The Adoption Loophole

Why must we be "adopted" by God? What does it really mean to be "adopted" by God? This "Adoption Loophole" page has the answers.


Moses, David, and Peter Revisited

In "Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit, Part 2: Intentional Sin Vs. Unintentional Sin" (this page will open in a new window), we saw that people who intentionally sin must be "completely cut off"--must be completely destroyed (Numbers 15:30-31). A "sacrifice for sins no longer remains" (Hebrews 10:26).

However, in "Hope After Blasphemy" (this page will open in a new window), we looked closely at three examples of people who had clearly committed intentional sins, but did not appear to be completely destroyed.


Moses knew the "Rock of his salvation" (Deuteronomy 32:15), but Moses still struck the rock a second time (Numbers 20:11; compare with Hebrews 10:29).

David knew "insubordinations" (intentional sins) were "the great transgression" (Psalm 19:13), but still an incident occurred where David "despised" Yehovah (God), and Yehovah's commandments (2 Samuel 12:9-10; compare with Numbers 15:31).

Peter knew that denying Yeshua (Jesus) before people would lead to Peter's being denied by Jesus before God the Father (Matthew 10:32-33; Mark 14:31), but Peter still denied Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18,25-27).

Nevertheless, Yeshua (Jesus) came to fulfill the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17); to reign as King on the throne of David (Luke 1:31-33); and to build his Assembly on the "rock", Peter (Matthew 16:18).

How can this be? How can it be that these people, guilty of such blasphemy, have been spared from complete destruction?

Let's look again at Numbers 15:30-31.

Numbers 15:30-31

"30 And the soul that acts defiantly, from the native to the foreigner, that person blasphemes Yehovah (God); and that soul has to be cut from among its people.

31 It despised the Word of Yehovah (God), and it broke His Commandment. That soul, it is to be completely cut off, its sin with it."


The punishment seems very clear; but as we often say in English, "appearances"-can-be-deceiving (John 7:24). There is here, as we also say in English, a legal "loophole".

I use the word "loophole" here in this way:

"2:  a means of escape; especially :  an ambiguity or omission in the text through which the intent of a statute, contract, or obligation may be evaded."

Loophole. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2015,
from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/loophole
(this page will open in a new window).

The "loophole" in Numbers 15:30-31 is by an "omission in the text" here, in these two verses of Scripture (omitted here, in this portion of the Law; but included elsewhere in the Law). The "intent" of our accuser, the devil, is that each of us pay the "obligation" named here: that each of us "be completely cut off" for our sins (Romans 6:23) (1 Peter 5:8). This is the "obligation" which is "evaded" by us, but was paid by Yeshua (Jesus) (1 Corinthians 15:3). This "loophole" is certainly "a means of escape" for us (1 Corinthians 10:13).


Aetas Legitima / Legal Age: Twenty (20)

The legal "loophole" in the Law of Moses at Numbers 15:30-31 involves the legal concept of aetas legitima (Latin for "legal age"). Specifically, when is a person "old enough" to be convictable of the crime of "act[ing] defiantly" (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit)?

Obviously, very young children will imitate almost anything to which they are exposed--even very horrible blasphemies, if that is what is in their environment. Such young minds simply aren't sufficiently developed to be blameworthy: the children are only imitating other people, with no real understanding of the meaning of what they are doing.

Clearly, "no real understanding" means "UNintentional"; and thus, their sins are UNintentional sins, and not the INTENTIONAL sins of "defiance" and "blasphemy". Nevertheless, when we read Numbers 15:30-31, we see nothing in the Law regarding age.

Does the age of a person matter to God with respect to the Law (and in particular, this part of the Law)?

According to Prof. Joseph Fleishman, "...the Bible nowhere indicates legal age, legitima aetas, at which the law transgressor is subject to punishment" (retrieved July 30, 2015, from https://www.jtsa.edu/Documents/pagedocs/JANES/1992_21/Fleishman21.pdf) (this page will open in a new window).

(Note: After God led me independently to see this (and the following "The Children in the Desert" material) in the Bible, I knew it should be included in this Bible study. While writing this study, I decided to search the Internet about this topic, to see what others had already written about it. It was at that time that I encountered Prof. Fleishman's paper. Although I do not agree with Prof. Fleishman on all points, I did find his paper very interesting.)

However, there are instances in Scripture when God has shown an interest in the age of the people who broke His commandments. One example that seems particularly relevant follows the report of the Hebrew spies regarding the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:1-14:39).

Upon the arrival of the Hebrews at the land promised to them by Yehovah (God), the Hebrew people sent spies into the land, to gather information about the land in order to decide what they should do next (Numbers 13:1-20). With the exception of two men, Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:6-9,24,30), the spies gave a discouraging report to the Hebrew people (Numbers 13:31-33).

After all the miraculous things that Yehovah (God) had done to rescue the Hebrews from Egypt, and to bring them to the land He had promised the people, the distrust of God implied by the bad spy report was insulting--"blasphemous"--towards God. The spies which gave that bad report died from a plague (Numbers 14:36-37); but Caleb and Joshua, who spoke well of God, were spared (Numbers 14:38).

With only a few exceptions, the Hebrew people accepted the blasphemous spy report (Numbers 14:1-11); and that acceptance of the blasphemous report was likewise an insulting, blasphemous act. These Hebrews added to the blasphemy with their murmurings (Numbers 14:1-4,10-11,27-30). As a result, Yehovah (God) considered immediately destroying all of the Hebrews who had accepted the bad spy report (Numbers 14:10-12).

Moses pleaded with God to spare those people, and God was merciful (Numbers 14:13-20). Nevertheless, God's punishment of those people's wrongdoing was only reduced. Rather than destroy all of those people immediately, God decided that they should spend the next forty (40) years living in the desert ("wilderness" in many translations)(Numbers 14:26-35).

Within the following forty (40) years, all of the Hebrews that had been twenty (20) years old and older, and had angered God by agreeing with the bad spy report, would die in the desert. This would prevent all of the people who blasphemously murmured against Yehovah (God) from ever entering the land that God had promised to the Hebrews.

Numbers 14:28-31

"28 You say to them, 'My life, swears Yehovah (God), if I will not do to you as you spoke in my ears!

29 In this desert will your corpses fall. And all your visited ones--all your number, from the child twenty years and upward--you, who murmured against me:

30 you should not be entering that land, which I lifted my hand to settle you in her, except only Caleb son of Jephunneh, and Joshua son of Nun,

31 and your children, whom you said will become plunder. And I bring them in, and they know the land which you despised in her.'"


From this passage of Scripture, we see that Yehovah (God) considered the legitima aetas ("legal age", or "age of responsibility") in this particular situation to be twenty (20) years old. Anyone under the age of twenty (20) at the time of God's judgment would be spared, and allowed to enter the promised land; but anyone twenty (20) years old or older at the time of God's judgment (other than a few exceptions) would be condemned, and barred from entering the promised land.

Since Yehovah (God) does not change (Malachi 3:6; 1 Samuel 15:29; James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8), requiring the same now as in the past (Ecclesiastes 3:14-15); and since God does not discriminate against people (Acts 10:34), we may conclude that God would also not now hold children nineteen (19) years of age, or younger, accountable for their sins.

Notice that this is true regardless of who the parents of the children are. God might even judge the parents to be blasphemers (as God did in this Scripture passage); and the children may have also blasphemed (it seems likely that at least some of them did imitate their parents); but God nevertheless refrains from punishing the children nineteen (19) years of age or younger.

However, considering again the previously mentioned sins of Moses, David, and Peter, we see that these three men could not have been counted blameless on the basis of being younger than twenty (20) years old. The sin committed by Moses happened after his return to Egypt, when he was eighty (80) years old (Exodus 7:7); and the sin committed by David happened after he became king, when he was thirty (30) years old (2 Samuel 5:4).

We do not have any exact ages in the Bible for Peter. However, we do know that he was already old enough to be married (Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:30; Luke 4:38; 1 Corinthians 9:5), and working as a fisherman (Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16, "Simon"; Luke 5:2-3, "Simon's") with his own ship (Luke 5:3, "Simon's"), before he met Yeshua (Jesus). Of course, this was before the sin of the denial of Jesus by Peter.

So we know Moses and David were over twenty (20) years old; and it seems very likely that Peter was as well.



The Original "Prodigal"

Moses, David, and (almost certainly) Peter were too old when they committed the aforementioned sins for them to be held blameless due to being under age twenty (20). So the "case law" of Numbers 13:1-14:39 apparently does not explain how these three men could be spared everlasting condemnation.

However, there is yet more relevant law, which is explicitly stated (not "case law") in Scripture. Part of this law is found in Deuteronomy 21:18-21. It is the first--the "original"--mention in the Bible of a "prodigal" son (compare with the more famous "Prodigal Son" story given by Yeshua (Jesus) in Luke 15:7,10-32). Note the word "prodigal" in verse 20.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

"18 When one becoming a son of man, being rebellious and being disobedient, is not hearing his father's voice and his mother's voice; and they are chastising him, but he is not hearing them;

19 and his father and his mother seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city, and to the gates of his locale,

20 and they say to the elders of his city, 'this child of ours, being stubborn, and being rebellious, is not hearing our voice: a prodigal, and a drunk'.

21 And they stone him, all the men of his city, with stones, and he dies; and you destroy the wickedness from among you. And all of Israel, they will hear, and they will fear."

Note: The translation of Deuteronomy 21:21 given here is very similar to most other English translations, and follows the "traditional" understanding of the verse. However, another (perhaps better) translation is possible.

The word in verse 21 that is "traditionally" translated:

"men" properly means "mortals"--a word that emphasizes the fragility of human life;

"stones" also has the metaphorical meaning "hard hearts" (compare with Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26);

"destroy" or "put away" also has the meaning "become brutish" and "become dull-hearted"; and

"among" also has the meaning "within".

Changing the "traditional" word translations for these alternate translations, we have:

Deuteronomy 21:21 (with alternate translations)

"21 And they stone him, all the mortals of his city, with [their] hard hearts, and he dies; and you will become the brutish wickedness from inside of you. And all of Israel, they will hear, and they will fear."

This may initially seem like an unacceptable translation. However, it seems very reasonable when compared with the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). The men that wished to stone the woman were being "hard-hearted" towards her, acting with "brutish" wickedness from "inside" themselves. Jesus reminded them that they, too, are "mortals" when he said to them that whoever among them was sinless should be the first to throw a stone at the woman.

Reminded of their own "mortality" (their own humanity), each of the men's hearts softened, and they relented of the brutality that they previously desired inside themselves to do to the woman. After that, they each went away, one by one.

This alternate translation also makes sense when compared with what Jesus said regarding judging other people in Matthew 7:1-5 and Luke 6:37-42.


Returning to the "prodigal" passage after such a long "note", let's look at the passage again:

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

"18 When one becoming a son of man, being rebellious and being disobedient, is not hearing his father's voice and his mother's voice; and they are chastising him, but he is not hearing them;

19 and his father and his mother seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city, and to the gates of his locale,

20 and they say to the elders of his city, 'this child of ours, being stubborn, and being rebellious, is not hearing our voice: a prodigal, and a drunk'.

21 And they stone him, all the men of his city, with stones, and he dies; and you destroy the wickedness from among you. And all of Israel, they will hear, and they will fear."


This portion of the Law from Deuteronomy tells us that a child's parents are responsible for deciding when a child is so disobedient and rebellious that the situation is hopeless. If the parents no longer feel "chastising" the child has any hope of success, God allows those parents to bring the child "out to the elders of his city" to be executed.

However, this also means that if the parents are willing to continue trying to get their child to listen to them, and retain hope that chastisement of their child will succeed, then the child will not be condemned.

No matter how terrible a sin that the child might commit (even blasphemy against the Holy Spirit), it is the decision of the parents whether or not there is any remaining hope for the child. So a person still has hope, so long as:

  1. he or she is considered a child from a legal perspective, and
  2. his (or her) parent(s) don't give up on him (or her).


That is the Law in this matter.

Notice, this doesn't mean that the sin of the child is simply "forgiven". Rather, because the sin was committed by a child, it is reckoned that aetas legitima has not yet been attained. That is, because the person that sinned was a child, the person that sinned is NOT--canNOT be--considered "guilty".

In Psalm 32:2, the Hebrew אָדָם "adam", translated here as "man", can also be translated as "person". It is translated here as "man" to harmonize with the use of the Greek ἀνήρ "aner" used by Paul in Romans 4:8, which properly translates as gender-specifically male; compare this with the use of the Greek ἄνθρωπού "anthropou", translated properly as "person", which Paul used just before, in Romans 4:6. The use of "person" by Paul in 4:6 implies that the "man" of Romans 4:8 / Psalm 32:2 should be understood as non-gender specific.


Paul paraphrased David regarding this condition, in Romans 4:6-8.

Romans 4:6-8

"6 As David also describes the happiness of the person to whom God accounts righteousness without actions:

7 'Happy, whose lawlessness was disregarded, and whose sins were covered!

8 Happy, the man to whom the Lord never will be implicating sin!'"


Here is what David actually wrote, in Psalm 32:1-2.

Psalm 32:1-2

"1 (A contemplation of David.) Happy, one being lifted from rebellion, one being covered from sin!

2 Happy, the man to whom Yehovah is not implicating depravity, in whose spirit is no dereliction!"


The "lawlessness" (Romans 4:7), and "rebellion" and "dereliction" (Psalm 32:1-2)--the intentional sin--is not simply forgiven: it is "disregarded". Yehovah (God) will never even "implicate" the person in "depravity" (intentional "sin"). This is exactly the way we cope with the misbehavior of children: we realize that they are children, and "disregard" any "lawlessness", "rebellion", or "dereliction" in their behavior, trusting that continued chastisement and training will lead to proper intentions, eventually.


Yehovah (God) treats such a person as incapable of intentional sin, in the same way that any parent treats his or her beloved child. (Consider 1 John 3:9-10.)


Aetas Legitima / Legal Age: One Hundred (100)

Let us return now to the questions: "How old can someone be and still be considered a 'child' from a legal perspective? What is the Biblical aetas legitima?" We have already seen that one apparent answer was nineteen (19) years old and younger; but this did not even explain how Yehovah (God) dealt with the intentional sins of Moses, David, and Peter.

Another answer is found in Isaiah 65:20.

Isaiah 65:20

"20 There will no longer be an infant of days, and the old who will not fulfill his days. The child will die a hundred years old; and the one missing a hundred years will be diminished."


The word translated "child" in this verse is the Hebrew word נַעַר "na'ar", which strictly means someone considered to be between infancy and adulthood. In particular, such a person is definitely not regarded as an adult.


Thus, the childhood of such a person will "die" ("end") at "a hundred years old". For those people to whom this prophecy applies, the aetas legitima is (at least) one hundred (100) years old. Who are these people? To answer this question, we need to study Isaiah chapter 65:22 in context.

Isaiah 65:17-22

"17 For, see, I am creating new Heavens, and a new Earth; and the former ones, they will not be remembered, and will not be brought up to mind.

18 But rather, rejoice, and dance for joy always, that which I create! See, I create Jerusalem rejoicing; and her people, a joy.

19 I dance for joy in Jerusalem, and I rejoice in my people; and no longer will be heard in her the sound of weeping, and the sound of crying.

20 There will no longer be an infant of days, and the old who will not fulfill his days. The child will die a hundred years old; and the one missing a hundred years will be diminished.

21 And they build houses, and they dwell; and they plant gardens, and they eat the fruit of them.

22 They will not build, and another will dwell; they will not plant, and another will eat. As the days of the tree, the days of my people; and the works of their hands they will fully use, my chosen ones."


This tells us that those people regarded as "children" at a hundred (100) years old are "my people... ...my chosen ones" (Isaiah 65:22), where "my" means "Yehovah's (God's)" (Isaiah 65:13). That is, the "children" are God's "people": they are God's "children".


This notion of the "children of God" is mentioned by that exact phrase nine (9) times in the King James Version of the Bible (Matthew 5:9; Luke 20:36; John 11:52; Romans 8:16; Romans 8:21; Romans 9:8; Galatians 3:26; 1 John 3:10; 1 John 5:2).
("KJV Search Results for "children of God"." Blue Letter Bible. Sowing Circle. Web. 15 Aug, 2015. <http://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria="children+of+God"&t=KJV#s=s_primary_0_1>.)

It is easily observed that these occurrences are found in the New Testament. However, the idea of God's "children" is not limited to the New Testament (nor in the Old Testament to the passage from Isaiah). As a group, Yehovah (God) treats the nation of Israel as His "firstborn son" (e.g. Exodus 4:22-23; Hosea 11:1-2). Nevertheless, Israel is actually adopted by God, because God chose Israel (Deuteronomy 7:6-8), a fact which Paul reiterates in Romans 9:3-8 (especially Romans 9:4,8).

Therefore, viewing Deuteronomy 21:18-21 together with Isaiah 65:20, we can say that a child of God still has hope, even after blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, so long as:

  1. he or she is considered a child from a legal perspective (every child of God below one hundred (100) years of age is definitely included), and
  2. his or her parent--Yehovah (God), the Father--doesn't give up on him or her.


Therefore, the "adoption loophole" is this: those people who are adopted by Yehovah (God), and less than a hundred years old (or perhaps older), are under God's discretion about their condemnation, even with regard to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

If a child of God blasphemes the Holy Spirit, but then "repents" (returns) to God the Father (like the "Prodigal Son" of Luke 15:10-32), and accepts "chastisement" (corrective punishment) for the sin, then that child of God can be spared from eternal destruction (the punishment may be VERY severe, however, just as it was for Moses, David, and Peter).


Summary

At the beginning of this page, two questions were asked:

Why must we be "adopted" by God?
What does it really mean to be "adopted" by God?

We each need this adoption so that we can become legally eligible to be dealt with as God's children. As God's children, God has discretion to chastise us, rather than to completely destroy us. Without this parental discretion, the Law is clear that intentional sin requires total destruction of the offender (Numbers 15:30-31).

This finally explains how someone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit still has hope: if such a person accepts adoption into the family of God, and becomes a child of God, then God has discretion as the parent to deal with the blasphemy in a way other than condemnation to Hell.

It is important to note again that the punishment for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can be life and death serious. Moses died without realizing his dearest hope of entering the promised land; David saw many of his children die; and Peter died acknowledging the Yeshua (Jesus) he previously denied. Concerning a man who intentionally sinned by fornication, Paul wrote:

1 Corinthians 5:5

"5 to give such [a person] to Satan, into destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord Jesus."


Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit--which is any kind of intentional sin--is a very, very serious matter, even though there is still hope for salvation.

Being adopted by God means becoming a full member of God's family--just like any other adoption. It means that a person becomes a true, full child of God, according to the Law given by God. Being "adopted" by God is not just words: it is a REAL adoption.

Yeshua (Jesus) told those of us who follow Him that we should not call any man "father" because our Father is Yehovah (God) (Matthew 23:9). We should be "fatherless" with regards to a human "father", so that Yehovah (God) can be our Father (Psalm 68:5).



Having learned the meaning and purpose of our adoption by Yehovah (God), a person may ask, "What was the purpose of the death of Yeshua (Jesus)? Why did He need to die for us?" We will discover the answers to these questions in the next page of this study, "The Price of Our Adoption".

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