Questions Answered – Eternal Promises

By Christopher Fisher

Craig writes:

I’m a Bible believing Christian that share in the Calvinists Doctrinal beliefs. Rarely am I able to have theological conversations with people without them squirming and leaving the room because they don’t care to hear or understand doctrinal truth.

So, I am to assume you believe in “open theism”?

I respond, yes and then Craig asks:

Good evening,

I wanted to know how “open theism” explains the topic of ETERNITY. If Gods word is authoritative, how does God understand forever, and ever?

“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:46‬ ‭KJV

“But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭KJV‬‬

How does He know this? If it’s possible that things can change.

Thanks,

Craig

I respond:

Sir,

That is a good question. Whenever I approach the Bible I attempt to treat the text as I would any other literary work. Statements need to be evaluated in context and with an understanding of any idiomatic meanings. We need to attempt to place ourselves in the shoes of the original readers and to recreate how they would have read the text. Would they read it with the fatalism of modern readers? I do not think so.

So, “everlasting life”: Is it idiomatic? Does it mean unconditional everlasting life? Does it contain some cultural assumptions? It seems to me the best way to understand how everlasting life works is to view it in relation to other everlasting promises in the Bible.

Several times in the Bible, everlasting promises are overturned when new events arise. In 1 Samuel 2:30, God had promised that Eli’s lineage would be eternal, but then Eli’s son’s turned out wicked and God revoked His eternal promise:

1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

Likewise, King David’s Kingship is promised to be eternal, but stern warnings are attached. If David’s lineage rebelled, then the eternal promise could be revoked:

1Ki 9:4 Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments,
1Ki 9:5 then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’
1Ki 9:6 But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them,
1Ki 9:7 then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples.

We also read that God was planning on offering this eternal Kingdom to Saul before he rebelled (1Sa 13:13). It does not seem that just the use of an “eternal” adjective would make Israel assume a promise could not be revoked if conditions change.

If we apply the same concept to “eternal life”, then eternal life is everlasting as long as we remain faithful to God. Yes, we can and do have eternal life. But that does not mean we then become robots and are incapable of choosing to reject God. The angels reject God in heaven, and we assume we cannot also?

We do not see God overriding free will, in the Bible. We see coercion, which suggests strongly that God does not override free will (why else would He have to coerce?). God is not shown making robots.

God changes in response to man. In fact, God explains that this is exactly how He operates:

Jer 18:7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
Jer 18:8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.
Jer 18:9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,
Jer 18:10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

Notice in this text how it contrasts how God both “thinks” and “says” something, and both must be reversed because of new events. The text of the Bible is that God reacts according to people’s actions. Sometimes this involves reversing eternal promises (as is clear in 1Sa 2:30 ).

I guess my question to you is this:

Does God revoke an eternal promise in 1 Samuel 2:30? Here is the text:

1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

So, in 1 Samuel 2:30: Did God promise a “house” that would last “forever”? Does God revoke this promise that was meant to “last forever”?

Thank you,

Chris

Message sent Jan 8th, 2016 (no response).

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