Salvation 2.0: Part 3.19 The Principalities and Powers

grace5David Bentley Hart’s argument insists that a good God making a good Creation from  nothing (ex nihilo) must bring his Creation to a good end. Perpetual conscious torment (PCT) of  rational beings — humans — is not a good end. Therefore, there can be no PCT.

He resolves the problem by assuming Universal Reconciliation, that is, that the damned, after being justly punished, will be confronted with the glory and beauty that is God, and the damned will repent and be saved, living forever in bliss.

Among the many problems with this theory is its failure to deal with the fate of evil spiritual beings. They are also a part of the Creation, who chose to reject God as a matter of free will — much like humans who are damned — except the spiritual beings see God as spirit and so much more as God really is, and yet they reject him.

The Bible’s teaching on this topic is deep and yet not nearly as complete as we might like. We covered this material a while back in these posts —

Atonement: Christus Victor

Atonement: The Powers in the Old Testament

Atonement: The Powers in the New Testament, an Introduction

Atonement: Further on Christus Victor and Paul’s Epistles

Atonement: Reflecting on the Powers, Part 1

Atonement: Reflecting on the Powers, Part 2

Atonement: Reflecting on the Powers, Part 3 (Repaired)

For our present purposes, this should make the point that Satan is not going to be redeemed —

In several ways the NT makes it clear that Satan is not without limitations. First, the intercession of Jesus stalls his designs on Peter (Luke 22:32). Second, he is a fallen being (Luke 10:18). Third, he is judged (John 16:11). Fourth, his power over a person’s life may be broken (Acts 26:18). Fifth, God may use Satan to chasten an apostate believer (1 Cor 5:5; 1 Tim 1:20). Sixth, his temptations, however potent, may be overcome and his ruses exposed (Matt 4:1–11, and the only incident in the NT in which any of Satan’s words are recorded). Seventh, he may be resisted, just as Jesus resisted him (Eph 4:27; Jas 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8, 9). Eighth, the NT never refers to Satan as simply the prince/ruler (ho archon), but as “prince of devils” (Matt 9:34) or “prince of the world” (John 12:31). Ninth, at God’s discretion he is bound (Rev 20:2), released (Rev 20:7), and incinerated (Rev 20:10).

Victor P. Hamilton, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, 1992, 5, 989.


(Rev 20:7–10 ESV) 7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Now, whether Satan is tortured forever or incinerated, in neither case is he allowed to repent and be saved. Thus, the means by which God restores his Creation to good is by eliminating the evil from it — including Satan (and his minions, of course). Not by redeeming them.

Fudge argues that this passage borrows from the language of the OT prophets, and is properly read as promising the destruction of Satan. (See also this post from Fudge.) It’s not essential that we reach a conclusion on that point to see that Satan will not be redeemed, which contradicts Hart’s theory that all evil in the Creation must be redeemed, but creates no problem for Conditionalism. Creation will be made entirely good again by purging the evil with the fire of the wrath of God — a concept written on nearly every page of scripture.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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31 Responses to Salvation 2.0: Part 3.19 The Principalities and Powers

  1. Larry Cheek says:

    Just curious, is readership up or down? Many of the long time commentor’s don’t seem to be commenting recently. I know that my time is very limited to produce the amount of material necessary to explain how distant the ideas that you have been presenting are from the overall picture I see presented by the scriptures. It would not make a large book but it cannot be covered in these small sessions. Studying these small blocks of information apart from the whole is distorting the overview of God’s World. Even distorting the nature of God, to fit into certain beliefs. God has been love from the beginning and now we are mentioning that this same love has decided to overlook the sins of many men (not hold them accountable) for a law which should mean that they are not condemned, therefore available for an inheritance, but instead they are moved into the realm of the animal world. When they die they are just like “Rover, dead all over”. No punishment and no inheritance. So now we have God not respecting persons? Did God not create all men in his image? There is only one thing that separates God from any human that he created, that being (sin) and if God chooses to overlook the sin of some men they are not sinners. But, then he does not deal with those as he will with all his other children? Are these not treated according to Romans 4:7-16?
    The statement about the Gentiles all just like dogs, sounds very much like the Jews attitude not God’s.

  2. Richard constant says:

    Also J I would like a definition of faith, believe and trust, of Able.
    to say nothing of job. to say nothing of Cain, with respect to Hebrews 11 1 through 7… then you have versus 13 14 which is inclusive of all of the above 1 through 7.
    And to think that Abel didn’t hear about the land that his father was thrown out of.
    Of course. Speculation but I sure would have told my son.
    Then of course he was talking to God also.
    then you have Genesis 4:25 -26…
    and the Lord giving giving Adam another son to replace Able. and at that time people began to worship the Lord.
    your definition of Rom. 3:25 B, limit your involvement of God as being active in his creation to the point of to the point of being, pardon me another legalistic knee-jerk reaction to how God deals with creation through His Word. as to the definition of that word in Romans -2:18 + 19 to say nothing of knowing good from evil to say nothing about sin not being imputed where there is no law.
    in Romans chapter 7 Paul says the law he thought was made for life became nothing but death for him. because of sin dwelling in his flesh the nature of the flesh.
    Which falls back again on Romans -2:18 -19.
    if the Trinities work in 321 through 31 is just for those that believe in Jesus. and the Jews of the Torah.
    you’re going to have to give a very good explanation of faith and trust.
    but then I don’t see you looking at Romans 3 21 327 Specifically the Trinities work, for all those that believe in issuing a law of faith that overrides sin and death.
    by Grace Through faith.
    If that’s not for all of creation to me that’s a pretty shabby job of restoration of all those that believe.
    It’s not about believe in Jesus it’s about believe in the gospel.
    giving glory to the creator of the gospel that would be God the Trinity their work.
    By giving glory to God through Jesus is the acceptable way of doing it today after the resurrection.
    it is still about believe in God doing good not evil, ask God will judge through Jesus on the basis of faith and that face would be described in Chapter 11 of Hebrews as principled by Abraham.
    As brought forward and revealed through his seed which is Christ.

    this puts Jew and Gentile on equal footing.
    The only difference is the curse added to death common new line and the redemption through faith.
    That’s not through faith in Jesus that is just through faith in God the Trinity who at that time when Paul was speaking about Rome and 7 didn’t get to the point of Romans 8 and says but now.
    How can Paul say that he was alive apart from law.
    If not referring back to the beginning.
    This becomes another dialectic of Paul.
    And Romans eight becomes but now.
    The end oF chapter 7 becomes I thank God through Jesus Christ why? who will deliver me from the body of this death.
    Its not Paul’s fault it’s not the Jews fault its not mankind’s fault.
    It’s Adam’s fault and everybody gets to die.
    Romans 2 God is no respecter of persons.
    ? why? Because those that do good are Jews by nature those that do evil or not.
    as you said so many times before it is about that heart thing.
    and that be that
    continued blessings J enjoy your day

  3. Dwight says:

    Nowhere in the OT does God tell the Jews to treat the gentiles badly or think of them on a lower leveI, as even the Jews rebelled against God. The Jews thought that thier being chosen made them better than those around them and it did to a certain extent, but not because they were better, but because God was with them and he had a plan through them.
    God is a just judge and will punish and bless those according to their heart and works.
    Now as we all might deserve death, God gives a way out of death through His son and then staying in his Son and beyond that we will be given placement according to where we put ourselves in God’s world. Being first on this earth in our own estimation gives the opposite results in heaven, as the first will be last and the last will be first. The servant will be promoted, while the prideful will be demoted.
    For the record…I have been trying to work on other articles and increasing my family time, so I will be less here and if you get out of the conversational thread here it is kind of hard to keep up sometimes as things move fast here sometimes. God Bless.

  4. Randy says:

    Well, there is that whole “utterly wipe out those seven nations and make no treaty with them” stuff.

  5. Randy says:

    “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.”
    ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭7:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

  6. Randy says:

    I am pretty certain that Satan is toast.

  7. Randy says:

    As for Abel, I think it regrettable that we have to impose some unseen law of sacrifice on the story. Abel was thankful to God and expressed it by sacrifice. He gave the fat portions of his firstborn. The best of his best.

    Cain simply gave some of his crops.

    So God looked with favor on Abel’s offering because it was lavish and showed his trust in God for the future rather than in wealth.

  8. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry asked,

    Just curious, is readership up or down?

    About the same. Total email and Facebook subscribers are up about 40 or 50 since the series started, maybe. Total page views I can track is about constant.

  9. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry wrote,

    God has been love from the beginning and now we are mentioning that this same love has decided to overlook the sins of many men (not hold them accountable) for a law which should mean that they are not condemned, therefore available for an inheritance, but instead they are moved into the realm of the animal world.

    On what basis does overlooking sins mean eternity in bliss with Jesus? Crediting someone with righteousness means eternity in bliss. Overlooking sins means no punishment.

    (Rom. 5:12-17 ESV) 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

    Hardly an easy passage, but this much seems very clear.

    1. For Gentiles pre-resurrection, “death reigned.” Everyone died. Well, people still die. Therefore, Paul is speaking of eternal death — death for all eternity. And this is the fate of the pre-resurrection Gentiles.

    2. Paul also says that there is “no judgment” where there is no Law. Hence, no punishment for Gentiles who died pre-resurrection.

    3. But Paul says that is a path to eternal life: the death of Jesus on the cross, which we reach through faith (as taught in chapters 3 and 4 and Paul does not need to repeat here).

    If Gentiles suffered no judgment but did not have saving faith, and if spiritual/eternal death reigned, then they died without going to heaven or to hell. They just died.

    And this is mercy because they deserved justice — and as Paul showed in Rom 1 and 2, God could punish them with perfect justice.

    I used “Dead like Rover”, frankly, because so many readers struggle to comprehend that humans are not innately immortal. They just can’t accept that. Innate immortality is part of their worldview. It’s an assumed truth never examined that people will not let go of easily. But when we give up that assumption, we realize there are other possibilities — and one of them is that God chooses not to punish but also not to bestow eternal bliss.

    Somehow we’ve developed that mindset that eternal bliss is our default state — that we forfeit it if we’re evil enough, perhaps — but somehow it’s what we deserve if we aren’t all that bad. But the truth is that not a single one of us at any point in history deserves eternal bliss. We all deserve to be punished and to cease to exist. If God were to allow us to merely cease to exist, that would be more blessing than we deserve.

    If we’re not careful, we entirely let go of the doctrine of election — and figure that even faith in Jesus is just for bonus points. “Love” somehow obligates God to treat us not only better than we deserve (by not punishing us) but by giving us keys to the Kingdom.

    God said,

    (Deut. 7:6-8 ESV) 6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

    The Israelites were God’s chosen people “out of all the people who are on the face of the earth.” Therefore, everyone else was not God’s chosen people.

    The Good News that came with Jesus is (among other things) that God has granted the Gentiles repentance unto salvation (Acts 11:18). We are invited in to join the elect. But before then, the elect was Israel and no one else.

    But God is a God of mercy, and so although he could have punished the Gentiles for their sins — with perfect fairness — he chose to overlook their sins and not punish them — and yet because of their sins, “death reigned.” They died for all eternity — painlessly.

    But this changed, as Paul announced on Mars Hill.

  10. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    PS — (Acts 17:30-31 ESV) 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

    So maybe I’m a terrible, awful person for seeing things this way, but I’m not just making this up for fun. It’s how I read the text — and it’s perfectly consistent with the doctrine of election, which we Arminian Protestants want to ignore but which is taught by Paul (and the Torah and the Prophets). It’s fits very well with covenant theology. It fits Romans 1 – 11 very well. It fits Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill. And it even fits John the Baptist’s preaching. So it has a certain appeal in holding it all together.

    But I’ve been wrong before. I could be wrong this time. But if I’m wrong, it’s not because I fail to see God as a God of love. I just don’t think I deserve any of that love. And that makes sense of Paul’s faith/works writings.

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Regarding Cain’s sacrifice, the Law refers to sacrifices of the harvest — grain sacrifices, that sort of thing. No reason to imagine that God wasn’t pleased with plant life as a sacrifice earlier.

    The Hebrews writer says,

    (Heb. 11:4 ESV) 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

    “By faith” does not mean “by carefully following the instructions correctly.” That’s the method of paganism. Rather,

    (Heb. 11:13-15 ESV) 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.

    Just as Abraham’s faith was trust that God would keep his promises to him, so “faith” in Heb 11 is faith that God will keep his promises regarding a future they would not live to see. Hence, Abel’s sacrifice was accepted because he trusted God as Abraham would much later. He had faith — and his faith was counted as righteousness, making his sacrifice acceptable.

  12. Randy says:

    Jay, I agree. It is not that God was “displeased” with Cain’s. However, he was more pleased with Abel’s.

    The text gives ADJECTIVES that characterize Abel’s offering that reveal the difference between his and Cain’s.

  13. Christopher says:

    “But before then, the elect was Israel and no one else.”


    I am not sure of the validity of your argument, intriguing as it may seem. There is, as far as I know, no indication that (for instance) the Ninevites or the Queen of Sheba ever became Jews. Yet Jesus declared they would stand up in the judgement of Jews in the Lord’s time and condemn them. They obviously believed in the same God Israel did and acted (in some fashion) accordingly. But they did not enter into Israel’s covenant relationship with God (which of course was possible). Neither did Naaman. How do you square the statement I quoted above with these Biblical facts? Do you mean Israel in both a literal and figurative sense?

  14. Dwight says:

    I have heard many lessons on that Cain’s sacrifice wasn’t according to God’s will and that grain wasn’t what God wanted, but that wasn’t it and if so, then it is not recorded what God wanted Cain and Abel to sacrifice.
    Jay you are correct in that God did accept and command grain offerings. Able gave by faith and desire, but Cain did not. But in either case Cain did not sin either, but wasn’t looked on with favor. Cain sinned when he killed his brother.

  15. Monty says:

    God favored Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s. Cain was IMHO already jealous of his little brother. His actions were evil. God favoring Abel’s sacrifice only fueled his despising of his brother. God tried to intervene and counsel him. He refused to listen. He carried out what was already in his heart. It didn’t start at the time of the sacrificing but escalated there.

  16. Dwight says:

    Ummm, some pretty nifty profiling there Monty. I’m not sure his actions were evil until he killed his brother, but his heart was eaten up with jealousy, then hatred that is for sure and this led to sin. At least that is how God set the order as in “sin lies at your door”. It is just a reminder that often these things happen in subtle to not-so-subtle steps and they always emanate from within.

  17. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher wrote,

    There is, as far as I know, no indication that (for instance) the Ninevites or the Queen of Sheba ever became Jews. Yet Jesus declared they would stand up in the judgement of Jews in the Lord’s time and condemn them.

    Interesting argument. What do you make of —

    (Lk. 10:10-15 ESV) 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. 13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.

    Does Jesus mean that Sodom and Gomorrah are saved? It sounds a lot like —

    (Lk. 11:29-32 ESV) 29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

    Jesus is not declaring any of these people saved. Rather, his rabbinic rhetoric is from the greater to the lesser (I forget the Hebrew term. Lawyers say “a fortiori“), that is, if the Ninevites could repent at the preaching of Jonah, surely these Jews (JEWS! SONS OF ABRAHAM!) should repent at the preaching of Jesus (SON OF GOD! NOT JUST A PROPHET!). If the Queen of the South could travel to find Solomon (a mere man with the Spirit), how far should these Jewish communities be willing to go to see GOD IN THE FLESH?

    Therefore, Jesus judges their hearts hard with the consequences he promises. He is not saying that therefore the Sodomites are saved, even though he says they would have repented sooner than these Jewish towns.

    “More bearable” on the Day of Judgment refers to degrees of punishment, not that these cities would be saved. Nothing in Jonah (or history) suggests that Nineveh chose to worship God or that the Queen of Sheba worshiped God after she left Solomon.

    More intriguing is Naaman — who specifically became a worshiper of God even though not circumcised or otherwise a follower of Torah. But he had faith in God — and God never, ever turns away anyone with penitent faith.

  18. Christopher says:


    I have only a passing knowledge of Koine Greek so cannot really compare these two passages in their original language, but I do have two degrees in English and am fairly good at comprehending the meaning of textual passages in that language. And I don’t really see that these two passages are comparable in the way you do. Let me explain why.

    On the one hand, with respect to the people of Sodom, it seems clear that 1) they are going to endure punishment on Judgment Day and 2) they did not repent of their wickedness (I have always thought it astounding that all of the men gathered outside Lot’s house could be simultaneously blinded and not conclude that something divine was the cause). By contrast, with respect to the Queen of the south, Ninevites and Naaman, it seems clear that 1) they believed in the God of Israel (as evidenced by their actions – seeking understanding or healing from God or repenting) and 2) they were going to stand up to condemn others (there is no mention of them being punished as with the Sodomites).

    Unless I misunderstood you, I thought you were proposing that non-Israelites before the time of Christ would receive no punishment but simply be annihilated. So, if I got that right, that would mean that the Queen of the south and the Ninevites would stand up to condemn others before being annihilated – which just seems very peculiar (almost perverse) to me. I just think it more plausible that we shall find them among the Elect, that even people who were not Jews before Christ will be given the gift of eternal life.

    I agree with what you said about Naaman. He was a remarkable man, to have risen to his rank and command the respect he did afflicted with leprosy. And then to believe what many of his countrymen might have considered a silly legend, and that from the lips of a foreign maid servant – well, I guess that shows he wasn’t buying any of false religions being spawned by Satan. He clearly had some kind of nascent faith in the one true God.

    My two cents worth, anyway. Great blog, incidentally.

  19. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    I’m up with insomnia from a steroid shot for tendinitis received earlier today. We’ll see how I do this late.

    Again, back to the text —

    (Matt. 12:41 ESV) 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

    A couple of observations —

    * Jesus does not say they’ll be saved.
    * Nothing in Jonah suggests that they became followers of God.
    * They repented, but they repented in response to a threat of military overthrow, not a promise of eternal salvation. They weren’t called to turn toward God but to give up their barbarous ways.

    (Jon. 3:7-8 ESV) 7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.

    So I see nothing here that promises the pagans of Nineveh eternal bliss in the arms of Jesus.

    Luke’s versions is not materially different from Matthew’s —

    (Lk. 11:30-32 ESV) 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

    Regarding the Queen of the South, Luke (quoted above) and Matthew are very similar —

    (Matt. 12:42 ESV) 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

    * All the points regarding Nineveh apply with equal force. Nothing in 1 Kings suggests that she converted or came to faith. In fact, the case is weaker than for Nineveh.

    So what’s left is Jesus’s statement that they’d be present at Judgment, condemning others. This strikes me as obvious metaphor. I mean, God does the condemning. Or we condemn ourselves. We aren’t condemned by pagans from the ancient past. It’s figure of speech (taken from intertestamental literature (NICNT) making the point that the Jews did less in response to the presence of GOD HIMSELF, as GOD THE SON, in their very presence, than these people did. Again, it’s an argument that essentially proceeds: If the Queen of the South is condemned, then these Jews will surely be condemned, for they had even greater opportunity to respond to one greater than a mere prophet or king. In fact, the logic kind of requires that the Ninevites and QOS be condemned.

    I agree with you that I shouldn’t have spoken in terms of relative punishments as I did. But there will be relative punishments. The Ninevites will cease to exist, painlessly. The Jewish cities who reject Jesus will be damned and punished for their sins — justly. They suffer a worse fate than the pagans. In fact, if we accept at least some of what NT Wright says about this passage, Jesus was also thinking of the horrors of the destruction of the temple and the defeat of the Jewish rebellion in 70 AD — which for non-Christian Jews was an unspeakable period of suffering. (If you’ve not read Josephus’s account, you should. It’s a free download now.) And these punishments are remarkably parallel with the punishments threatened in Lev 26 and Deu 27-29 — earthly punishments. Wright argues that the Christians, having been warned by Jesus, fled in time to escape the worst of it. The Jews stayed and were brutally put down. Hence, while Nineveh suffered no earthly punishment due to its repentance, the Jews who rejected Jesus will pay dearly for their refusal to repent — in this life and in the next life.

    Most commentaries don’t address the metaphor, but Calvin does —

    Whether the men of Nineveh were truly and perfectly turned to God I judge it unnecessary to inquire. It is enough for the present purpose that they were so deeply affected by the teaching of Jonah, as to have their minds directed to repentance.

    The word condemn relates not to the persons, but to the fact itself, and the example which it yields.

    John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 2:96.

    In short, John Calvin sees the language as figurative — the actions of the QOS and Ninevites are what really condemn the Jews who rejected Jesus despite seeing miracles and talking to him.

    So, if anything, these passages seem to support my theory. But I could have argued the case better, but I was in a hurry to go watch the Voice with my wife. My apologies.

  20. Dwight says:

    A thought: If Nineveh was going to be damned anyway, then what is the point of them repenting to God as it would have done them no good, except that God wouldn’t have destroyed them at that time, which might have been the point. Since they knew about God and his mercy and his judgment it only makes sense that they would receive it. But then again they not only repented of their sins, but they offered sacrifices to God, which meant they were appealing to God. Now were they “saved”, no, but then again neither were the Jews, in the final inspection. Christ had to come. The Jews had it better because they were God’s chosen people, but they still sinned, which would have placed them on the same level as those around them, possibly worse since they were very aware of God will.

  21. Monty says:


    1 John 3:12 says, ” And why did he murder him? Because his own actions(plural) were evil and his brother’s were righteous. ” If you stick with assuming Cain only was bad from the murder of his brother forward then you miss the motivation or explanation given by John as was revealed through the Holy Spirit for the “why” . Why did Cain murder his brother, because he was a wrong doer. His action(s) were evil. Not the one action of committing murder. But actions plural. Cain wasn’t a bad guy because of the one big evil dastardly act but he was bad because he did not love his brother(or sister). 1 John 3:10. The world (those still in the bonds of sin and Satan) will hate you John says, just as Cain hated his brother because his deeds were evil and Abel’s were good. That’s the context. A good guy didn’t murder his brother. A bad guy did.

  22. Randy says:

    Cain’s offering of grain does not appear to me to be what was evil, rather the motivation behind the offering. His offering of “some” appears to me to be in sharp contrast to Abel’s offering of the best of his best. Abel’s offering said “God I trust you for the future.” I believe Cain made an offering that his heart wasn’t in.

  23. Christopher says:


    If you go back to my original post in response to your article, you will see that I quoted this statement from one of your follow-up posts:

    “But before then, the elect was Israel and no one else.”

    Here you make an absolute declarative statement. Logically, if I can adduce one true counter example, I will have invalidated your claim. Hence the examples I brought up of the Ninevites, the Queen of the south and Naaman. I could have mentioned others with whom God had exceptional interaction, such as Nebuchadnezzar and the Widow of Zarapeth (mentioned by Jesus himself, along with Naaman, as examples of those who had received healing from God instead of the Israelites). In the three examples of which I spoke before, it is indisputable that these individuals all had a faith in God and acted upon it. You are right in saying that there is no explicit claim that any of these people will be saved in the Scriptures. But there is not such an explicit claim for most individuals mentioned in the Bible. There are mainly general claims that are deductively applied to individuals (as far as is possible). The best possible interpretation of the Scriptures is often the one supported by a preponderance of evidence. We frequently lack explicit statements to this or that effect. Just because Jesus did not declare people from the past “saved” does not, in and of itself, logically mean they were not.

    I guess what you are saying – even though you seem in one of your posts to hedge a bit on Naaman – is that because they did not become Jews (and put themselves under the Law), they will not be saved. I have certainly thought that in the past, with the idea of Israel being a kind of precursor to the Church. But that gets you back to the idea that God makes no exceptions depending upon the circumstances and with no regard to one’s heart (the very thing God is said to judge). And it raises again the question of why, then, did Jesus (in explaining how David was righteous even though he violated the law) say the law was made for man, not man for the law?

    Finally, we find this said by John:

    “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9, NIV)

    I don’t see any qualification in this statement. According to your view, this means every nation, tribe, people and language after Christ. That is either true or it is not – there can be no middle ground.

    P.S. I saw that you cited Calvin. I am not a big fan of his, less for his fatalistic view of election than for his complicity in the execution of some people. Do you really regard him as a “brother”?

  24. Dwight says:

    Monty, I was only going by what God said to Cain in regards to “does not sin lie at your door” and the fact he doesn’t mention that he was sinning before that. And I agree a bad guy did murder his brother. Now in I John 3:12 the “acts” or “works” are “ergon” (from which we ergonomics), which tends towards occupation or business. Now does this mean the sacrifice or his life in general. I would think the latter. So my argument is that yes Cain was a bad dude, but the sacrifice wasn’t necessarily done in the wrong way, but was rather as noted in Heb. not done out of faith towards God. It might have had to do with the fact he wasn’t giving much or the best, but I doubt, as many try to argue, that the problem was with it being grain as opposed to meat, unless I missed God’s command towards that versus the other.
    I know of many who go to church and see this as a sacrifice of time towards God and yet don’t include God in their life, which is the majority of time. I’m not sure God respects the token time.
    The fact is that God rejecting Cain’s offering might have had less to do with the offering and more to do with Cain in general and the way he live his life towards God.
    I am reminded of “the prayer of a righteous man avails much”, so the worship of a non-righteous person probably won’t get respect.
    Just a thought.

  25. Dwight says:

    If you had to be part of Israel or a Jew under the law to be under God or his mercy or in his sight, then what does that do to those who came before the nation was established. A good example would be Enoch who walked with God and God took Him. Took him where? I assume to heaven, but I could be wrong.
    According to Rom.4 Abraham was justified not because of his circumcision, because he wasn’t, but because of his faith.
    I Cor.7:19 seems to indicate that “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” so we are back to faith.
    Being of the circumcision didn’t endear you to God, but being Godly did.
    Now in John Jesus does say to the Samaritin woman, “You worship what you do not know, but we worship what we do know, because salvation is of the Jews.”
    I’m not sure Jesus was necessarily slamming their worship to God, but rather that they weren’t the Jews, even if they tried to be a parallel nation, as Jesus came through the Jews.

  26. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    It was the sailors who sacrificed to God, not the Ninevites. They repented and mourned in response to God’s threat of military defeat should they not repent.

    (Jon. 3:10 ESV) 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

    God did not promise salvation in the afterlife, nor did he give it. He simply didn’t allow them to be destroyed by a greater army — which I’m sure pleased Nineveh very much. They would not want to suffer as they’d made others suffer.

    The Jews had greater accountability because of the Law, Paul says, but where sin increase, grace abounded. God gave grace to his chosen people to help them deal with the burden of the Law.

    (Rom. 5:20-21 ESV) 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

  27. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Do I regard Calvin as a “brother”? Haven’t given it much thought as I doubt God will be asking my opinion.

    I’m aware of his complicity with the execution of Servetus. Not nearly as black a mark as Luther’s complicity with the repression of the Peasant’s Rebellion. Many thousands died.

    I disagree with his theology, but who could deny that he believed in Jesus and tried to follow him? His office was an odd blend of church and state that we don’t see in this country (nor many other places). Not many preachers are involved in death penalty cases, but plenty preach in favor of the death penalty. So I’m not inclined to damn him. Just disagree with him.

    Frankly, I’m not in the habit of judging the salvation of the authors of commentaries I read. Who has time or ability to make such judgments? If the commentary shows the man’s heart to be far from Jesus, I don’t use it. But using a commentary hardly means I’ve judged his soul. I could not take on such a burden.

    You would do well to read some of Calvin. You’ll find many roots of the 20th Century Churches of Christ there in nascent form — but you’ll also find some moments of brilliant insight. He was a great student of scripture despite my theological disagreements with him. Not bad for a guy less than a generation removed from Medieval Catholicism. Often cited by modern commentaries even by non-Calvinists. Pick up diamonds wherever they may lay.

    I agree with Alexander Campbell who said we should not reject someone as a brother even if he disagrees with us on all five points of the Synod of Dordt (TULIP Calvinism). I’m sure Campbell would have welcomed Calvin with open arms — and then argued long and lovingly over all five points.

  28. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Pretty sure that the Bible refers to no one as “chosen” or “elect” as God’s people prior to Jesus — other than Israel. I don’t apologize for that, and in most contexts, that statement would not be the least controversial. If I’m wrong, show me the verses where someone else is described as elect of God.

    Now, after Jesus, the Gentiles are invited in to join the elect, and only those with faith in Jesus are elect. Israel was redefined, as Paul described in Rom 11 — and Eph 1 – 3.

    There is not the least evidence that the Ninevites had saving faith in God — only that he scared them into repenting so that he’d not bring a military disaster on them. Jesus said nothing to the contrary. You’re reading things into the text that just aren’t there — such as the expectation of Nineveh that God would provide a blessed afterlife (not taught in Jonah) and that Jonah promised such a thing. The text is to the contrary.

    (Jon. 3:10-4:1 ESV) 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

    That passage does not say that Nineveh went to heaven when they died. Nor are they said to have continued to honor God after this event. it’s just not there.

    Again, there is nothing about the Queen of the South or the widow of Zarepeth making them elect, chosen, or promised a blessed afterlife.

    On the other hand, Naaman actually followed God. He came to God with penitence and faith — and he served God after the story. We have real evidence as to Naaman’s relationship with God.

    Now, you seem to assume that I use “elect” in a Calvinistic sense, but I use it in a OT sense — which is how Paul uses it. Only the Jews are elect. That doesn’t mean that only the Jews could be saved — but it means that the Jews enjoyed a relationship and opportunity no one else had. The likelihood of a non-Jew entering into saving relationship with God pre-Jesus was remote — rare. Not impossible (as shown by Melchizedek and likely Naaman) but rare. And as a result of faith and penitence — and not due to election.

    So the better question, far better than speculating about Nineveh, is to ask what the meaning of election is. Investigate the question. It’s obviously a biblical doctrine. Consider —

    (Lk. 18:6-8 ESV) 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

    (Rom. 8:33 ESV) 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

    (Rom. 9:10-16 ESV) 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad– in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls– 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy

    (Tit. 1:1-3 ESV) Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

    (2 Pet. 1:10 ESV) 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

    There really is a doctrine of election. And it’s not the TULIP version. And yet we insist on contenting ourselves with merely disproving Calvin and not then figuring out what it really does mean. But Jesus, Paul, and Peter all think some people are elect and some are not. Why?

    Well, it goes back to —

    (Gen. 18:19 ESV) For I have chosen him [Abraham], that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

    Abraham and his descendants were God’s chosen people. Elect.

    (Deut. 7:6 ESV) “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”

    And exclusively so. (Did I say “saved”? No, that would be Calvinism. Chosen.)

    (Ps. 33:12-15 ESV) 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! 13 The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; 14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, 15 he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.

    God sees all the nations, but he has chosen on the Jews (until the gospel).

    (Ps. 105:42-45 ESV) 42 For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant. 43 So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing. 44 And he gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil, 45 that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the LORD!

    (Ps. 135:1-4 ESV) Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD, 2 who stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God! 3 Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant! 4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession

    So maybe that point is made.

    But not all Jews went to heaven when they died. Some were damned. Some were saved. But God’s special relationship was only with Israel. They are the ones called “sons of God.” They are his treasured possession. They are his bride.

    Does that mean that the Gentiles were out of luck? Well, pretty much. Not a one was among the elect — unless he or she somehow joined with Israel, as did Rahab and Ruth. Might a Gentiles outside of Israel find salvation? Melchizedek obviously did. Naaman would seem have done so. But where are their descendants today? They left no nation or heritage to God — unlike Israel. Despite Israel’s many sins and rebellions, God has preserved them as a nation against all odds. They are the elect NATION.

    Election, you see, is national and covenantal — not individual. Israel is God’s elect nation, but sometimes only a remnant is saved — and rest lost — because of their sins. But God preserves the nation and people as a nation and a people and honors his covenant promises to them.

    And this leads to the church — the spiritual Israel. Which is faithful, ancestral Israel — those with faith in Jesus — with faithful Gentiles grafted in. And this did not happen until Jesus.

    Eph 3 is quite clear on this point —

    (Eph. 3:1-13 ESV) For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles– 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

    Pretty plainly, Paul says the fact that the Gentiles would become fellow heirs through Jesus and the gospel was a “mystery” that “was no made known to the sons of men in other generations.” That is, until Jesus, the Gentiles were not told that would one day be added as “heirs.” “Heirs” is Torah language for Israel.

    Indeed, Paul’s point is that the rival gods of other nations (“rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”) learned about God’s hidden plan “through the church.” The inclusion of the Gentiles into the church, defeating the claims of rival gods over the Gentiles, is the mystery hidden for ages! HIDDEN and therefore not revealed.

    Again, we see the rare Gentile saved in the OT — but they were not elect until they came to God with faith and penitence. God never turns away someone who comes to him with faith and penitence — but God chose Israel to have the Law and the Prophets and to have every opportunity to come to him with faith and penitence — a blessing the Gentiles did not have.

    Now, this is why Calvin is wrong to see election as being about perseverance and predestination. It’s about being like Israel — chosen by God to hear the gospel and have the opportunity to believe, but it does not guaranty salvation — no more than every Jew was pleasing to God. But every Jew was among the elect — the nation was elect, except for those who rebelled and were no longer elect.

    So when Peter refers to the church as God’s “elect,” he’s saying that the church is now God’s bride, his children, his heritage, his treasured possession, and his covenant people. And “elect” has taken on new shades of meaning now that it refers to people of faith rather than people descended from Abraham — but it’s not nearly as radically disconnected from the OT as we like to think — and yet neither is it quite the same.

    In the NT, “elect” takes on the meaning of “saved” or something very close to it — whereas the OT meaning is different. But “elect” has been redefined. The boundaries have been redrawn. The nation is now the Kingdom — and the Kingdom consists solely of people loyal to the King — which was not so in the OT.

    In short, you have to both think in OT terms but also think of how Jesus changes things — it’s a dynamic. And we see in the NT the story of the transformation.

    (Eph. 1:11-16 ESV) 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. 15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,

    Just so, “inheritance” is no longer merely the Promised Land. It’s the new heavens and new earth — the entire world but the entire world redeemed. God’s predestination is the culmination of his plan to reveal the mystery that the Gentiles would receive an inheritance as well — making them co-heirs with the faithful Jews, and sons of God, because only sons inherit (Gal 3:26-28). “We who were the first to hope in Christ” are the faithful Jews. “you also” are the faithful Gentiles. Paul is exulting in God admitting the Gentiles into the inheritance — proved by their receipt of the Spirit, their faith and their love.

    Thus, election is redefined. It’s still about inheritance and covenant promises and even Abraham — but the Kingdom is spiritualized — that is, defined by the presence of the Spirit, not the boundaries drawn on the ground or who your ancestors are.

    But in the OT, it was different.

    And in the OT, the Jews were elect. No one else was. But “elect” did not mean “saved” in the OT. Not all those chosen by God were saved. Many — nearly all — died in the desert.

  29. Christopher says:


    My opinion of Calvin has less to do with condemning him than sizing him up as someone worth listening to, with what Jesus said in mind:

    “He [the good shepherd] calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:3-5, NIV)

    Jesus would never have participated in the execution of dissenters or “licentious” people. I feel certain Saul would have done that, but not Paul. We, of course, commit all sorts of sin after confessing Jesus as Lord. But being essentially an accomplice to murder and feeling justified afterward (I am not aware of him ever confessing and repenting of this sin) makes him, to my mind, a bad shepherd. Maybe that accounts for why his theology is so warped in some ways. I personally consider the Anabaptists to be people far more after God’s heart than famous “reformers” like Calvin, Luther and Zwingli. And they were persecuted to their death by the likes of these men.

    I have read some of Calvin’s writings and recognize that he had a great mind. And I understand his attraction to many on that account. And I can well understand overlooking defects in a man’s behavior or beliefs when enamored of his writings. For instance, I love Moses Lard’s commentary on Romans but am startled by the harsh and judgmental view he held of those who made use of instrumental music in worship (of course, he wasn’t advocating anyone be executed for this “sin”). The whole idea that unless something is sanctioned in the New Testament, it must not be practiced is (to me) illogical. But that’s another issue… 😉

  30. Christopher says:


    I think you have just, for the most part, settled our difference – by putting your finger on its crux:

    “Now, you seem to assume that I use “elect” in a Calvinistic sense, but I use it in a OT sense — which is how Paul uses it. Only the Jews are elect. That doesn’t mean that only the Jews could be saved — but it means that the Jews enjoyed a relationship and opportunity no one else had.”

    I did assume that (perhaps your allusions to Calvin colored my thinking). We are in agreement, then. Thanks for the lengthy exposition. We may disagree as to what non-Israelites might be found in heaven, but my guess is that we will both be surprised.

  31. Dwight says:

    True, it was the sailors who sacrificed to God, although I don’t doubt the Ninevites probably did as well, but my point was that while the Jews were under God, they were not called saved either and they did just as many bad things as the other nations around them. Their chosen status didn’t save or condemn them, although they should have known better as opposed to the other nations who did not have the Law. The only reason he didn’t destroy them was that he had made a promise and God is good to his promise, even when Israel failed in keeping theirs.
    I go back and forth about whether I would accept Calvin as a brother as that he led people away from God accepting or rejecting people on the basis of whether they sin or not.
    When grace and mercy is blind it is not really grace and mercy, but rather just a just a choice that is set in stone from the beginning.

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