated in the pews either.  No, the danger is that many of them are teaching in our seminaries, preaching from our former pulpits, and earning degrees from prestigious places of learning which they then use to publish best selling books full of nonsense.

At the turn of the twentieth century, for example, one of the lead professors teaching at Westminster Seminary coined a false doctrine that eventually became known as the Doctrine of the Incomprehensibility of God.

This man insisted that texts like, “God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts” meant that at no point does God’s knowledge intersect with man’s knowledge; meaning that what God knows of as a rose is not what man knows of a rose.  He argued that what God thinks of a rose is not what man thinks of as a rose.  In fact, it could very well be that what God thinks of as a rose is what man thinks of as chocolate covered fudge.

This nonsensical, irrational doctrine is today championed by many well respected Reformed theologians.  It has led them all to conclude that God’s knowledge is analogical.  An analogy is a proposition which compares two unlike things based on similarity.  For example, to quote a popular analogy, life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get inside.

In similar fashion, the Doctrine of the Incomprehensibility of God teaches that God’s knowledge is analogical.  When the Bible says Jesus wept, it might mean that God’s love for His people is like the compassion one feels for a grieving sister, but then again it might also mean God’s love is like the love one feels for sweets when they are hankering for some chocolate covered fudge.  There’s no way to know, you see, because we aren’t privy to God’s side of the analogy.

This man’s false doctrine eventually led him and all his followers to conclude that the Bible itself, the written, eyewitness testimony of God’s perfect expression of logic, contradicts itself.  And why shouldn’t it?  After all, if every proposition is an analogy, then no two propositions need remain logically consistent with each other.  Life can be like a box of chocolates in the same way and at the same time it can be like a can of spray paint.

I hear someone saying, wait a minute though Dave, didn’t Jesus did use parables?   Didn’t He say things like the kingdom of heaven is like this, and the kingdom of heaven is like that?

Indeed, He did.  But we are also told that He used these parables to keep the people blind and deaf to the truth.  When teaching His disciples however, He spoke to them rationally and plainly.  Are we supposed to believe from the Doctrine of the Incomprehensibility of God that Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us in order to keep His people blind and deaf?  That certainly would undermine His title as the Word of God, wouldn’t it.  Unless, that is, God Himself is illogical.   And it would appear that these men want us to think God is exactly this, because they insist the Bible does contradict itself.

What does all of this have to do with Tomlinson?  It has everything to do with Tomlinson.

If faith in Christ is not rooted squarely in propositions, if it is instead grounded on some feeling, some mystical sensation or some experience, then we are in the realm of the irrational, the incomprehensible, the blind and the deaf.

Consider, for example, that I have never seen Christ with my own eyes.  I have never touched Him with my hands or heard Him with my ears.   But even if I had, I would still not know anything true about Him until He had told me what is true about Him, because whatever conclusion I might have come to based on what I had seen, heard and felt, I would have come to based purely upon what I had seen, heard and felt rather than upon His word, the first truth.

There are many truths about Him that have never and can never be seen, heard and felt.  For instance, no one has seen Him eternally existing as one of the three Persons of the Trinity.  Nor has any man seen Him descend from heaven to partake of human flesh in the womb of a virgin.  How could we have known these things to be true of Him unless He were to tell us they are true.

But how am I to receive this information about Himself?  I receive it the same way I receive information about anything else.  Propositionally.

Put it this way, propositions go into my ears, my brain processes them the same as it processes all rational, comprehensible propositions, after which I then give my amen of agreement to them.  Yes Lord, I agree with You that the information You gave me is true.

I do not deny the truth that I need the Spirit to make me willing to give my amen of agreement, but this does not change the fact that He uses my brain to process His rational, comprehensible propositions.  Jesus is the Logos of God, and the means God uses to teach me this is the same means I use to perceive Paris is in France.

Romans 1:16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness revealed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ alone.  I never saw Jesus die.  I was not there.  Even if I had been, I would not have privy to the meaning of it, and to the truth that it was accomplishing for all of God’s elect.

To receive this truth, I need a revelation given to me in a comprehensible, rational way.  I need propositions.  And I need to be made willing to agree with those propositions.  And once I am, then I believe.  And that’s it.  That’s faith.

Perhaps you are reading this and thinking to yourself, why don’t men like Tomlinson understand and agree with this truth?   The answer to that is they have not been made willing.

The Spirit has never made them willing to give their amen to the gospel’s propositions.  Instead, they have been left to keep fighting God’s logic, because they desire to keep suppressing the truth about God as Romans 1 tells us they do.

Men like Tomlinson do not agree with God.  As a consequence, they twist the meaning of faith in an effort to turn the gospel into a series of false propositions they do agree with.

One of the most popular propositions of a false gospel is then one which tells us that salvation is not a legal and forensic transfer of Christ’s death to His people, but rather a transformation of His people’s moral character.   In other words, Jesus didn’t come to save His people by dying for them;  He came instead to save them by turning them into less of a sinner.  His death was needed in the sense that it was necessary to atone for all the past sinning they’ve done, but now that they have the Spirit, they need to cooperate with Him so that He can save them from their future sinning.

I cannot overstate just how drenched the Evangelical/Reformed community is in this false gospel.  They are swimming in it. The same people who amen from one side of their mouth that we are justified by grace alone, turn right around and insist from the other side of their mouth that we are not saved if we do not have less sin in our lives.

Rather than explain every week the good things Christ has accomplished for His people, preachers will rail from the pulpit every Sunday about how we need to progressively grow more and more sanctified.  It’s everywhere within the reformed community.  It is found in church after church after church.

To these guys I am a Rationalist.  A Rationalist is someone who believes he can reason his way to truth apart from God’s Word.  Their accusation is false.  Just because I assert along with Scripture that God’s truth is logical does not make me a Rationalist.

The illogical definition of faith these men have coined is the linchpin of their moral false gospel.  We can talk all we want about salvation being a legal, forensic act, and we can talk about sanctification being a once-for-all-time accomplished work,  but until we start talking about faith and logic and the true definition of faith, then I am afraid we are just going to keep talking past the people we are trying to talk to.

The linchpin is faith.  Take John MacArthur, for example.  The entire premise of MacArthur’s Lordship heresy rests upon the notion that faith is more than “mere” intellectual assent.  John Piper, Paul Washer, R C Sproul, James White, J I Packer, Mack Tomlinson, they are all the same.  Tomlinson champions Ravenhill, a man who championed Charles Finney, who Tomlinson believes was a heretic.  Talk about irrational.  The entire premise of all these men’s false gospel rests upon their false definition of faith.

We have an example today of someone who resisted men like this in the writings of  Robert Sandeman.  Sandeman was the last preacher to make logic and the true definition of faith the subject of his writings.  What has the result been?  For the last two centuries he remains the most falsely libeled, savagely attacked, and falsely accused Christian writer to have ever existed.  Men like Packer and Sproul and MacArthur talk of him as if he is the bogeyman.  Even his name is used as an attempt to scare folks  – “Sandemanianism.”  I’d say Sandeman touched a hot button, wouldn’t you.

If you want to quickly knock the legs out from under a person’s moral gospel argument, then start talking about logic and the definition of faith.  That person is going to find his argument quickly collapsing around his ears.

God is logical.  His gospel is logical. And faith is nothing more than just plain logical, intellectual assent with the logical propositions of His logical gospel.

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Is Christ the Son of Hagar, and Are We Still Under the Law?

“If Christ had only earned forgiveness of sins for us, then we would not merit heaven. Our guilt would have been removed, but we would simply be in the position of Adam and Eve before they had done anything good or bad and before they had passed a time of probation successfully.  To be established in righteousness forever and to have their fellowship with God made sure forever, Adam and Eve had to obey God perfectly over a period of time. Then God would have looked on their faithful obedience with pleasure and delight, and they would have lived with him in fellowship forever.  For this reason, Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God in order to earn righteousness for us. He had to obey the law for his whole life on our behalf so that the positive merits of his perfect obedience would be counted for us.” — Wayne Grudem, The Active Obedience of Christ

“. . . It’s not uncommon to hear some people say, ‘Scripture only teaches the imputation of Christ’s passive obedience, not his active obedience.’  Another complaint goes like this: ‘Such fine distinctions are owing more to systematic theology than to the authorial intent we’re after in exegetical theology.’  But here’s the irony in it all. By arguing that it is only Christ’s passive obedience that is imputed to our account, they are the ones making a distinction that can’t be found in the biblical text.” — Justin Taylor, What Is the Difference Between the Active and Passive Obedience of Christ, “The Gospel Coalition”, June 19, 2012

Watch out.  The dirty fingerprints of Covenant Theology are all over the active obedience.  By active obedience, I mean the idea that God’s justified elect are forever justified and sanctified by Christ’s perfect law keeping.   In other words, were you to ask some people, they’d say it’s Christ’s perfect law keeping that God imputes to His elect for their justification.   Vicarious law keeping, some folks call it.  The view that God saves His elect, not by Christ’s sacrificial death, but rather by His life of vicarious law keeping.   One of the problems with this view is it smacks of a covenant of works.

Before I get into how it smacks of a covenant of works though, I had better first mention something else.  It could be that you are one of those people who thinks this whole active/passive talk is just a bunch of gibberish, a distraction of sorts to sidetrack folks from the important issues.   If this is you, then I’m here to tell you that you had better stop thinking like this right now, because the people who are deceiving folks, people like the Lordship Salvationists and the progressive sanctificationists, they don’t think it’s a distraction.   In fact, they are treating it as downright fundamental.  They are using it to spread their message of assurance and salvation by works of self righteousness.

“The cross alone, however, does not justify us . . . We are justified not only by the death of Christ, but also by the life of Christ. Christ’s mission of redemption was not limited to the cross. To save us He had to live a life of perfect righteousness. His perfect, active obedience was necessary for His and our salvation . . . We are constituted as righteous by the obedience of Christ which is imputed to us by faith.” — R. C. Sproul, Faith Alone, p. 104

“We affirm that Christ’s saving work included both his life and his death on our behalf. We declare that faith in the perfect obedience of Christ by which he fulfilled all the demands of the Law of God on our behalf is essential to the Gospel. We deny that our salvation was achieved merely or exclusively by the death of Christ without reference to his life of perfect righteousness.” — The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration, 1999

In addition to this, as you are going to see by the time you finish this article, I am going to show you how this notion of the righteousness being vicarious law keeping is the basis and foundation for progressive sanctification.  I will even go so far as to say right now at this point that if you are one of those people who believes Christ kept the law vicariously, then you have no consistent basis for the denial of progressive sanctification.  You may not agree with this at this moment, but you will by the time you finish this article.

Now where was I before I got off on that tangent?   Oh yes, the covenant of works.

It has often been said, while under the unwitting influence of a covenant of works, that Adam could have merited eternal life had he but simply obeyed the command to abstain from the forbidden tree.  I reject this absurdity.  I have explained why in previous articles.  —->

Nevertheless, if we are going to say that Christ did indeed merit righteousness by perfect law keeping, then we must also say righteousness is by the law.   After all, this would be how Christ merited His righteousness.  That is, He obeyed the law.

According to the covenant of works, righteousness is indeed by the law.   It was by the law way back in Genesis 1, where we are told that Adam could have merited eternal life had he but simply obeyed the law; and it is by the law now today, where we are told that in contrast to Adam, Christ succeeded in keeping the law, whereas Adam failed.

In other words, just to make sure everyone is on the same page, if righteousness is by the law, then I remain under law, both while I was in Adam and also now that I am in Christ.  It doesn’t matter then.  It doesn’t matter whether I am in Adam or in Christ, I am still under law.  (If righteousness is really by the law, that is.)

Under a covenant of works, Christ managed to secure from the law what Adam failed to secure.   That is, righteousness.  The very righteousness God imputes to His elect for their justification.

What’s more, by adding to this covenant of works the 1644 and 1689 understanding of a covenant of grace, I am under not only Adam’s law, but also all the covenantal laws of the Old Testament; the Edenic, the Noahic, as well as the Mosaic.   If this is true, then we have no choice but to say Hagar is still our mother.


Galatians 4:1-7
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Galatians 4:21-31
21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.”
28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

The text here in Galatians 4 tells us that God sent forth His Son to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons.  Those who are enslaved by the law are not sons of God.  Verse 7 indicates this.  “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”  No longer a slave means we were once a slave, but are no longer.    And because Hagar is the mother of slaves, we were at one time slaves of Hagar.   She was once our mother, but is no longer.

If I am to be redeemed from slavery, then I must be redeemed from the law.  In other words, I must be redeemed from Hagar, allegorically speaking.

How can I be redeemed from slavery though, if the righteousness Christ established is Hagar?

Consider the text.  “Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar.”

Allegorically speaking, Hagar is the law.  She is the covenant at Mount Sinai, also known as the Mosaic Covenant.   I was at one time her slave, her child.  Thanks be to God though, Christ redeemed me from her slavery.   How did He do this?  By establishing her as His righteousness???!!!

I ask that you think about that, dear reader.   Hagar is the law.  She is Mount Sinai.  If the righteousness Christ established was His law keeping, then we must say Hagar is the righteousness which Christ established.  Are you prepared to say such a thing?

We know that Christ is no son of Hagar.   The text tells us this.  He is instead the son of promise.   Very well, this automatically disqualifies the idea that He redeemed those who were under the law by obeying the law.   Certainly He obeyed the law, but this is not how He redeemed those who were under the law.  How then did He redeem them?


Romans 7:1-6
Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.  4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Paul’s argument here in Romans 7 is fairly simple.   I died in Christ to the law so that by virtue of being raised from the dead I now belong to Christ.   However, if I have been raised by virtue of Christ’s law obedience, then Paul’s argument holds no water, because  he would be arguing for polygamy.   Why do I say this?  Consider the text again.

“You also have died to the law through the body of Christ.” 

If I have died to the law through the body of Christ, then this must mean Christ also has died to the law.  This is the only way I could have died to the law through His body.   That is, His body died to the law, and I, being in His body, also therefore died to the law.

But how can this be if I am justified by His perfect law keeping rather than by His death?  In other words, if I am justified by His perfect law keeping, then I would not have died to the law.   After all, it would have been His perfect law keeping that would have justified me.  If His perfect law keeping had justified me, and I had died to the law, then I would have died to being justified by Him.    If I am justified by His perfect law keeping, then I must still be married to the law even though I am also married to Him by virtue of His death.   Thus, either Paul is very confused and arguing for polygamy, or else Christ did not establish His righteousness by perfect law keeping.


Hebrews 10:1-10
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

The parenthetical words, “these are offered according to the law” is right there in the text.   They are not words I have added to the text.  I don’t know how many times in the past I had read these words without really noticing they were there.

The text literally tells us that God does not desire law keeping for righteousness.  Brothers, it’s right there in the text!   Sacrifices and offerings (which are offered according to the law) “You have not desired.”   How could I have missed this?  It’s right there in the text.  Law keeping is not what He has desired for righteousness!

How can law keeping not be what God desires if at the same time Christ’s perfect law keeping is what gets imputed to me for righteousness?  Once again, it cannot be.  Something is clearly very, very wrong.

If it’s not Christ’s perfect law keeping that God imputes to me for righteousness, then what is it of Christ’s that God imputes to me?   Once again the text tells us.  It’s right there in the text, plain as day.   “A body You have prepared for Me.”  He desires the sacrifice of Christ’s body for righteousness, that’s what He desires.

Why is God satisfied by Christ’s death rather than by His perfect law keeping?  The entire chapter tells us.   Contrary to the view maintained by Covenant Theology, the law given at Mt Sinai is not the same law that was given to Adam in the Garden.  These are two distinct and separate covenants incorporating two distinct and separate laws.  The law which God gave to Adam in the Garden demanded Adam’s death in return for his disobedience.  The law given at Mt Sinai also demanded death in return for the people’s disobedience, but it could do nothing about the death that was already demanded from the people by virtue of Adam’s disobedience imputed to them.

In other words, Adam disobeyed.  As a consequence, all men must now die.  It does not matter whether the people born under Mt Sinai are able to obey Mt Sinai or not, because they still must die by virtue of Adam’s disobedience.   There is nothing any future law after Adam can do about this demand.  Not future law can nullify the demand for every man’s death.  No future law obedience can satisfy it.  The only Person who could satisfy it and did satisfy it was Christ.  He satisfied every law’s demand for death (Edenic, Noahic, Mosaic) by His offering up His own death in the place of His people’s death.

This means that sacrifices offered according to the law cannot take away sins.   Period.   This means the righteousness Christ established was not according to law, but rather according to grace.  He is the son of the promise, and the promise made was the promise of redemption by His blood, not by His law obedience.

The reason why Christ’s death rather than His perfect law keeping is the propitiation is because death is what God’s justice demanded.  Perfect law keeping is irrelevant after the law has already been disobeyed.  Perfect law keeping cannot erase the fact that death is still demanded.


Romans 5:18-21
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Adam committed the trespass that made everyone a sinner.  The law of Noah and then later of Moses came in to increase this trespass.   As 1 Corinthians 15:56 tells us, “the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”  How does God’s grace overcome the sting of death?  By obeying the power of sin?  This makes no sense.  Yet we would have to say this if we are to say Christ’s law obedience is the righteousness imputed to us for our justification.

This is not so though.  The apostle goes right on to tell us how grace overcomes the sting of death.  It does so by submitting to the law’s demand for death, and then overcoming this demand by rising from the dead.

Romans 6:1-7
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

For one who has had death imputed to them has been set free from sin.  Not one who has a perfect record of obedience imputed to them.  The only way to be set free from sin is by having Christ’s death imputed to me.

Brothers, you who hold to the view that Christ’s law obedience is imputed to the elect for their justification, what do you do with texts like Romans 8:29?

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

If Christ established righteousness by His perfect law keeping, then law keeping is the only way to be conformed to His image.  After all, this is what He established for righteousness – perfect law keeping.

We can talk about conformity to His image being about repentance from self righteousness all we want, but as long as we hold to the view that Christ established righteousness by perfect law keeping, then understand that we are not being consistent.  If we hold to His perfect law keeping as the righteousness, then the only way to be consistent is to resort to progressive sanctification.  This is exactly what covenant theology does, and it is one of the biggest problems with the 1644 and the 1689.

If Christ justified us by perfectly keeping the law, then Hagar is still our mother, we are still under law rather than grace, and we are sanctified by a progressive growth in law obedience.   There is no way out of this.  The only way you can consistently hold to definite sanctification is to hold to His death as the righteousness imputed to us for justification.   His death is the one time act of obedience that He never repeated and never will again perform.  By one act of obedience, He has sanctified forever those that are sanctified.

Romans 5:18-1918 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

The text says one act of righteousness.  It does not say multiple acts of righteousness.  Likewise, Adam disobeyed once.  He did not need to disobey 630 times before he could be counted unrighteous.

Consider this in a modern context.  Most civilized countries today have laws on their books prohibiting murder.   Brothers, if a person murders someone, does the law care about all the other times you haven’t murdered someone?  No.  You must still be tried and convicted for the one murder you did commit.

Adam disobeyed.   He broke the law.  His disobedience has been imputed to every person.  Does God’s law care about any future obedience Adam’s descendant might offer?  Not at all.  They must still die for Adam’s disobedience.

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Some Questions for Those Who Hold to Justification from Eternity

1. Were the elect ever married to the law prior to being legally baptized into Christ’s death?

If not, then how could the apostle have said, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another. ” (Romans 7:4) Don’t you have to first be in the law before you can become dead to it? And why does he also say in verse 6, “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held.” Don’t you have to first be imprisoned by the law before you can later be delivered from it?

2. Were the elect ever dead in their sins and trespasses prior to being legally united to Christ’s death?

3. If the elect were always legally baptized into Christ’s death, then how can the apostle say to his readers, “how shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:2) Don’t you have to first be in sin before you can then later no longer live in it?

And why does the apostle also say, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7)

If I had always been legally united to Christ’s death, or if I had been united to His death well before my conception, then wouldn’t I have to call Him a minister of sin seeing as how I was at one time dead in sin and yet united to His death? But if I am unwilling to say such a thing, then aren’t I forced to conclude that while I was dead in my sins and trespasses, I was also legally separate from Christ’s death? In fact, isn’t this why I was dead in my trespasses and sins, because I was legally separate from Christ’s death?

4. Did Christ’s legal status ever change? Was He always legally guilty for His people’s sins? Or was He legally guilty only for a brief period of time?

5. If Christ’s legal status changed, and He is the covenant representative of His elect, then why wouldn’t their legal status also change?

6. Was there a period in time in which Christ was dead for His people’s sins and not resurrected?

7. Were the elect ever in the flesh and not in the Spirit?

8. Were the elect always legally baptized into Christ’s death? If there is only one legal union, then why does apostle say in Romans 16:7 “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me”, but then in Ephesians 1:4, “according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”

9. Who is the “we” and the “us” in verses like Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”? Is the we and the us a reference to all the elect from all points in history without distinction? Or are they instead referring specifically to the apostle himself, as well as his first readers?

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Eternity in Hell or Forever Dead Part 10: Elijah, Moses and Enoch by Tony Gray

The Bible says that “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11), “Enoch was translated that he should not see death” (Hebrews 11:5), and “God took him” (Genesis 5:24), and Moses appeared in the transfiguration with Jesus (Matthew 17:3). Do these scriptures prove that the three were in heaven (the throne of God) before Jesus was sent to Earth in the flesh?

John 3:13, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.”

These words were spoken by Jesus himself at a time when only Christ had seen God (John 1:18). And how did He know that no man had ascended up to heaven…the throne of God? Because he came from there! Therefore, what heaven did Elijah go to? What about Enoch and Moses?


Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind “into heaven” (2 Kings 2:1) by “a chariot of fire, and horses of fire” (verse 11). Yet, over nine hundred years after this event, Jesus Himself said “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). Is this a bible contradiction? Did Elijah really ascend to heaven where God’s throne is, even though Jesus said he didn’t? If Elijah did not go to heaven, then where did he go?

The Scripture mentions three heavens (2 Corinthians 12:2), not just one! The first heaven is earth’s atmosphere where birds fly (Genesis 1:20, Jeremiah 4:25; 34:20, Lamentations 4:19, Zephaniah 1:3). One of the Hebrew words for ‘heaven’ is shamayim. This same word is translated as ‘sky’ in the Scripture, as can be seen by comparing Genesis 7:3, “fowls also of the air,” with Genesis 7:23, “fowl of the heaven.” The word ‘sky’ and ‘heaven’ are used interchangeably from the same Hebrew word (Psalm 8:8). So the first heaven is synonymous with ‘heights’ or ‘elevations.’

Here are other examples to illustrate the first heaven. Exodus 19:20 says the Lord was on top of Mount Sinai when he called Moses up there, and God describes Mount Sinai as ‘heaven’ (Exodus 20:22, Deuteronomy 4:36). Here, everything above the ground is called ‘heaven’.

Another example of the first heaven is in Amos 9:1-3, where God states that at the time of this judgment, nobody will be able to flee away (verse 1), even “though they climb up to heaven” (verse 2). This “heaven” is defined in the next verse, verse 3, as climbing to the top of Mount Carmel.

Another example is where the Scripture speaks of the “dew of heaven” (Genesis 27:28,39, Deuteronomy 33:28, Daniel 4:15-33; 5:21). The first heaven, from which dew comes, means the atmosphere, where the clouds and the wind roam. Therefore, everything above the ground is called ‘heaven.”

Another Hebrew word for the first heaven is ‘shachaq.’ This same word for heaven (Psalm 89:6,37) is also translated as ‘sky’ or ‘skies’ (Deuteronomy 33:26; Job 37:18; Psalm 18:11), and as ‘clouds’ (Job 35:5; 36:28; Psalm 36:5; 68:34, Pro. 3:20; 8:28). The second heaven is outer space where the planets and stars exist (Genesis 1:14-17; 15:5; 22:17; 26:4, Deuteronomy 1:10; 17:3; Psalm 8:3, Jeremiah 8:2; Matthew 24:29). Usually the term “host of heaven” or “firmament of the heaven” is used to describe this second heaven.

The third heaven is literally called “the third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:2. This third heaven is what Christ calls his “Father’s house” (John 14:2), and both Christ and the Apostle Paul calls it “paradise” (Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Revelation 2:7). This is where God and the heavenly sanctuary exist (1 Peter 3:22). This third heaven is also known as the “heaven of heavens” (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27, 2 Chronicles 2:6; 6:18, Nehemiah 9:6, Psalms 148:4), “The heavenly Jerusalem” (Galatians 4: 26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 3:12), the “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 25:1, James 2:5), the “eternal kingdom” (2 Peter 1:11), the “eternal inheritance” (1 Peter. 1:4, Hebrews 9:15), and the “better country” (Hebrews 11:14,16). The fact that there are more than one ‘heaven’ can be shown by Psalm 115:16, “The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’S.” There are obviously two different ‘heavens’ being addressed in this one verse.

Since Elijah could not have gone to the heaven of God’s throne, then to which heaven did he go? He was not taken to God’s heavenly throne (as some imagine). He was actually taken into this earth’s atmosphere, the first heaven. There could be no whirlwind in any other place but in the atmosphere surrounding this earth.

What was the reason for this unusual act of God? Why did he take Elijah up into the atmosphere? Was it to make him immortal? No! The Scripture says no word about that! In Hebrews 11:13,39, we read about the prophets who lived by faith and died without receiving the promises. So Elijah was not to be made Immortal, for that would give him pre-eminence above Jesus. But what does the Scripture reveal as the reason for this removal? 2 Kings 2:3 and 5 has the answer.

Notice what the sons of the prophets said to Elisha: “Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day?” (Kings 2:3). Elijah was the leader of the sons of the prophets in that day. God had sent Elijah as His prophet to wicked king Ahab and to his son Ahaziah. Now God wanted Elisha to direct His work, as Ahaziah the king had died and a new king was ruling. So what did God do?

He could not allow Elijah to be among the people with Elisha directing the work now. That would have been the same as disqualifying him. God never takes an office from a man when that man has been performing his duty well. The only thing God could do would have been to remove Elijah so that another would fulfill the office. This God did do. When he was taken up, Elijah’s mantle dropped from him and Elisha picked it up (2 Kings 2:12-15). And what did the mantle mean? In Clarke’s Commentary we note that it was “worn by prophets and priests as the simple insignia of their office” (Vol.2, p.484).

The purpose of God in removing Elijah was to replace him with another man who would occupy Elijah’s office in Israel for another fifty years. This work had to start under a new king, for Ahaziah had just died, and Elijah was already aging. So, as not to disqualify Elijah in the sight of the people, God took him away allowing the mantle which signified the office of Elijah to drop into the hands of Elisha. Thus, God preserves the name and office of His prophet.

Where did Elijah go?

This has been the perplexing problem to so many. He did not ascend to the throne of God, because Jesus said so! Also, notice in 2 Kings 3 and 5 that the sons of the prophets knew Elijah would be taken away by God in advance. They believed that Elijah was going to be taken to another location, which is why they were fearful that the Spirit of God might have dropped him “upon some mountain, or into some valley” (2 Kings 2:16). Elisha knew that God would preserve Elijah from falling, but at their insistence he permitted men to go in search for him, to no avail. And God did not say that Elijah was to die at that time. If he were, Elisha could have assumed his new office without the removal of Elijah, for we know that Elisha died in office after fulfilling his duty (2 Kings 13:14).

The new king of Israel was another son of Ahab, Jehoram, or Joram as he is sometimes called. The beginning of his reign marked the year of his removal of Elijah (2 Kings 1:18 and 3:1). During this king’s reign, Elisha was the recognized prophet of God (2 Kings 3:11). In the fifth year of Joram king of Israel, the son of the king of Judah began to reign along with his father in Judah (2 Kings 8:16). His name also was Jehoram. The first thing he did to establish his kingdom rule was to put his relatives to the sword lest they should claim the throne from him (2 Chronicles 21:4). For nearly six years he followed the ways of the nations about him and did evil in the sight of God.

Almost ten years had now expired since Elijah was taken from the people. After this wicked rule by the Jewish king, God chose Elijah to write a letter and have it sent to the king! The contents of the letter are found in 2 Chronicles 21:12-15. From the wording of this letter, it is clear that Elijah wrote it after these events had occurred, for he speaks of them as past events, and of the diseases as future, Two years after the king became diseased the king died, having reigned only eight short years (2 Chronicles 21:18-20).

This proves that the letter was written about ten years after Elijah had been taken to another location by the whirlwind. God used Elijah to convey the message because he was the prophet of God in the days of the present king’s father, and the son was not going in the ways of his obedient father, Jehosophat. This letter proves that he was alive someplace else. The Bible does not reveal how much longer Elijah lived after writing the letter, but it does say that it is appointed for all men to die once (Romans 5:12,14, 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, Hebrews 9:27).

A similar incident to Elijah’s took place in Acts 8:39,40. Phillip was caught up into the first heaven, as Elijah was, and was transported to another location approximately 30 miles away. Another similar incident happened to Ezekiel, in which the spirit took him away (Ezekiel 3:12). The spirit lifted him up “between the earth and the heaven” and brought him “to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate” (Ezekiel 8:3). Afterwards, the spirit took him up to Chaldea (Ezekiel 11:24).

Elijah may not have been found because he was transported further away than the fifty men searched (2 Kings 2:17). And, as far as being taken into heaven where God’s throne is, we can know that neither Elijah nor Enoch nor Moses were taken into God’s heavenly abode, because Jesus said, while he was on this earth, that “no man hath ascendeth to heaven” (John 3:13), and “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18).


Some people believe that Enoch did not die but was taken directly to heaven where God is. But, Enoch eventually died, as all humans die. How can we know? The apostle Paul mentioned the circumstances associated with Enoch in Hebrews 11:5, along with other men of faith, and then stated: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises” (Hebrews 11:13). Yes, Enoch died, and he did not receive the promise of heaven (verse 16) at the time the book of Hebrews was written.

Based on Hebrews 11:5,13 and Jesus’ statement in John.3:13, “no man hath ascended up to heaven”, how are we to understand the account of Enoch? Genesis 5:21-24 says that Enoch’s days, alive on Earth, ended at 365 years old. The question is, did he die, was he taken to heaven alive, or was he transported to another location on Earth?

Let us examine the bold phrase in Genesis 5:24, where it says, “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” and compare the same Hebrew phrase in:

Psalms 37:36, “Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.”

Psalms 39:13, “O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.”

The Hebrew for the phrases in bold are the same Hebrew as Genesis 5:24. As in the Psalms, the phrase means the person “passed away” or would eventually die. Let’s look at the same phrase in the book of Genesis:

Genesis 42:13, “And they said, Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.” This was spoken by his brothers of Joseph. What’d they mean by “is not”?

Genesis 44:20, “And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him.” Here, the brothers recount their previous discussion about Joseph with Pharaoh. When they first said, “and one is not,” they meant Joseph “is dead.”

Matthew 2:18, “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” Where were Rachel’s children? Dead.

Hebrews 11:5, “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him:” Does the phrase that says Enoch “should not see death” mean Enoch never died? Hebrews 11:13, “These all died [including Enoch] in faith.” But not only that, verse 13 goes on to say that they did not receive the promises. One of the promises was a heavenly country (verse 16). If Enoch were in heaven, wouldn’t he have received that promise?

Psalms 89:48, “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.” Why would this Psalmist ask such a question concerning physical death if he believed Enoch did not see a physical death? The fact is, the Psalmist believed Enoch was in the grave and therefore asked this question.

So what does the phrase “should not see death” mean? Notice it is not in the present tense, that he “did not see” death, but that he “should not see death.” John 8:51, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death” [see also John 11:26]. This phrase must mean “the second death,” since all the Apostles kept Jesus’ sayings and yet died the first death.

Based on Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” and Hebrews 11:13, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises,” we must conclude that Enoch died the first death. To believe Enoch did not die is to deny the plain word of many other scriptures as well. For example, Romans 5:12, “…so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” and Romans 5:14, “…death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned.” Are we to believe that Enoch did not sin? Are we to believe that a man who was not yet cleansed of sin by the blood of Jesus could enter heaven and dwell in God’s presence?

But what about his translation in Hebrews 11:5? Does that mean he didn’t die? That’s what most people carelessly assume without proof. The Bible does not say that Enoch went to heaven when he was translated. Instead, it says he “was not found.” According to Strong’s, Thayer’s and Bullinger’s Greek Lexicons, “translate” means “to put or place in another place, to transport, to transfer.” Nowhere in the Scripture does ‘translate’ mean to make immortal!

The same Greek word is rendered “carried over” in Acts 7:16 where Jacob’s body was ‘translated’ or ‘transported’ to Sychem, where he was buried! The Scriptures say Jacob was translated to the place of burial! God took Enoch and buried him somewhere so as not to be found, just as he did with the body of Moses in Deuteronomy 34:6. No man knows where Moses’ or Enoch’s grave is. God hid them for reasons known only to Him.

Notice another proof that ‘translate’ does not mean to make immortal. Paul wrote that the Father “hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13). The apostle Paul says that he was already translated, even though he was still physically alive! Although he was once part of the darkness of this world, he was translated, removed from darkness, into the light of the kingdom of God while he was physically alive!

At the age of 65, Enoch had a son named Methuselah. But how long did Enoch walk with God?

Genesis 5:22, “And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.”

So, Enoch followed God’s ways for three hundred years. Notice that the Scripture does not record that Enoch is still walking with God. It says that Enoch WALKED with God for three hundred years, and not one year more. Why? Because “all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years” (Genesis 5:23). Paul says, in Colossians 1:10, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord.” Enoch walked with God and pleased God. This is what Genesis 5:22,24 means when it says “Enoch walked with God.”

1 Corinthians 15:20-23 says that all die and all shall be resurrected, but Messiah must be first in the order. Enoch could not possibly have preceded him, especially if he were still flesh and blood as it says in verses 49-52.


The only remaining texts that puzzle people are those relative to the appearances of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-10, Luke 9:28-36). After the Transfiguration, Jesus said, while leaving the mountain, “Tell the vision to no man” (Matthew 17:9). Jesus calls the transfiguration a vision! A vision is not a material reality, but a supernatural picture observed by the eyes. The same Greek word for “vision” was used of Peter’s vision of the unclean beasts being made clean (Acts 10:3,17,19; 11:5). They were not real but a supernatural picture. In the case of the transfiguration it was a prophetic vision which would take place in the future. Peter, James and John saw the Son of Man glorified in the Kingdom through a prophetic vision. Here are other examples:

Acts 16:9, “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” This also is something that was to happen in the future.

Acts 18:9-10, “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.” Jesus is telling Paul that, in the near future, no man shall hurt him.

Visions should not be interpreted as literal. For example, look at Genesis 37:5-10. When Joseph dreamed that his “sheaf arose, and stood upright,” and his brother’s sheaves bowed down to Joseph’s sheaf (verse 7), Or when Joseph dreamed that “the sun and the moon and the eleven stars” bowed down to Joseph (verse 9), is this literal? No. This was a prophetic vision of something that was to occur in the future; when Joseph’s mother, father, and brothers would bow down to him as King.

Both Moses and Elijah were still in their graves, but in vision both they and Jesus were seen in glory of the resurrection, and event to which Moses and Elijah have not yet attained at that time (Hebrews 11:39). The vision was granted the disciples after Jesus had spoken of the glory of immortality in the coming Kingdom.

There cannot be any doubt that Moses died and was buried (Deuteronomy 34:5-6). Therefore, for him to have been in heaven while Jesus was still in the flesh, Moses had to be resurrected from the dead, receive eternal life, and “put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). But the Bible is clear that Jesus had to be the first one to be resurrected to eternal life. 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”

The Apostle Paul said Jesus had to be “the firstborn from the dead” and “have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). If anyone preceded Jesus, then he wasn’t the firstborn from the dead. Since some people believe Enoch and Elijah did not die, but that Moses did die, then that would mean Moses had the preeminence over Jesus. Therefore, since Jesus had to be the first to be resurrected unto eternal life and the first to ascend into heaven and stand before God, Moses could not possibly have been in heaven while Jesus was on earth.

Hebrews 11:23-28 talks about Moses living by faith. Now read verses 39-40, which say that Moses did not receive the promise of a resurrection unto eternal life and perfection. This should settle any disputes to the contrary. What about Michael and Satan disputing about Moses’ body? Jude 9 does not say Michael won the dispute and then took Moses to heaven. Since there is no mention of heaven here, nor in the entire book of Jude, we should not assume he was taken there.

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False Teachers Like James White Are Sure this Man is a Brother in Christ

My recent discussion with a man who believes in universal atonement.   His name will remain anonymous.  I’ll call him, UA.

DAVE:   The Bible’s implied propositions regarding the extent of the atonement are not limited to those texts that speak directly about election and His death. Rather, they also include those texts which speak directly about His priesthood, the efficacy and nature of His priesthood, and His role as the representative headship of a new covenant. Those texts regarding election and the efficacy of His death in conjunction with these texts about the efficacy of His priesthood and new covenant federal headship prove the Bible teaches Christ died only for His elect.

By offering His body to God at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins, Christ HAS (past tense) once and for all time redeemed His people from the just punishment for their sin. This is why God will draw them to Himself. This is why He will impute them righteous and justify them. This is why He will regenerate them and raise them up at the last day. Because Christ has redeemed them from the just punishment for sin.

When you talk of Christ’s sacrificial atoning death as being “unlimited in its sufficiency, but limited in its efficacy”, you are telling me the High Priest’s sacrifice did not atone. You are telling me something else atoned instead.

Hebrews 10:1-14

Notice that it was Christ’s offering that perfected. His offering perfected all for whom He sacrificed. It was not faith that perfected, or regeneration, or justification, or sincerity. It was His offering that perfected. His offering did not make nearly perfect, or almost perfect, or perfect in all ways except one. No, it has perfected. Period.

UA: David I see what you are saying. However, by grace we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. Could it not be that the sacrifice makes salvation possible, but the gift of faith makes it effectual, whereby the atonement is laid hold of by faith? Could He not have died for all, as the scripture states that He did, and yet, it is not effectual for those who do not lay hold of it by faith or through faith, as it says? We are saved by grace through faith.

Hebrews 4:1-6

The works were finished from the foundation, but it didn’t profit those who had no faith to obtain. The word being preached to them did not profit them, not because the sacrifice was limited to the elect, but because it was not mixed with faith in those who heard it. Heb. 4:2 Heb 4:6 Since then it remains that some must enter into it, and since they to whom it was first preached did not enter in because of unbelief. It is unbelief that causes someone to neglect so great a salvation, a salvation that is sufficient for them… for all. Heb 3:19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

DAVE: You asked, could it not be that the sacrifice makes salvation possible, but the gift of faith makes it effectual, whereby the atonement is laid hold of by faith? Could He not have died for all, as the scripture states that He did, and yet, it is not effectual for those who do not lay hold of it by faith or through faith, as it says?  No, it is not. Consider the text you hinted at in your question:

Ephesians 2
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

You’re describing faith as a work, something we do in addition to what Christ did that results in our salvation. This is the opposite of grace. As Romans 11:6 states, “if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

In other words, if salvation is something you can merit by performing the act of belief, then you would have something to boast about before God. You could say to God, “Sure, Lord. You gave me the cross, but it was I who provided the faith.”

This is what Hebrews 4 is warning about. If you will note from the text, Hebrews 4 is drawing an analogy for us from the incident in Numbers 13, where some spies had been sent into the Promised Land. They returned a negative report.

Even though God had promised Israel time and time again that He would fight for them, that no one would prevail against them because of this; nevertheless, they still drew back from the Promised Land with fear and doubt in God’s promise. As a result, they perished in the wilderness.

Learn from their example, says Hebrews 4. Don’t draw back from the cross of Christ with fear and doubt.

Fear and doubt of what?  Fear that Christ hasn’t done all that is required to save His people, and doubt that what He has done is enough.

Fearing and doubting is exactly what you are doing. This is why you are trying to add your work of faith to what He has already done, because you do not believe that what He did at the cross really did, by itself, with no input from us, save His people from their sins.

Faith has an object, and that object is the sin atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross, offered to God as perfect substitute and payment for His people’s sins. Therefore, when we read texts like, justified by faith, we know this means justified by the sin atoning death of Jesus Christ at the cross.

Hebrews 10, the other text you cite, spells this out at the very start.

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

If there were anything we could do to make ourselves acceptable to God, then we would only need to do that thing one time, because having sufficed to make us acceptable to God once, it would suffice to make us acceptable to forever. The fact that we are commanded to believe more than once, pray more than once, study the Bible more than once, love our neighbors more than once, and so on, means none of these things can make us acceptable to God. There is only one work that makes a man acceptable to God. This one thing was performed by God Himself, and it will never be repeated. It is the death of Jesus Christ.

Now, if a man rests in this work alone for his salvation and assurance, which you personally do not do, then he will not have any occasion to draw back from God in fear and doubt, because he will be resting in the fact that what Christ did at the cross is everything God requires for His people’s salvation. A man will instead have every reason to enter boldly into God’s Presence.

The implication of all this, of course, is that Jesus only died for His people. He did not die for anyone else.

UA:  I didn’t read your entire post because you are greatly mistaken in your opening. Faith is not a work but a gift. Faith is not something we do, as you say, but something God bestows.

DAVID: I agree that faith is not a work, but this is how you are treating it. You are treating it as if it were a work.

What did the cross of Christ actually accomplish? According to you, it accomplished nothing. Rather, it merely made redemption possible. According to you, people must do something in addition to what Christ has already done at the cross in order to be redeemed. It does not matter whether you have God doing that additional thing through us, or granting us the ability to do that additional thing, you are still adding something to the work on the cross that Christ already did. You are pitting faith against the work that Christ Himself did at the cross.

You are treating Christ’s work at the cross the same way that those Israelites in Numbers 13 treated God’s promise. That is, in the same way they drew back in fear and doubt from the promised land, so too you are drawing back in fear and doubt from the cross of Christ alone. You are trying to alleviate the fear and doubt by adding faith to Christ’s work at the cross.

The reason you do this is because you do not like the truth about God’s sovereign election. It bothers you to think that God freely discriminated among His creatures, and chose based solely upon His own good pleasure and purpose whom He would save and whom He would condemn. It bothers you to think that He made this choice independent of anything in us. As the Scriptures say, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:15)

You must understand though, that long ago in eternity, from before the foundation of the world, God determined to glorify Himself by saving a particular people from the righteous punishment for their sins. The apostles call these people, the elect. Jesus calls them His sheep. But in addition to His elect, God also determined to glorify Himself by condemning to death every person whom He did not choose to save. The Bible calls these people, reprobate. His sovereign, free choice to elect and reprobate was conditioned solely upon His own good purpose and pleasure. That is, any and every choice man would ever make played no part in God’s choice to elect and reprobate.

God was not unjust to create men in this fashion.   After all, He is the Creator, and as the Creator He had the right to fashion His creation for whatever purpose He sees fit. He is the most wonderful, wise, perfect, and holy Being in all the universe. Does He not then therefore, have the right to concern Himself with glorifying His perfection? If He concerned Himself instead with glorifying anything else, than that anything else would itself be more perfect and wonderful than He. God was not wrong to elect and reprobate. He would only be wrong if He had later lied about this. He has not. After all, the Scriptures also say, “when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ 13 As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'” (Romans 9:10-13)

John’s gospel puts it this way:

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:26 You do not believe, because you are not My sheep.

The text does not say, you are not My sheep, because you do not believe. No, it says you do not believe, because you are not My sheep.

If Christ is the good shepherd who came to lay His life down for His sheep, and not everyone is His sheep, then He could not have come to lay His life down for everyone.

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