What the Bible says about
Wages of Sin as Death
(From Forerunner Commentary)
We would normally read and expound these scriptures in the context of Passover. We normally think of Passover in terms of being reconciled to God. However, Passover and the Day of Atonement are inextricably bound in that both of them involve reconciliation.
Atonement, though, supplies answers and solutions to problems not resolved by Passover. The Passover is personal in nature, providing reconciliation of the individual to God and the beginning of unity with man in the church with Christ. It is through Passover that we learn the price of redemption and reconciliation—xno less than that of the Creator, Jesus Christ.
Atonement, however, is universal in nature and provides reconciliation of the world to God—all of mankind at one with God and each other through Christ. Passover shows Satan defeated, but still free to work out his nefarious schemes to produce confusion and division, as well as rebellion against God. Atonement, on the other hand, shows Satan defeated and punished by banishment—no longer free to do anything but to bewail his lot.
The emphasis in I Peter 1:17-21 is on the cost of reconciliation, which is vital to God's purpose because a major portion of our desire to obey God comes from our sense of obligation to God and Christ in appreciation for how much was paid for us to be free.
We will never feel this until we begin to understand that this was done for us as individuals. If only one person had ever sinned in all of God's creation, it still would have taken the life of the Creator to get him free from the wages of his sin.
He did it for us! It is easy for us to escape responsibility for His death when we conclude, "Well, He did it for all of mankind." Indeed, He did, but he did it for us as individuals too. This is the path that a person has to take in his thinking to recognize the cost that was made for us and to come to a sense of obligation. We ought to respond if only out of thanks for what He did. We owe our lives to Him.
People have been willing to give virtually everything to someone who saved their lives from drowning, snatched them out of the way of a speeding automobile, or saved them from some other kind of painful death. At Passover, we rehearse that, understanding that Jesus Christ saved us individually.
In the Garden of Eden, the serpent told Eve that she could disobey God, and she would not die. Even as that initial deception of mankind concerned death, modern conceptions about death and the afterlife commonly contradict the Bible.
Most professing Christians believe in an immortal soul that lives on beyond death. They believe that if one professed Christ then his soul goes to heaven, but if the dearly-departed did not “get saved” before dying, then his soul goes to an ever-burning hell to be tortured for eternity. This belief, rooted in Gnosticism and even further back in Egyptian and Babylonian mystery religions, proclaims that death really is not death but just part of a mystical journey.
What the Bible teaches is different. The Bible shows that man does not have a soul, but that man is a soul. Man has a spirit, and has a body, but only when God breathed life into Adam did he become a living soul (nephesh; Genesis 2:7, KJV).
Moreover, the Bible states clearly that the soul who sins will die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). It says that God alone has immortality (I Timothy 6:16), unlike man who must seek it because he does not have it (Romans 2:7). Scripture asserts that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death is not a shedding of the body and a freeing of the soul, as is commonly held, but a complete cessation of existence.
David C. Grabbe
What Is the Second Death?
The English word atonement appears in Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35 in reference to these sin offerings, as it does in Leviticus 1:4 in reference to the burnt offering: "Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him." This is the last time "atonement" appears in reference to the sweet-savor offerings in Leviticus 1-3.
"Atonement" may mislead some because we almost automatically think of a covering for sin. Atonement for sin normally makes one acceptable before God, but sin is not present in the sweet-savor offerings. Nonetheless, the word indeed conveys the sense of acceptance but on a different basis than in the sin and trespass offerings. The basis for acceptance in the sweet-savor offerings is the offerer's perfect devotion, picturing the devoted, sinless Christ worshipping God.
Concerning the sin and trespass offerings, "atonement" is used in the way we normally understand it: as a covering, payment, expiation, or propitiation made for sin. It is as though the offerer is charged just as the police charge a person with a crime. In this case, though, the offerer is charged with sin, and something must expiate it. The sin and trespass offerings, then, indicate the payment of a legal obligation to an authority, one that meets the legal requirement of that authority. To expiate sin, the payment must be in blood; a life must be given. The Authority is God, as His law has been broken.
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Whenever a person sins, the law has the power to take that person's life. It has such power over us that, for our debt to be paid, a life is required. Nothing less is suitable to expiate sin. In the symbolism of the sin and trespass offerings, the life of an animal is given, covering the indebtedness and breaking the power the law has over us.
In actual practice, the ritual proceeded like this: The offerer brought his animal before the priest and then laid his hand upon the head of his offering. Symbolically, a transfer took place so that the animal is understood as portraying the sinner making the offering. The animal then died, and the penalty was considered paid.
In Romans 6:2, Paul writes that we are "dead to sin," and in Romans 7:4, that we are "dead to the law." The ritual portrays these truths. The sin and trespass offerings picture a convicted sinner coming before God to receive the judgment of death. However, the animal's death portrays Christ's vicarious death in our stead, for in reality, since He is the offering, our sins have been transferred to Him. In this way, we are atoned for and redeemed.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering
The church of God does not accept the Doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul, instead believing God's Word, which says indisputably, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). One of the very first things God taught Adam in the Garden of Eden was the consequence of sin: “you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17), a truth the serpent hastened to contradict (Genesis 3:4).
In the New Testament, Jesus teaches in Matthew 10:28: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna, a symbol of the Lake of Fire (see Revelation 20:11-15)].” Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Humans are mortal, and God must give eternal life; we do not have it inherently (see Romans 2:7; I Corinthians 15:53-54; I Timothy 6:16).
We believe that man indeed has a spirit (Job 32:8), “the breath of the Almighty [that] gives him understanding,” but that it is not his soul. When combined with a human brain, the human spirit allows a person to have the powers of mind. When he dies, the body returns to the dust, but his spirit returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7), who safeguards it as a record of his life.
Solomon also informs us that “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5), and “there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave” (verse 10), meaning that there is no consciousness in death. The person knows nothing, learns nothing, communicates nothing, does nothing—until the resurrection from the dead when God will unite that spirit with a new body, either a spiritual body or another physical body, depending on the resurrection (see Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 5:24-29; I Corinthians 15; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 20).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What Happened at En Dor?
The biblical account certainly suggest that the outcome would be death. Sin's costliness and deadliness are connected in Paul's memorable truism, "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). The world frequently advertises that sin results in an exciting life, but this is false, as "sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:15). Many things that society sanctions as good only lead to suffering and death (such as sexual immorality, abortion, and alcohol abuse).
It is by Christ's sinless death that we are forgiven and healed by the stripes He received when beaten (Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 9:2, 5; Mark 2:5, 9; Luke 5:20, 23; I Peter 2:24). God not only removes sin, but He also forgets it (Hebrews 8:12). The prophets Micah and Isaiah vividly illustrate this divine forgetfulness of pardoned sin: God will "cast all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19), and "cast all my sins behind Your back" (Isaiah 38:17).
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Exorcising a Young Boy (Part Two)
This passage shows us the foundation of understanding justification by faith and thus where we stand in our relationship with God. Paul explains that, regardless of who one is and what he has done that might be considered as righteousness, God owes Him nothing but death because "all have sinned." Sinners are those under the law, and the law condemns them, making them subject to its power to take the sinner's life. Each person's own transgressions against the law and God place him in that position.
Sin is something each sinner is responsible for, and once the individual has sinned and earned the death penalty, the sin cannot be forgiven simply because he does good to make up for it. God did not make him sin. A clear example is Adam and Eve: God obviously did not make them sin; each of them chose to sin. Romans 3:20 clearly states that no sinner can justify himself through law-keeping. The law's purpose is to make known what sin is.
Once a person sins, everything is seemingly stacked against him. The sinner can in no way make up for what he has done. Therefore, since justification cannot be claimed as a right due to his keeping the law, if a person desires to be forgiven, the only alternative is that justification must be received as a gift.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace (Part Two)
It is not so much a lack of the availability of true knowledge as it is a lackadaisical, careless, "it really does not matter all that much," "any way is as good as any other," "sin is not really all that bad" approach. It at first might seem to be a gentle form of stubbornness, but the real problem here is two major spiritual sins: pride and covetousness. In effect, Israelites are guilty of telling God that He does not know what He is talking about. As a nation, we are somewhat like teenagers who tell their parents that they are "out of it" old fogies, but it is far more serious than this.
Generally, Israelites are not a particularly violent people. However, our pride influences us, as Amos shows, to be deceitful and sneaky and to take advantage of those weaker than ourselves. We are masters of competitively seeking advantage, not for the purpose of sharing, but to get for the self. Consider Jacob's characteristics in his dealings with Esau and his father-in-law, Laban.
However, these sins are just as much deviations from God's standards as the violent and vicious sins of the Gentiles. Sin is sin is sin. God nowhere says, "This level of sin is passable"; sin will always be failure. "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). The continuous nature of these pesha' sins (presumptuous transgressions) strongly indicates that they will not be repented of.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Sin, Christians, and the Fear of God
Paul directs this passage toward Gentiles as part of an admonition he wanted them to consider regarding their calling into the church. We, too, must seriously consider God's goodness and severity. God is not only what we commonly think of as love. His character is perfectly balanced by a sense of justice for all concerned and for His purpose too. To be just is to be fair, evenhanded, and impartial. God will always be fair because even His justice is executed in love and is an act of love.
God is not only supreme in power and authority, but He is also supreme in judgment. His mind pierces through all of the justifications we make to excuse our bad attitudes and conduct as measured against His righteous standard. So, if we desire to live by faith, we must seriously consider His sense of justice because what we may think is a small matter, an event of no great magnitude, may trigger God to react with terrible swiftness and severe consequences that leave us wondering why. Scripture records a number of these sudden, violent reactions.
We must begin by understanding that we do not see the entire picture as God does. The reality of God's justice helps us to perceive three important factors to living by faith: 1) The wages of sin is indeed death (Romans 6:23); 2) we are headed toward death and do not know its time; and 3) God means exactly what He says.
Jesus declares an important principle in Luke 12:48: "But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more." We need to think about the seriousness of our calling, knowing that human nature contains a strong strain of self-deception. This verse should remind us that because we have been given so much, our judgment will be sterner.
God states in Romans 1:18-20 that mankind is without excuse regarding His existence, but it is easily seen in the immoral conduct committed throughout the world that people are paying little or no attention to their responsibilities to God. As people go about their daily activities, they ignore Him; a relationship with Him is not perceived as a vital, everyday necessity to life.
Some may talk of Him on occasion and even pray, but they are not seriously committed to true devotion to Him. They are neither learning more of His truth nor further broadening and deepening obedience to Him. Besides those folks, some are openly and aggressively antagonistic toward Him and His laws.
However, in the face of these attitudes, we cannot allow ourselves to disregard the fact that God is very serious about His intentions to fulfill His purposes for His creation and most especially in the lives of His children. His purpose has been revealed to us, and we are more responsible than others.
Though by our reckoning of time God's justice often seems long delayed, the prophecies will be fulfilled and His Kingdom established under Jesus Christ. God commands that we must live by faith, so we cannot let down. We must push on in faith.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice
Paul admonishes us to consider both God's goodness and severity. Both of these characteristics are part of what He is, and therefore we must respect both.
We can make the contrast between them very sharp: Until Adam and Eve sinned, they received all goodness from God. After their sin, it appears that His severity hit them immediately; they were ushered out of the Garden.
In Genesis 4, Cain sinned by killing Abel. At first, Cain received goodness from God in that he was permitted to live, but he also received severity in that he had to live as a marked vagabond.
In these two early examples, both sides of God's judgment appear, and a pattern has become especially clear: Severity results because of sin.
Whether we are immediately aware of it is not the issue. For instance, when Adam and Eve sinned, their decline into death began immediately, regardless of whether they were physically aware of any deterioration of their health. Cain immediately became a vagabond separated from his family roots. The only real difference between the carrying out of the death penalty between Adam and Eve and Nadab and Abihu is the effect God desired to create by His immediate, shocking display of severity.
We who draw near to God must know that the God we serve is to be served as a holy God—especially because He is a holy God. He permitted no opportunity for them to repent because they should have known better. The wages of sin is always death.
In the days of Noah, the goodness of God spared only eight souls, but His severity terrifyingly destroyed the remainder of humanity. In a matter of a few days, perhaps billions of people, even innocent unborn and newborn babies, died because of sin.
Following King Saul's paranoia-driven reign, God showed His goodness to Israel by raising up David, a man after His own heart, to rule over Israel. Yet, then David committed a disastrous double sin by entering into adultery with Bathsheba and deliberately bringing about the death of the loyal Uriah. God mercifully forgave the sins, but that does not mean there was no painful punishment laid on David and his family. God's severity against David and his family was hard and long. First, the son born of that illicit union died shortly after his birth. Later, David's firstborn son, Amnon, raped his own half-sister, Tamar. Tamar's brother, Absalom, seeking revenge, killed Amnon and fled from David, not seeing him for two years.
Then Absalom revolted against David in his desire to take over the throne. Absalom arrogantly proceeded to defile David's concubines in the sight of all Israel. Several thousand were killed in this revolt, and eventually, Absalom himself was killed by Joab. The family's pain did not stop even then, washing over into Solomon's reign when he put Adonijah to death because he sought political power by asking for Abishag's hand in marriage.
David was a man of blood, as God Himself mentions, but his children carried a moral cancer until death stopped them. Have we ever noticed how much deceit and illicit sex was involved in David's family's sins? God was not present in that family's life as He had once been. He could have stepped in at any time and stopped the holocaust ripping through David's family, but He did not. Living as they did, despite being the progeny of a man God greatly loved, they felt the severity of His judgments.
Deeply consider how long God's severity lasted! He did not simply let David off the hook. He had been chosen to draw near to God. Much was required of him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice
1 Corinthians 15:55-58
Is it still possible for us to sin and experience sin's sting? As long as the laws that define sin exist, the possibility of death remains because it is possible for us to break those laws. This is why verse 58 urges us so strongly to be steadfast and immovable in the work of the Lord. His work in us as individuals is to refine our character so that we never sin. We are in training to be in God's image, and God does not sin.
The term “sting” illustrates what is painful about sin. The most painful element involved in sin is death, and with death, all hope is lost. Sin kills. Do we believe that? Sin is the cause of death. The function of the laws of God is to provide knowledge of sin. God's laws give us knowledge of what to do and what not to do. Sin is still to be feared!
We must be careful, though, because our carnal nature is so deceitful that by giving us knowledge of what not to do, sin can actually play a role in arousing us to desire a taste of it, to experience its excitement. And so we can give in to sin. We must fight this desire with all our being. After God commanded her not to eat of the tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden, Eve failed to fight the intriguing desire, and she ended up sinning! God's laws have never been against us; He designed them for our good. They continue to give us guidance about what is right.
Our sins imposed the death penalty on us—and ultimately on our Savior—in the first place and still do if we continue sinning after He pays the debt. God's laws have not changed, and the penalty for breaking them remains the same despite Jesus' merciful payment on our behalf. Irrespective of the New Covenant, the laws continue to define sin. If we continue sinning, His death for our benefit is absolutely wasted. Specifically, at our baptism, His death pays only for sins committed in the past.
Christ's death is the means, the way, that opens the door for completing the perfection of our character into His image in preparation for the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit God gives us through the laying on of hands is the means of keeping His laws far more perfectly than before our calling. Sins committed after accepting His shed blood can put one on the road to the Lake of Fire because His death did not remove our obligation to obey the law. We must repent of sins committed following baptism so they do not produce more severe consequences.
God's laws still exist and are still in force, guiding us in living God's way.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part One)
Some religions make no mention of Satan as a reality. Others include him as a reality and enemy, yet they make little or no accounting of him actively working to destroy mankind and God's purpose. Jesus makes no bones about Satan actively working to destroy men. In John 8:44, in accusing the Jews of unbelief, He puts Satan's nature in plain words:
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
Satan is clearly responsible for drawing Adam and Eve into the first of mankind's sins, opening the floodgate to the sins of all of their progeny, all physical and mental sickness, countless emotional agonies, and the billions of deaths that mankind has experienced.
God makes it clear that the wages—the ultimate penalty—earned by one's sins is death (Romans 6:23). The sobering truth of this matter is that it takes only one sin for God to impose the death penalty! He warned Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they ever sinned, "In the day you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17). The death penalty falls immediately on anyone who sins, even if it is the first time!
Any religion that is without Christ leaves the door open to thoughts that salvation can be earned by means of good works. The idea is that the evil an individual has done in the past can be compensated for by doing good deeds. This is the very charge the apostle Paul lays against the Jews in Romans 10:1-4:
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
In order for one to be justified before God and accepted by Him requires a righteousness that no man who ever sinned even one time can achieve. No amount of good works can compensate for even one sin. God will accept only the righteousness of One who has never sinned, and He will accept that payment only when a repentant sinner by faith believes.
Peter's statement in Acts 4:12 confirms that salvation is found nowhere else: "There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (emphasis ours). Christ's involvement in the forgiveness of sin for salvation is imperative; there is no alternative! Peter is not saying we can be saved or may be saved. The word "must" reveals necessity according to God's decree. Salvation is found through no other person and no other way of life except through the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth.
Salvation denotes deliverance or preservation from harm or evil. In this case, it is deliverance and restoration from the effects of sin. The result, then, is deliverance from eternal death (unless one goes on from that point to commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus says God will not forgive; see Matthew 12:31-32). This is because salvation begins upon one's repentance from his sins and faith in the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. This combination of acts justifies a person before God, and no human works, regardless of their quality or quantity, are acceptable for the forgiveness of sins.
Does any other religion have a Savior with the qualifications of Jesus Christ? No other religion offers such a magnanimous gift. Forgiveness, and therefore justification, is available only through that perfect sacrifice, along with the sincere repentance of a believing sinner who exhibits faith in the God/Man Jesus Christ and in God's grace. God will then give us of His Spirit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is God's True Church Today?
The purpose in this section of Hebrews is to provide us with a foundation of truth regarding how we are freed from the condition we were in before we were called, converted, and made Christians and part of God's Family. Hebrews 2:9-11 adds key information to clarify our understanding:
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He by the grace of God might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.
These verses introduce the solution. Jesus is the means by which we, the many sons, are made perfect, that is, brought to completion and made free from this bondage imposed on us. Our Creator had to first become completely identified with us: human. This is important because Jesus is the means by which we are not only made free and holy at the beginning of our conversion, but this same One also keeps us free throughout our conversion. Those who are truly holy by God's standard are those who will escape death.
This holiness or sanctification is not a static, unchanging state but a growing, lifelong, continually forming one. It is helpful to be reminded of John 8:31-36, which concludes with the statement that "if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."
The Son sets us free. However, a key element pinpointing our responsibility in this relationship is the word abide, mentioned by Christ in John 8:35: “And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.” It means “to live,” “to continue,” “to go on.” We must recall Romans 5:10 and be very thankful: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” This truth confirms that we are saved by His life, that is, He is our living High Priest. “I will never leave nor forsake you,” He declares (Hebrews 13:5).
Our responsibility, then, is to continue being faithful to Christ, striving to overcome sin, and as this occurs, He, as our High Priest, continues to keep us free from backsliding into Satan's bondage. Thus, the work of Christ makes us one with Him and keeps us one with Him.
The author of Hebrews is stating that Jesus, our Savior, and His brothers and sisters all now belong to the same Family. Remember that Jesus, in order to be identified completely with us, became a mortal man, but He, by living a sinless life, escaped the mandatory death penalty. Because of God's calling and faith, we are now linked with Him spiritually and can look forward to everlasting life.
Hebrews 2:14 is saying that in order for us to be freed from bondage to Satan and the fear of death, Christ had to become human and able to die because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Thus, nothing less than the death of our sinless Creator, living as a man, could suffice for us to be freed from the death penalty by means of His substitutionary death on the cross. God paid a huge price for our freedom from the fear of death.
This was not His only great accomplishment. He also lived sinlessly, and in doing so defeated Satan, who has the power of death, as he lost the struggle to induce Jesus, the second Adam, the beginning of the new creation, to sin. The Adversary had won this struggle over Adam and Eve and all their children, but Jesus took the weapon of death from Satan's hands. Because we are one with Christ, that weapon no longer hangs over us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Eight): Death
Many hold the mistaken belief that the New Covenant transforms living by faith and glorifying God into a far easier task than under the Old Covenant. “Easier” is an erroneous descriptor. Even though a convert is forgiven of past sins and receives wonderful gifts from God, including the Holy Spirit, the New Covenant also requires him or her to become a living sacrifice. Sacrificing one's life in humble submission to God is not easy, as the New Testament attests. Jesus lists some requirements in Luke 14:25-27:
Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
Almost all who call themselves Christian today hold the opinion that, through the New Covenant, God has made salvation much easier to obtain. The central pillar in their belief seems to be that since Jesus kept the laws perfectly, and since He paid for the forgiveness of our sins through His sacrifice, when one accepts Him as Savior, the convert's obligation to meet the New Covenant's demands is somehow magically reduced or even eliminated. People carelessly say, “Jesus did it all for me.”
In plain language, a high percentage of professing Christians accept as true that God's law is essentially done away. They believe that Jesus kept it for us. While that idea contains truth, it has been twisted into a misleading concept: that we need not be as concerned about keeping it as those who lived under the Old Covenant. Nothing could be further from the truth! Why? Our willing, devoted, and careful participation in keeping His law is absolutely necessary to be created in God's image!
The reality is that the New Covenant establishes what we might call graduate-level requirements of keeping God's law. However, God compensates for our weaknesses by providing the spiritual tools to reach those levels. Jesus did keep the commandments for our benefit, in that God is mercifully willing to accept His righteous life and death to pay our debt to Him for our sins because we do not have sufficient righteousness to pay the cost to have the death penalty removed.
But something is missing in people's misunderstanding of this reality, so their trust in it is also skewed. What is missing is what radio broadcaster Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story”: the truth that godly character is not imposed but built, created, with the willing and dedicated assistance of the person being transformed. The world's flawed conclusion dismisses the fact that God's creation of each person into His image is only just beginning at the individual's forgiveness and baptism into the church and the Family of God.
Anyone thinking of baptism should consider—if we have little need to be concerned about sin—why Jesus is so solemn and stern in His admonition in Luke 14:25-27 about His disciples following such high standards. Not being discussed at this point is that, despite Christ's wonderful gift in sacrificing Himself to pay our indebtedness to God, the reality is that the wages of sin, death, remain because the existence of the laws continues.
What we find is that God not only forgives us, but in our calling He also gives us the spiritual tools to fight and win the spiritual battles we engage in to keep sin from re-enslaving us. The fight against sin continues. God provides the tools for us to go on to perfection (Hebrews 6:1-2) if we will believe in them and use them.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part One)
2 Peter 2:4
Regarding “the angels who sinned”, the Bible asserts that “God did not spare” them, meaning that He has not pardoned their sins, just delayed their punishment. The verse goes on to say that, in the meantime, He has “cast them down to hell [tartaroo] and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.”
E.W. Bullinger writes that their prison, Tartarus, “is not Sheol or Hades, . . . [but] denotes the bounds or verge of this material world” (A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, “hell,” p. 370). Tartarus, then, is a holding place—this material world—where the demons are awaiting their final judgment. Their ultimate penalty is not “chains of darkness” or “everlasting chains under darkness” (Jude 6), but something far more permanent to be rendered in “the judgment of the great day.” This appointed time of judgment still awaits them (see Matthew 8:29).
Paul writes unambiguously that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God also says in Ezekiel 18:4, 20, “The soul who sins shall die.” Scripture does not stipulate that this applies only to humans (soul means “living being”—even God is a soul; see Leviticus 26:11, 30; Isaiah 1:14; Jeremiah 6:8; Zechariah 11:8; Matthew 12:18; Hebrews 10:38; etc.), nor does God's Word ever say that sin can be paid for by a lengthy, even eternal, imprisonment (as many speculate will be the demons' fate). According to these verses, all sin requires death for expiation, and since the Bible does not indicate that demons will repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ's death to pay for their transgressions, only their own deaths will cover their many terrible sins.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are the names of the Destroyer and his constantly sinning demon companions written in the God's Book of Life? Of course not. Revelation 20:10 affirms this: “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are [were cast]. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The Scriptures reveal that it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18). Yes, Satan and his demons are to be burned up in the Lake of Fire prepared for them, as Jesus states in Matthew 25:41. According to God's law, death is what they have earned for their sins.
We should understand that, biblically, forever does not always means “everlasting.” It sometimes indicates “as long as conditions exist.” For instance, the Old Covenant sacrifices were instituted forever. The book of Hebrews, however, shows that they are clearly no longer required for the sons of God. “Forever” lasted only until Christ died for our sins. Ezekiel 44 suggests that they will be revived in the future for a brief time, but when the Lake of Fire occurs, they will no longer be needed for a relationship with God (II Peter 3:10).
II Peter 3:13 makes an encouraging statement immediately following Peter's statements about the Lake of Fire: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” A dwelling is where a person or family lives. In the New Heaven and New Earth, only righteousness dwells in them.
Does this mean “except for the unrepentant demons who continue living on despite the Lake of Fire because God cannot exterminate their existence because He mistakenly created them of imperishable spirit”? No! They are not there because they were burned up in the everlasting fire. Not one iota of sin—not even the remembrance of sin!—will exist in those living where only righteousness dwells. The unrepentant demons will be completely purged from the New Heaven and New Earth, and only holiness will remain. By the way, “new” in II Peter 3:13 and in Revelation 21:1 is kainos, the same word Paul uses in II Corinthians 5:17, meaning “something that did not exist before.” Since there will be no unrighteousness in any form in the world to come, Satan and his fellow demon spirits must be totally annihilated.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Do Angels Live Forever?
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