Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson - Introduction, parts 3


Question 2. What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

Answer: The Word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

How does it appear that the Scriptures have a divine authority stamped upon them?


[2] We may know the Scripture to be the Word of God by its miraculous PRESERVATION in all ages.

[3] The Scripture appears to be the Word of God, by the subject MATTER contained in it.

[4] That the Scripture is the Word of God is evident by its PREDICTIONS.

[5] The impartiality of those men of God who wrote the Scriptures, who do not spare to set down their own failings.

[6] The mighty POWER and EFFICACY that the Word has had upon the souls and consciences of men.

  • It has changed their hearts.
  • It has comforted their hearts.
  • When it has been sick—the Word has revived it.

[7] The MIRACLES by which Scripture is confirmed.

Are all the books in the Bible of the same divine authority?

Those which we call canonical.

Why are the Scriptures called canonical?

Because the Word is a rule of faith, to direct our lives.

Are the Scriptures a complete rule?

The Scripture is a full and perfect rule, containing in it all things necessary to salvation.

What is the main scope and end of Scripture?

To reveal a way of salvation. It makes a clear discovery of Christ.

Who should have the power of interpreting Scripture?

  • The Scripture is to be its own interpreter, or rather the Spirit speaking in it.
  • The church of God has appointed some to expound and interpret Scripture; therefore he has given gifts to men.
  • We are to receive nothing as truth, but what is agreeable to the Word.

Use one: See the wonderful goodness of God, who, besides the light of nature—has committed to us the sacred Scriptures.

Use two: Is Scripture of divine inspiration?

(1.) Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? Then it reproves the PAPISTS

(2.) Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? Then it condemns the ANTINOMIANS

(3.) Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? Then it condemns the ENTHUSIASTS

(4.) Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? Then it condemns the SLIGHTERS of Scripture

(5.) Is all Scripture of divine inspiration? Then it condemns the ABUSERS of Scripture

Use three: If the Scripture be of divine inspiration, then be exhorted,

(1.) To STUDY the Scripture.

  • There is majesty sparkling in every line of Scripture
  • There is a melody in Scripture
  • There is divinity in Scripture
  • The Scripture is profitable for all things
  • Read with seriousness. It is matter of life and death; by this Word you must be tried; conscience and Scripture are the jury God will proceed by, in judging you.
  • Read the Word with affection

(2.) Be exhorted to PRIZE the written Word

(3.) If the Scripture is of divine inspiration, BELIEVE it

(4.) LOVE the Word written

(5.) CONFORM to Scripture

(6.) CONTEND for Scripture

(7.) Be THANKFUL to God for the Scriptures

(8.) Adore God's distinguishing grace, if you have felt the power and authority of the Word upon your conscience

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson - Introduction, parts 1 and 2

1. A Preliminary Discourse on Catechizing

I. It is the duty of Christians to be settled in the doctrine of faith.
To be unsettled in true religion, argues lack of judgment.
To be unsettled in true religion, argues lightness.
[1] It is the great end of the word preached, to bring us to a settlement in true religion.
[2] To be settled in true religion is both a Christian's excellence and honor.
[3] Such as are not settled in the faith can never suffer for it.
[4] Not to be settled in the faith is provoking to God.
[5] If you are not settled in true religion, you will never grow..
[6] There is great need to be settled, because there are so many things to unsettle us.
• Seducers have silver tongues, which can pawn off bad wares; they have a sleight to deceive.
• Another sleight is a pretense of extraordinary piety, so that people may admire them, and suck in their poisonous doctrine. A third cheat of seducers is—laboring to vilify and nullify sound orthodox teachers.
• The fourth cheat of seducers is—to preach the doctrine of liberty; as though men are freed from the moral law, the rule as well as the curse, and Christ has done all for them, and they need to do nothing.
• Another means is—to unsettle Christians by persecution.

II. The second proposition is, that the way for Christians to be settled—is to be well grounded.
Here let me speak to two things:
[1] That we should be grounded in the knowledge of fundamentals.
(1.) Else we cannot serve God aright.
(2.) Knowledge of the grounds of true religion much enriches the mind.
(3.) It furnishes us with unshakable armor; and weapons to fight against the adversaries of the truth.
(4.) It is the holy seed of which grace is formed.
[2] This grounding is the best way to being settled
• Use one: See the reason why so many people are unsettled, ready to embrace every novel opinion, and dress themselves in as many religions as fashions; it is because they are ungrounded.
• Use two: See what great necessity there is of laying down the main grounds of true religion in a way of catechizing, that the weakest judgement may be instructed in the knowledge of the truth, and strengthened in the love of it.

2. Man's Chief End
Question 1. What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

What are we to understand by God's glory?
There is a twofold glory:
[1] The glory that God has in himself, his INTRINSIC glory.
[2] The glory which is ascribed to God, or which his creatures labor to bring to him.
WHAT is it to glorify God?
[1] Glorifying God consists in APPRECIATION.
[2] Glorifying God consists in ADORATION, or worship.
There is a twofold worship:
(1.) A civil reverence which we give to people of honor.
(2.) A divine worship which we give to God as his royal prerogative.
[3] Glorifying God consists in AFFECTION.
There is a twofold love:
(1.) A love of concupiscence, which is self-love; as when we love another, because he does us a good turn.
(2.) A love of delight, as a man takes delight in a friend.
[4] Glorifying God consists in SUBJECTION.
WHY must we glorify God?
[1] Because he gives us our being.
[2] Because God has made all things for his own glory.
[3] Because the glory of God has intrinsic value and excellence
[4] Creatures below us, and above us, bring glory to God; and do we think to sit rent free?
(1.) Creatures BELOW us glorify God, the inanimate creatures and the heavens glorify God.
(2.) Creatures ABOVE us glorify God.
[5] We must bring glory to God, because all our hopes hang upon him.
In how many WAYS may we glorify God?
[1] It is glorifying God when we AIM purely at his glory.
(1.) When we prefer God's glory above all other things
(2.) We aim at God's glory, when we are content that God's will should take place, though it may cross ours.
(3.) We aim at God's glory when we are content to be outshined by others in gifts and esteem—so that his glory may be increased.
[2] We glorify God by a sincere CONFESSION of sin.
[3] We glorify God by BELIEVING.
[4] We glorify God, by being tender of his glory.
[5] We glorify God by FRUITFULNESS.
[6] We glorify God, by being CONTENTED in that state in which Providence has placed us.
[7] We glorify God by working out our own salvation.
[8] We glorify God by living for God.
[9] We glorify God by walking cheerfully.
[10] We glorify God, by standing up for his truths.
[11] We glorify God, by praising him.
[12] We glorify God, by being zealous for his name.
[13] We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in our natural and in our civil actions.
• In our natural actions; in eating and drinking
• In buying and selling
[14] We glorify God by laboring to draw others to God.
[15] We glorify God in a high degree when we suffer for God, and seal the gospel with our blood.
[16] We glorify God, when we give God the glory of all that we do.
[17] We glorify God by a holy life.
Use one: Admonition.
Use two: Reproof.
(1.) It reproves such as bring no glory to God.
(2.) It reproves such as are so far from bringing glory to God, that they rob God of his glory.
1. If they have gotten an estate, they ascribe all to their own wit and industry, they set the crown upon their own head, not considering that, "You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth."
2. If they do any duty of religion, they look to their own glory. "Be careful not to do your "acts of righteousness" before men, to be seen by them."
(3.) It reproves those who fight against God's glory.
Use three: Exhortation.
Let every one of us, in our place, make it our chief end and design to glorify God.
(1.) Let me speak to magistrates. God has put much glory upon them. "I have said, You are gods;" and will they not glorify him who has put so much glory upon them?
(2.) Ministers should study to promote God's glory. God has entrusted them with two of the most precious things—his truth, and the souls of his people.
(3.) Masters of families must glorify God, must season their children and servants with the knowledge of the Lord; their houses should be little churches.

2. Man's chief end is to ENJOY God forever.
[1] The enjoyment of God in this life.
Use one: Is the enjoyment of God in this life so sweet?
Use two: Let it be our great concern, to enjoy God's sweet presence in his ordinances.
[2] The enjoyment of God in the life to come.
• God is the summum bonum, the chief good; therefore the enjoyment of him is the highest felicity.
• God is a universal good—"a good, in which are all goods."
• God is an unmixed good.
• God is perfect, the quintessence of good.
• God is a satisfying good.
• God is a delicious good.
• God is a superlative good.
• God is an eternal good.
Use one: Let it be the chief end of our living to enjoy this chief good hereafter..
To set out this excellent state of a glorified soul's enjoyment of God:
(1.) It must not be understood in a sensual manner.
(2.) We shall have a lively sense of this glorious estate.
(3.) We shall be made able to bear a sight of that glory.
(4.) This enjoyment of God shall be more than a bare contemplation of him.
(5.) There is no intermission in this state of glory.
Use two: Let this be a spur to duty.
Use three: Let this comfort the godly in all the present miseries they feel.

More from Ortlund

Christ is Deeper Still is worth checking every day...look what I found:

"Come to me"

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

The sacred center of Christianity is Christ himself. Coming personally to the Person. Coming directly to the Mediator. No one but Jesus can call us with such authority, and no one but Jesus can encourage us with such a promise. No one else can give us rest.

If our functional purpose in church is to connect with one another and build community, that's what we'll get -- one another. And we'll end up angry. Only Jesus gives us rest. If we will put him first and come to him first, we'll have something to give one another.

If our functional purpose in church is outreach and mercy and justice and all those good missional things, we'll end up exhausted and empty. Only Jesus gives us rest. If we will put him first and come to him first, we'll be renewed for endless mission.

Only One has ever said and can ever say, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

His offer stands. But he comes first.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thomas Watson and General Maximus Decimus Meridius


"If you find yourself alone, riding in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium and you are already dead!" - General Maximus Decimus Meridius

"If Tully, Demosthenes, and Plato, who had but the dim watch-light of reason to see by, fancied an elysium and happiness after this life, and took such herculean pains to enjoy it; oh how should Christians, who have the light of Scripture to see by, bestir themselves that they may attain to the eternal fruition of God and glory!" - Thomas Watson(A Body of Divinity, p25)

Unusual courage

Theodosius, the Byzantine emperor, made belief in Christianity a matter of imperial command:

"It is Our Will that all the peoples We rule shall practice that religion which the divine Peter the Apostle transmitted to the Romans. We shall believe in the single Deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy spirit, under the concept of equal majesty and of the Holy Trinity.

We command that those persons who follow this rule shall embrace the name of Catholic Christians. The rest, however, whom We adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retribution of Our own initiative, which we shall assume in accordance with divine judgment."

Theodosius became like a demigod confusing his own will with God's. Holding almost unassailable power, who now would confront the emperor? Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, that's who.

A Greek charioteer, a favourite of the multitudes, was accused of homosexual practices and was thrown into prison by the governor. With the chariot races about to begin the people rose in arms, killed the governor, and released their esteemed racer.

Thoeodosius was irate. He waited for another chariot race to exact his punishment. Waiting until the stadium was full, he stationed his soldiers at the exits and ensured nobody could leave. His soldiers fell upon the people and in three hours killed 7000 people.

Ambrose was the man who would confront this demigod despite the peril it put him in. Ambrose wrote to Theodosius:
"I cannot deny that you have zeal for the faith and that you fear God, but you have a naturally passionate spirit which becomes ungovernable when you are excited. I call on youto repent. You can only atone for your sins by tears, by penitence, by humbling your soul before God. You are a man, and as you have sinned as a man so you must repent. No angel, no archangel can forgive you. God alone can forgive you, and He forgives only those who repent."

Ambrose refused Theodosius communion until he confessed his sin. Theodosius eventually accepted Ambrose's terms and on several occasions appeared before a crowded congregation and repented until Ambrose finally gave him the sacrament.

In Bruce Shelley's words from his book Church History in Plain Language, "It required unusual courage to humiliate a Byzantine emperor." (112) Unusual courage indeed!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do you want to watch movies in a purposeful way?

If yes, this post by Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds should be helpful.
Frame: Questions to Ask of a Film

Here are the sorts of questions John Frame thinks about when watching a film:
  1. Who wrote the film? Who produced it? Who directed it? Do we know through the writings and previous work of these people anything about their philosophy of life? The previous works of actors are also important. Actors contribute much to the quality of a film, little to its fundamental conception. But actors do tend to sign on to projects with which they have some ideological affinity (assuming financial rewards are not otherwise determinative). Mel Gibson almost never takes on films with a heavy sexual element; Mickey Rourke almost always does. The presence of certain actors, granting that they sometimes go "against type," can tell you something about the message of a film.
  2. Is it well-made, aesthetically? Are the production and acting values of high quality? These factors may have little to do with the "message." But they do tend to determine the extent of the film's cultural impact, and that is important for our purposes. If a film is well-made, it can have a large impact upon the culture for good or ill. (Of course some bad films also have a major impact!)
  3. Is it honest, true to its own position? This is another mark of "quality." Generally speaking, an honest film, regardless of its point of view, will have a larger cultural impact than one which blunts its points.
  4. What kind of film is it? Fantasy? Biography? Realistic drama? Comedy? Obviously each film must be judged according to its purpose and genre. We don't demand of a fantasy the kind of historical accuracy we demand of a supposedly literal biography.
  5. What is the world view of the film? Is it theistic or atheistic? Christian or non-Christian? If non-Christian, is its main thrust relativistic or dogmatic? How does it employ the theme of "equality?" Is there any role for providence, for God? Is the film pessimistic or optimistic? Does the action move in deterministic fashion, or is there a significant role for human choice?
  6. What is the plot? What problems do the characters face? Can these problems be correlated in some way with the Fall of mankind in Adam? Does the film in effect deny the Fall, or does it affirm it in some way?
  7. Are the problems soluble? If so, how? What methods are available to the characters so that they can find the answers they need?
  8. What is the moral stance of the film? Is the film relativistic, dogmatic, or both in some combination? What are its attitudes toward sex, family, human life, property, truth, heart-attitudes? What is the source of moral norms, if any? Does justice prevail?
  9. In comedy, what is it that is funny? What are the typical incongruities? Who is the butt of the jokes? (Christians? traditional values? the wicked? the righteous? God? Satan?) Is the humor anarchic? Is it rationality gone awry? Is it bitter or gentle? Does it rely on caricatures? If so, of whom?
  10. Are there allusions to historical events, literary works, other films, famous people, Scripture, etc. that would give us some idea where the filmmakers are coming from? We should remember, of course, that allusions may be negative, positive, ironic, or merely decorative. A biblical allusion does not necessarily indicate acceptance of biblical values.
  11. What are the chief images of the film? Is there anything interesting about the lighting, the camera angles, the sound, the timing which would reinforce a particular theme? Are there significant symbols?
  12. Are there any explicit religious themes? Christ-figures? Does the film express significant attitudes toward Christ, the clergy, or the church? Does it distort Christianity or present it at its worst? Or does it present it with some insight and/or sympathy? Does it recognize the element of personal piety in people's lives? There are exceptions. If so, does it approve or disapprove of it? What about Satan, the demons, the occult? Does the film recognize their activity in some way? Is the devil taken seriously? If so, how is he dealt with?

Heaven Taken by Storm by Thomas Watson - Part 13

Part 13 - Hindrances, Directions, and Conclusions to Offering Violence

How to get this blessed violence.

I. Take heed of those things which will hinder this violence for Heaven

a. Take heed of unbelief

b. Take heed of puzzling your thoughts about election

c. Take heed of too much violence after the world

d. Take heed of indulging any lust

e. Take heed of despondency of spirit

f. Take heed of consulting with flesh and blood

g. Take heed of listening to the voice of such carnal friends as would call you away from this blessed violence

h. Take heed of setting up your abode in the lowest pitch of grace

II. Use those means which will promote this holy violence

a. Keep up daily prayer

b. Get under lively preaching

c. Get your hearts filled with love to religion

d. Be vigilant

e. Bind your heart to God by sacred vows

f. Be sure you make going to Heaven your business

g. Have Heaven continually in your eye

h. Accompany with such as are violent

i. Never leave till you have the Spirit

III. But some may say, we have used this violence for Heaven; what remains for us to do?

a. Keep alive this holy violence

b. Thou art in the way to the kingdom

IV. What of deadness of heart in duty

a. This deadness of heart may arise from natural causes

b. This indisposition of soul perhaps is only casual, and for a time; it may be in a deep fit of melancholy, or in desertion

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Complete on!

Being a complete idiot, I appreciated this post by Ray Ortlund Jr at Christ is Deeper Still:

Simul justus et peccator

"Realism has never been a mean achievement. It is a hard-won asset. And it differs from cynicism, with which it is sometimes confused, by only a slender thread -- the thread, I believe, of God's grace. . . . We are thinking of the person who can say, on the one hand, 'I am an incredible idiot,' and at the same time, 'Life is good and the future holds out hope.'"

Paul F. M. Zahl, Who Will Deliver Us?, pages 47-48.

Heaven Taken by Storm by Thomas Watson - Part 10, 11 and 12

Part 10 - Examination and Objections

I. What violence do we use for Heaven?

a. Do we strive with our hearts to get them into an holy frame?

b. Do we set time apart to call ourselves to account, and to try our evidences for Heaven?

c. Do we use violence in prayer?

d. Do we thirst for the living God?

e. Are we skilled in self-denial?

f. Are we lovers of God?

g. Do we keep our spiritual watch?

h. Do we press after further degrees of sanctity?

i. Is there an holy emulation in us?

j. Are we got above the world?

k. Do we set ourselves always under God's eye?

II. Some objections that may be made against this blessed violence.

a. We have no power of ourselves to save ourselves? In conversion we are passive, but after we should do what we are able

i. We have power to avoid gross sins

ii. We have power to cast ourselves upon the use of means, praying, reading, holy conference

iii. We can pursue our salvation

b. But this offering violence is hard, and I shall never be able to go through it. Admit it to be hard, yet it is a duty, and there is no disputing duty. What if salvation-work be hard?

i. Is it not harder to lay in Hell?

ii. We do not argue so in other things

iii. Though the business of religion at first seems hard, yet when once we are entered into it, it is pleasant

c. But if I put myself upon this violent exercise in religion, then I shall lose that pleasure I have in my sin, my mirth and melody. How does Scripture describe sin?

i. Scripture calls it a debt

ii. Scripture calls sin a disease

iii. The Scripture compares sin to 'gall and wormwood

iv. These sugared pleasures in sin the Scripture saith are but 'for a season

v. The present sweetness which is in sin will turn to bitterness at last

III. I would use this violence for Heaven, but I shall expose myself to the censure and scorn of others.

a. Consider who will reproach thee: they are the wicked

b. They reproach you for offering violence

c. Jesus Christ was reproached for thy sake

IV. If I use this holy violence, and turn religious, then I shall lose such yearly profits which my sin

a. By the incomes that sin brings in, you treasure

b. That cannot be for your profit, which makes you come off a loser at last

Part 11 - Resumed Exhortations

I. Consider the deplorable condition we are in by nature

II. It is possible that in the use of means we may arrive at happiness

III. This violence for Heaven is the grand business of our lives

IV. How violent are the wicked in ways of sin

V. This holy violence hath much delight mingled with it

VI. This violence and activity of spirit in religion, puts a luster upon a Christian

VII. How violent Christ was about our salvation

VIII. This holy violence brings rest

IX. If we use what violence we are able, God will help us

X. This blessed violence in religion, would be preventive of much sin

XI. Consider the folly of such as are violent for the world, but not for the kingdom above

a. These earthly things that we so toil for, are uncertain

b. They are unsatisfactory

c. They are transient; death feeds at the root

XII. The next motive is in the text; this violence is for a kingdom

a. The immunities of the heavenly kingdom are great

i. There shall be freedom from sin

ii. In that blessed kingdom there shall be freedom from the assaults of the red dragon

iii. In that blessed kingdom there shall be freedom from divi­sions

iv. In that heavenly kingdom there shall be freedom from all molestations

b. The royalties and excellencies of that kingdom are great

i. The heavenly kingdom abounds with riches

ii. The delights of the heavenly kingdom are unmixed

iii. This kingdom above is durable

XIII. The more violence we have used for Heaven, the sweeter Heaven will be when we come there

Part 12 – Exhortations Continued

I. The more violence we put forth in religion, the greater measure of glory we shall have

a. There are degrees of torment in Hell; therefore, by the rule of contraries, there are degrees of glory in Heaven

b. The Scripture speaks of a prophet's reward which is a degree above others

c. The saints are said to shine as the stars; one star differeth from another in glory

II. Upon our violence for the kingdom God hath promised mercy

a. 1. Ask. Ask with importunity

b. Seek, and ye shall find, but not wrongly as in:

i. They did seek ignorantly

ii. They did seek proudly

iii. They did seek lazily

iv. They did seek hypocritically

c. 'Knock, and it shall be opened

III. This holy violence will not hinder men in their secular employments, but there are two things that make a trade unlawful:

a. When persons deal in such commodities as they know cannot be used without sin

b. When their trade doth so involve them in worldly business, that they cannot mind eternity

IV. There is but a short space of time granted us, therefore, work the harder for Heaven before it be too late

V. A man's personal day of grace may be short

VI. If you neglect the offering of violence, now, there will be no help for you after death

VII. How without all defense will you be left, if you neglect this violence for Heaven

VIII. What a vexation it will be at the last to lose the kingdom of glory for lack of a little violence

IX. The examples of the saints of old, who have taken heaven by force

X. If the saints with all their violence have much ado to get to heaven, how shall they come there who use no violence?

XI. This sweating for Heaven is not to endure long

XII. If you are not violent for Heaven, you walk antipodes to your own prayers

XIII. This holy and blessed violence would make Christians willing to die

XIV. If for all that hath been said you will either sit still, or keep your sweat for something else than Heaven, know, that there is a time coming shortly when you will wish you had used this violence

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Universal Salvation

It's been a while since I posted on here, but I have resolved to get back into the habit.

I have several friends who hold to the doctrine of Universal Salvation, also known as Universal Reconciliation or Christian Universalism... it is essentially the view that all people will be saved and reconciled to God.

The type of Universalism that emerged in the 2nd century believed that there would be an age of punishment, followed by a cleansing, after which everyone would be saved... more modern Universalism denies any form of punishment, and instead believes everyone is already saved through Christ's work on the cross... they just don't know it yet.

The friends that I have who hold this view are great people, and as much as I joke with them about being heretics, I don't necessarily think their belief is dangerous. Recently however, one of the students in my youth ministry stumbled onto an anonymous website promoting Universal Salvation and I have felt much more urgency to correct this doctrine because I do believe the view can be dangerous to the less mature Christian or to someone who doesn't put much stock in the idea of living Kingdom lives in the current age.

Much of the biblical defense of universalism derives from the greek word "aionion"... so here's the first part of my research:

Since Universalism is the teaching that God will ultimately bring all people, in all times, and all places to a state of reconciliation with Him, it cannot allow the possibility of an eternal hell as a realistic biblical teaching.

To get around the problem of the English Bibles translating Greek words into "eternal," "forever," and forevermore" when describing fire (Matt. 18:8) or torment (Rev. 20:10), the universalists go to the Greek. The Greek word that is translated into eternal is "aionion." It comes from the Greek root "aion" meaning "age."

This fact combined with the various uses of Greek words derived from the root "aion," are what the universalists use to attempt to show that "aionion" does not always mean "eternal" but can refer to a finite period of time.

The truth is, they are right. It can be translated into a temporal sense as it is in Rom. 16:25: "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages (aionios1) past." But the reason it is translated that way is because of context, and that is extremely important. Context determines meaning, as you will see later.

With the claim that "aionion" can be translated into something temporal and that its root means "age," the universalist then says that any reference to "eternal fire," "eternal torment," or "eternal punishment" is not really eternal. Instead of "eternal torment," it is "aionion torment." Instead of "eternal punishment," it is "aionion punishment." That way, to the universalist, there is no eternal hell, no eternal punishment, and no eternal damnation. Everyone will be saved.
This approach by the Universalists can be confusing to someone who doesn't understand Greek, and that is part of the reason that Universalism has followers. It is true that the root "aion" means age. But just because a root means age does not mean that every word derived from that root means a limited duration of time.

For example, consider this verse that is speaking about God: "who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen" (1 Tim. 6:16)

The context is obviously dealing with God's eternal nature. The word in Greek for "immortality" is "athanatos." The Greek word for death is "thanatos." The "a" in front of the word is the negator -- without, non, etc. It means that God is deathless; hence, immortal. This is an eternal quality of God. Likewise, the verse states that God has eternal dominion. The word for "eternal" is "aionios" which is derived from the Greek root "aion" which means age. But, God is not immortal for only an "age," nor is His dominion temporal. The word "eternal" is absolutely the best way to translate the Greek "aionion" because God is immortal and eternal. Therefore, it would be wrong to translate the verse by stating that God has "aionion" dominion. Rather, He has eternal dominion.

How is "aionion" used in the New Testament?

The following two sections are verses that contain the word "aionion" which is translated as "eternal." Notice how using the word "eternal" in the first group is no problem. But, it is the second group with which the Universalists object. Nevertheless, the same word is used in both. See for yourself.

John 6:47, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal (aionion) life.
John 20:28, "and I give eternal (aionion) life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand."
Acts 13:48, "And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal (aionion) life believed."
Romans 2:7, " to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal (aionion) life."
Romans 5:21, "that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal (aionion) life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Rom. 16:26, " but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal (aionion) God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith."
Gal. 6:8, "For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal (aionion) life."
1 Tim. 6:16, "who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal (aionion) dominion! Amen."
1 John 1:2, "and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal (aionion) life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us"
1 John 5:11, "And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal (aionion) life, and this life is in His Son."

The following set of scriptures divulge the nature of eternal damnation.

Matt. 18:8, "And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal (aionion) fire.
Matt. 25:41, "Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal (aionion) fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;"
Matt. 25:46, "And these will go away into eternal (aionion) punishment, but the righteous into eternal (aionion) life."
Mark 3:29, "but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal (aionion) sin."
Mark 10:30, "but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal (aionion) life.
Luke 18:30, "who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal (aionion) life."
2 Thess. 1:9, "And these will pay the penalty of eternal (aionion) destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,"
Jude 7, "Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal (aionion) fire."

In my understanding, there is certainly punishment, that is either eternal, or a flame that is eternal which destroys whatever goes into it... I would argue that universalism is nothing more than a hopeful wish. The Universalists are not justified in picking and choosing the meaning of a word based upon their interpretations of "aion" that suits them and depending on which verse is used.

The next bit of my research will have to do with the stance of the early church and early apostles as I seem to be finding conflicting information about how early this doctrine arose and how many held to it.

Heaven Taken by Storm by Thomas Watson - Part 8 and 9

Part 8 – Offering Violence to Heaven

I. Offering violence to heaven – “Therefore in Scripture our earnestness for heaven is shown by those allegories and metaphors which imply violence.” “The promises [of Scripture] are made to encourage faith, not cherish sloth.”

a. How do we offer violence to heaven?

i. Striving – to enter the straight gate

ii. Wrestling - the body of sin and the powers of hell

iii. Running – the race set before us

iv. Fighting – the good fight of faith

b. Why must there be violence to heaven?

i. God’s command to be diligent

ii. God’s decree joining the means to the end

iii. It is difficult work

iv. Violent assaults against us

1. our own hearts oppose us

2. the powers of hell oppose us

v. it is a matter of utmost importance

c. We should consider:

i. What we shall save – our precious soul

ii. What we shall gain – a kingdom

d. We offer violence in:

i. The business of prayer

ii. The hearing of the Word

iii. The recognizing of the dangers of moderation

Part 9 – Arrows of Reproof and Apostasy

I. Arrows of Reproof

1. To the slothful Christian

2. To the formalist (vestures, gestures, forms)

i. They keep up appearances

ii. They bury their consciences with forms

3. To those who are violent wrongly

i. By opposing good

1. offering violence to God’s Spirit

2. offering violence to their consciences

3. offering violence to God’s image

ii. By pursuing evil

1. violent in their opinions

2. violent in their passions

3. violent for their lusts

a. their drunken lusts

b. their unclean lusts

c. their oppressive lusts

d. their covetous lusts

4. To those who have grown lukewarm

i. They are lethargical

ii. They are consumptive

1. Signs of spiritual consumption

a. Their desires of Christ and heaven have weakened

b. They lose vigour in motion

2. Consider:

a. Less violence equals less peace

b. You give great advantage to Satan

c. You will be damaged

d. Your corruptions will be enlivened

II. Apostasy

    • Why do men throw down violence?
      • They never had a principle of spiritual life
      • They never did duties with delight
      • Through unbelief
      • They love something else more than religion
      • Out of cowardice
      • Through lack of patience
      • Out of just judgment of God

1. To those who put off violence till old age

2. to those who deride offering violence to heaven

3. to those who keep heaven off by force

i. the ignorant

ii. the profane