The Way of life and the way of death was clearly taught by The Lord Jesus, for He is The Way.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 NASB
“The two ways” is an ancient teaching. In his farewell address to the children of Israel, Moses said,
“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.” Deuteronomy 30:15-16
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore chose life, that you and your descendants may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19 The same two ways are found in Jeremiah 21:8 “You shall also say to this people, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.”
The two ways was taught in the early church. The Greek word didache means “teaching.” The Didache is the short title of an ancient document that contains some very early Christian doctrines. Although a document of that name is referred to by several ancient writers, it apparently was lost. It was re-discovered in Constantinople in 1875, in a manuscript dated 1056 that also included several other documents either known or referred to as having been written before AD 150.
Didache 1:1 There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and the difference between the two ways is great.1:2 The way of life is this: first, you shall love the God who made you; second, your neighbor as yourself, and whatever you would not have done to you, do not do to another.
These are the two great commandments as taught by our Lord Jesus plus the negative form of the golden rule, which was clearly a Jewish teaching. The renowned Jewish Sage Hillel the Elder taught, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn” Hillel recognized brotherly love as the fundamental principle of Jewish moral law. Leviticus 19:18.
Jesus taught the positive form of the golden rule, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12. This Way empowers His disciples to become helpful and a light in the midst of a sinful and adulterous generation. The positive form of the golden rule is of a higher ethical plane, it goes beyond what is required or expected and bestows grace on others by being graceful.
Didache 5:1 But this is the way of death: first of all, it is evil and full of curses, murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, fortune-tellings, sorceries, robberies; false testimony, hypocrisy, duplicity, deception, arrogance, malice, stubbornness, greed, filthy-talking, jealousy, audacity, pride, boastfulness; 5:2 persecuting good men, hating truth, loving falsehood, not knowing the reward of righteousness, not adhering to what is good nor to righteous judgment; watching not for that which is good but for that which is evil; far from gentleness and patience, loving worthless things, pursuing recompense, having no mercy for the needy, not working for him that is distressed, not recognizing him who made them; murderers of children, corrupters of the image of God, turning away from him that is in need, oppressing him that is distressed, advocates of the rich, unjust judges of the poor, utterly sinful. May you be delivered, my children, from all these!
I don’t think there is any need to pound on that plain and clear teaching. So let’s examine another ancient writing. The epistle of Barnabas, which most likely was not written by the Apostle Barnabas who went to Tarsus to find Saul and who was his equal and companion on their first missionary journey, states it this way, “There are two ways of teaching and of power, one of light and one of darkness, and there is a great difference between these two ways. For on the one are stationed the light-giving angels of God; on the other the angels of Satan. And the one is Lord from all eternity and to all eternity, whereas the other is Lord of the season of iniquity that now is.” Barnabas 18:1-2
The epistle of Barnabas is a Greek epistle containing twenty-one chapters, preserved complete in the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus where it appears at the end of the New Testament. It is traditionally ascribed to Barnabas who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, although some ascribe it to another Apostolic Father of the same name, “Barnabas of Alexandria”, or simply attribute it to an unknown early Christian teacher. Nevertheless the epistle was widely read in the early church, cited by Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria and attests to the teaching of the Two Ways.
The Two Ways doctrine is also found among the Essene Jews at the Dead Sea Scrolls community. The Qumran community included a Two Ways teaching in its founding Charter, The Community Rule and The Rule of the Congregation.
“This is the rule for all the congregation of Israel in the Last Days, when they are mobilized to join the Yahad. They must live by the law of the Sons of Zadok, the priests, and the men of their Covenant, they who ceased to walk in the way of the people. These same men of His party who kept His Covenant during evil times, and so atoned for the land.”
So let us examine Paul’s epistle to the Romans with this teaching in mind.
Romans 2:12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. NASB
Now as Christians we are justified by faith alone in Christ. That is why we are a part of the Bride-Church and will be a Holy Priesthood, ruling and reigning with Him during the Millennium.
Revelation 5:9…”Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
But about the general resurrection of the dead our Lord said this, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” John 5:28-29 NASB
There is a difference in the resurrection and revealing of the Sons of God and the general resurrection of the dead. Some would argue that this general resurrection has passed and was fulfilled at His resurrection and others would argue that it is at the end of the Millennium at the Great White Throne. This is possible, but there will be a flesh and blood resurrection at the beginning of the Millennium and in my humble opinion this is what The Lord taught.
Paul spoke thusly in his defense before Felix, “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” Acts 24:14-15 NASB
This is the second time Paul refers to the early church as The Way, who some called a sect of Judaism. He also confirms that it was believed that there was a general resurrection of the dead to take place that included the righteous (In Greek dikaios Pronunciation dē’-kī-os. Righteous, Just, observing divine laws.) and the wicked. In Romans 2:13 the same Greek word is translated as “just” before God.
Rom 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the Law who are just (dikaios) before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.
The doers of the Law which God has inscribed on our hearts.
Rom 2:14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,
This is the condition of all who have never heard the Word or were given the Law. If they recognized God as the Creator God and did not worship the creation or the creature. If they kept His Law which he placed on their hearts they will be part of that flesh and blood resurrection of the just.
Rom 2:15 In that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,
The Holy Spirit comes alongside everyone to convict the world of it’s sin. John 16:7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. NASB
Rom 2:16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
God can not be gamed. He can not be deceived. He knows the motives of our hearts. God will judge the secret motives of the heart through Christ Jesus and His judgement is true.
Gal 6:7-8 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
I am so thankful to my LORD our God that I will not be judged, but have received Mercy and Grace that is undeserving. I thank my Lord Jesus the Christ for taking away my sins and the sins of the whole world and I thank the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Comforter who has come to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement. I can not tell you for sure what happens to those who have not heard the Word, but I can tell you what happens to a person who has ignored the Word, who had an opportunity to place their faith in Him. They will be judged and they will be found wanting, for they have no excuse, for He has given them the words of life and set out the Way of life before them and they chose spiritual death.
May this humble study be a blessing to all who read it. May the One God of my ancestors be with you all of your days. May His strong-arm be about you and protect you in this world. May His only begotten Son Jesus the Christ be with you and be your only Teacher. May Their Holy Spirit lead you and guide you into the Way of Truth and eternal life that is only found in Christ Jesus.