On debate days I try to remain focused upon the topic of the debate (I even dropped a previous opportunity to speak today when it became clear it would be a massive distraction from my primary reason for being here in Oregon today). Central to the debate with Rome over her dogma of purgatory is the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. Of course, I realize that in the final analysis, any Roman Catholic (who is consistent) believes what they believe on the basis of the authority of the Roman Church itself, and all the discussion that will take place over biblical texts is, in the final analysis, window-dressing for the one who believes in sola ecclesia. Robert Sungenis demonstrated this with great clarity last month in Santa Fe when he defended the Bodily Assumption of Mary based upon the idea that Peter could define dogma for the church without reference to either Scripture or tradition. This means that when one bows the knee to Romanism, one is not only accepting a body of doctrinal teaching now (as nebulous as it might turn out to be in our modern day); what is more, you are accepting any dogmas that Rome may choose to define in the future as well! You are functionally accepting a new source of divine revelation, one that can morph and change at will. The more I interact with Rome over the years, the more clearly this becomes apparent.
In any case, I was looking again at the text in 1 Corinthians 3, and I noted a very important point. I have long emphasized that the testing by fire is meant to give a revelation of something that, at this time in our lives, we cannot know: specifically, who, in building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, is building with gold, silver, and precious stones, and who is building with wood, hay, and stubble. You can paint wood to make it look like gold, can you not? We cannot tell from a distance since we cannot see into the hearts of men. But God knows, and he will make a revelation of the truth in that final day. That is why Paul uses the term ἀποκαλύπτεται in verse 13. The testing of the judgment will make a revelation, an apocalupsis, of the true nature of the works of those who have built upon the foundation.
But what I noted in my preparation today is how the text strengthens this understanding in the lexical meaning of another word that is used by Paul: δηλώσει. Paul tells us the day (the day of judgment) will “show” or “make known” what kind of works have been built on the foundation. In fact, three terms in a row are used, and when we look at each one, we see the truth without question. Three terms are used in a series: φανερὸν γενήσεται, δηλώσει, ἀποκαλύπτεται. The first phrase, “will become manifest or evident,” the second, “will be made known,” and the third, “will be revealed.” Each term/phrase contains the same important concept, explicitly found in δηλώσει. Note the definition of the term, first provided in BDAG: “to make some matter known that was unknown or not communicated previously, reveal, make clear”; then note Louw-Nida: “to make something known by making evident what was either unknown before or what may have been difficult to understand.” You see, we do not possess, in this life, the ability to differentiate between gold and wood in the works built upon the foundation because we are talking about the intentions of men’s hearts. We need an apocalupsis, an apocalypse, a revelation, a manifestation, via divine judgment, of these things. And that is what Paul is talking about: the manifestation of the truth at the final day.
Obviously, then, to twist this text into a proof text for an on-going process of purification of the souls of all the redeemed before entry into the presence of God is to twist it horribly from its original intent, and to engage in the most fanciful eisegesis.
So be listening this evening at 7pm PDT for the debate with Robert Sungenis, livestreamed at our regular Dividing Line link. Pray God’s truth will be clearly vindicated!