Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
- I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. – Ezekiel 34:16
- Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. – Psalm 95:6-7
- And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. – Ephesians 1:22-23
- “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40
“…as you did unto the least of these…”
In the previous post we discussed the Will of God, as revealed through his Son, the Word, Yeshua the Annointed:
- It is the will of God that none of all things shall be lost. (Jn 6:39)
- It is the will that everyone who considers the meaning of the Son, and trusts absolutely in the same, shall live the Life of Ages and will be raised up on the last day. (Jn 6:40)
Through the life and teachings Yeshua the Anointed, the Word, the Bread, and the Way of God, we can learn the “how” of restoring all things to God.
We cannot restore through elementary and meaningless evangelism. (“Does your life suck now? Here’s a bible.”)
We cannot restore through threats or force. (The Inquisition comes to mind…)
We must, as the brothers and sisters of God, work to aid a restoration of “all things” in the manner and form revealed to us through Yeshua.
- A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34
- So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. – Mt 7:12
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. – Mark 12:30
- Love your neighbor as yourself. – Mark 12:31
Living in this Way, emulating the life and love of Yeshua, is what he called The Life of The Ages.
The Life of The Ages
The first problem is with the modern English translation of “aion / αἰών”, which all English bibles translate as “eternal”. In fact, “aion” is the root of our word “eon” which we all understand as a finite – albeit very long – period of time. An “eon” is not infinite. Therefore, I often puzzle why our modern bibles insist that the correct meaning is “eternal”. (Actually, the only English bible I’ve found that stays faithful to the meaning of the Greek is Young’s Literal Translation.)
Moreover, Yeshua often uses “zōēn aiōnion” in the present tense, which implies this is not simply a “reward” at some future period, but a state of being, a way of life in the here and now.
- ‘Verily, verily, I say to you — He who is hearing my word, and is believing Him who sent me, hath life age-during, and to judgment he doth not come, but hath passed out of the death to the life.” Jn 5:24
- ‘Verily, verily, I say to you, He who is believing in me, hath life age-during; – Jn 6:47
From The HELPS™ Word Studies:
(aiṓnios) does not focus on the future per se, but rather on the quality of the age (aiṓn) it relates to. Thus believers live in “eternal life” right now, experiencing this quality of God’s life now as a present possession.
(Note the Gk present tense of having eternal life in Jn 3:36, 5:24, 6:47; cf. Ro 6:23.)]
And so we peel back a further layer of the grime of biased interpretation throughout the history of the bible: the future reward of “eternal life” now regains its tranformative truth as a present way of life!
And what does the Life of Ages look like? Here’s an example:
- You feed the hungry.
- You give something to drink to the thirsty.
- You welcome strangers into your home.
- You give clothing to those that are in want.
- You tend to the sick and dying.
- You visit the guilty in prison.
You don’t do these things only for the “deserving”, for the “righteous”, for the “strong of faith” – you do these things for the least among us, the weak of faith, the sinners, and the undeserving.
It is this selfless devotion to the “least among us” that is the key to the restoration of all things to God. And not everyone can do such things for others. Not everyone wants to.
The Fate of the Goats
This is why Yeshua tells us “The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats” in Matthew 25: to warn us, and to inspire us.
- He reveals to us all that there is a point to all of this: The Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven.
- He reveals to us that there will eventually be a Day of Judgement where all nations will be judged by their performance regarding the Commandments of Love.
- Those that will be judged “righteous” – the sheep, were those that loved and cared for the least among us, and became partners in God’s restoration of all things.
- The “sheep” receive God’s inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for us since the creation of the world.
- Those that will be judged “unrighteous” – the goats – were those who didn’t love or care for the least among us. They held close to their own, and loved only those that loved them.
- The “goats” (which will be most of us… let’s be honest here) will receive a sentence of “kolasis aiōnion/κόλασις αἰώνιον“.
Overwhelmingly, modern bibles interpret “kolasis aiōnion” as “eternal or everlasting punishment”. But as we have already determined that “eternal” is not a faithful translation of “aiōnion“, what are the odds that “torment or punishment” is not a faithful interpretation of “kolasis” as well? Very good, in fact.
It turns out, that according to the usage of “kolasis” by Plato, Aristotle and Clement of Alexandria, “kolasis” meant a corrective, or redemptive process. In fact, in the original extra-biblical Greek, “kolasis” meant “to prune”. By pruning, the gardener cuts away what is bad, old, diseased or dead from a plant or tree in hope that the plant will then grow even stronger and more fruitful in the future. Would anyone describe the pruning of flowers as punishment? I think not. It is only for the health of the plant that it is pruned.
From William Barclay’s book ‘The Apostle’s Creed“:
The word for punishment is kolasis. This word was originally a gardening word, and its original meaning was pruning trees. In Greek there are two words for punishment, timoria and kolasis, and there is a quite definite distinction between them. Aristotle defines the difference; kolasis is for the sake of the one who suffers it; timoria is for the sake of the one who inflicts it (Rhetoric 1.1 0). Plato says that no one punishes (kolazei) a wrong-doer simply because he has done wrong – that would be to take unreasonable vengeance (timoreitai). We punish (kolazei) a wrong-doer in order that he may not do wrong again (Protagoras 323 E). Clement of Alexandria (Stromateis 4.14; 7.16) defines kolasis as pure discipline, and timoria as the return of evil for evil. Aulus Gellius says that kolasis is given that a man may be corrected; timoria is given that dignity and authority may be vindicated (The Attic Nights 7.14). The difference is quite dear in Greek and it is always observed. Timoria is retributive punishment; kolasis is remedial discipline. Kolasis is always given to amend and to cure.
Kolasis is a pruning, a disciplining process intended to cure. The Greek hearers of Yeshua’s words would have understood this.
It cures us of our greed, our selfishness, our callousness, our apathy, our anger, our lust… what could you use some of God’s kolasis for right now?
That’s right, I mean currently: right now. God’s redemptive, corrective discipline is not limited only to The Day of Judgement, it can happen in your life right now.
Kolasis in the now
Some will read these words and sneer, “This is insane. Who could see love in a God that would purposefully inflict fear or pain?”
Good point. But I guess my challenge back would be: ever played a sport?
For those that have played some kind of sport, when your coaches put you through one of the more horrifying conditioning drills (gassers, fart-licks, wind sprints, up-downs, wall-mothers, etc.), was it to punish or to improve? They are painful, but are they punishment? Is the coach a sadist for inflicting such suffering on his athletes? No. They are only meant to improve some aspect of the athlete’s abilities, especially the tolerance for pain and conditioning!
Take the circle drill in football, where one player stands in the middle of a circle of his teammates, and the other players take turns running out and hitting him as hard as they can. This could definitely be viewed as punishment and as sadistic by some, but for those of us who went through it we can tell you that you learn to take a hit, and to give one back… real quick.
Or the sparring found in MMA (mixed martial arts), where real punches, real kicks, real blood and real bruises are found. It this sadism, or a vital part of training for the sport?
As a former athlete (and recovering fat-boy), I can tell you that it is all for the better.
My view is the same for God’s kolasis, both in the now and at The Day of Judgement: God will make me a better man, whatever it takes.
The best part is: I deserve none of this care or correction from God. And that’s Grace, or God’s unmerited favor.
Now the challenge is to live out my life according to that trust in God, empowered by it. I had it earlier this year. Then I got selfish again.
God’s given it back – from a goat to a sheep in a day – and I don’t want to waste it this time.
Neither should you.
Restoring our lives to God as we restore all things to God.
If you haven’t done so, yet, please read the first part of this pair of article on God’s will to save all things.