Abide in the Vine or Go to Hell?

Did Jesus threaten to throw you into the fires of hell if you don't abide in the vine? Abide in the vine or go to hell! Stay "in Christ" or burn?

Did you put yourself in Christ to begin with? 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus..."

Hell seems to be the implication of John 15:1-6 if we don't understand it. Many Christians and unfortunately pastors too, have misinterpreted this passage and placed a weight of fear on believers that they were never intended to carry. 

I've also heard recently that "prophets" are saying that the Church in 2016 is going to be pruned by the Lord (as if that is some "new" thing the Lord is doing this year... lol).

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

God Does Not Cut Off Branches... He Lifts Them Up by Grace!

For some sad reason translators stubbornly continue to give us a terrible translation as "Every branch that does not bear fruit He takes away (or cuts off)". The Greek word here means to "raise up, take up, lift." It is the same word used to describe taking up stones, taking up serpents, taking up ones bed to walk, God bearing up Jesus, and many more. 

This is not a threat, but a promise of grace! Do you remember when Peter was sinking after turning his eyes away from Jesus while walking on water? He wasn't bearing much water-walking fruit. If Jesus was going to cut him off, all he needed to do was let him drown. But he didn't. He reached out, took Peter by the hand and lifted him up.

If you ever find yourself in a place that where all you have is a mustard seed of faith to cry out... "Lord save me from this mess." God will lift you up!

In the vineyard, when a branch, like a bruised reed, fell to the ground, the vine-keeper would lift it up and tie it to the whole so that it could bear fruit again. 

God's Pruning is By Grace

So many good things could be said about this that it would take a whole book. Remember he is speaking to fruitful disciples that the Vine-dresser would prune them and they would bear more fruit. 

There is nothing about this that involves God bringing hardship, pain or sickness into our lives in order to teach us a lesson. Instead, pruning involves areas on the branches that are suckers. Those parts of the branch that are drawing a lot of the sap, but not going to produce fruit. 

It means that there are beliefs in our lives that are not producing fruit, and by grace he will remove those false, limiting beliefs. How? Looking unto Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. The Father, the vine-dresser will put his hands on our face, look into our eyes and turn us to see who Jesus is and who we are IN HIM. From that place, we are transformed from glory to glory by beholding the glory of the Lord. Our heart beliefs change and consequently our lives change. 

Remember it is called the fruit of the SPIRIT! Not yours.

It is those "high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God" that God will remove by revealing himself and the finished work of Christ to us. So the only pain of being pruned is the pain of giving up old beliefs that aren't consistent with knowing God. While giving up old beliefs may hurt, it never harms.

God Gave the Jews 40 Years of Grace Before the Fire

 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

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Notice that the implication here is that they did not abide, and only then do they experience the fire. There are several important questions to be answered here. One, is this passage for all time. Two, who are the ones who did not abide? Three, what is the fire?

One of the most neglected truths in the pulpits today is the importance of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 as the interpretive key for passages like this. I asked our congregation once, "do we really think that the Son of God would come who loves not only us, but those living in his day, and be completely silent about his knowledge of the destructive, self-imposed end of the old covenant age where 1.3 million people were going to die?" Can we imagine Jesus being silent about what would happen in exactly 40 years from his death on the cross? Of course not. The NC writers speak of it on nearly every page. 

Abiding in the vine meant staying a follower of Christ, instead of (uniquely those Jews) returning to the Law. It is not staying "in Christ." Let me ask again, did you put yourself in Christ to begin with? 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus..."

This is particularly true when we understand the warnings about apostasy for the Jews in HIS DAY:

Matthew 24:10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
Hebrews 10:26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

This is written to Jews who were tempted to go back under the Law and commit the sin of apostasy. To go back under the Law, was to go to a covenant in which there was no sacrifice for sins since Christ had come. Yet, the full measure of the promises of the Law still had to be played out. He quotes directly from the Law (Deuteronomy) to the Jews who wanted to go back UNDER the Law and warning them that there was nothing but judgment... the destruction of the city of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. 

Why were there warnings? Because the destruction of the city would come with fire.

Isaiah 4:4 warned of the fire saying, "The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire." By the way, what blood stains would Jerusalem be cleansed of? Jesus words in Matthew 23 are clear:

34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on THIS generation.

John the Baptist also spoke of the fires of 70 AD saying,

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is ALREADY AT THE ROOT of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown INTO THE FIRE. (Same type of language)...12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable FIRE.”

The branch thrown into the fire? That has nothing to do with "hell". It describes the final judgment that came from the Law, one that caused Jesus to weep over Jerusalem.

After a 3 ½ year siege of the city, Rome broke through, and as they rushed to the temple a fire was started, even against the plea’s of Titus, in the flurry and fury of war, it began to blaze so hot that the gold melted off into the ground. Here is what Josephus records of the terror:

While the Temple was ablaze, the attackers plundered it, and countless people who were caught by them were slaughtered. There was no pity for age and no regard was accorded rank; children and old men, laymen and priests, alike were butchered; every class was pursued and crushed in the grip of war, whether they cried out for mercy or offered resistance.
Through the roar of the flames streaming far and wide, the groans of the falling victims were heard; such was the height of the hill and the magnitude of the blazing pile that the entire city seemed to be ablaze; and the noise - nothing more deafening and frightening could be imagined.
There were the war cries of the Roman legions as they swept onwards en masse, the yells of the rebels encircled by fire and sword, the panic of the people who, cut off above, fled into the arms of the enemy, and their shrieks as they met their fate. The cries on the hill blended with those of the multitudes in the city below; and now many people who were exhausted and tongue-tied as a result of hunger, when they beheld the Temple on fire, found strength once more to lament and wail. Peraea and the surrounding hills, added their echoes to the deafening din. But more horrifying than the din were the sufferings.
The Temple Mount, everywhere enveloped in flames, seemed to be boiling over from its base; yet the blood seemed more abundant than the flames and the numbers of the slain greater than those of the slayers. The soldiers climbed over heaps of bodies as they chased the fugitives." (Josephus' account appears in: Cornfield, Gaalya ed., Josephus, The Jewish War (1982); Duruy, Victor, History of Rome vol. V (1883).)

If one doesn't see the historical and contextual evidence for what Jesus is saying, then the interpretation of this passage is that unless you, by your own effort, stay connected to Christ, then you are doomed for hell. This passage was never about "hell". It was about Jews going back into the very system that was about to crash and burn.

Instead, God has laid hold of you so that ALL were included in Christ's work on the cross. As Young's Literal Translation says, Romans 5:18, "So, then, as through one offence to ALL men [it is] to condemnation, so also through one declaration of `Righteous' [it is] to ALL men to justification of life." Through Adam all were brought into condemnation. But all were set right with God through the one act of Christ.

Our job is to proclaim that good NEWS and allow the Holy Spirit to awaken FAITH in them. (For more on this see my messages You Were Born Into Grace And Spiritual Myth-Busters: Separation from God?) I also highly recommend Why "It is Finished" was Finished in AD 70

Inevitably someone is going to ask, "What if a Christian today apostatizes from the faith?" That would have to be addressed another time, but what we do know is that the Law doesn't exist anymore, therefore I would suggest reading The Justice of God: Punishing or Restoring? 


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