Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Is the Gospel Really Good News?

"Most sections of mainstream Christianity preach what they call the good news. But, in many of these, it really is a mixture of good news for a few and very bad news for the majority." (Quote from page 23 of "The Really Good News About God".)

It does not seem to faze these Christians that they gather each Sunday to worship a God of supposed unconditional love who will oversee, even orchestrate, the fearful unending torment of the majority of His creation, the same ones for whom Jesus died.

When I try to explain to any of these Christians what the really good news is, I am treated like a heretic who should be burned at the stake.
Questions like "You don't really believe God will save people like Hitler, do you?" are designed to put me on the defensive and make me abandon the discussion.
And I sometimes do ... until very recently.

I now offer my own provocative questions.
"You don't really believe a God of love would torture those he loves and created in His image, do you?"
"Do you think Jesus was successful when he died for the sins of the world?"
"Do you love your children? If one of them disappointed you, would you torture him/her forever?"

I have changed from leaving myself open to being attacked to asking those sorts of uncomfortable questions. I now avoid being put on the back foot by a person advancing an unbiblical, traditional church position by advancing the true good news found in the Bible.

And what is this good news that the Bible announces?

The end of all things is ...

  • Jesus, the Omega (Revelation 1 : 8, 11 and Revelation 21 : 5 - 6)
  • When all of creation have life and God is everything to everyone
    (1 Corinthians 15 : 22 - 28)
  • When all of creation has come to repentance (2 Peter 3 : 9)
  • When all of creation is in unity and perfect harmony (Ephesians 1 :  10)
  • When everything is reconciled to God (Colossians 1 : 19 - 20)
  • When the whole world is saved (John 3 : 17 and Luke 3 : 4 - 6)
  • When all of creation is restored (Romans 8 : 20 - 21)
  • When all of creation will worship God ( Revelation 15 : 3 - 4 and
    Philippians 2 : 9 - 11)

The Bible has a much better "end of all things" than does mainstream Christianity, and I am becoming much more adventurous in sharing this good news.

Blessings, Barry

(BTW, Hitler is discussed on page 159 of "The Really Good News About God".)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Why Evangelise?

I am often asked, "If everyone is going to be reconciled to God eventually, why bother with evangelism?"
Let me offer an answer within the context of God's sovereign choices.

God is the Designer, Creator and Ruler of the universe. As such, He made and makes all the decisions involved in its creation, maintenance and affairs.
Unless He chooses to delegate some decisions to us, he makes all the choices - and even the choice to delegate is His.

Here are some examples of God's choices.
God chose to create the heavens and the earth.
God chose to commence the human race with a man, Adam, made in his image, and a woman, Eve, made from that man.
God chose Noah, the ark-builder, to save 8 people from the global flood.
God chose Abraham to become the father of a new spiritual race.
God chose Jacob to be the father of God's special nation, called Israel.
God chose Joseph to save Israel from starvation. 
God chose Moses to free Israel from Egypt.
God chose David to be the greatest of the kings of Israel.
God chose Solomon to build a most elaborately adorned temple in Jerusalem.
God chose Jesus to be the Saviour of the world and Jesus chose to draw all people to himself.

Those last choices involving Jesus were to guarantee that God's ultimate choice that all creation would spend eternity in unity and harmony with Himself would be achieved. (Ephesians 1 : 7 ff)

However, some of His creation are chosen earlier than others, and for a special purpose.
These early-chosen are given belief (faith) and are called believers, disciples, first fruits or the Body Of Christ.

And what do they believe?
According to St Paul, they believe the good news "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." (1 Corinthians 15 : 3 - 4)

And what is their special purpose?
The task of the Body of Christ is to announce this good news - the gospel - to the world: that God has reconciled the world to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5 : 18 - 19).

And what happens when they do?
Many people will hear this good news and those who have been chosen to join the Body of Christ, to become an early-believer, will be given belief (faith) and will join in this ministry (Acts 13 : 48}. 

This process will continue until all those who have been chosen to be early believers have heard the gospel and been given faith.

At this point, the body of Christ will be complete and the events due to be unfolded at the consummation of the ages will commence - the salvation of Israel (Romans 11 : 25 ff) and the commencement of the millennium kingdom (Revelation 20 : 1 ff), for example.

So what is the purpose of evangelism, of announcing the gospel?
It is to complete the Body of Christ, those chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1 : 3 ff) to show the incomparable riches of God's grace in the heavenly realms in the coming ages. (Ephesians 2 : 6 - 7)

We are blessed to have been chosen early, but we also have a major responsibility - to preach the gospel so that God can give faith to the not-yet members of the Body of Christ. (Romans 10 : 17). We usually call this activity or ministry evangelism.

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Brave Israel Told Only Half the Story

Israel Folau has caused quite a stir in saying God's plan for gays is that they will go to hell "unless they repent of their sins and turn to God".
He has since quoted 1 Corinthians 6 : 9, 10 to support his opinion.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The word "hell" is not mentioned in this quote and, in a correctly translated Bible, would not likely be used at all. (You can read about "hell" in previous posts "What is Hell?" published on 4th August 2010 and "Jesus Visits Hell for Three Days" published on 4th September 2013.)

So all Paul (and Israel) are saying is that there are some people who will be in the unseen realm (hell) and therefore will not inherit (be present in) the kingdom of God during the remaining eons of space and time.

Before discussing this further, let me first congratulate Israel for standing up strongly for what he believes. So few Christians seem to be brave enough to do this, especially if they are being attacked in the public arena and their livelihood depends on their public acceptance.
So well done Israel. I sincerely wish there were more Christians like you.

Now to the other half of the story.
It is true that people who are not yet reconciled to God will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

The kingdom of God is the rule of God in the heavens and on the earth during the present and future ages (or eons) and is a joint venture administered by Christ and his chosen followers.
Clearly only those reconciled to Christ, those chosen by God to believe the gospel in their lifetime, will be co-workers with Christ in this enterprise. In other words, only the righteous, those with right-standing before God, are going to be comfortable being in a joint venture with him.

And who will these people be?
They will be those who have been called by God "to repent of their sins and turn to God", using Israel's simple description.

And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them. [Romans 8 : 30 GNB]
The co-workers with Christ in the kingdom are just the first-fruits of the harvest. Beyond those kingdom ages, when the ages have completed and we progress into the eternal realm, all of God's creation will be in unity and harmony with God. Yes, there will be eventual universal reconciliation as a result of what Jesus did on the cross for all of us.
In all his wisdom and insight God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ.
This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head. [Ephesians 1 : 8 - 10 GNB]

Although all of us are sinners while we live in our earthly bodies here (and the list of sins is even longer than the one Israel quoted above), there will not be sinners in the kingdom of God or in the eventual eternal realm - only ex-sinners of all shapes and varieties who have been changed by God into Christ-likeness. 

So Israel is correct. All sinners not reconciled to God will miss the kingdom of God era: however all will be reconciled to God in the eternal realm after the ages have been completed, just as Jesus promised.

"When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me." [Jesus quoted in John 12 : 32 GNB]

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Benefits of Knowing God's Plan

First of all, let's remember what God's plan is for His creation?
Paul in writing to the Ephesian church tells us what God revealed to him about His plan - the plan which had not been disclosed previously, although hints of it had been given to some of the Old Testament prophets.

He (God) made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment -- to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. [Ephesians 1 : 9 - 10 NIV]
If this is to be so, then sin and death must be dealt with along the way.
Well, Jesus dealt with sin 2000 years ago ...

Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
[1 John 2 : 2 NIV]

and, as a result, God no longer holds our sins against us ...
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. [2 Corinthians 5 : 19 NIV]
And Jesus will deal with death at the end of the ages (when the times reach their fulfillment) ...
For he (Christ) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. [1 Corinthians 15 : 25 - 26 NIV]
So all is in place for God to achieve His "unity plan" at the end of the ages.

Now, let's consider the benefits of knowing this?
There are quite a few for me.

One, my opinion of God as a God of unconditional love is reinforced.

Two, I have a terrific single-focused good-news message for the  world, that God is not mad with them, He is reconciled to them and plans to give them the best eternal future possible.

Three, I can distance myself from the good-news/bad-news dichotomy often presented by mainstream Christianity that God is love on the one hand yet He will oversee the torture of the majority of His creation forever on the other.

Four, I can relate to everyone of my friends, colleagues and neighbours as people on the journey to the same destination as me, even if they are at a different stage of that journey. As such, I can pray for people with much more hope and optimism than I previously might have had, knowing I am praying in line with God's will.

To know the end result of the space-time realm in which we live is as reassuring as it is empowering, and encourages me to roll up my sleeves and be involved in the ministry to which God has called me - the ministry of sharing "the message of reconciliation".

What about you?
Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

I Just Can't Believe It

One of my very best friends, who is almost as big a Bible junkie as I am, just can't believe that all of creation will eventually be reconciled to God.

He acknowledges what the Bible says in verses like

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Christ), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
[Colossians 1 : 19-20 NIV]

For God had allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfilment in him. [Ephesians 1: 9 - 10 Phillips]

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
[1 Corinthians 15 : 22 NIV]

For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. [Romans 11 : 32 NIV]

and genuinely hopes this really might happen 
BUT ...
just can't believe people like Hitler will ever accept God's offer of salvation.

There are three major problems here.

First: Salvation is not a Gift.

God's salvation does not depend on people's acceptance of it.
God doesn't offer salvation as a gift to be accepted or rejected. He has already graciously given it through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.
It's a done deal.

God was in Christ personally reconciling the world to himself—not counting their sins against them—and has commissioned us with the message of reconciliation. [2 Cor 5 : 19 Phillips]
A bit like someone putting a million dollars in your bank account rather than offering the money in cash for you to accept or not. It's in your account - it's already in the bank - it's a done deal.

Let me share a real-life illustration of this happening in 2018.
A couple from our church dined at a local High Street Italian restaurant. After finishing their meal, the husband went to pay the bill. The waitress told him there was no need as the bill had already been paid.
He contested this, saying he still had a debt to pay. Then the waitress explained that a local High Street trader has a table selected for each sitting and that he always covers the bill from that table.
So my friend and his wife had no debt to pay - it had already been taken care of before they had even eaten, and no matter how much the bill might have come to.

That's how it is with our sins. They have already been paid for - 2000 years ago. We have no debt to pay, our salvation was secured on the cross of Calvary centuries ago. It was all God's doing, we had nothing to do with it - it's a done deal.

Second: Jesus' Sacrifice Was Successful

Either Jesus was successful in His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, or He wasn't.
All Christians I have met, including my friend, will agree that Jesus' mission to die for the sins of the world was successful. But then, illogically, assert that all will not be saved because some will not choose to accept God's gracious gift, thus contradicting their initial assessment of Jesus' success.

He (Jesus) himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. [1 John 2 : 2 NLT]
And when I (Jesus) am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself. [John 12 : 32 NLT]
Third: God is Sovereign and Will Always Get His Way
Although God has chosen to save all, skeptics believe many (most) people will choose not to be saved and therefore overrule God's choice. In other words, the created being will overrule the Creator and His plans for His creation.

But who are you, my friend, to talk back to God? A clay pot does not ask the man who made it, "Why did you make me like this?"
After all, the man who makes the pots has the right to use the clay as he wishes, and to make two pots from the same lump of clay, one for special occasions and the other for ordinary use. [Romans 9 : 20 - 21 GNB]
People may plan all kinds of things, but the Lord's will is going to be done. [Proverbs 19 : 21 GNB]

God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.
[Ephesians 1 : 11 BV]

Believing salvation is a done deal, Jesus' sacrifice was completely successful and God's sovereignty will make sure His plan for the full reconciliation of His creation is achieved is the correct Biblical view and gives God the honour and respect He deserves.

Blessings, Barry

Monday, April 2, 2018

How Will We Look in the Millennium? - Part 2

In our previous post, we noted two different resurrection bodies of Jesus.
One looked quite human and one looked very celestial.
The human-looking one was worn by Jesus when he was on earth after his resurrection and the other was worn by Jesus after his ascension to heaven.

So what body we have probably depends on where we will be ruling with Jesus in the millennium.
If on earth, then with a human-looking body like the resurrected Jesus on earth: if in heaven, then with the celestial body like the resurrected Jesus from heaven.

So where will we be in the millennium?

My guess about where we will be and therefore what bodies we will have in the millennium is influenced by another guess that I am currently investigating.
I am guessing (and trying to establish) that redeemed Israel will rule on earth while the Body of Christ will rule in the heavens, the celestial realm.

So my current guessing leads to ...
If you are a believer, and therefore a member of the Body of Christ, you will be ruling with Christ in the heavenlies and will therefore have a heavenly body, a celestial one, one like Jesus had when he met Saul on the road to Damascus.

If you belong to redeemed Israel, and therefore a member of the Bride of Christ, you will be ruling the nations with Christ on earth and will have a human-looking body, one like Jesus had when he ate breakfast with his disciples on the seashore.

What do you think?
Blessings, Barry

PS 1. If you are an non-Israelite unbeliever, the only category of humankind remaining, you will not be aware of the millennium as you will be asleep until you are resurrected at the consummation of the ages.

PS 2. I promise I'll get back to more faith-building topics next.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

How Will We Look in the Millennium?

This post is a thought bubble about our millennium bodies. Hardly an important, faith-building topic, but one that sometimes piques our curiosity.
I haven't delved too deeply into it, nor have I tested it to see if it is consistent throughout Scripture as I usually do before posting. But I wanted to share this thought from left field with you and invite your feedback on a "lighter" subject for a change.

With Easter approaching, I started this thought trip while musing about the resurrected body of Jesus.

Firstly, Jesus kept on just turning up, seeming to arrive from nowhere.

On that same day two of the disciples were walking to Emmaus, a village seven or eight miles from Jerusalem, and were conversing about all these recent events; and, in the midst of their conversation and discussion, Jesus Himself came and joined them, though they were prevented from recognizing Him.  [Luke 24 : 13 - 16 Weymouth]
Secondly, Jesus moved through walls, a bit like sound does, maybe.
It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Then Jesus came and stood among them. "Peace be with you," he said.

A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." [John 20 : 19, 26 GNB]

Thirdly, Jesus looked "normal", having flesh and blood and eating food.
"Look at my hands and my feet and see who I am! Touch me and find out for yourselves. Ghosts don't have flesh and bones as you see I have."
After Jesus said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

The disciples were so glad and amazed that they could not believe it. Jesus then asked them, "Do you have something to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish. He took it and ate it as they watched. 
[ Luke 24 : 39 - 43 CEV]

But then the resurrected Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus.
When Saul had almost reached Damascus, a bright light from heaven suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice that said, "Saul! Saul! Why are you so cruel to me?"
"Who are you?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus," the Lord answered. "I am the one you are so cruel to.  [Acts 9 : 3 - 5 CEV]

Wow, that one's different.
The resurrected Jesus from heaven (after His ascension) looks a bit different to the resurrected Jesus on earth (before his ascension).

Are there any other clues?
What about the glimpse Jesus gave to Peter, James and John in the presence of the "resurrected" Elijah and Moses?

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John (the brother of James) and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone.
Jesus' appearance changed in front of them. His face became as bright as the sun and his clothes as white as light.
Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them and were talking with Jesus. [Matthew 17 : 1 - 3 GW]

And John's frequent reference to Jesus as the Light.
John wasn't that light. He came only to tell about the light. The true light that shines on everyone was coming into the world. [John 1 : 8 - 9 CEV]

Once again Jesus spoke to the people. This time he said, "I am the light for the world! Follow me, and you won't be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life." [John 8 : 12 CEV]

"While I am in the world, I am the light for the world." [John 9 : 5 GNB]

Now John says that we, the children of God, will be like Him.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever he is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. [1 John 3 : 2 LEB]
So, if we are going to be like Him, which Jesus will we look like?

I will continue this thought bubble in the next post (after Easter).

In the meantime, what are your thoughts?

Blessings, Barry