The Phil Henry Power Gospel Overview – All in with Christ
This ministry is based on 2 Timothy 1:7 (YLT) “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. “ Thus I will proclaim the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all, yet maybe in a way that sounds different, or non-traditional to you.
I certainly agree, as would most Christians, in the divinity of Jesus Christ and that He miraculously came into this world through a virgin birth, lived an impeccable life, died an atoning death and was gloriously raised from the dead as the required payment for the sins of all (1 John 2:2). Where I may differ with “Traditional” Christians is that I am convinced that His so-great sacrifice was to justify all of mankind (Romans 5:18) and to reconcile all people to Himself (Col. 1:19-20).
Thus this ministry’s descriptive tagline, “All in with Christ,” is fully inclusive as opposed to the thought that Christ’s sacrifice was only effective for those who believe in Him during the course of their lives. If true, might that alleviate fear that some carry about themselves or other loved ones?
Traditional Christianity- is Heaven or Hell inconsistent?
It seems that the predominant thinking in evangelical circles is that to “go to heaven,” one must personally believe in Jesus while alive or face eternal consequences. In fact, the unbeliever, unless he converts, is supposedly and as the classic rock song blares, is already on the “Highway to Hell!”
I was in agreement with, but certainly not fond of this traditional rationale for over 25 years. Raised in a loving and practicing Roman Catholic family where I was taught much about Jesus, at age 25 I heard an evangelical message about Jesus and the need to personally believe in Him. I did and became “born-again” as per the Christian vernacular. For the next 25 years, not desiring anyone to plunge into eternal torment because of unbelief, I proclaimed to many what I thought the Gospel was as per the plain textual truths of the bible (more on that coming); I offered the love of God available through a relationship with Jesus but also warned of the consequences of not believing. This traditional Gospel may be pithily summarized; share and scare, choose or lose, or turn or burn. Please know that I love and respect fellow believers who adhere to the traditional, prevailing thought, yet this Heaven or hell Gospel around age 50, was beginning to present what I saw were great contradictions;
- The God who commanded us to forgive (Matt. 5:23-24, Matt. 18:21-22) will He not forgive all? (Jeremiah 31:34, Luke 23:34)
- The God who commanded us to love (Matt. 5:43-44, 1 Peter 4:8), does He not love all? (Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:10)
- The God who told us to place our faith in Him (John 3:16), was it not rather, His faithfulness that secured a total (not a partial) victory over sin and death for all? (Galatians 2:16, Philippians 3:9)
Original Christianity- before Universalism was usurped
Was the church always “hell-bent” on warning unbelievers of eternal damnation? Was there a time when proclaiming the Good News and inviting others to receive Jesus as Savior was not coupled with the selling of fire-insurance?
I had heard about Christian Universalism, also known as Universal Salvation or Universal Restoration, the notion that God will save all of mankind not apart from, but because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Obviously not a popular doctrine among evangelicals, I did my homework, aided by my pastor who was reaching the same conclusions, and saw that far from being some “new revelation”, the universal and ultimately inclusive plan for all is actually quite old and quite “original.”
Strong evidence exists that the universal view was the prevailing and predominant thought in the early church, from biblical times just after Christ’s resurrection throughout the next 400+ years. Led by Paul, Peter and the other apostles and disciples, this belief system was handed off to other generations and carried on by noted theologians such as Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), Origen Adamantius (184-254 AD) and Gregory of Nyssa (335-394 AD). Here is an excellent article about the early, “Original” Church; The History of Universalism.
I became convinced that until the emergence of Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD), known as St. Augustine to many, Universalism was the majority viewpoint of the early Church! Even Augustine acknowledged this fact when he quoted as follows; “There are very many (‘imo quam plurimi’, means ‘majority’ in Latin) who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments” (Enchiria, ad Laurent. c.29).
If true that Universalism was rampant, how and when was it usurped? It’s no secret that Augustine had great disdain for the Greek language and rather, preferred Latin. His heaven and hell soteriological views were expressed in his famous writings called The City of God, which presented human history as a conflict between the Earthly City (the City of Man) and the City of God. Per Augustine, the ultimate destiny of those aligned with the former is conscious, unending punishment, while those united in the latter go on to eternal life with God in Heaven. This thinking became a hallmark of Western church, now seen as the “traditional” one, whereas the Eastern Church largely remained proponents of the original Greek, with their belief in Apocatastasis, a Greek word for restoration and the conviction that God would one day restore all things, as per Acts 3:20-21.
What the “Plain Text” lacks
Objectors to the message of an ultimate and inclusive universal salvation, those aligned with Augustinian thought, have oft-shared one representative passage of scripture to support their belief in Heaven for believers and hell for unbelievers. Traditionalists call this and similar passages, “plain texts;”
- Matthew 25:46 (NASB) These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life
If this English plain text is to be read and believed at face value, then of course the universal gospel would be marginalized. But let’s consider three key words from the Greek plain text, words neglected by Augustine, and ask if instead, the doctrine of eternal torment is the view that should be sidelined?
(1) The word that we read as “eternal” in most English translations comes from the original Greek word “aion” which, except when referring to God’s own essence, means “an age, pertaining to an age or age-abiding.” Thus a more accurate translation (used by some bible versions, notably Young’s Literal Translation-YLT) is this; And these shall go away to punishment, age-during (aionion). Here’s the deal with an age- it has a beginning point AND an end point!
(2) The word that we read, “punishment” in most English translations comes from the original Greek word “kolasis.” This word refers to remedial punishment/correction/ pruning. Thus a “kolasis punishment” is one whereby the guilty party is ultimately restored, not forever condemned.
Consider punishment meted out by a loving parent; is it not in and for the child’s best interests? Is there a reason why God wouldn’t deal His children, those whom He created, in the same manner?
(3) Even the English word “hell,” which is not explicitly used in Matthew 25:46 but is implied, is said to have been used by Jesus at least 11 times in most popular English translations of the New Testament. Yet Jesus never said the word “hell!” Rather He spoke of the Valley of Ben Hinnom, which is the original Greek word, “Gehenna.” The word Gehenna does NOT describe an otherworldly eternal abode of the damned but instead refers to a real place, the town garbage dump located just outside the city of Jerusalem, which doubled as a place of historical judgement. Notably in 586 BC and in 70 AD, Jerusalem was overtaken by foreign armies, their temples destroyed and Jews were burned in Gehenna. These were real-time historical events, not futuristic all-time judgements.
The Phil Henry Power Gospel will among other things, proclaim God’s plan of Universal Salvation:
- That God does love all (John 3:16-17) and demonstrates this through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8).
- That His plan and will is to save all (2 Peter 3:9, Titus 2:11).
- That His plan and will is to restore all (Acts 3:20-21) and reconcile all (Colossians 1:19-20).
- That He will fully accomplish His plan and will (Isaiah 46:10, Proverbs 19:21).
- That every knee will bow and every tongue will swear allegiance to Him (Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10-11, Revelation 1:7).
- Because He has secured a total, not a partial victory over sin and death, for all (Isaiah 25:8).
- And He will draw all people to Himself (John 12:31-32).
The Phil Henry Power Gospel will also endeavor to foster a better understanding of God’s so-great love that will one day envelope all of His creation and is certainly able now, to alleviate all fear by:
- Inviting all to believe in and be reconciled to Christ now (2 Cor. 5:17-20).
- To grow and mature in His word (John 8:31-32).
- To live powerfully through and productively for Him (John 15:4).
- And to realize that living these truths is to live in His love, where there is no fear (1 John 4:18).
Talk about good news! I hope you will follow along as we present weekly Five Minute Power Messages and occasional Power Blogs. For more information and other resources, please click here for Phil’s Favorites.