Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Another Abused Verse

There are so many verses in the Bible that are badly translated into English, poorly interpreted or used without any consideration being given to their context in order to bolster someone's previously-decided point of view.
Hebrews 9 : 27 is such a verse.
Just as the men are destined to die once, and after this a judgement,  [BSV]
Although this verse is usually quoted alone to make a point, notice that it is only the first part of a sentence crossing two verses that has the familiar "Just as ...... so ......" structure that we have run into several times before.
But apart from this small point, what is the verse usually claimed to be referring to?

The common interpretation of this verse goes something like this.....
    All people die once then immediately face judgement.
    The result of that judgement - saved or damned - is final and determines everyone's eternal destiny.
    End of story.
As you well know, there are many aspects of this standard interpretation that are not in harmony with other correctly translated Scriptures.

But, even worse, this common interpretation is totally inconsistent with its context.
Let's have a look at its context.
The book - is written to the Hebrews, to Hebrew Christians, explaining God's new covenant with Israel, and contrasting it with the Old.
The chapter - is discussing the work of Jesus as High Priest of the New Covenant, as compared to the work of the high priests of the Old Covenant.
The verse - is discussing what happens after the inevitable death of "the men."

Looking at this context, what "men" is the verse talking about?
    Clearly it is talking about the high priests of the Old Covenant.
And what judgement follows their death?
    Numbers 35 gives us Gentiles a clue to what these Hebrew Christians would have known instinctively.

Numbers 35 talks about the towns for the Levites (the priestly tribe) and the Cities of Refuge.
Cities of Refuge were for those who were guilty of manslaughter (killing someone by accident, rather than by deliberate intent) so they would not be put to death for their man-slaying.
Such people were to remain in these cities until the death of the high priest.
After his death, the man-slayer was judged to be free of any further detainment or payment for his man-slaying.
He was then restored to his original community.

Interesting - the judgement after the death of the high priest was a restoration or reconciliation!!!

To finish this post, look at the next bit of the sentence that stretches across to verse 28.
Just as the men (the high priests) are destined to die once, and after this a judgement (restoration or reconciliation),
so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; ......

Does this shed some fresh light on this "terrible" verse for you?
Don't let anyone throw you off course with the standard Gentile interpretation again.
And if God leads you to offer this "anyone" an alternative, maybe WITH HUMILITY AND GRACE, you could ask if they have considered the context of the verse.
(I'm still learning how to do this well.)

Blessings, Barry


  1. Wow, this is certainly a new take on this verse Barry. I've never seen it as one to refute universal reconciliation as a judgment following death does not mean an inevitable eternal damnation - it just means we are judged and the deal laid out squarely before us that we need a saviour, who is then offered to us. The revelation and power of God's love to us in this is probably irresistable.

    Still, what you have suggested about the cities of refuge is interesting too. I'll have to mull that over for a while.



  2. Hi Rog
    This verse is commonly used to refute universal reconciliation in traditional circles.
    And mostly by those who believe that the only result of judgement is damnation in an eternal hell.

    Your understanding was certainly mine for some time, but when I began considering the context (as I had not done previously) I came to see that the only result of judgement is eventual restoration and reconciliation.
    And, of course, this result fits in perfectly with God's declared purpose, and the part judgement plays in achieving that.
    Blessings, Barry

  3. Hi Guys

    Just found another verse that is used to 'debunk' universal reconciliation: Romans 8:28-30.

    28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

    The blogger says that a supporter of UR cannot get past this one as it proves that salvation is limited to God's elect few (Calvanism). Is this an abuse of another verse?

    on a more general note:
    I am now looking at bloggers who write against universal reconciliation to get a feel for their arguments and interpretation of scripture. I am finding that there seems to be a lot of 'experts' out there who write well and present solid arguments for both sides. I am in favor of the plain reading of scripture and not complicated 'exegesis' to make a scripture fit a theology, but this is a charge both sides level at each other - I'm confused :) but enjoying the research. I am still of the opinion that UR has the weight of numbers when it cones to biblical evidence.

    looking for the truth


  4. Hi Glenn
    Thanks for your input and for introducing a common objection to UR on the blog.
    Discussing these will help us either fine-tune or correct our current views.

    Verse 28 is setting the scene for "those who have been called according to his purpose."
    So understanding God's purpose is the key to understanding the rest of Paul's thought here.

    Paul tells us that God's purpose is "to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ" [Eph 1 : 10] and "through him (Christ) to reconcile to himself all things ..... by making peace through his blood" [Col 1 : 20].

    If this is the case, then he foreknows all, predestines all to be conformed to the image of his Son, calls all, justifies all, glorifies all.
    Indeed, Christ Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all [1 Tim 2 : 6] so that God could reconcile the world to himself and not count people's sins against them [2 Cor 5 : 19]

    If it could be shown that God's purpose is to roast most of his children in hell for eternity or to leave lost sheep forever lost, I am sure you could logically say that salvation is limited to God's elect few.
    But that is not his purpose, as revealed by Paul.
    A loving, sovereign father not only wants to have all his children safe and happy back home, but has the power to ensure that it happens.
    People who don't allow God the full course of the ages to achieve his purpose see God as either failing in this purpose or of having an unloving, vindictive attitude towards most of his children.

    Looking forward to discussing other anti-UR arguments as you discover them.
    Another truth-seeker, Barry


All relevant comments are most welcome. However, please express any disagreement you might have without being disagreeable and with grace towards those who might not hold your point of view.