Saturday, October 12, 2019

Revisiting the “Two Evangels” Controversy (Part Two)

The evangel of the Uncircumcision

After Paul’s ministry among the nations began, there came to be another eonian expectation to which people could be called (i.e., that which belongs to those who constitute the company of saints that Paul referred to in Eph. 1:22-23 as “the ecclesia which is [Christ’s] body”). And with this new expectation came a new evangel through which people could be called to this new expectation. As noted earlier, the evangel of the Uncircumcision is an evangel that Paul, the “apostle of the nations” (Rom. 11:13), said was entrusted to him (and not to Peter, James, or John). Thus, Paul referred to his evangel as “my evangel” in several places (Rom. 2:16; 16:25-26; 2 Tim. 2:8).

Moreover, this evangel was referred to by Paul as “the evangel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), and – as such – is the evangel that distinctly belongs to the “administration of the grace of God” (or “administration of the secret”) that we’re told was given to Paul for the nations (Eph. 3:1-13). The fact that the administration of the grace of God to which Paul’s evangel belongs was given to Paul for the nations supports the view that both the administration as well as the evangel that belongs to it are completely distinct from any administration that existed, or evangel that was being heralded, before Paul’s ministry among the nations began. But what, exactly, is the truth that constitutes the evangel of the Uncircumcision with which Paul was entrusted to herald among the nations (and what makes it “good news” to those called through it to their eonian expectation)?

According to what we read in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, it’s evident that the evangel entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations consists of the following two facts: (1) “that Christ died for our sins” and (2) “that He has been roused the third day.” So important are these two facts that Paul made sure to provide supporting evidence for them by first appealing to Scripture (“according to the scriptures”) and then by referring to empirically verifiable events that were connected with them (i.e., that Christ “was entombed,” and that he “was seen”).[1] The fact that Christ’s death “for our sins” was just as essential to Paul’s evangel as Christ’s subsequent resurrection is further confirmed from what we read in 1 Cor. 1:17-25 and 2:1-5 (where it’s made clear that “the cross of Christ” and “Christ crucified” was the focus of Paul’s presentation of his evangel among those in Corinth). But what does it mean for Christ to have “died for our sins?”

The term translated “for” in 1 Cor. 15:3 is huper. In the letter to the Hebrews, there are a number of verses in which we find this term used in connection with sins (see Heb. 5:1, 3; 7:27; 9:7; 10:12). Significantly, in all of these verses the author had in view a “sin offering” – that is, a sacrifice offered to God which resulted in God’s ceasing to reckon sins to those for whom the sacrifice was offered (see, for example, Lev. 4:20, 26, 35 and Lev. 5:6, 10). In other words, it resulted in the sins for which the sacrifice was offered being “eliminated” or “blotted out” by God. Paul not only referred to Christ’s death using words and imagery derived from the sin offering (Rom. 3:24-25; 8:3; Eph. 5:1-2), but explicitly stated that Christ was made a sin offering for our sakes. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, we read, “For the One not knowing sin, [God] makes to be a sin offering for our sakes that we may be becoming God’s righteousness in Him.” Insofar as a sin offering is a sacrifice offered to God that has, as its design and intended purpose, the salvation of people from their sins, it follows that everyone for whose sins Christ died as a sin offering shall be saved from their sins. But what, exactly, does it mean to be saved from one’s sins?

In 1 Cor. 15:17-19, those who haven’t yet been saved from their sins are described by Paul as follows: “Now if Christ has not been roused, vain is your faith – you are still in your sins! Consequently those also, who are put to repose in Christ, perished.” For anyone to still be “in [their] sins” means that their sins/offenses remain a source of condemnation for them (cf. Rom. 4:8; 2 Cor. 5:19), and that they remain under the condemnation of which their sins made them deserving (cf. John 8:24). Notice that, in v. 18, it’s implied those who have died while still being “in their sins” have “perished.” The word translated “perished” in v. 18 (apollumi) does not simply mean “died,” for the saints to whom Paul was referring in this verse were already dead at the time he was writing. For someone who has died to have “perished” means that they remain under condemnation.

Since being “still in your sins” simply means remaining condemned as a result of one’s sins (which, for those who’ve believed Paul’s evangel, would mean that we haven’t been justified and won’t receive eonian life), we can conclude that Christ’s death for our sins means he died to save us from the state of condemnation that Paul referred to as being “still in your sins.” It should also be noted that, in 1 Tim. 2:6-7, Paul referred to the truth of Christ’s having given himself “a correspondent Ransom for all” as the testimony “for which [he] was appointed a herald and an apostle…a teacher of the nations in knowledge and truth” (v. 7). This fact indicates that the truth of 1 Tim. 2:6 is essential to Paul’s evangel, and is simply another way of expressing the fact that Christ “died for our sins.” And since Christ “died for the sake of all” (2 Cor. 5:14) and gave himself “a correspondent Ransom for all,” it follows that all mankind shall be saved from the condemnation to which sin leads, and “shall be constituted just” (Rom. 5:18-19). And since, according to 1 Cor. 15:56, sin is what gives death its “sting” (i.e., it’s what makes people deserving of death), the fact that Christ died for our sins implies that death is going to be abolished. See also 2 Tim. 1:10-11, where Paul makes it clear that the abolishing of death by Christ is a truth that is illuminated “through the evangel of which [he] was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher of the nations.” This fact implies that Christ’s death “for our sins” means that Christ died to save us from the condemnation of which our sins make us deserving (which, in 2 Tim. 1:10-11, is implied to be death). Thus, to believe that Christ “died for our sins” (in accord with Paul’s evangel) is simply to believe that Christ died so that all mankind would be saved from the condemnation of which our sins make us deserving. This will take place at “the consummation,” when – at the end of his eonian reign – Christ abolishes death by vivifying all who are presently dying in Adam (1 Cor. 15:20-28).

Thus, the evangel entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations – the evangel of the Uncircumcision – is inseparable from the fact that Christ died for the sins of all mankind, and that all mankind shall, consequently, be saved from condemnation. Unlike the evangel of the kingdom/Circumcision (which derives its “good news” status from what it means for Israel and her prophesied destiny), the evangel that was entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations puts the focus on what Christ did on behalf of all mankind, and derives its “good news” status from what it means for all mankind. Paul’s evangel doesn’t “merely” point us forward to the eons of Christ’s reign (when all of the covenant-based promises made to Israel will be fulfilled through Christ); rather, Paul’s evangel takes us all the way to the very consummation of Christ’s reign, when death is abolished and all mankind is justified. It is this that makes the evangel entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations a message of good news to those called through it to the eonian expectation that belongs to the body of Christ.

A key difference ignored

That the evangel which Peter heralded to Israelites (and a few “God-fearers”) wasn’t the same evangel entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations should be evident to anyone who considers the simple fact that the evangel entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations essentially involves the truth that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3). Insofar as this is the case, logic dictates that any message we find recorded in scripture in which this truth is absent cannot be the evangel that Christ entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations (or at the very least, it can’t be understood as a complete articulation or expression of this evangel).

Consider the following logical argument:

1. The evangel which was entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations essentially involves the truth that “Christ died for our sins.”
2. The evangel that was heralded by Peter and Paul among the Jews (of which we have three separate examples in the book of Acts) did not contain the truth that Christ died for our sins.
3. The evangel that Peter and Paul heralded among the Jews was not the same evangel entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations.

We could make a similar argument concerning the evangel heralded by Peter to Cornelius and his household:

1. The evangel which was entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations essentially involves the truth that Christ died for our sins.
2. The evangel that was heralded by Peter to Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:34-43) did not contain the truth that Christ died for our sins.
3. The evangel that Peter heralded to Cornelius and his household was not the same evangel entrusted to Paul to herald among the nations.

One has to ignore the essential truth that “Christ died for our sins” in order to maintain the position that only one evangel was heralded during the apostolic era. For as soon as one puts the focus on this particular truth, the “one gospel” position quickly begins to fall apart.

Now, my friend believes that what we read in Acts 17 provides him with a way out of this dilemma:

“If we look at Acts 17 and Paul’s sermon to the crowd in Athens, we notice that after he was taken to speak to this particular crowd that we are not told in the narrative that Paul ever mentioned the crucifixion of Christ (much less for our and their sins), His entombment, nor His resurrection? How is that possible? Did Paul forget “his” gospel? First, we cannot be sure that he did not mention these elements. We are not reading a court transcript. We are reading a summary of the apostles’ acts. Secondly, he may not have mentioned any of these things because of his audience. These Greeks had no acquaintance at all with the Hebrew Scriptures. Therefore, referencing Christ’s death for their sins, needed to have context and background given.”

What we read in Acts 17:18-33 is the longest message we find recorded in Acts that involves Paul and the nations. However, as my friend correctly observes, this message spoken by Paul in Athens doesn’t include the fact that Christ died for our sins. It would seem that, according to my friend, we’re thus faced with the following two options: Either (1) Paul did herald the truth that Christ died for our sins on this occasion, and Luke simply didn’t include it in his summary of what Paul said, or (2) Paul simply didn’t consider this element of his evangel important enough to mention and explain the meaning of it to his Gentile audience. I don’t think either of these scenarios is the case.

Rather than understanding this message as a complete presentation of Paul’s evangel (or a summarized version of a complete message), what we read in Acts 17:18-33 should be understood as the introduction to an evangelistic message which – due to the mainly negative response Paul received from the philosophers when he introduced the subject of Christ’s resurrection – Paul was unable (or unwilling) to finish on that occasion. This means that the longest message we find recorded in Acts involving Paul and the nations is not even a complete presentation of Paul’s evangel. And by virtue of the fact that Paul didn’t herald the truth that Christ died for our sins on this occasion (which, again, is essential to the evangel entrusted to him to herald among the nations), what we read in Acts 17:22-31 cannot be considered sufficient as the means by which those pre-designated by God are called to the expectation that distinctly belongs to the body of Christ.[2]

The fact that Paul’s message in Acts 17 was “cut short” on this occasion (which is in striking contrast with the lengthier message by Paul we find recorded in Acts 13:16-41) is, I believe, providential. This enabled Luke to include as much of Paul’s message as possible (thus giving his readers a glimpse into how Paul introduced the proclamation of his evangel among the nations on at least one occasion) without having to include those elements of Paul’s evangel that distinguished it from the evangel of the Circumcision, and which belonged to that body of truth which had been delivered to Paul to dispense among the nations. The book of Acts is, of course, a continuation of Luke’s Gospel Account, and was never intended to reveal truth that pertains distinctly to “the administration of the secret” which was given to Paul for the sake of the nations (Eph. 3:2, 9). The conspicuous absence of a complete presentation of Paul’s evangel in the book of Acts (and the cutting short of Paul’s message in Acts 17) can thus be understood as confirming the following position articulated by A.E. Knoch on page 200 of his commentary:

“…it is of the utmost importance for us to note that the account in Acts never attains to the truth taught in [Paul’s] epistles. It leads us up to some of it, but never makes actual contact with it. It prepares for it but does not proclaim it. Not one single doctrine for the present secret economy is found in the book of Acts, though all was made known and committed to writing during this period. We are continually led up to, but never enter into the grace which is ours in Christ Jesus. Acts is not a record of the beginning of the present, but a treatise on the end of the previous dispensation. Most of the ecclesiastical confusion which prevails would vanish if this record of the kingdom apostasy were left where it belongs, and all truth for the present based on Paul's written revelation, which deals with the same period of time, but deals with it from an entirely distinct standpoint.”

In a rather desperate (and, I believe, unconvincing) attempt to sidestep the fact that Peter’s evangel didn’t include the death of Christ for our sins, my friend stated that, in Acts 2:14-36, Peter wasn’t preaching “the gospel in that instance”:

“The point being made by Peter wasn’t to preach the gospel in that instance. The kingdom was still being offered to Israel. The point was to establish the One they executed as the greater David.”

To be consistent, my friend would also have to believe that Peter “wasn’t preaching the gospel” in Acts 3:11-26 or Acts 10:34-43 as well. But there’s no good reason to believe that Peter wasn’t preaching the gospel on these occasions. In fact, what Peter heralded at this time was the only gospel of salvation being heralded at that time! And it was by means of the message he heralded on these occasions that people were being called by God to become part of that company of believers which shares in Israel’s covenant-based expectation, and which will enjoy the salvation referred to by Paul in Romans 11:26-27 (which concerns God’s covenant with Israel when he will be “turning irreverence from Jacob” and “eliminating their sins”).

The evangel heralded by Peter in Acts 2, 3 and 10 was, quite simply, the message by which those who responded in faith to it were being saved (and, it should be noted, water baptism was considered by Peter to be an essential expression of their faith in his message, and a necessary act of obedience in order for their sins to be forgiven; see Acts 2:38, and also my remarks on 1 Pet. 3:21 in part five of my refutation of the “Unity of the Spirit” article:

What the believing Jewish remnant were taught concerning Jesus’ death

My friend also asked, “Do you honestly think that Peter, James, and John did NOT teach the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus? Peter and John both reference His death for our sins in their letters. Do you think these references were the first times the recipients of his letters had heard such?” 

It was to the believing, chosen remnant within ethnic Israel (Romans 9:6-8; 11:1-8) – i.e., those whom Paul referred to as “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16) – that Peter, James and John (as well as the unknown writer of the letter to the Hebrews) wrote. Here, then, is what I believe those who wrote to the believing Jewish remnant did and didn’t do. They didn’t evangelize Israelites (or, in Peter’s case, a small group of righteous, uncircumcised “God-fearers” who were blessing Israel) with the truth that “Christ died for our sins” and gave himself a “correspondent Ransom for all.” That’s because, as already demonstrated, this truth wasn’t part of the evangel through which God was calling individuals to become a part of the “all Israel” that will be saved for the eons. The evangel of the Circumcision is constituted by the fact that Jesus – the one whom Israel crucified – is the Christ (i.e., the one through whom the kingdom is going to be restored to Israel). And I see no knock-down evidence from anything written by those who wrote to the Jewish remnant that indicates to me that they did, in fact, believe (or, at least, taught) the truth of Christ’s death for our sins as Paul understood and heralded it among the nations. Those who believe otherwise are, I believe, simply projecting what they believe concerning the ultimate meaning of Christ’s death (and which is revealed in Paul’s letters only) onto the letters of those who wrote to the believing Jewish remnant.

When Paul evangelized the nations by heralding the truth that “Christ died for our sins,” we know (based on what he affirmed elsewhere in his letters) that the truth he was heralding was that, by virtue of Christ’s death, the sins of all mankind will be eliminated, and everyone dying in Adam will be vivified in Christ. In other words, when Paul heralded among the nations the truth that “Christ died for our sins,” he had in mind the fact that all mankind will be unconditionally saved as a result. But did those writing to the Jewish remnant have in mind Christ’s death for the sins of all mankind in their letters? Did they teach that, because Christ died, all mankind is going to be saved from the condemnation of death and reconciled to God? No. Although those writing to the Jewish remnant clearly referred to Christ’s death and revealed certain truths concerning it, nowhere outside of Paul’s letters do we find any clear, indisputable reference to the fact that Christ died so that the sins of all mankind would be eliminated, and all would be reconciled to God through the blood of his cross at the consummation of Christ’s eonian reign.

Concerning what John revealed in his writings concerning what Christ accomplished through his death, I encourage the reader to check out my two-part study, “Did John reveal the truth of the salvation of all mankind in his writings?” (For part one, click here:; for part two, click here: See also my article, “John’s expectation and doctrinal position concerning salvation” ( Since I consider these articles a sufficient response to the view that the apostle John revealed the same truth concerning Christ’s death that Paul did in his letters, I’ll focus on what we find revealed by Peter in his first letter, and by the anonymous author of the “letter to the Hebrews.”

There’s no question that the apostle Peter believed that Christ died for the sake of sinners, and that he revealed certain truths concerning Christ’s death in his first letter. However, in none of the passages in which Peter referred to Christ’s death is it depicted as something that will unconditionally result in all mankind being saved and reconciled to God. In 1 Peter 1:18, for example, we’re told that Christ’s precious blood ransomed the Jewish believers to whom he wrote “from [their] vain behavior,” which had been “handed down by tradition from [their] fathers” (1 Pet. 1:18). Peter was even more explicit in chapter two of his letter concerning how he believed Christ’s death benefitted those to whom he wrote. In verses 20-25 we read the following:

For what credit is it if, sinning and being buffeted, you will be enduring it? But if, doing good and suffering, you will be enduring, this is grace with God. For for this were you called, seeing that Christ also suffered for your sakes, leaving you a copy, that you should be following up in the footprints of Him Who does no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth; Who, being reviled, reviled not again; suffering, threatened not, yet gave it over to Him Who is judging justly, Who Himself carries up our sins in His body on to the pole, that, coming away from sins, we should be living for righteousness; by Whose welt you were healed. For you were as straying sheep, but now you turned back to the Shepherd and Supervisor of your souls.

By his obedient suffering for their sakes, Christ left those to whom Peter wrote an “example” or “copy” to follow (which would result in their “coming away from sins” so that they should be “living for righteousness”). The sins of those to whom he wrote were “carried up” in Christ’s “body on to the pole” only insofar as those to whom he wrote were “following up in the footprints” of Christ. That is, according to Peter’s teaching, Christ’s death “concerning sins” resulted in people “coming away from sins” and being led “to God” only insofar as they followed Christ’s obedient example and thus lived “for the will of God” rather than “in the flesh in human desires” (1 Pet. 3:17-18; 4:1-3). And lest one object that Paul also talked about the importance of righteous conduct in light of Christ’s death for our sakes (which is, of course, true), Paul made it clear that Christ’s death for our sins was far more than simply an example to follow, or something that “merely” benefitted believers (and was thus of an eonian benefit only). Rather, it was something that Paul clearly believed would benefit all mankind (and indeed the entire universe) regardless of whether or not one followed in Christ’s footsteps, and “turned back to the Shepherd and Supervisor” of one’s soul.

The meaning of Christ’s death in the letter to the Hebrews

One of the major themes of the letter to the Hebrews is that Christ died in order to become the Chief Priest of those among the “house of Israel” and “house of Judah” with whom God will be “concluding a new covenant” (Heb. 8:1-13), and who – by faith in the evangel of the Circumcision – comprise the “house of God” referred to in Hebrews 3:6 and 10:21. As the Chief Priest through whom those called to share in this covenant-based expectation can receive the forgiveness of their sins, Christ thus became the “sponsor” and “Mediator” of this new covenant (Heb. 7:20-22). That Christ was understood by the author of the letter to the Hebrews to be the mediator of this new covenant between God and “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” is further confirmed from Hebrews 9:15-17, where we read the following:

For if the blood of he-goats and of bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the contaminated, is hallowing to the cleanness of the flesh, how much rather shall the blood of Christ, Who, through the eonian spirit offers Himself flawless to God, be cleansing your conscience from dead works to be offering divine service to the living and true God? And therefore He is the Mediator of a new covenant, so that at a death occurring for the deliverance of the transgressions of those under the first covenant, those who are called may be obtaining the promise of the eonian enjoyment of the allotment. For where there is a covenant, it is necessary to bring in the death of the covenant victim, for a covenant is confirmed over the dead, since it is not availing at any time when the covenant victim is living.

As the mediator of the new covenant, Christ “ratified” or “confirmed” the covenant by means of his sacrificial death (this fact is reaffirmed elsewhere in Hebrews; see Heb. 7:22, 8:6, 10:29, 12:24, 13:20). We also know that the actual realization/implementation of the covenant that Christ ratified awaits a future fulfillment, and will take place when “those who are called may be obtaining the promise of the eonian enjoyment of the allotment.”

Later, in chapter eight, the author quoted from Jeremiah 31:33-34 as follows:

“For this is the covenant which I shall be covenanting with the house of Israel after those days,” the Lord is saying: “Imparting My laws to their comprehension, on their hearts, also, shall I be inscribing them, and I shall be to them for a God, and they shall be to Me for a people. And by no means should each be teaching his fellow citizen, and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord!’ For ALL shall be acquainted with Me, from their little to their great, for I shall be propitious to their injustices, and of their sins and their lawlessnesses should I under no circumstances still be reminded.”

The “all” who we’re told “shall be acquainted with [God]” in this passage (and who will be the recipients of the blessings associated with the new covenant that God will be concluding with the house of Israel/Judah) is not comprised of all mankind. Rather, it’s comprised of those who will constitute the company of saints that Paul referred to as “all Israel” in Romans 11:26-27.

We further read that Christ “became the cause of eonian salvation to all who are obeying Him, being accosted by God ‘Chief Priest according to the order of Melchizedek…” (Heb. 5:8-10). And because Christ “has an inviolate priesthood,” he is “able to save to the uttermost those coming to God through Him, always being alive to be pleading for their sake (Heb. 7:23-25). We further read that, “through his own blood,“ Christ “entered once for all time into the holy places, finding eonian redemption (Heb. 9:11-12). In these verses, the “eonian redemption” and “eonian salvation” that is in view is not something that all people without exception will receive and enjoy at the consummation of Christ’s reign. In contrast with the salvation that all people will enjoy after Christ has delivered up the kingdom to the Father and God has become “All in all” (1 Cor. 15:24-28), the salvation referred to in Hebrews 9:11-12 refers to an eonian allotment in the kingdom that is going to be restored to Israel, in accord with all of the prophecies concerning Israel’s covenant-based expectation.

Some understand Hebrews 2:9 (where we’re told that Jesus tasted death ”for everyone”) as supporting the view that the author of this letter was revealing that all mankind will be saved by virtue of Christ’s death. According to this interpretation, the group of people whom the author referred to as “everyone” (or “all”) should be understood as embracing all mankind. However, those holding to this interpretation are, I believe, making an unwarranted assumption, and are no more justified in interpreting “everyone” to mean “all mankind” here than one would be for interpreting it to mean “all the messengers of God” (as we find referred to in Heb. 1:6). As with every other occurrence of the term translated “everyone” or “all” in Scripture (pas), we must let the context inform us of who (or what), exactly, is in view. We cannot simply assume that, when the term “all” or “everyone” is used, it refers to all mankind, or to every human being without exception (see, for example, the following uses of pas in Matthew 10:22, 17:11, Mark 11:32, Luke 16:16 and 3 John 12).

A parallel to the use of the term translated “everyone” in Hebrews 2:9 can, I believe, be found in 2 Peter 3:9. In this verse, we read, “The Lord is not tardy as to promise, as some are deeming tardiness, but is patient because of you, not intending any to perish, but all to make room for repentance.” It’s evident from the immediate context that the terms translated “any” (tis) and “all” (pas) do not refer to all mankind here. Since the “perishing” that Peter had in view clearly refers to “the destruction of irreverent men” during “the day of the Lord” (v. 7, 10) – and since we know that God’s intention is that many people on the earth will, in fact, “perish” during this time of indignation – it’s evident that Peter did not have in mind all mankind here. Rather, his use of the term pas refers specifically to those belonging to the category of believers to whom Peter wrote, and whom God had chosen for “entrance into the eonian kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:11). It is everyone belonging to this category of people to whom God will be mercifully granting repentance before the coming indignation of the “day of the Lord” commences.

In the same way, the immediate (and broader) context in which Heb. 2:9 is found indicates that the author was referring to everyone who belongs to the particular company of human beings that he referred to earlier as “those about to be enjoying the allotment of salvation” (Heb. 1:14) – i.e., everyone who will be receiving the “eonian redemption” and “eonian salvation” referred to elsewhere in this letter. This understanding of Heb. 2:9 is confirmed from what the author went on to write in the verses that immediately follow. In verses 10-13, we read:

For it became Him, because of Whom all is, and through Whom all is, in leading many sons into glory, to perfect the Inaugurator of their salvation through sufferings. For both He Who is hallowing and those who are being hallowed are all of One, for which cause He is not ashamed to be calling them brethren, saying, I shall be reporting Thy name to My brethren, In the midst of the ecclesia shall I be singing hymns to Thee. And again, I shall have confidence in Him. And again, Lo! I and the little children who are given Me by God!

In these verses (which, again, constitute the immediate context in which Heb. 2:9 is found), the “many sons,” the “brethren,” the “ecclesia” and the “little children” whom Christ, by virtue of his sacrifice, will be “leading into glory” (and who were “being hallowed” at that time) constitute the “everyone” that the author had in mind in Heb. 2:9. It is those who constitute this company of believers (and who, in Heb. 1:14, are referred to as ”those who are about to be enjoying the allotment of salvation”) who will be benefitting from what Christ accomplished when, through his sacrificial death, he became the Mediator of the new covenant between God and the house of Israel.

In accord with this fact, we read in Hebrews 2:14-18 that, since the “little children” who’d been given to Christ by God had “participated in blood and flesh,” Christ was also made to partake of the same so that, through death, he could be “clearing those, whoever, in fear of death, were through their entire life liable to slavery.” Significantly, those for whom Christ was made to partake of “blood and flesh” – and who comprise the “brethren” and “little children” whom he will be “leading into glory” – are later referred to as being “of the seed of Abraham. We further read that, being “made like the brethren, Christ thus became “a merciful and faithful Chief Priest in that which is toward God, to make a propitiatory shelter for the sins of the people. For in what He has suffered, undergoing trial, He is able to help those who are being tried.” Which “people” are in view here? Did the author have in mind all mankind without exception? No; the “people” in view are those who belong to the “house of Israel” and “house of Judah” with whom God will be “concluding a new covenant,” and who will be the recipients of all the eonian blessings associated with this covenant.

Moreover, the author of this letter even warned his readers against certain sinful conduct that would result in their failing to benefit from Christ’s “sacrifice concerned with sins.” In Hebrews 10:24-31, the author wrote:

“And we may be considering one another to incite to love and ideal acts, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves, according as the custom of some is, but entreating, and so much rather as you are observing the day drawing near. For at our sinning voluntarily after obtaining the recognition of the truth, it is no longer leaving a sacrifice concerned with sins, but a certain fearful waiting for judging and fiery jealousy, about to be eating the hostile. Anyone repudiating Moses' law is dying without pity on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, are you supposing, will he be counted worthy who tramples on the Son of God, and deems the blood of the covenant by which he is hallowed contaminating, and outrages the spirit of grace? For we are acquainted with Him Who is saying, Mine is vengeance! I will repay! the Lord is saying, and again, "The Lord will be judging His people." Fearful is it to be falling into the hands of the living God!”

As with what we read in Hebrews 6:4-8 (where the believing recipients of the letter are clearly being warned of the fearful consequences of “falling aside”), the author is, in the above passage, warning those who’d obtained the “recognition of the truth” and had been hallowed by “the blood of the covenant” of the possibility of suffering an even worse punishment than that which was inflicted upon those who repudiated Moses’ law (compare this with the author’s warning in Heb. 12:25). The author went on to refer to this “much worse punishment” as “destruction,” and contrasted it with the salvation (the “procuring of the soul”) that the Hebrew believers hoped to receive at the coming/arriving of Christ (see Heb 10:35-39 and compare with 1 Pet. 1:3-9). Given that the salvation in view is that which will be received when Christ arrives and “is seen a second time” (Heb. 9:28), and the “punishment” and “vengeance” of which the author wrote is contrasted with this eonian salvation, we can reasonably conclude that the author had in view the vengeance of God that will be poured out on both unbelieving Jews and Gentiles alike during the coming “day of the Lord” (which, in this passage, is referred to by the author as the day that is “drawing near”). 

Based on this passage alone, we can conclude that the salvation that the author believed was made available to his readers by virtue of Christ’s “sacrifice concerned with sins” (and which was understood to be inseparable from the new covenant of which Christ had become the Mediator) was not a salvation that would be unconditionally applied to all mankind at the consummation. And not only this, but the salvation that the author had in view is one that could’ve been forfeited even by the believing Jews to whom he wrote!

Part Three:

[1] Although the scriptural and empirical proofs supporting Paul’s evangel are important and deserving of our careful consideration and study, they are secondary in importance to the evangel itself.

[2] What likely took place after Paul’s sermon was interrupted by the mockers was this: he went on to make known the rest of his evangel to those who responded more positively to the first part of his message (v. 32-34), so that they could believe it and become members of the body of Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this study, Aaron. I had struggled to understand how Paul's evangel in 1 Cor 15:3-4 was distinct from the circumcision evangel in terms of Christ's death for sins. Both seem to claim it, though the scope is much broader for Paul's message. It's clear to me that one cannot just encapsule each evangel in one or two verses, and understand the key truths of each.
    I'm trying to write out what I have come to realize and believe concerning God and his plan in my own words. This study has helped me rightly divide these two evangels in a way I can understand and communicate.

    I sometimes wonder how Christ would have died a sacrificial death if God's intention was for all of us to come through Israel to God. Had they accepted their Messiah, how would Christ have suffered and died instead of Crucifixion? I guess it's a moot point now that we have the salvation of all at the consummation of the eons revealed to us.