We are living in the age of the photo-post and video-byte. Newspapers and books seem to be dying out, because nobody wants to investigate ideas anymore. People are interested in promoting their side of an argument, but not in wrestling over the details of discussion to find the actual truth.
The apostle Paul struggled with a similar thing, when the believers in Corinth decided to side with their own group of “super-apostles” instead of taking his advice. Paul was deeply concerned for them, and declared “…I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3 NET). His implication was that the Corinthians had a decision to make, and their choice to follow the super-apostles was the choice to reject not only him, but to fall away from “a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
The serpent deceived Eve in Eden by suggesting that she needn’t worry about staying alive. God had warned Adam not to eat of the forbidden tree, and if he did eat its fruit, death would be the result. The serpent comes along and say’s to Eve that she and Adam would not really die (Genesis 3:4). Eve was now forced to decide. She had to choose between two conflicting statements. She had to act in favour of one statement, and against the other.
Conditionalism matters because so many have swallowed that original lie. It matters because some of those people are genuine Christians, who, like the Corinthians, have been deceived and will face the consequences of the bad choice they made. Despite billions of deaths since that choice in the garden, with cemeteries filling up all around them, these people continue to believe that in some way, humanity always survives death. Despite Jesus, who came preaching a resurrection unto eternal life, these people confidently proclaim that their immortal spirits will go on living no matter what happens to their bodies. And they will dare to abuse scripture to back up that proclamation.
Conditionalism matters because both statements cannot be true. Human beings cannot be mortal and immortal at the same time. Our sincere and pure devotion to Christ cannot ignore the serpent’s lie, even when it comes from the pens of major theologians and church leaders. We must expose the lie.
Conditionalism matters because the gospel matters. And, the gospel is not “accept Christ and your immortal soul can go to heaven when you die.” People who believe the lie have crafted statements like that as representing the gospel, but it is sorely deficient. Christ is king, whether you accept him or not.
Conditionalism matters because the return of Jesus Christ is essential. A gospel statement more in line with the New Testament is “Submit to Christ as king, because he is returning to set up his kingdom on earth, and he will raise the righteous dead to be a part of that eternal kingdom.” The second coming of Jesus Christ is necessary because he is the firstfruits – the first raised to immortal life. The rest of us await a resurrection, not at our deaths, but at his return (1 Corinthians 15:23).
Conditionalism matters because believers seek immortality. Paul taught that Jesus broke the power of death and brought immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10). He taught that only God possesses immortality now (1 Timothy 6:16), but that believers can seek that blessing by persevering in good works (Romans 2:7), and we can put on immortality at the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:53-54). Seeking immortality is something that believers do. Assuming that everyone already has immortality is accepting the serpent’s lie.
Don’t accept that lie. Expose it for what it is.