Redefining Hell - Part 6
The Law is Spiritual
2 Corinthians 3:7-9 (ESV)
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.
The “ministry of death” is also the “ministry of condemnation.” Strong’s defines “condemnation” as, “Sentencing adversely,” taken from the root meaning “to judge against, i.e. sentence.” Oxford Languages defines “condemnation” as “the expression of very strong disapproval; censure” and “the action of condemning someone to a punishment; sentencing.” Simply put, condemnation, or, the act of sentencing someone, is the expression of judgment, most often due to reaping what is sown. This is what is meant by hell being a manifestation of death. “Death” refers to the actions of the carnal mind (Rom. 8:6; Eph. 2:1), while “hell” refers to the repercussions of these actions, whether mild or severe or anywhere in-between. A good example is the present war in Ukraine. The war is the result of carnal-mindedness, while the war itself is the manifestation of this carnal-mindedness or “death” (Rom. 8:6). The sad and horrific destruction of this war (or any war) is the “hell” of it. No wonder in an address after the Civil War, the general William Tecumseh Sherman stated, “War is hell. You cannot refine it. There is no holy cause that justifies the inhumanity of war.”
When our actions no longer proceed from a carnal mind, death ceases, so too the hell that follows it (Rev. 6:8). This truth is symbolized by death and hell being cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). Despite tradition’s take, the lake of fire in the book of Revelation is a very good thing, hence the reason why the “dragon,” the “beast,” and the “false prophet,” are also cast into it (Rev. 19:20; 20:10). The idea that “hell” is cast into the lake of fire clearly negates the fact that it is a place of eternal torment.
It is not without good reason that the principle of sowing and reaping is twofold, denoting both a division and witness in the hearts and minds of every soul; past, present, and future. The Garden of Eden (or pleasure) with its two trees in its midst, align perfectly with this divine principle, the trees correlating with sowing to the flesh and sowing to the Spirit. As we learned, the tree of knowledge symbolizes the Old Covenant and the law, that which Paul called the ministry of death and condemnation, hence the reason that in Genesis, sin and death enter due to the pride that rises up and rejects the moral goodness of God’s law in our conscience.
Simple logic dictates that if the tree of knowledge represents the Old Covenant and the law, then the tree of life must represent the New Covenant and the ministry of the Spirit and righteousness as Paul describes in 2nd Corinthians, Chapter 3. The New Covenant is summed up in Hebrews, Chapter 8.
Hebrews 8:10-13 (ESV)
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my LAWS into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
In the cycle of sowing and reaping, death is a necessity. So it is that the law of God, the “letter” that kills, precedes the ministry of the Spirit and righteousness. Furthermore, the New Covenant does not do away with God’s laws, rather, it FULFILLS THEM, clarified by what Jesus said in the following.
Matthew 5:17-19 (ESV)
17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes (breaks; NKJV) one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Did Jesus say “whoever relaxes,” or “breaks,” “one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven”? Yes! You mean such a person is not cast into eternal torment?
Now, what did Jesus mean by fulfilling the Law and the Prophets? Paul said it like this.
Romans 13:8-10 (ESV)
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has FULFILLED the law. 9 The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the FULFILLING of the law.
Here it is in its simplicity. “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” This is what Paul meant by the following.
Romans 7:14 (ESV)
14 For we know that the law is spiritual…
Friend, the spiritual essence of the law is LOVE, for “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1st John 4:16; ESV). So it is that Paul could say with all confidence that “the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Clearly, this injunction is in perfect accord with “the ministry of the Spirit” and “righteousness.”
Paul said “the law,” or tree of knowledge, “is spiritual,” a tree of life. Wait a minute! Does this mean that the two trees in the garden are essentially one tree? It does, for as mentioned many times, death is a necessity in the cycle of sowing and reaping. Remember that what is sown does not “come to life UNLESS IT DIES” (1st Cor. 15:36; ESV).
In our next video in this series, we will consider the present reality of hell. In keeping with all we have considered thus far, allow me to share the following illustration with you.
Proverbs 11:30 (NIV)
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.