Soteriology 028
Joshua 24:20 • Dr. Andy Woods • August 21, 2016 • Soteriology


Andy Woods

Soteriology 28, Joshua 24:20

August 21, 2016

…the book of Joshua, chapter 24 and verse 20.  As you all know we’ve been looking at the doctrine of eternal security.  And of course eternal security is the idea that once saved always saved.  So a person that has trusted in Christ and received the gift of life, can that promise be withdrawn?  And our answer to that is NO, and we’ve given about 13 eternal security arguments and here they are by way of review:

Because self-righteousness did not save us in the first place it is not a basis upon which salvation can be lost.  Salvation is neither given nor maintained by works.  If a believer can lose eternal life, then how can this life be what?  eternal.  Number 4, The promises of the Bible guarantee security, John 10:28 and others. Number 5, God wants us to have the assurance of salvation, 1 John 5:14, something that would be impossible to have or enjoy if you could lose salvation.  Number 6, The believer is already predestined for glory so what could we do to derail that.  Number 7, We have been sealed by the Spirit’s and can that seal be broken?  It cannot be broken, Ephesians 4:30.  Number 8, Christ keeps us from falling, 1 Peter 1:4-5.  Number 9, Christ’s is currently functioning as our intercessor and advocate; He wouldn’t be doing a very good job in those roles if we could lose salvation.

Number 10, Christ’s death perfectly dealt with all sins including the sin I might commit this afternoon; I’m not advocating you sin this afternoon but should you sin this afternoon Christ’s death has already dealt with that sin as well, so therefore what sin could you do that would cause you to lose eternal life.  The answer is no sin.  Number 11, A believer cannot be removed from Christ’s body because we have been identified into Christ’s body at the moment of faith.  Number 12, The Bible does not specify which sins remove salvation.  I mean, if there’s a sin that can remove salvation, which one is it.  Is it having a tattoo, is it smoking, chewing, don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with girls who do?  What sin is it?  And you would think if you could lose salvation the Bible would say stay away from that one, and the Bible never says anything like that.  And then number 13, this is where we’ve been the last few Sundays.  People always ask well, what about the believer with the unfruitful life.   And we’ve walked through very carefully that the Bible does address that issue.  The believer with the unfruitful life still has salvation although they lose rewards and other, what I would call temporal benefits.

So you kind of put these thirteen arguments together, not one of them seals the deal, but when you look at all thirteen cumulatively I think you have a very strong case for eternal security.

Now comes the other side of the ledger, what makes you more skilled as a theologian is not just putting out your arguments but being able to interact and answer the other side.  So one of the things that I try to teach people to do is I try to teach you not what to think but how to think.  And the other side has a ton of arguments that they use; I have 48 passages that we’ll start working through today; we won’t do them all today, don’t worry.  But you look at those passages at first glance and you say well, I see their point, there is an argument here that you can lose your salvation.

So a good theologian doesn’t just toss out his own positive arguments, he can answer the negative arguments coming from the other side.  So that’s the section that we’re moving into here.  And this is why you have a lot of so-called people when they argue points they’re not really having a conver­sation.  Do you notice that?  Whether it’s on Facebook or cable television, they’re just like yelling at each other.  And some of these cable shows I don’t even watch any more because they’re just shouting matches.  And the reason they’re not having a conversation is because they’re really not doing good work intellectually; everybody is throwing out their pro arguments but they’re not interacting well with the other arguments that come against their position.   So there must be some arguments that come against the position of eternal security or else people wouldn’t be arguing about this issue in the church for many, many centuries.

So we have to be at some point intellectually honest and say the other side has a point here.  But the danger isn’t do they have a point, the danger is when you can’t harmonize their point with your points.  And I believe all of the arguments that come against the eternal security position have an answer, and so I want to try to teach you how to answer those arguments as we move into the second part of our outline here on the doctrine of eternal security.

At this point a lot of preachers or teachers would just say rejoice, you have eternal security.  The problem is it’s hard to rejoice when in the back of your mind  you’re thinking well, yeah, but isn’t there a passage over there that says such and such?  So you really can’t rejoice until you get those so called problem passages answered in your mind.  So that’s what we’re moving into here.

The gentleman in church history who really began to develop systematically the idea that you can have salvation and then forfeit salvation is Jacob Arminius, who lived from about 1560-1609.  Jacob Arminius is a Dutch theologian and he’s the one that began to really not, I don’t think invent the idea that you could lose salvation but he began to systematize the idea that you can lose salvation.  And he began to put forth academic thought in a systematic way and that’s become known today as Arminianism.  Arminianism, one of its tenants is you can be saved and not be saved.  I could be saved on Sunday but lose it on Monday.  Yet, I believe all of the Arminian passages can be harmonized with the thirteen very clear arguments that we’ve made in this series on why you cannot lose salvation.

And I’m coming from the premise that God is the author of the Bible and therefore the Bible cannot contradict itself.  So God can’t say something on Sunday and something different on Monday; it’s impossible for God to do that.  So when you have passages in the Bible that seem to teach two different ideas we have to learn to harmonize, and I believe that all of the passages that Arminians use can be harmonized with the very clear passages which teach you cannot lose your salvation.

So we’re going to look at these passages that you can allegedly lose your salvation, we’re going to look at them in biblical order, so here’s the order we’re going to follow.   We’ll look at some Old Testament passages which we’ll start today.  There is a ton of passages in Matthew including the one that bothers everybody, the unpardonable sin passage, Matthew 12, we’ll get into that at some point.  There’s some passages from John, passages from Acts, passages from Paul, passages from James.  The book of Hebrews, oh my goodness, there’s some major passages in Hebrews that look like you can lose your salvation.  There’s some in 2 Peter, some of you have already brought up 1 John, some passages in 1 John so we’ll get to that.  There’s a few passages in the book of Revelation and there’s what I like to call at the end, a miscellaneous argument that Arminians go to quite a bit and we’ll learn how to interact with that one.

So here we go; let’s start with some Old Testament passages, if we could.  And here are the Old Testament passages we’ll look at; maybe we’ll look at those today, all of them, maybe we won’t.  We’ll see how far we get.  But the first one is the Adam and Eve argument.  You remember God created Adam and Eve, Genesis 1 is a record of what He did in seven days.  Genesis 2 is a record of what God did on day 6 with the creation of Adam and Eve.  And then what happens in Genesis 3?  The fall of man, so people say well, there is Adam and Eve, they had salvation, Genesis 1 and 2, then they lost salvation, Genesis 3.  So Arminians start right there at the beginning of the Bible and they say look, you can clearly lose your salvation.

But I would like to say from the onset that the Adam and Eve argument is an apples and oranges comparison.  Adam and Eve did not begin in a lost condition; they began in a state of holiness which as I’ll show you in a second was unconfirmed disposition towards God.  So Adam and Eve are very different than us.  I was lost, then I got saved; Adam and Eve were never lost, right?  At least at the beginning, they didn’t start out in a lost condition, and then they fell and they moved on into sin and lost salvation at that point.

So when people like to throw up Adam and Eve I basically like to say well, that’s basically an apples and orange comparison.  Adam and Eve did not begin in a condition, in a lost condition but an unconfirmed condition or disposition toward God.  So they’re in a completely different category.  And one of the ways to validate this is to compare the Garden of Eden, have you ever done this, Genesis 1 and 2, you compare the Garden of Eden, what Adam and Eve had to the eternal state, Revelation 21 and 22.  And this is a tremendous teaching because God originally created a world with no evil or sin in it, Genesis 1 and 2, and we’re progressing one day to an environment that God will put us in, the last two chapters of the Bible, with no sin or evil in it either.

And the story of the human race is we started off in a garden and we’re going to go to a city and there’s a cross in between.  That’s how you can summarize the Bible: from the garden to a city (the New Jerusalem) with the cross and the resurrection of Christ in between.  And one of the questions that’s asked is well why doesn’t God at the end of the Bible, Revelation 21 and 22, why doesn’t He just put us back in a garden again?  Why does He put us in a city?  And the answer to that is the environment that Adam and Eve were in was a probationary environment.  They were untested.  Yes, they were in a perfect environment but the human race hadn’t been tested yet and that’s why there had to be a tree of knowledge in Eden.  When we get to Revelation 21 and 22 there is no tree of knowledge or the opportunity to rebel against God because man has run his test, the test is over.  Man is not on probation any more.

So that’s why there’s a big difference between Eden and the New Jerusalem or the eternal state; one is a probationary environment, the other is a permanent environment.  And so when you study Genesis 1 and 2 you’ll see there’s a division between night and darkness, that comes as early as Genesis 1:4.  You get into the eternal state and there’s no more night at all, Revelation 21:25, because Jesus is the glory of that eternal city and no luminaries are necessary.  Genesis 1 and 2, there’s a division between land and sea; you get into Revelation 21:1 and you’ll see there’s no more sea.  I take “sea” there literally, so it’s a completely different world than what we’re familiar with.  I think 80% or three quarters of our world is under water now because of the oceans and when God puts us into that eternal city there will be no more sea.  Genesis 1 and 2 there’s the sun and the moon; you get into Revelation 21:23 and there’s no sun and no moon.

Genesis 1 and 2 you’ll see a river flowing out of Eden, Genesis 2:10; you get into Revelation 22:1 and there’s a river flowing, not out of Eden but from God’s throne.  Genesis 2 you have gold in the land.  You get to Revelation 21:21 and there’s gold throughout the city.  You get into Genesis 2:9 you’ll find a tree of life in the middle of the Garden; you get to Revelation 22:2 and there’s trees, plural, trees of life throughout the city.  Genesis 1 and 2  you run into the strange sounding stones, bdellium and the onyx I think is how you pronounce that.  Genesis 2:12, but in Revelation 21 and 22 there’s all manner of stones, not just a couple of types of stones.  You look at Genesis 1 and 2 into Genesis 3 and you find God walking with man in a garden.  You get to Revelation 21:3 and God is dwelling, not in a garden and He’s not walking with man in the garden but He’s dwelling with His people.

And probably the key thing found in Genesis 1 and 2, as I mentioned before, that’s not found in Revelation 21 and 22 is the existence of the tree of knowledge.  There has to be a tree  of knowledge in the equation.  Why is that?  Because we’re made in whose image?  God’s.  And if I’m really made in God’s image I have to have choice, I have to have volition.  And if I really have volition there has to be an avenue for rebellion against God should I choose to take that avenue.  So man at that point is being tested.  Then when you get to the eternal state, the New Jerusalem, the last two chapters of the Bible, you’ll find that there is no tree of knowledge in the eternal city because man has already been tested.

So it’s really a wonderful study to take the first two chapters of the Bible and the last two chapters of the Bible and to discover that God, when He created the world created a world in which there was no evil.  And when everything is said and done humanity, the redeemed, will live in an environment where there is no evil.  So if you want to know what’s normal, Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22 are normal.  What we’re experiencing now is an abnormality.

Now I would not believe that unless I had the light of God’s Word to tell me that.  Without the light of the Word of God, which tells me how things were and how things will be one day, the only thing I’d have to go on is what I can see in front of me and so I would just think that what is happening now with evil and death and hurricanes and tornados and murders and gang violence and drive-by shootings and rape and kidnapping and all of these terrible things that happen, I would think that’s how it’s always been and how it will always be.  And that’s a viewpoint called uniformitarianism, which is the idea that you pretend that what you see in front of you is uniform, but we are not uniformitarians.  We do not think as Christians that what we see in front of us is standard; we have the light of God’s Word that tells us it’s abnormal.  And living like this is what gives us Christian what?  It starts with an “h,” — hope.  If you don’t have the light of the Word of God the only thing you’re left with is the present world and your observations of it and hope disappears if you become uniformitarian in your belief system and you start to think that what is in front of you has always been and will always be.

And by the way, this… I don’t mean to spend too much time on this but this is what distinguishes the Christian worldview from every other worldview out there.  Every other worldview out there, whether it’s Hinduism, reincarnation, evolution, you just name the view, it doesn’t have this belief system that evil is finite or evil is time bound.  They just pretend that what they see in front of them has always been and will always be and our belief system is very different, we believe that evil, yes, it has its heyday, but it’s very finite and it’s very time bound.  There was a time in which evil didn’t exist and there will be a time in history in which there will be no evil whatsoever.  The poor evolutionist who believes that man goes from the goo the zoo to you over billions of  years through the survival of the fittest, they believe that this process has always been going on.  The strong have always dominated the weak, the weak have been dying off, this is always the way it’s been and it will always be.  And how different the Christian point of view is on this, and it really gives us hope.

And when you’re witnessing to people they’re going to ask you, if they don’t have any familiarity with Christian arguments and things like that, they’re going to say well, you know, you believe in this God of love buy my grandmother or mother just died of cancer, now you’re going to tell me about a God of love.  And your answer to that is really going back to Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22.  Cancer is a horrible thing but God designed a world without cancer in it; we brought cancer and all kinds of other repercussions into the world through our own choice to go through the tree of knowledge and rebel against God, and God is at work in human history; He’s actually entered human history to die on a cross for our sins and He’s working in such a way that one of these days cancer and all of the other ramifications for sin will be a thing done away with.  So that’s basically your answer to people that want to blame God for everything that’s wrong in the world.

Anyway, to understand that Adam and Eve were in a probationary environment to begin with allows a person to draw distinction between what Adam and Eve lost and what Arminians are saying we lose.  Arminians are saying you can be lost, you can be saved, you can be lost and they use Adam and Eve as an example but right out of the gate that’s an apples and oranges comparison because Adam and Eve were never lost, saved, lost.  They were saved and then lost.  And a lot of people like to ask well once they were lost did Adam and Eve ever get saved.  I believe that Adam and Eve, particularly Adam, I will see Adam one day in heaven, and the reason I think that is because of Genesis 3:15, which is the first presentation of the gospel, it’s called the protoevangelium.  And then when you get outside of Genesis 3 and you look at Genesis 3:21  you learn that God took animal skins and clothed Adam and Eve, so both of them I think were saved.  They received the provision of God.   [Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”  Genesis 3:21, “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.”]

Genesis 3:7, they started off working for salvation because they wanted to clothe themselves you remember. [Genesis 3:7, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.”]   And God said no, that’s not how you’re going to get saved, you’re going to get saved through the death of an innocent sacrifice.  By the way, where did these animal skins come from?  I mean, do they just all out of the sky?  No, obviously God killed an innocent animal right then and there and He used the skin from that animal to clothe Adam and Eve.  To my knowledge they received that provision and God is sort of highlighting how He’s going to forgive sin, ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  So they received the provision of God.  I believe that they had faith in this coming Messiah who would fulfill this transaction of dying sacrificially on the cross; they had an awareness of it from Genesis 3:15, the protevangelium.  [Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”]  So I believe Adam and Eve ultimately are saved and we will see them in heaven.

So that’s the first Old Testament argument, you can’t use Adam and Eve as some kind of prototype for our loss of salvation.  Adam and Eve were in a completely different category.

The second argument  people like to use are Nadab and Abihu, and Korah’s rebellion so very quickly what happened to Nadab and Abihu?  Who were Nadab and Abihu?  Look at Leviticus 10 for a minute, look at Leviticus 10:1-2, here’s a couple of priests who were drinking on the job.  This is when God set up the whole Tabernacle system with its worship and sacrifices at the time of Moses at the base of Sinai, and it says, “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD which He had not commanded them. [2] And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.”

Later on in the chapter it makes reference to alcohol and so many people think that they were drinking on the job.  But you know, they just had kind of a Frank Sinatra approach to spirituality, “I did it my way.”   So God, yeah, You have Your instructions but we’re going to offer up sacrifices the way we want.  And God set a pretty strong precedent there, did He not?  He killed them on the spot.  And people say oh my gosh, Nadab and Abihu, they obviously were saved because they were priests in the Tabernacle… well, they obviously lost their salvation and went to hell.   And they make the same argument with Korah’s rebellion; there’s some people there, Korah, Dathan and Abiram and they decided to have a little protest against their pastor, in this case their pastor was Moses, and they basically said we don’t like the fact that you’re the pastor, I want to be the pastor.   And they weren’t respecting really Moses’ authority, they weren’t respecting the authority that God vested in the line of Aaron, and so God opened up the ground and all of the disgruntled church people just disappeared into the ground, is basically what happened there.   And so it’s a tremendous testimony of how God feels about people that challenge His God ordained authority structure.

By the way, prophetically, in the book of Revelation, chapter 12 it talks about the devil pursuing the woman, the dragon is the devil, he’s pursuing the woman, the woman, I believe, is the nation of Israel (for a lot of different reasons), and something comes out of the dragon’s mouth, it’s some kind of flood and he’s trying to destroy the woman and it says there in Revelation 12 that God opens up the ground and absorbs the flood so that it can’t hurt the woman, and He protects Israel during the second half of the Tribulation period through this process of opening up the ground.  So it’s interesting that God is pretty good ad opening up the ground and causing problems to disappear.

So people think Korah’s rebellion, they all lost their salvation and went to hell.  Let me give  you some thoughts on that if I could.  It never says that they lost salvation with Nadab and Abihu, or Korah’s rebellion.  What it really talks about is what I would call maximum divine discipline.  Someone can be disciplined to the point of death and it happens several times in the Scripture, we’ve gone over many passages in this class that indicate that.  But that’s not necessarily the same thing as saying they lost their salvation.  In fact, loss of salvation and loss of fellowship is the issue here, not the loss of eternal security.  There’s absolutely no comment in Numbers 16 or Leviticus 10 that these folks lost their salvation.  You have a punishment from God, discipline from God which can sometimes be very severe but that’s not the same thing as saying someone lost their salvation.

In the New Testament times that we live in, “whom the Lord loves the Lord” what? “chastens,” and sometimes the chastening of the Lord, the discipline of the Lord can be extremely severe and if you’ve ever gone under the disciplinary hand of God, I believe at certain times in my life I’ve been under it, it’s not a fun place to be but that’s not the same thing as saying someone lost their salvation.  Sometimes the disciplinary hand of God is so severe in our lives because the correction is necessary we confuse it with the loss of salvation but in none of these passages does it ever make any point about the salvation status of those involved in Korah’s rebellion, nor does it make any direct comment about the eternal destiny of Nadab and Abihu.

Let me take you to a similar passage, and this is why I had you open to Joshua 24:20, people use this often to teach that a believer can lose their salvation.  The book of Joshua, chapter 24 and verse 20, and this is what it says: “If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods,” this is at the death of the Joshua generation, so a great generation is passing away and you have kind of a closing address to the people to stay in the will of God as they’re in Canaan, the Promised Land.  It says, “If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.’”   So people look at that and say wow, God actually is going to, if they violate His commandments, as the nation of Israel is in the Promised Land, God is actually going to “consume” His people, God is actually going to do “harm” to His people, and people say well, that clearly teaches that those folks were saved and then they lost their salvation.

But again, I would comment on this as follows, that this is not a commentary on someone’s eternal destiny, this is a commentary on the disciplinary hand of God which can be very, very severe.  God can discipline people, sometimes to the point of death, sometimes to the point of destruction although their soul can be saved, or is saved.

And let’s go back to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 28, just for a minute.  It’s very important to understand this.   These passages are directed at the nation of Israel, and when God brought the nation of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and took them to Mt. Sinai He put them under a treaty that they agreed to.  Here’s a fancy-dancy title, are you ready?  It’s called a suzerain vassal treaty. It’s a treaty that’s very, very different than the Abrahamic Covenant which is unconditional, and actually I had to turn to Deuteronomy but just looking back for a minute at the book of Exodus, chapter 19, this is when the nation of Israel is in Canaan ready to enter into this treaty and you take a look at verse 5, it says: “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples of the earth, for all the earth is Mine.”  Notice the “if” clause there; if you do this, then I will do that, if you don’t do this then I will do such and such.

So this treaty is what you would call conditional.  The Abrahamic Covenant, going back to Genesis 15, gave the nation of Israel ownership over her blessings, land, seed and blessing; the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional, it’s something that God unilaterally is going to do.  But whether a given generation enjoys those blessings is really up to them.  God will never cancel Israel’s blessings; He can’t because the Abrahamic Covenant prevents that, but whether a particular generation can enter into those blessings and enjoy those blessings is conditioned upon their abiding to the Mosaic Covenant which is a conditional covenant, which is laid out as a suzerain vassal treaty.

Now a suzerain vassal treaty was a common form of treaty, reformed criticism has looked at suzerain vassal treaties in the Ancient Near East, when this was written, and it’s examined those treaties and it’s discovered that those treaties all have parts to them, I think I’ve got five, six parts here on the screen, and what you’ll discover in the Bible, particularly the book of Deuteronomy is the whole book of Deuteronomy is laid out like suzerain vassal treaty.  So God is taking the treaty structure that the Jews were familiar with in the Ancient Near East in their day and He’s entering into that treaty with them, which is a conditional treaty.

So what you have in that treaty is a preamble, then you have what’s called a historical prologue, which is tracing the relationship that the parties have had with one another prior to the entering into of that treaty, and then you have what are called the covenant obligations and this is what the vassal must perform.  Let me explain those terms, suzerain and vassal; suzerain means superior, vassal means inferior.   So in this treaty structure a superior entered into a treaty with an inferior and said if you do such and such then I’ll bless you, if you violate the terms of the treaty then you’ll be under a curse.  And that’s the same type of format that God is using as He’s entering into this treaty with the nation of Israel.  The whole book of Deuteronomy is laid out based on form criticism exactly like a suzerain vassal treaty that we have knowledge of from the Ancient Near East.

So you have covenant obligations, what the vassal is supposed to do.  In other words, obey the Ten Commandments, Deuteronomy 5, and all of their amplifications, all of the applications of the Ten Commandments to various circumstances, Deuteronomy 6-26.  A suzerain vassal treaty had storage instructions and reading instructions.  So the covenant text, which is the terms of the agreement were stored in a particular place and they had to be read out loud, usually by the suzerain  to the vassal.  And then there were witnesses to the treaty; and then every suzerain vassal treaty had a blessings and curses section; here are the blessings for obedience, here are the curses for disobedience.

So when you get into the book of Deuteronomy you’ll discover that the whole book is laid out exactly like a suzerain vassal treaty, you have a preamble, chapter 1, verses 1-5.  You have a historical prologue which traces the relationship between the two parties prior to them entering into the treaty, chapter 1 verse 6 to the end of chapter 4.  Then you had the covenant obligations that the vassal must adhere to, Deuteronomy 5-26.  And then  you have in depth storage instructions and public reading instructions; they had to actually publicly read and acknowledge this treaty regularly and you’ll God instructing Israel along those lines in Deuteronomy 27:2-3, Deuteronomy 31:9, 24, 26.  And then there’s actually the acknowledging or the calling of witnesses to the treaty.  Now what witnesses can there be for God?  There can’t be any witnesses for God, right?  So who does God summon as His witnesses?  He summons heaven and earth as His witnesses, Deuteronomy 32:1.

Then, and this is really the spine of the Old Testament, and if you can’t understand this you really don’t understand why Israel went under discipline, is under discipline today as I speak, although one day that discipline will be lifted, the blessings and cursings section.   What the suzerain will do to the vassal if the vassal obeys, what the suzerain will do to the vassal if the vassal disobeys.  And if you understand the blessings and curses section here in Deuteronomy 28, and by the way, there’s a parallel passage in Leviticus 26 that says virtually the same thing, once you understand this you begin to understand God’s entire program with Israel, why they went into captivity, why they went into discipline, why they’re under discipline even now as I speak, although in 1948 they’ve been regathered into their land in unbelief, but even as I speak they’re still being bullied by the nations, are they not?  Two-thirds, roughly, United Nations resolutions go against, when the subject of Israel comes up two-thirds of those resolutions go against Israel.  Even our own country is becoming more and more anti-Israel and that’s a sad thing to watch but it’s an outworking of these blessings and curses.

So let me give you a flavor of this.  Deuteronomy 28:1-14 are blessings for obedience.  Notice what it says:

Deuteronomy 28:1, “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today,” in other words, if you obey the covenant text, the Ten Commandments and the applications of the Ten Commandments to various circumstances, “if you obey the LORD then what’s the Lord going to do?  He “will  set you high above all the nations of the earth. [2] “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God: [3] “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.  [4] “Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. [5] “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. [6] “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.”  Verse 7, “The LORD shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated… and it goes on and on.

So Israel, if you obey the covenant text, here’s what’s going to happen—you’re going to be the lender and not the borrower; you’re going to go out and fight against your enemies and  you’re going to win in overwhelming battles, and you’re going to become financially lucrative and wealthy.

Now what happens if the opposite occurs?  What happens if Israel disobeys?  I’m glad you asked.  Look at Deuteronomy 28:15, the curses start to pile up.  Now did you notice something; there’s only fourteen verses here for blessings; how long do the curses go for?  Verse 15 all the way through the end of the chapter, verse 68.  So it’s almost like God knew what would happen.  But here come the curses according to the suzerain vassal treaty if you disobey Me.  [15] “But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today,” in other words, if you don’t obey the covenant text that you’re supposed to store and read regularly, then “all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:  [16] “Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country.  [17] “Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.  [18] “Cursed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. [19] “Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. [20] “The LORD will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed” notice that expression “destroyed, and until you perish” see, isn’t that the same terminology that we read in Joshua 24:20, perishing, “you shall perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me. [21] “The LORD will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land where you are entering to possess it. [22] “The LORD will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery heat and with the sword and with blight and with mildew, and they will pursue you until you perish.”  And it goes on and on like this for a whole chapter.

You see how all of these are physical curses, just like the blessings were physical, material blessings.  And this is the great error of the prosperity theology movement because what I watch them do on TV is they say we’re all guaranteed to be rich and they quote Deuteronomy 28:1-14, if you obey God, God is obligated to bless you.  But the fact of the matter is who is this covenant made with?  The nation of Israel, not the church.  In fact, the church doesn’t even exist yet; the church won’t even exist until much later in biblical history, beginning in Acts 2.  So this is a covenant only for the nation of Israel; it has zero to do with the church.  The church is a completely different plan and program of God.  According to the book of Ephesians the church has been blessed with every what?  Spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  [Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”]

This is not talking about spiritual blessings, this  is talking about physical blessings and curses.  He’s not talking here about the heavenly places; he’s talking about actual physical things that would happen to the nation of Israel.  So God has separate programs for Israel and for the church, and so to quote Deuteronomy 28 and try to make it sound like if we obey God He’s obligate to financially bless us is to misunderstand the plan and the programs and the covenants of God.

Psalm 147:19-20 to me is very clear,  on this, it says: “He declares His words to” who? “Jacob,” who’s Jacob?  Israel.  “His statutes and His ordinances to” who?  “to  Israel. [20] He has not dealt thus with any nation;” including the United States, right?  Including Sugar Land Bible Church, we have never been the recipients of the Mosaic Covenant.  This is a covenant agreement that God exclusively entered into with national Israel.  It says, “And as for His ordinances, they have not known them.  Praise the LORD!”

So when God articulated these blessings and curses, which is a normal part of the suzerain vassal treaty, He was speaking only to national Israel.  Now these curses can get very severe; He basically says  you’re going to out if you disobey Me and you’re going to borrow rather than lend, you’re going to go out and you’re going to fight your enemies and you’re going to start to lose, your crops are going to be consumed with locusts, and these things.  And see, this is why Joel, the prophet, begins to prophesy locusts coming upon the nation of Israel in the time period Joel prophesied in, Joel is one of the earlier prophets.  Why is he talking about locusts?  He’s talking about locusts because that’s what Deuteronomy 28 specifies.

So Deuteronomy 28 and it’s parallel passage in Leviticus 26 is really the spine of the entire Old Testament.  It’s the spine of God’s dealings with the nation of Israel and once you accept that and understand that your whole Old Testament starts to make a lot of sense;  you begin to see why the discipline of God on Israel was so severe, because they were actually into a formal treaty with the Lord, a conditional treaty called the Suzerain Vassal Treaty.  And these curses would just pile up and pile up and pile up until what would happen?  Look at Deuteronomy 28:45, “So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not” what? “obey the LORD your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. [46] They shall become a sign” actually I’m in the wrong place there, I was reading verse 45, which is very good also.

What I wanted is verse 49 and 50, “The Lord will bring a” what? “nation against you from” where? “from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you shall not understand,  [50] a nation of fierce countenance who have no  respect for the old nor show favor to the young.”  So the height of discipline would be a foreign nation would come against national Israel and disperse them from their own land.

Now this is an articulation of the cycles of discipline; we know that this happened multiple times in Israel’s history.  The Assyrians dispersed the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C.  Why?  Because God said that would happen in the time of Moses.  God articulated it 700 years in advance.  The Babylonians came against the remaining southern kingdom in about 586 B.C., brought them into captivity.  Why is that?  Because God said it would happen as articulated through Moses at Mt. Sinai, as you understand these cycles of discipline.  In the time of Christ Israel could have enthroned Christ and received the Kingdom; they rejected Christ and so what happened 40 years later?  What empire did God use?  The Romans in A.D. 70.

And even today as I speak the nation of Israel, although God has regathered them in unbelief continues under the disciplinary hand of God and that discipline is not going to be lifted until they go back to the terms of the covenant and the covenant ultimately points to who?  To Jesus.  So the remnant of Israel or the nation repents, changes their mind about Christ and enthrones Christ the discipline hand of God over Israel will continue on and on and on.

And I’m in favor of helping the Jews and blessing the Jews whatever we can, but the fact of the matter is you have to understand that the Jews, I’m not talking about a believer in the church age, I’m talking about the nation of them, they are under the disciplinary hand of God as I speak because they haven’t met their obligations yet under the Mosaic Covenant.

So having said all that, going back to Joshua 24:20, what is it talking about here when it says, “If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.”  It’s not a statement here about someone’s eternal salvation.  People in the Old Testament were saved just like they’re saved individually in the New Testament.  Abraham believed God, as an individual, and it was credited to him for righteousness.  He looked forward by faith to a Messiah that would come and deal with the sin problem; we look backward to a Messiah that has already come and we look back by way of faith, just like they looked forward by way of faith.  We happen to know the name of the Messiah; those in the Old Testament didn’t know His name.  But we’re all individually saved the same way.

And once you have that salvation it cannot be lost.  But even though a lot of these folks were saved, because they looked forward by faith to a coming Messiah, it doesn’t mean the nation of Israel can’t go under discipline.  In fact, the discipline, as we’ve talked about, was extremely severe for them, and sometimes the description of the severity of the discipline, we misunderstand that for a loss of salvation.  But you have to keep those two categories separate in  your mind.  The disciplinary hand of God, in this case what the Jews, as a nation, experienced and are continuing to experience, it has nothing to do with the issue of personal salvation.  It is God’s dealings with a nation and we know that because He gave them a suzerain vassal treaty; it has all of the parts of a suzerain vassal treaty, including a very important part of the suzerain vassal treaty, the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience.

So what I’m trying to get at is once you understand this you’ll start to be able to make sense of a lot of these passages, very severe disciplinary passages in the Old Testament.  They’re not making statements about a loss of salvation. What they’re going is commenting on the disciplinary hand of God as expressed in the suzerain vassal treaty of the Mosaic Covenant.

And the problem with Arminius is he started to go through the Bible and he started to “cherry pick” verses without understanding Deuteronomy 28.  Deuteronomy 28, which comes earlier is an explanation of those severe verses.  But if I’m just going to cherry pick a verse here or there and ignore the suzerain vassal treaty structure and ignore Deuteronomy 28, yeah, there’s an argument to be made that you could lose your salvation.  But the argument begins to disappear when you understand the background for those statements as articulated in the suzerain vassal treaty.

So these passages, I don’t think teach you can lose your salvation.  The Adam and Eve, Nadab and Abihu, Korah’s rebellion and Joshua 24:20.  And I had planned on finishing all of these Old Testament passages today, I didn’t so we’ll pick it up with Saul, who lost the Holy Spirit, 1 Samuel 16:14.  Well, doesn’t that mean Saul lost his salvation and went to hell?  You’ll have to come back next week to find out the truth about that.

So anyway, you at least see the direction we’re moving in.  Any questions, thoughts, comments.