by Al Maxey
Issue #722 -------
June 13, 2017
Law is twofold: natural and written. The
natural law is in the heart. The written law is
on tablets. All men are under the natural law.
St. Ambrose (340-397 A.D.)
Our nation's third President, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), made the following perceptive observation in a letter to John B. Colvin dated September 20, 1810: "A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us, thus absurdly sacrificing the end to the means." Jefferson understood quite well that a nation's laws had their place, and that a good citizen would seek to abide by those laws. He also understood quite well that no nation's written code could or should supplant the legitimate needs and necessities of those citizens who lived within the parameters of that written code. To do so would make law the master, not the servant, of the people. Law is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Failing to perceive the ultimate purpose of law, and elevating law itself to a pedestal it was never intended to occupy, reduces a people to a state of servitude to a written code. The purpose and intent of law is to serve the people, not subjugate them. Jesus touched on this universal principle when He said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). This statement followed an illustration our Lord gave to the Pharisees, who were accusing Jesus and His disciples of being "unlawful" in some of their actions. "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread - which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. ... If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent" (Matthew 12:3-4, 7; cf. Mark 2:25-26). Jesus and Jefferson were both seeking to impress upon those who thought legalistically that the spirit of law always takes precedence over the letter of law - a truth very hard for legalists to grasp.
The above deficit of perception was recently demonstrated dramatically in a lesson presented on Sunday evening, March 5, 2017 by Victor Eskew, the preacher for the Oceanside Church of Christ in Atlantic Beach, Florida. If you care to hear the entire 24 minute lesson he gave in response to one of my Reflections articles, that link is provided in my last issue (Reflections #721). In the article that Mr. Eskew "reviewed" (Reflections #708: "Regulating the Redeemed") I had made mention of "the spirit of the law." My exact quote, which seemed to befuddle Victor to no end, was: "We have been set free from the letter of the law; we now live by the spirit of the law." "The 'spirit of the law,'?" he sneered; "What does that even mean?!" He then made this statement which utterly floored me: "There is not a person on the face of this earth who can give me a clear definition of what it means to live by the spirit of the law instead of the letter of the law." Really?! It appears Victor Eskew is ignorant of a very familiar construct of law (any law, whether human or divine). The noted American jurist Earl Warren (1891-1974), who served as the 30th Governor of California and the 14th Chief Justice of the United States, wrote, "It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive" [from his article titled "The Law and the Future," November 1955].
The "spirit of law" is actually a well-known legal concept, widely known and understood in all societies, whether ancient or modern. In the accepted standard of the legal profession known as "Black's Law Dictionary" (2nd edition), we find this definition: "The spirit of the law, as opposed to the letter of the law, refers to the meaning and intent of the law; what those who created the law intended to accomplish in the creation of the law." Yet another definition, which comes from one of many web sites devoted to the study of law, reads: "The 'spirit of the law' is the intent and purpose of the lawmaker as determined by a consideration of the whole context thereof." Let me give a biblical example that may help people like Victor Eskew grasp the important distinction between the letter of law and the spirit of law. The apostle Paul commands, in Romans 16:16a, "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (this charge is also found in 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:26 and 1 Peter 5:13-14). The word translated "greet" appears in the imperative mood (which is the mood of command). How does Victor apply this "law" in his daily living? Does he abide by the letter of the law, or does he abide by the spirit of the law?! If the former, then Victor is doing a heap of kissing when he's around his fellow believers! My guess is, however, that Victor has grasped the spirit (intent, purpose) of this directive, and as a result has departed from a strict adherence to a literal implementation. In other words, he has followed the spirit of this command, not the letter of it. I would refer him to my article titled "The Holy Kiss of Love: Are We Keeping This Command?" (Reflections #426). We could make the same case for foot-washing, couldn't we? Please consider: Reflections #600 - "Foot-Washing, Kissing & Baptism: Comparative Contemplation of Water Baptism in View of Issues Related to Culture and Command." Victor Eskew seemed to think no person on the face of the earth could explain the concept of "the spirit of law," and yet this man has most likely been implementing this "spirit of law" in his own life and practice for years!
As noted above, when examining a written code it is imperative that we seek to look beyond the "letter" of that written code so as to perceive the ultimate purpose and intent of those who penned those precepts. Even our own Supreme Court, when seeking to apply the words of our Constitution to life situations, will invariably ask, "What was the intent of the Founders and Framers?" With regard to the Law of God, we should do the same. If we fail to perceive our Lord's intent and purpose, we will end up doing little more than compiling a list of laws (rules and regulations, many of which are merely assumed or inferred) to bind upon one another, assuming that life is to be found in an acceptable level of literal compliance with the "letter" of the written code. Our God never intended for law to become an end in itself, however; rather, law was a divine means to a greater end: a tutor, if you will, leading us to something/Someone far more relevant to our daily living, our life's true purpose, and our ultimate eternal destiny. When Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount, He wasted no time helping the crowds see beyond the letter of law to the spirit/intent of law. "You have heard that it was said ... but I say to you" (Matthew 5). "Do not murder" is the letter of the law; "Do not hate, slander, pour out your anger upon" is the much deeper spiritual application of that law (the very "spirit" of that law: i.e., our God's ultimate intent and purpose for the command). We must look deeper than just the "letter" of law if we would perceive the heart and purpose of the Lawgiver. "Do not commit adultery" is the "letter," while "Do not even lust after another" brings to light the deeper intent of God (the "spirit" of the command).
The ancient Jews were experts in the "letter of law," but they were tragically quite ignorant of the law's purpose, and of the Lawgiver's intent. By not perceiving God's purpose, they were blind to the "spirit" of His laws, and ended up merely performing the bare minimum of the "letter" of His laws, assuming that if they checked enough legal boxes they would stand approved by God. Thus, in compliance with the "letter of law," the Jews came before God with "thousands of rams, and ten thousand rivers of oil" (Micah 6:7). Yes, they followed the letter, but they were oblivious to the intent. "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). The Byzantine emperor, Justinian I (482-565 A.D.), in his revision of Roman law known as the Justinian Code, made this powerful observation: "The precepts of the law are these: to live honestly, to injure no one, and to give everyone his due." In this statement Justinian declared the "spirit" of the law he formulated for his people. He revealed his intent and purpose, and the ultimate end to which these laws were the means. In essence, he was saying that thousands of specific laws could be summed up in just a handful of guiding principles and precepts which would more truly reflect the heart of his people as they lived by the spirit/intent of this written code, even though they may not have followed fully or perfectly the letter of that written code. When a lawyer asked Jesus about God's law (expecting perhaps a listing of critical tenets), Jesus replied that the entirety of the letter of God's law for men could be reduced to the following (which constituted the spirit of His law for men): Love God and love each other! The apostle Paul affirms that insight into God's intent and purpose: "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'You shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:8-10, NKJV). Paul was contrasting the "letter" of God's law and the "spirit" of God's law, and he made it clear that the latter supersedes, and indeed fulfills, the former.
This is what James would call "the royal law" (James 2:8) and "the law of liberty" (James 1:25). I would urge the reader to examine my study titled "Pondering the Royal Law" (Reflections #579). For an even deeper study of this, and of some of the aspects of law I have thus far shared in this present article, I would recommend my five week adult Bible class, which was recorded (MP3 format) and made available on a CD, titled "From Law to Liberty." It is a fascinating study to watch how God has over the millennia moved His people from the letter of law (with its rigid regulation) to the spirit of law (with its liberty); in many ways it is a move from religion to relationship. Hebrews 9:1 informs us that "the first covenant had regulations for worship" and for how the sanctuary was to be set up and utilized. Now, however, WE (both individually and corporately) are the sanctuary of the Spirit of God; He dwells within US. Such regulation, even of worshipful expression, is no longer needed. Indeed, Hebrews 9:10 informs us that these regulations were never designed to be permanent, and that they would cease when Christ ushered in the new covenant. It would be an era where His children lived by the spirit of His law rather than the letter. His Spirit would indwell us (in the sanctuary of our hearts), and His law would be written on our hearts. This would not be a long list of "do this" and "don't do that," but an awareness of His divine purpose and will for our lives: the spirit of law which would be directed by His indwelling Holy Spirit.
This is precisely what the prophet Jeremiah foretold (although there were aspects of this prophecy that had a more immediate fulfillment following the return of the exiles from Babylonian captivity). "'The time is coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt. ... This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest,' declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Paul alluded to this prophecy in the first half of 2 Corinthians 3, rightly noting that it found further fulfillment in our present Christian dispensation. "God has enabled us to be ministers of His new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death. ... Under the new way, the Holy Spirit is giving life" (2 Cor. 3:6-8, New Living Translation). The Holy Spirit of God, who indwells us, is writing the "spirit of law" upon our hearts, and then enabling us to bear the fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) of this royal law within our lives, guiding us in the daily application of the divine intent of law, which is LOVE.
The apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, spoke of those who were strangers to the teachings of Judaism, who nevertheless fulfilled "the law's requirements" even though they did not possess "the written code" (Rom. 2:26-27). He went on to explain, "A man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code" (vs. 29). The Gentiles, the vast majority of them, had no knowledge of the letter of the law; they did not possess the written code. However, God had conveyed to them His expectations for their lives, and the knowledge of His own nature, in various ways (Rom. 1:19-20; please see at this point Reflections #286 - "The Seven Noahide Laws: A Universal Moral Code Given Through Adam and Noah"). Those peoples who were not of Israel may not have known the letter of the law, but they were aware of the spirit of the law, for it was within them, written on their hearts. Thus, they too were accepted by the Father of all if they embraced Him by faith and sought to reflect His nature in their lives as best they grasped the spirit of that universal law and purpose. I develop this truth more thoroughly in Reflections #158 ("Grace and the Caveman: Pondering God's Plan for the Unenlightened and the Parameters of Divine Acceptance of Human Response to Available Light"). Under this new covenant of grace, we are dead to law (i.e., the curse of the written code), but alive in the Spirit (for He indwells us and leads us in our attitudes and actions according to the deeper spiritual principles of His law). Therefore, Paul writes, "Now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code" (Romans 7:6, NIV). So, once again, note my quote that seemed to befuddle Victor Eskew so greatly: "We have been set free from the letter of the law; we now live by the spirit of the law." I don't see anything here that contradicts what Paul has just taught in Scripture, although Paul and I both, not to mention Jesus, contradict the teachings of those still seeking to live under and be justified by the letter of the law.
To state it simply, it really comes down to this: "The Law, the written Law of Moses, is no longer our lord and master, we are no longer bound by its fetters. We are governed only by love, led only by grace" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 2, p. 35]. I believe we can take this even further: when we are indwelt and led by the Spirit of God, when we are united with the Lord by grace through faith, when we seek to live under the royal law of love, a law that liberates us, NO system of law is our lord and master! We are free. Our service to the Lord and our fellow man, as we live in this new dispensation, is a daily walk in "newness of spirit" (not oldness of letter) that is "spontaneous, genial, and free" [Dr. William G.T. Shedd, A Critical and Doctrinal Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, p. 177]. Even under the old covenant there were glimpses of this spiritual freedom to express the intent of law over the regulated forms of a written code. A good example is when Hezekiah and the people of Israel "ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed ... not according to the rules" (2 Chronicles 30:18-19). Indeed, after celebrating this feast (which had been neglected by the people of Israel for many years), they were so uplifted by the experience that they decided to celebrate the whole feast all over again (2 Chronicles 30:23)! And, yes, they did so with God's approval, even though they had completely violated the "pattern" as prescribed in the Law of Moses! Some things take priority over the letter of the law, for they reflect a grasp of the spirit of the law - they perceive and embrace the intent of the Lawmaker and Lawgiver!
One day, when Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, "the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do You say?!'" (John 8:3-5). These people were guided by the letter of the law, but Jesus responded by affirming the spirit (the ultimate intent and purpose) of the law. He showed love and mercy and compassion and kindness; He also challenged the woman to redirect her life. I love this brief assessment by The Pulpit Commentary: "The Law stones the adulteress; the Gospel says to her, 'Go, and sin no more'!" [vol. 19, part 2: II Corinthians, p. 59]. Rather than lecturing and condemning the woman according to the letter of the law, Jesus loved her as a reflection of the spirit of the law. "The Jewish teachers insisted much on the letter of the Law, but entered little into its real meaning. They did not seek out the true spiritual sense" of God's written law [Dr. Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. In so doing, they lost sight of love and mercy and compassion, all of which are the true intent and purpose of His law, something Jesus displayed that day in the temple courts as He lifted the spirit of law above the letter of law, and in so doing lifted up a fallen woman, instilling within her a hope of renewal never found in the teachings of the legalists. "Is it not strange that so many believers today yearn for laws and rules, putting themselves under the economy of the old covenant, which Jeremiah, Christ, and the apostles warned was not capable of fulfillment? No wonder the new covenant is a missionary message for the world! Its nature is individual, internal, and universal" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 576-577]. I pray this study will open the eyes of people like Victor Eskew, and those whom he influences with his teaching, that he and they may finally perceive the folly of seeking to live under the letter of law, and the joys and blessings that ensue from walking by the spirit of law!
From a Minister in Alabama:
Only once have I found myself in the sights of one of the "schools of preaching." But that once felt like a Blue Ribbon. You're obviously doing something right, or should I say "correct." If they were praising you, instead of condemning you, however, you would need even more prayers! You are doing great work, brother. Satan is the enemy, and we gotta work together to defeat him.
From a Reader in Louisiana:
There are some glaring problems with Hugh Fulford's definition of "the body of Christ" (the "church"). His view can only be true if every member of every Church of Christ is saved. However, ironically, Hugh and every other legalist can quickly give you the names of Churches of Christ where all the members are going to hell. The Body of Christ, the true "Lord's Church," is made up of saints from across the spectrum of local churches: past, present and future. They are all flawed people, but all are saved. Every legalist shares a common problem: they do not understand the worth and work of Jesus for sinners. My hope and prayer is that they will abandon their self-righteousness and simply trust Christ alone to save them. Thanks, Al, for your faithfulness to the Truth!
From an Elder in New Mexico:
I don't know or follow Hugh Fulford, but I have to respond to his assertions in his email (which appeared in your last Reflections). He completely misstates what you've written suggesting your convictions about a denominational concept of the church. Further, your Reflections are evidence that you indeed are an excellent Bible scholar ... and one of the best!! I could cite a couple of differences in understanding you and I have had over the years, but I learned a long time ago that personal maturity and the Scriptures insist that we accept one another regardless of such differences of opinion. I happen to know you personally, we've worked together for many years, and am happy to attest to the excellence of your biblical research, as well as your God-given ability to proclaim the Good News. May God continue to bless you and your Reflections ministry!
From a Minister in Texas:
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your articles on your web site, but I would now love to be added to your mailing list so that I may receive them by email. I am the preacher at ----- Church of Christ in -----, TX. At our congregation we have gotten past all of the legalism that has plagued the Churches of Christ for decades! God bless you, Al, and please keep on with the good work you are doing!
From a Reader in Alabama:
Al, I really appreciate the Truth for which you stand up and speak up! My prayers are always with you!! I wanted you to see the following comments that I just posted on the YouTube site of Victor Eskew's sermon against you: "Mr. Eskew, you should confront Bro. Al Maxey face-to-face and give him the proper opportunity to counter the ridiculous critiquing you have given his Reflections article. You are espousing your own interpretation of Bro. Al Maxey's words - adding on and on your rhetoric that has zero to do with his article or his true beliefs. Because of your legalistic teaching and understanding, you cannot fathom the Truth of what Bro. Al Maxey believes and teaches. It sounds so foreign and false to you because you are teaching a different gospel. You have stood before your congregation, and now before the public on YouTube, passing along untruths about a man of God. You need to repent. My prayers are with you and those who are drinking in what you teach. Very sad!!" Al, it truly sickens my heart to see men speak as Mr. Eskew has, and, further, to spread his words to others as if he is speaking Truth. His legalistic beliefs and teachings, as you know, are common to those coming from the Memphis School of Preaching. Living in Alabama, I have had several ministers, at a congregation where I used to attend, who were indoctrinated there at MSOP. I appreciate so much your Reflections, as they have enriched my life for many years! Blessings, brother!
From a Reader in Michigan:
I just finished reading your latest article: "Preterism and Eternal Punishment: Is Preterism Compatible with Conditionalism?" (Reflections #721). As a Conditionalist and Amillennialist (same thing as a Partial Preterist?), I appreciate so much this current study! Much light without any heat!
From a Reader in Arizona:
In your latest Reflections ("Preterism and Eternal Punishment") you mentioned some who have pursued you in order to persuade you of their view of "last things." It seems to me that their pursuit to persuade you of their ideas is actually evidence that they are wrong. They major on minors in many things. I was glad to see from your article that your understanding on this topic is like mine! Al, you are helping many around the world! Thank you!
From an Author in Arizona:
Al, your introduction to Preterism in your last Reflections is right on target! It leaves me anxious to "hear the rest of the story." As to Hugh Fulford, I've wrangled with him a number of times over the years, but his obsession with "Church of Christism" is so strongly established and calcified, that I really doubt if he will ever "see the light." Carry on, my brother!!
From a Reader in Georgia:
Al, what an unusual Reflections ("Preterism and Eternal Punishment"). I had to print it off to be sure, and copied the quotes you used as they have not only spiritual applications, but business ones as well. I especially like C.S. Lewis' quote on sixty minutes per hour. What a great truth regarding the use of time. As I tell everyone, "Consequences are rarely the result of Coincidence." Gotta admit that I rejected the Preterist view of 70 A.D. some time ago. In my opinion, it was even less consistent with Scripture than CENI. And what is up with those two preachers (Hugh Fulford and Victor Eskew)?! Why is it that people can easily spot a "Church of Christer" by the way they respond to those with whom they disagree?! I'm saddened that so many of OUR (Church of Christ denomination) brothers and sisters have learned the art of slander and defamation (which is being taught to them by word and example from the front of the auditorium). In the "Church of Christ" Facebook groups it has become laughable how these legalists, when their views are challenged, will first claim that their critic needs to go and "study your Bible" (although they won't provide any specific passage). When they are confronted with actual passages of Scripture, they will turn it around and claim that their critic isn't disagreeing with them, but rather with God Himself. And then, finally, as they slam the door on their way out (since they can't refute those who confront them), the most awful name calling is generated toward those with whom they disagree. Sadly, those who embrace "salvation by exam grade" do this repeatedly; they simply can't admit they are wrong! Ever! We love you, brother!! Keep making Truth priority number one in your writings!!
From an Author in Alabama:
Al, I appreciate your contributions toward the advancement of God's kingdom, as well as your emphasis on unity among God's people. I read your remarks on Revelation yesterday concerning the date of Revelation. I recently delivered a lecture in --------, Oklahoma on the date of Revelation. I'll send you a copy of my speech, which also appears in my commentary on Revelation (volume 2). Whether we agree or disagree, we are still one! Wherever God has a son or daughter, I have a brother or sister in Christ. Al, I regard you as one of the great strongholds and defenders for Christian unity within the Body of Christ. Your writings are clear and informative. I thank God for such men as you! I may be wrong, and you may be correct, about the date of Revelation. Whatever is correct, I am "fer" it. God will do whatever He has decreed, whether I understand it or not. By the way, I will be 83 in July. Brother, I am praying that God will continue to bless you in your ministry. God is still using you in a mighty way for the advancement of the true nature of the Gospel. Your writings are so refreshing, and I am amazed at your depth of knowledge. I still have a long way to go!
From a Reader in Alabama:
I followed a link to your article from one of my Facebook friends (just out of curiosity because of the title of your article: "Preterism and Eternal Punishment"). In that article you stated that the word "temple" does not appear in Revelation. That is not what I remember, so I went to Bible Gateway and did a word search and found "temple" appears 13 times in the book of Revelation (in both the KJV and the NASB).
You are correct: in some versions of the Bible one will indeed find the English word "temple" in the book of Revelation. In the original Greek text of Revelation, however, the Greek word for "temple" (which is "hieron") never appears; not even one time! The word that does appear in the book of Revelation is the Greek word "naos," which refers to the "sanctuary" (the Holy of Holies). This distinction is significant, but lost to the reader when not correctly translated. Just one more area where some of our English translations have not served us well. -- Al Maxey
From a Minister in New Zealand:
Grace and peace to you in Jesus. Following my last communication with you, it dawned on me further that one of Satan's most cunning ruses is: "The blood of Jesus has only blotted out your past sins, so you must now (as Christians) perform certain acts in certain ways to prove you are worthy or deserving of what He has done for you." The number of Christians who may have been duped into this demonic philosophy is frightening. It is at the heart, I believe, of much of the "Church of Christ" theology and teaching. What they completely fail to recognize or understand is the ongoing efficacy of the blood of Jesus, which we embrace by faith, to continually cleanse us of all present and future sin (1 John 1:7). This, of necessity, precludes any place or value for performance-oriented religion. Once we come to understand this truth, it is so liberating. It is also humbling, and this humility is seen in our simple acceptance of all that HE has done and continues to do.
From a Reader in Alabama:
"Preterism and Eternal Punishment" was an interesting article! I am a "Full Preterist," yet I have come to believe in Conditionalism, and do not find these two views incompatible. If 70 A.D. wrapped it all up, then 1 Corinthians 15 was fully fulfilled in 70 A.D. and immortality was given to those godly souls raised from the OT hadean world (Daniel 12:1-2), and also given to those still living when Jesus came in 70 A.D., since the last enemy (death) had been destroyed in 70 A.D. when He basically destroyed the Law and its ability to kill. After 70 A.D. there would be no more need for the OT hadean world (Hades), since, according to Revelation 20, death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone to be annihilated in 70 A.D., just as the wicked dead of the OT were raised in 70 A.D. to be annihilated. After 70 A.D., every believer would be given eternal life upon his/her belief in Jesus, basically given immortality at the point of belief, and then upon their physical death (unless they fell from grace) their souls would go immediately to be with Jesus and enjoy that promised immortality in heaven. The souls of every unbeliever, when their bodies died physically, would just be immediately annihilated, since there is no longer a hadean world to which these souls would go. Again, I'm not trying to convince you to believe in "Full Preterism," but since your article said that "Full Preterism" was not compatible with Conditionalism, I just wanted to let you know that I don't think they are incompatible at all. At least we agree on Conditionalism.
I'm not sure where this individual got her information on the tenets of Conditionalism, but I can assure you that Conditionalism does not teach ANY of what she listed. Indeed, it is emphatically opposed to every aspect of what she listed. The second coming of Christ Jesus is yet future, according to Conditionalist belief; it did not happen in 70 A.D. The resurrection is a bodily resurrection of both the wicked and those who are asleep in Christ in the dust of the ground. The so-called hadean realm is simply the grave; it is not some OT "holding place" for the "souls" of both righteous and wicked persons who have died physically. Nothing survives the death of the physical body; rather, the promise is that this body will be raised, it will be changed and given immortality (for the righteous dead), and it will dwell upon the restored earth. The wicked dead will be bodily raised and annihilated. This is all yet future, and when people die today their "souls" don't fly immediately off to be with Jesus. NONE of what is listed above is part of Conditionalist belief; Conditionalism stands opposed to each of those tenets. I would strongly urge this sister-in-Christ to please read my new book "From Ruin to Resurrection," in which the teachings of Conditionalism are spelled out very clearly in light of biblical teaching. Edward Fudge even wrote the following in his Foreword to my book: "Al Maxey has been preaching, teaching and spreading his understanding of Scripture on these themes ever since 1986, making him perhaps the most influential popular presenter of this 'Conditionalist' (biblical) understanding in the Churches of Christ today!" [p. 8]. Therefore, once again, I would urge this reader to please carefully and prayerfully examine the biblical evidence I have presented in this new 308 page book. I believe if she is willing to do so it will clear up a good many misconceptions about the nature of "Conditionalism," as well as demonstrate conclusively that there is no way whatsoever "Conditionalism" is compatible with "Full Preterism." -- Al Maxey
From an Elder in North Carolina:
Al, I tell people that I have swam upstream most of my adult life, and so I knew that if I read your Reflections long enough I was bound to find some point where we disagree (LOL). Actually, I had felt for some time that we probably disagreed on this (Preterism), and I had even recently thought about writing to you about your views on the subject. I hope we still remain friends!! The statement you made that "Preterism is gaining in popularity at present (even within the Churches of Christ)" interested me. I grew up living in Abilene, TX and Hobbs, NM back in the 40's and 50's. At that time almost every preacher I listened to taught the ideas now called "Full Preterism." Since I retired in 2000, I have studied quite a bit on the subject, and I still believe it logically answers questions far better than the other views. So, if Preterism is gaining favor in the Churches of Christ, then I would say it is coming back into favor after being neglected for many decades, and I would hope that you study it more fully.
Yes, brother, we most definitely remain friends!! ... and also brothers-in-Christ!! As I noted in my Reflections article ("Preterism and Eternal Punishment"), none of us has been to the future and back, and none of us have perfect insight into every aspect of what God intends for mankind in the future. We have glimpses, but just enough to raise more questions than answers, although we still seek to form conclusions and convictions from those glimpses. From my own studies, and they have been extensive (for over three decades), I have formed beliefs that cause me to have some serious difficulties reconciling the "Full Preterism" view with my understandings of things like the nature of man, the promise of a bodily resurrection, a literal "new heavens and earth," etc. On the other hand, I do agree that the 70 A.D. event is pivotal in history, and that many prophecies pointed to that event. I do not believe, however, that these prophecies ALL pointed ONLY to that event. Since the "Partial Preterism" view allows for additional fulfillment in the future of many of these prophecies, I would tend to view that position a bit more favorably than the "Full Preterism" view. I certainly will continue my study of this, and of many other topics as well, for it would be hypocritical of me to challenge others to rethink things if I myself was unwilling to do so!! -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in North Carolina:
I have greatly enjoyed your last two Reflections ("Perplexing A Puritanical Patternist: A List of Things that Baffle Militant Legalists" - Reflections #720 and "Preterism and Eternal Punishment: Is Preterism Compatible with Conditionalism?" - Reflections #721), and I want to say I am surprised to find out that I am a "Partial Preterist." I guess I have always believed that most of what we read in the book of Revelation has already occurred (primarily at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). I highly respect your work, as you know, so I intend to continue studying this subject. I also enjoy reading the questions from your readers, and your answers. I am planning to read your new book "From Ruin to Resurrection" this summer, and also hope to listen to your recorded Bible class on 1st & 2nd Peter (Encouragement for the End Times). On another note, I was recently told by a close family member that my wife and I are going to hell because we are not members of the Church of Christ group. I tried to explain to her about the One Church universal, but she didn't want to hear it. In her view, I have "left the church." Al, the blindness of legalistic patternism never ceases to amaze me. They are going to be very much surprised when Jesus returns and takes ALL of His people home, not just those from one small group within that universal church. Keep the faith, brother!!
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