Foundations of the Faith
the elementary teachings in Hebrews 6
that prepare disciples in Yeshua to move on to maturity
Eternal Judgment / Judgment of the Age
The word most translations render as "eternal" in relation to "judgment" is actually an adjective based on the Greek word "eon", or age, which is the New Testament translation for the Hebrew word "olam", meaning "as long as the world lasts". Therefore, the phrase "eternal judgment" more accurately means "judgment of the world" and/or "judgment of the age".
While studying this Foundation of Faith, we need to keep the above translation gap in mind, which has led to some errors in our understanding. The Hebrew and Greek words which are translated as "forever" do not mean "without end". This is supported by a number of different ages (or worlds) referred to in the Scriptures, telling us that they have a beginning and an end.
There were previous ages. "To make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in G-d." There are also several ages to come. "In order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Messiah Yeshua. "
There will even be collections or "ages" of ages, usually translated as "for ever and ever" or "forevermore". "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign for [the ages of the ages]." "They [the devil, the beast and the false prophet] will be tormented day and night for [the ages of the ages]."
More immediate for us are this present age and the age to come. Yeshua referred to both ages in teaching His disciples: "No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for Me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age… and in the age to come, eternal life." Regarding judgment He said, "Anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."
Besides judgment, the close of this age/world will bring rewards that continue into the coming age. "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." "No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come, eternal life [literally: life of the age]."
Different Degrees of "Eternal"
The phrases normally translated as "eternal life" are single-age rewards, both in Hebrew ("world-life" - hayei olam) and in Greek ("age-life" - zoen ionion). This is significant, because both languages have stronger "forever" expressions, which could have been used if multiple worlds or ages were involved.
We saw some examples above in the New Covenant, where eternal life and kingdoms will last "ages of the ages". In the Hebrew Scriptures, "olamim" is likewise an undefined number of worlds or ages: "But Israel will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting [literally, multi-age] salvation." This verse continues with an even stronger form, "ad-olamei ad", which expresses endless addition: "You will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting [until ages of until...]." A more common phrase meaning the same thing is "le-olam va-ed": "The LORD shall reign for ever and ever [for an age and until...]." Then there is "kol olamim", covering every possible age: "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom [a kingdom of all ages]." Similarly, Greek has "pantas tois ionas": "To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Yeshua the Messiah our Lord, before all ages, now and forever [into all the ages]! Amen."
Yeshua taught us that G-d is faithful to fulfill even the smallest parts of the Hebrew Scriptures: "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." He declared that His own words would last even longer: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away." We should therefore pay attention to the differences expressed in these "forever" words.
Since the reward of "eternal life" for giving up worldly assets for the kingdom of G-d will endure for just one world or age, this implies that such deeds are judged less precious than others which will be rewarded with multi-age "eternal life". A similar lifespan (one age) is ascribed to other "forever" things which are now in force: the Law and the Prophets, the unique identity and calling of the sons of Jacob, Israel's title to the Promised Land, the priesthood of Aaron, the royal line of David, and the present creation. These not only cease at the end of this age, they are also limited to the earthly realm.
At the other extreme is the "eternal life" of the risen Yeshua, who declared, "Behold, I am alive [for the ages of the ages]!" This is the full measure of what we are called to inherit as the Bride. "And they [the New Jerusalem] will reign [for the ages of the ages]."
Each Age Will Be Judged
Earlier we saw that there is more than one future age, and even "ages" of ages. It follows that the next "age to come" will also have an end, just as this present age does. In light of this long view of eternity, when Yeshua states that speaking against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this age or the next, He implies that forgiveness for this sin may become possible after "the age to come" has ended.
If there is new forgiveness available after the age to come, it requires that additional judgments will take place in the ages that follow. This is also supported by the declaration: "Your throne, O G-d, will last for [an age and until...], a scepter of justice will be the scepter of Your kingdom. "
The Saints as Judges
The Lord's servants are destined to participate in the judgment of this world/age. In fact, we should already be exercising and practicing our judgment skills in small ways. "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? " This authority will be confirmed and extended beyond the present age, as announced by Daniel: "But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever [until the age] — yes, for ever and ever [and until the age of ages]."
All authority to judge and rule in every age is found in the Lord. "And He has given [the Son] authority to judge because He is the Son of Man." "He raised [Messiah] from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." "And [Messiah] will reign for [the ages of the ages]."
We who walk in faith have already been joined to Him in His position of authority: "God raised us up with Messiah and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Messiah Yeshua". We are therefore already capable of judging things related to this age in Him."I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Yeshua and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Yeshua is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord."
We also ought to be judging ourselves, so as to prevent our being judged by the Lord. "That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world." If we are already judging ourselves in the Lord, then we are ready to judge others. "First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."
Criteria for Self-Judgment
As we saw in the previous Foundation lesson, we are judged faithful only through union with Him in His death and resurrection, and union with Him as He lives His life through us. It is not enough to simply follow Him; in the parable of the Ten Virgins, all ten waited for the Bridegroom, but only five were "known" by Him. It is not enough to leave all to follow Him. His disciples who sacrifice earthly comforts for Him, but do not exhibit His love, will lose even the minor reward of next-age life."We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death." Even the ultimate sacrifice of physically dying for Him will not be judged worthy of reward when love is lacking. "If I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing." Loving Him is proven by obeying Him. "Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me."
A helpful guide is provided in this series for identifying sins that Scripture says will cost us our place in the kingdom of G-d. If we judge ourselves falling short in any of these things, we may "draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
Foundations of Faith: Conclusion
It will be clear by now that even though these truths are called "elementary" by the writer to the Hebrews, they go deeper than most modern discipleship courses. Yet we cannot "go on to maturity" as he exhorts us, unless these foundations are firmly in place.
Whether a baby believer or a veteran warrior, the principles for applying these lessons are the same. It is G-d's power that will work His truth into our being. Our faithfulness to obey that truth will restore us to to a healthy, safe foundation of faith/faithfulness, so that we can restore others.
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Messiah from the dead."
Scripture references, in the order that they appear:
Exodus 15:18 (NASB)
1 Corinthians 6:2-3
1 Corinthians 5:3-5
1 Corinthians 11:30-32
1 John 3:14
1 Corinthians 13:3 (NASB)
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