Saturday, September 22, 2007

More on the Canaanite Conquest and Hell

In the post below, I thought there must be explicit links between the destruction of the Canaanites and the end times, but couldn't find them. Well, as I was reading Joshua again, the link became obvious. You can be found it for yourself by searching for seven + trumpets in the Bible. The only two passages that come up are Joshua 6, when seven priests carry trumpets, which they blast seven times and bring down the walls of Jericho, and Revelation 8, where seven angels carry trumpets, which they blast seven times and bring woe, woe, woe for the inhabitants of the world.

It is a subject which must be approach with fear and trembling, but the link of hell and God's historical judgments on the nations bears on a number of theological implications.

1) As a rule, the herem decrees include children explicitly. An example from 1 Sam. 15:3: " Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." This cannot be separated from the question of condemnation of infants, however much we might like to.

2) The herem decrees are things which God does to people under his wrath, in which He (through his people) is active and they are passive. It is not an automatic result of the Canaanites or Midianites or Amalekites refusing to accept the welcoming attitude of the Israelites. No, it is wrathful retribution. Nor can one ignore that in all the gospel references to wailing and gnashing of teeth, those in such a state are "cast" there, "cut up" and "appointed" to go there, and "thrust out" -- actions of which the damned are the passive objects. That is the Biblical language of the matter. It is also worth noting that in the Biblical representations God works through His people/angels, while in the "sinners damn themselves" scenario, God has no need of representatives.

UPDATE: Joel pointed out a third point, that the linkage to the herem wars places a question mark beside the theological significance of eternity as the touchstone of what hell means. Here we have a single catastrophic, but almost instantaneous, judgment. I don't think it negates the argument for eternal torment by itself, but it definitely suggests a different perspective.

But there is hope in this linkage too. Those who are destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah and in Jericho are anonymous, but those who are saved are named: Lot and his family, Rahab and hers. There are more there as well, forming a theme I have called "the Canaanites as the beloved temple slaves of Jehovah" (in a far too long post here). Both were part of the community of the condemned, by choPublish Postice or by birth. They are those still outside the family of faith -- even on the day of judgment. Yet by the intercession of the family of faith, the red thread hung outside the window, they were exempted from the condemnation that is a type of hell, and that even without entering the family before the day of judgment.

Are there few that be saved?

Agonize, agonize to enter in at the straight gate -- and intercede for the Lots and Rahabs God places in your path.

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