Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Do Unbelievers Get Saved?

Recently I was asked, "Could you help me through the scriptures with how the unbelievers will be saved?"
I have replied and thought I would share the reply with you for your consideration and feedback.

I am happy to journey through the Scriptures with you on this, although I have to admit, before we commence, that there are not too many clues in the Scriptures about HOW God does most things, including the saving of unbelievers, whether they are on this planet, or have left it.
In many cases we know WHAT he does/did, but not HOW he does/did it.
For example,
We know that God implanted Jesus into the womb of the virgin Mary, but no clues are given about how he did it?
We know that Jesus turned water into wine, but no clues are given about how he did it?
We know that Jesus raised the widow's son in Nain from the dead, but no clues are given about how he did it?
You and I received faith in God and Jesus' sacrifice for our sins, but I, for one, cannot explain HOW we got that faith?

We, as the creatures, will never understand how he, the Creator, does such things, unless he tells us, or we make guesses from clues sprinkled through the Scriptures.

So let's start with the WHAT, about the fate of those who leave the planet as unbelievers, which is well documented in the Scriptures.
Col 1 : 19 - 20 :   God will reconcile all things, in heaven and on earth, to himself.  The same sacrifice of Jesus that got you and me reconciled to God will reconcile the rest of his creation.
2 Cor 5 : 19 :   God is no longer counting our sins against us - any of us.
1 John 2 : 2 :   Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world.
1 Tim 4 : 10 :   God will save all people, not just believers.
Romans 11 : 32 :   God will have mercy on us all.
Ephesians 1 : 10 :   The end result will be the unity of all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

HOW God will save unbelievers beyond their time on this planet is just as difficult to explain as the HOW he saves those who become believers while still here (people like us).
We are made aware of our sin, God's provision for dealing with it, and his being reconciled to us.
God gives us the faith to believe these truths, as Jesus draws us to himself.
We respond by confessing our faith in Jesus and his completed work for us.
We are reconciled to (at peace with) God, and express our appreciation and devotion.
This happens in a multitude of ways and circumstances and places - it's all God's doing and timing.

Those who leave this planet as unbelievers will be reconciled to God through a similar series of "steps" that converted unbelievers experience in their lifetime here - awareness, faith, drawing, confession, reconciliation, appreciation and devotion.
Here are my guesses .....
Because God is already reconciled to these unbelievers when they show up before him, they will discover that God holds nothing against them and does not need to be feared (because of the completed work of Jesus in dealing with their sin).
Believing these truths will be easy in the presence of Jesus; they will be drawn to him, confessing their conviction that he is their Lord and their God.
This will happen far too late for them to experience governing with Christ and previous believers in the kingdom age, but will carry them reconciled into eternity.

So what clues have I based these guesses on?
One way or the other God's plan (the WHAT above) must be fulfilled.  [ Psalm 135 : 6 ;  Isaiah 46 : 9 - 11 ]
Jesus came into the world to save it, not judge it, and he is the same yesterday and today and into the ages.  [ John 12 : 47 ;  Hebrews 13 : 8 ]
God is already reconciled to all of us and holds nothing against us.  [ 2 Cor 5 : 19 ]
The experience of Thomas.  [ John 20 : 24 - 29 ]
Jesus' parable of the prodigal son and how his loving and merciful father dealt with him.  [ Luke 15 ]

Well, that's where I'm up to on this topic.  What are your thoughts?
Blessings, Barry

Do you lovely bloggers have any thoughts on this?  I'd love to explore this with you too.
Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Glenn's Tricky Scripture

2 Thessalonians 1 : 6 - 10
Background .....
Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonian saints about the middle of the first century AD, either in the year 50 or 51, only a short time after he had written his previous letter to them.
These saints were clearly under great stress due to "religious" persecution from non-Christian Jews (verse 4 and Acts 17) and were being encouraged by the promise of  relief and a just end-result (verse 6).

The tricky verses .....
Here is the NIV translation of these verses, amended to reflect a more literal rendering of the underlying Greek text.

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.
This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his powerful messengers in blazing fire.
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
They will be punished with age-lasting ruin and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed.
This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

Explanation of amendments .....
Messengers (verse 7).
The Greek word here is 'aggelos' and is most often transliterated as 'angel' rather than translated as 'messenger' or 'agent.'  Not using 'angel' is wise as sometimes the messenger or agent is not a celestial courier, but a human one (for example, John the Baptist).  In the case here, the text does not reveal what type of messenger is meant.
Age-lasting ruin (verse 9).
The Greek word here is 'aionion.'  It is the adjectival form of the noun 'aion.'  Aion is 'age' or 'eon' in English, an unspecified period of time which has a beginning and an end, so 'aionion' must be related to an 'age' or 'eon' in some way.  It should never be translated as 'eternal' as 'eternity' is the timeless realm, having no beginning or end.  Unfortunately, most popular, volume-selling English Bibles translate 'aionion' as 'eternal' in order to give strength to the theological position of their translators and publishers, and of their potential church market.

My Comments .....
The events discussed in these verses had great relevance to the Thessalonian saints, and of course, to all other saints of that era who were being persecuted by the Jews.
The relief promised would have been in their lifetime or would have been of little comfort to them.  Indeed Jesus confirmed this timeline to his disciples when he said, "Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom [or sovereignty]." [ Matthew 16 : 28 ]
It wasn't suggested that the relief would come when they died and left this planet and moved into the peaceful presence of God; it would come when the Jesus-empowered agents came and took away their enemies in blazing fire.
This fits the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish centre of religion by fire in AD70 by the Romans, who were Jesus' agents of the fiery judgement that had been predicted by Jesus and several OT prophets.  Indeed Jesus warns the Jewish leaders about this fiery future judgement quite often, using the fire of Gehenna as his illustration.

So, although many in mainstream Christianity see this passage as dealing with yet future events, I don't agree.  Persecuted Thessalonian saints of the first century would hardly be comforted by promises to Christians living thousands of years later.

The punishment administered to the Jews would be their ruin or destruction as God's chosen people through whom the nations would be brought to God, and would last until the end of the next age.  Jesus had earlier confirmed this when he said to their chief priests and elders, " ..... the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." [Matthew 21 : 43]
Consequently, the Jews will not enjoy God's presence or his powerful rule in the kingdom age.  Anyone reading Matthew's Gospel can't miss the constant references to the kingdom in many of Jesus' parables and his repeated warnings that Israel would miss out on the kingdom age if they refused to change their ways.  The parable of the weeds in Matthew 13 is probably one of the best known.  

(Nevertheless, Israel will be all saved after this age, as Paul reveals in Romans 11 : 25 - 26.)

So, although many in mainstream Christianity see this passage as forecasting the eternal, future destruction of all unbelievers of all ages at the end of time, I don't agree.  The age-lasting fate of Jewish persecutors of first century followers of Jesus is the focus here.

Please do not hesitate to offer any of the C's to this post - comment, clarification, correction, criticism, challenge, cross-examination - as the discovery of truth is the name of the game for me.

Blessings, Barry

Friday, January 25, 2013

Opposition to Universal Reconciliation

I appreciate that most of you read what I write here and either don't comment at all or write to me via email with questions, comments, suggestions, etc.  And that's fine.

But, right now, I would like to get some input here on this blog site regarding my present project, as I am entering an important phase of my research and final preparation for my book(s).

I have spent much time during the past 2 years answering questions and rebutting opposition to the view of the universal reconciliation of all - both from those with whom I have engaged in personal discussion, and from published authors, who promote eternal torment or future annihilation of those who leave this planet as unbelievers.

My present project is to read the whole of the New Testament, slowly and carefully, using several literal translations, to discover if there is anything anywhere in the NT that might throw doubt on the validity of the UR position.

So what am I asking of you?  What input am I asking for?
If there are any verses or passages in the NT that you feel I should not overlook in this "read-through," please let me know by adding a comment below.
After I have investigated the portion you mention, I will place the result of my consideration in a reply to your comment.  That way we will all be better educated about our position, and also become familiar with Scriptural answers to the frequent objections to it.

Would you do that for me please?

Blessings, Barry

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Is Jesus Only the Savior of Believers?

One of the most interesting positions taken by many Christians is that Jesus Christ is their Saviour ONLY when they believe that he is.

To generalise this position .....  a fact is only true when we believe it is true .......
For example, centuries ago most of the world believed that the earth was flat.  Although this belief had an important influence on the people of the time, especially on ocean-faring merchants and sailors, it had no bearing on the actual shape of the earth, on the facts.
In other words, beliefs can never determine facts.  Rather, facts must already be true (in existence) before they can be the subject of belief.

Now let's consider the facts about Jesus and salvation.

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

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them.
[ 2 Cor 5 : 19 ]

These are the facts.  Whether they are believed or not will not alter them.

As Jesus himself said, " I will draw all people to myself."  [ John 12 : 32 ]
He is the Saviour of the world, of all people.  That is a fact.

So what role does belief play?
Firstly, there is the obvious one .....

Those who believe in the Son of God (Jesus Christ) accept this testimony (of the facts about Jesus).  Those who do not believe God have made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 
[ 1 John 5 : 10 ]

Secondly, the one where people have been led astray by poor English translations .....
And this is the testimony: God has given us life in the ages (NOT eternal life), and this life is in his Son.
Those who have the Son have this life; those who do not have the Son of God (Jesus Christ) do not have this life.
[ 1 John 5 : 11 -12 ]

And that is another fact.  Believers have life in the ages (the current age and those ages still to come), while unbelievers wait until the ages are completed for their "drawing to Jesus" to occur.

All will be reconciled to God eventually, but there is something special for believers - they will rule (govern) with Christ in the ages.
The Apostle Paul hints at this in his encouragement to Timothy .....

That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.
[ 1 Tim 4 : 10 ]

Believing doesn't alter the facts; but believing the facts about Jesus and salvation has special (first-fruit) benefits.

Blessings, Barry.

Monday, January 7, 2013

More From Les Miserables

Let's follow through Valjean's truth from "Les Miserables" one step further.
Remember what he said to Cosette?

"You will learn.
Truth is given by God
To us all in our time,
In our turn."
And remember what God says to us .....
just as one offence resulted in condemnation for all people,
so also
one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
[Romans 5 : 18]
Firstly. let me highlight the fact that what we do has no effect on whether we are justified or eventually have life.
What Jesus achieved on the cross (his righteous act) did it all.  Jesus didn't just start a process for us to complete.  He didn't lay a foundation that we must build on. What he did resulted in justification and life.  It certainly doesn't need any action from us (including belief) to validate it. (1)

Just as we had no say in the result or consequence of Adam's "one offence," so we have no say in the result or consequence of Jesus' "one righteous act."
God has decreed them both, without any input or approval from us.

Now. let's consider the truth from Valjean.
Just as we cannot experience the curse placed on us by Adam until we are physically born, so we cannot experience the victory placed on us by Christ until God chooses to reveal it to us, until we are spiritually born.
For the firstfruits, that will happen in this life; for the rest of creation it will happen in the next..... each in our turn.

Isn't God magnificent?
Blessings, Barry

(1)  Unfortunately, this is not what mainstream christianity teaches.  It teaches that we had no say in the result of Adam's offence, but we do have a say in the result of Christ's righteous act - we can thwart the work of Jesus by our so-called "free will" but we can't stand up against Adam's.  Does this sound like we have been taught that Adam is stronger and his work is more powerful than Jesus and his ????? 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

That "Les Miserables" Day

I don't get to talk much with my regular church friends about God's plan to reconcile all of creation to himself by the end of the ages.
Although they have heard me quote the universal verses from the Bible, especially from Paul's writings, and don't deny them, their major stumbling point is the tradition of the church.
"How can you possibly be right when the whole church has taught the opposite for so many centuries?" they ask.
(I guess Martin Luther got the same question in his day.)

Majority opinion becomes the orthodox view, whether it's correct or not.
A view that then opposes orthodoxy, or even just questions it, is considered heresy, and the questioner a heretic.

However, on the same day I saw the Les Miserables movie, a conversation with my friends over a coffee touched on the subject of God's grace.  One of my friends reminded us of the common evangelical use of GRACE as an acronym for God's Riches At Christ's Expense.

As the conversation continued I quietly mentioned that I use GRACE as an acronym for a quite different expression.  Eventually someone realised there was a question floating around somewhere in the room just begging to be voiced, and asked for what expression was GRACE an acronym for me.
I was happy to tell them, that for me, GRACE stands for God Reconciles All Creation Eventually - the ultimate manifestation of God's Grace.

Everyone stopped talking, seemingly stunned.  One person even admitted he had recently read that idea somewhere in one of Paul's epistles. (1)
Wow! The gently dripping tap may be finally making an impression on the hard ground of tradition that surrounds it.

God's time for one of his saints in this group to see the tremendous truth of universal reconciliation may be approaching. 
God's timing is his alone to determine.
I (we) just need to be faithful ministers of his reconciliation message. (2)

Blessings Barry.

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

(2) God was in Jesus Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's sins against them.  And the message of this reconciliation has been entrusted to us. [2 Cor 5 : 19]

Friday, January 4, 2013

Les Miserables

This afternoon I went to see the latest release of the movie "Les Miserables" with four of my grandchildren.
I'm not a grant fan of musicals, but I so love the story line of this novel that I couldn't resist the invitation to join the expedition to the cinema.

One of my favourite lines is spoken by Valjean while speaking to Cosette, his "adopted daughter."
He says to her,
"You will learn.
Truth is given by God
To us all in our time,
In our turn."

As I read the Bible it seems clear to me that the truth 

that God exists,
that he is love and sovereign,
that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the world and to reconcile all of us to himself,
is indeed given to all people, and in their turn.

In fact, the only difference between us (believers) and others (unbelievers) is God's timing in revealing truth.
The only thing that makes us different from others is timing.

We, the believers, the “called," the "firstfruits," are simply further along God's ordained track than the rest of His creation.
God is doing an early work in us.   It is only the timing of His grace that makes the difference.
But not only are we further along the track.  We are chosen early for a reason - to be ministers or messengers of reconciliation to all others.

Valjean in Les Mis declares a profound truth that is only seen by a few at this time.

Blessings, Barry