Saturday, November 8, 2008

God Is Not Trying to Save Everyone in this Age

Is God trying to save everyone now, in this age? Is this physical life the only chance a man or woman has to be saved? Traditional Christianity may teach this, but the Bible does not.

There is a future general resurrection of the dead. This is described for Israel in Ezekiel 37:1-14 and for the world in Revelation 20:11-15. At this time, all who have lived and died in this age who never had a chance for salvation will be given their first opportunity to hear the true gospel, to believe the gospel, to believe in Christ and accept Him as personal savior, and to repent and be baptized. Those who repent and accept Christ in faith will be forgiven and can receive the Holy Spirt and be converted and saved. This will include all the millions who lived and died before Christ was born who never knew about Christ and all the billions in many nations today who never had the opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ.

If God wanted to save everyone now, He would. All things are possible for God (Luke 18:27, Luke 1:37, Mark 10:27, Matthew 19:26). God is fully capable of making sure that the gospel is heard by every person on earth. But He has not done that.

Is a chance for salvation necessary in a general resurrection for those who never heard of Christ to be saved? Yes.

It is those who believe in Christ who will be saved (John 6:53-58, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:8-13, 1 John 5:9-13, Galatians 2:15-16, Acts 10:36-43, Acts 4:9-12, John 20:30-31, John 6:47), and it is necessary for those being saved to hear the gospel so they can believe it (Romans 10:14-15, Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, Luke 8:11-15, Acts 11:13-17, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, Acts 15:7-9). Yet billions in this life have never heard the gospel because of circumstances of birth and have had no opportunity to believe it and be saved.

In order to be saved, you must have the Holy Spirit of God (Romans 8:9-11). Notice in verse 11 that it is the Spirit of God dwelling in a Christian that gives life. It is those who are Christ's, that is, who have the Spirit of God who are raised to immortality at the second coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 15:23, 1 Corinthians 15:50-57). This is the first resurrection, the resurrection of the saints (Revelation 20:4-6).

Therefore, if a man does not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in him at the time of his death or when Christ returns, whichever comes first, he will not be in the first resurrection at the return of Christ, the resurrection to immortality.

But to receive the Holy Spirit, you must believe the gospel, repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38, Ephesians 1:13-14).

There were some who had repented and were living righteously, and were baptized into John's baptism, but had not received the Holy Spirit until they were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and only then did they receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6). So the general rule is, without being baptized as a symbol of the acceptance of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is not given. The millions in China and elsewhere who never had the opportunity to hear the name of Jesus Christ could not have been baptized in His name and therefore could not receive the Holy Spirit and therefore could not be in the first resurrection. Therefore, no matter how righteously they may live, they cannot be in the first resurrection. The only chance they will have is in the general resurrection described in Ezekiel 37.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 clearly shows that God will resurrection ancient Israelites who lived before Christ back to a second physical life on this earth and give them the opportunity to be saved. Notice, the dry bones Ezekiel sees are the whole house of Israel (Ezekiel 37:11), so this would include the men of ancient Israel who lived in Ezekiel's time and before, since they are part of the "whole" house of Israel. These people are brought back to physical life because muscle tissue is put upon the bones and breath must enter their bodies in order for them to live, according to Ezekiel 37:4-10. These are people who have died in the past and will come up out of their graves, according to Ezekiel 37:12-13. And God says He will put His Spirit in them, showing they can become converted and receive salvation (Ezekiel 37:14) because it is the Spirit of God that makes one belong to Christ (Romans 8:9, Acts 2:1-4, Acts 2:38).

Is it only Israel that is raised to life and given a chance for salvation? No. God does not show partiality based on nationality (Acts 10:34-35). All nations will be raised from the dead. Revelation describes this same event in Revelation 20:11-15. Notice that the book of life will be open (verse 12). Those who repent can have their names written in it.

God is love (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16, John 3:16-17) and God is very merciful (Exodus 34:6-8, Psalm 106:1, Luke 6:35-36, Hebrews 8:12, James 5:11). God does not want anyone to perish but for all to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:3-4).

This is why there will be a general resurrection as described in Ezekiel 37 and Revelation 20. God in His mercy will give every human being who has ever lived a chance to hear the gospel and understand and a chance to believe the gospel, to repent, and to be saved. Those who do not have that opportunity in this life will be resurrected and given that opportunity in the general resurrection. Those who believe and repent can be saved, and those who reject the gospel after hearing it and understanding it will not be saved. God will not force His salvation upon anyone, and He will not take away our free will, but He will make sure everyone has the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved.

12 comments:

josiah said...

There is much in this post that I could take issue with. However I will limit myself at this time to just two.

1. I have read Revelation 20:11-15 several times and have yet to find anything that indicates a time of teaching and learning of the gospel. Where is it?

2. In my many years I have never found in the scriptures even one mention of "accepting Christ" or of baptism being a "as a symbol of the acceptance of Jesus Christ,". Please give references where I may see these terms used. If these terms are not used then your interpretation could be said to be "unscriptural".

author@ptgbook.org said...

No, what I am explaining to you is not unscriptural. I often paraphrase and put things in my own words I have found in the Bible and I often summarize things in my own words to save time and space, particularly if the thing I am summarizing is something I think you already know. I can give you scriptures that show what I am saying. But first I want to know from you, do you think a person can be saved without knowing about and accepting Jesus Christ? By "accepting Jesus Christ" I mean accepting His teachings and accepting His sacrifice in payment for our sins. If you say yes, I would be very surprised, because I thought this requirement was common knowledge in Christianity. But in that case I can show you. But if you already agree with me that acceptance of Christ is a requirement, why take the time to look up scriptures and prove and expound in detail what we both already know and agree about?

josiah said...

What I would understand from the scriptures is that one of accountable age cannot be saved without coming to a knowledge of the truth and obeying it. The truth is that Jesus the son of God lived a perfect life, died for my sins and was resurrected on the third day according to the scriptures. This makes him my saviour (Hebrews 5:8-10) and as such I owe him my obedience.

author@ptgbook.org said...

Good. What you have described is generally what I have summed up as "accepting Christ", that is, as you word it, "coming to a knowledge of the truth and obeying it' and that such truth includes "the truth is that Jesus the son of God lived a perfect life, died for my sins and was resurrected on the third day according to the scriptures." So we are in agreement that a person of accountable age cannot be saved without knowing about Jesus Christ.

Ezekiel 37 shows that some who have died in this life without knowing Christ will be brought back to physical life. There have been millions of ancient Israelites who never knew about Christ, so they were never saved before they died. Will there be an opportunity in the resurrection described in Ezekiel 37? Yes, because God says He will put His Holy Spirit in them. He would not put His Holy Spirit in those who are permanently condemed. So they must have the opportunity for salvation. Since we already agree that knowing about Jesus Christ is a requirement, this knowledge must be preached to them so they can learn and obey it. Hence, there will be a time of teaching and learning of the gospel after the resurrection described in Ezekiel. Since there is no partiality with God based on nationality, there will also be a resurrection of the gentile nations so they can have the same opportunity. The only such resurrection described is the same one in Revelation 20.

So even though Revelation 20 does not explicitly say there will be a time of teaching, it is required by other scriptures. Revelation summarizes the main events of prophecy and helps to put them in time order, but it does not spell out every detail.

Todd G said...

I've never heard this doctrine before. It is interesting, but I feel it is dangerous in that it can lead to people thinking "Well I can do as I please in this life, I will just accept Christ after the resurrection."

What about the scripture that says, "For as many as have sinned without the law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)" - Romans 2:12-15

Doesn't this show that people who haven't heard the Gospel will be judged on whatever light God has revealed to them by the Spirit, whether they did what He showed them was right?

In terms of people before Christ, if they cannot be saved until this general resurrection, what about Hebrews 11 which names many Old Testament men of faith, who were accounted righteous for because of their faith, such as Abel, Noah and Abraham. Indeed Enoch and Elijah were translated and went to Heaven without tasting death, and according to Jude 9 and Luke 9:28-36 Moses was resurrected and is in Heaven.

The last scripture that comes to mind is, "It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgement." - Heb. 9:27

Doesn't all this indicate that "now is the day of salvation" - 2 Cor 6:2, and that we must accept or reject God in this life, and that we don't get a second chance? And that people who were faithful to God even before Christ were still saved through Christ's sacrifice, since He is the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." - Rev 13:8

Anyway, I hope my comment doesn't come off sounding brash or arrogant, I am just another seeker of truth from God's word who doesn't have all the answers.

Anyway, I would love to dialogue a little about this topic, though.

God bless you and keep you :-)

author@ptgbook.org said...

Actually, you are right that it can be dangerous for some if they somehow use this as a rationalization for not obeying God. But they are twisting things if they think that way, and God knows the heart and can judge each of us accurately. The thing is, we are responsible for obeying what we know and are able to obey. Look at Luke 12:47-48. Then look at Matthew 13:19 and John 16:2. Those in the parable of the sower who never understood the gospel do not know God's will, and will receive some punishment, but a lesser punishment than those who understood God's will and deliberately disobeyed because they do not want to please God. Notice that some will kill Christians thinking they are doing a good thing for God. These people are mixed up. God understands that. These people will have the opportunity to repent.

But the person whose mind is open to the truth, who is not deceived, whom God is calling and drawing to Christ, is having his or her one opportunity now. If that person says, "I am not going to obey God now", that person is likely rejecting the only chance he or she will ever have. I do not say that God will give that person a second chance. For some, this life is the only chance they will have.

We all only get one chance. If God is drawing me, opening my mind to understand His truth and His will, and I deliberately turn away and say, "no, I will not obey in this life", I would be afraid that I've had it! If I think this way, being awake and aware and knowing the truth of God, I would expect to wake up in the lake of fire, not in the general resurrection. I would perish forever and that would be the end of me.

I think Romans 2:12-15 which you have quoted can refer to dying in this life, and if they do not repent, perishing forever. Those who have sinned in this life are under a death penalty until we repent, and that includes everyone. When I look at this carefully, I do not see anything that says such a person will perish even after he repents. Jesus said that all sins will be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30). We know that repentance is a condition for forgiveness. So those who have sinned without the law and will perish, will not perish if they repent. Those who have sinned in the law will be judged by the law, but will be forgiven if they repent. The question is, is this life the only time anyone can repent and obtain forgiveness? I think the Bible shows that those who never have the opportunity to repent in this life will be given that opportunity in the general resurrection.

"Doesn't this show that people who haven't heard the Gospel will be judged on whatever light God has revealed to them by the Spirit, whether they did what He showed them was right?" Yes, absolutely. Everyone in this life who is in the general resurrection will be judged for what they have done in this life - see Luke 11:31-32. Some will be judged more guilty and more severely than others. Yet those who have not had the opportunity to repent in this life will have that opportunity then. I don't say there will not be punishments. But no one will be condemned to perish forever in the lake of fire because circumstances of birth did not allow them to learn about Christ, or because they were deceived by Satan and God did not open their minds to understand, and therefore had no opportunity to learn and understand the truth and repent.

The righteous men of the Old Testament must have had God's Holy Spirit. God must have revealed knowledge about Christ to them, for example, many of the prophets prophesied about the coming of Christ. They didn't write everything they were taught because it was not time for God to reveal everything about Christ to Israel. But they must have been "Christians" though they are not called that. Notice, the Holy Spirit was given to the Church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). But David also had God's Spirit (Psalm 51:11). He was converted just as the disciples were after Pentecost. So David will be in the first resurrection with the saints, same as Moses, Abraham, etc. But generally, the general population did not know about Christ. God made exceptions with a few prophets and men of God in the Old Testament so that the Bible could be written and God's plan worked out.

I can post in more detail later about Enoch, Elijah, Moses, and David but they are asleep in the grave, awaiting the resurrection of the just, just as Paul, Peter, and all faithful Christians who have died in the faith are. Notice that the Bible says David has not ascended into heaven (Acts 2:29-34), and neither has any other man (John 3:13).

It was a vision Peter, James, and John saw of Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:9). Perhaps Peter did not understand it was a vision while he was experiencing it - he thought it was real. But it was a vision.

The death that Enoch should not see is the second death in the lake of fire. He fell asleep in death at the end of this life and is in the grave same as everyone else mentioned in this passage in Hebrews. Compare Hebrews 11:5 with Hebrews 11:13. Hebrews 11:13 says that these ALL died in faith, so this would include Enoch. Hebrews 11:5 is referring to the second death in the lake of fire. Hebrews 11:13 is referring to the first death from this physical life.

Elijah was taken up into a whirlwind into heaven, but in the Bible the word heaven can refer to one of three things: the atmosphere of the earth ("birds of heaven"), outer space ("stars of heaven") or God's throne. Elijah was taken up into the atmosphere. It was time for him to vacate his office and Elisha receive the office, but it was not time for Elijah to die. So God carried him away to another place on the earth. He did not go into the heaven of God's throne. Proof of this is that years later, Elijah wrote a letter, so he was still on the earth. If you are interested, I explain this in more detail in the section entitled "The Day of Trumpets - the Second Coming of Christ" in chapter 2 of my book, Preaching the Gospel.

Your quote of Heb. 9:27 is correct. Everyone will be judged. But judgement is a process. Everyone who comes up in the general resurrection will be judged for what they have done in this life. All will be judged guilty of sin (though some will be more guilty than others). The sentence is death. Then will be an opportunity for repentance. They will learn that they have been sentenced to eternal death in the lake of fire, but that if they repent, the sacrifice of Christ can be applied to them and accounted on their behalf so they do not have to die because Christ died in their place. And for those who repent, they will have a time to live to prove their sincerity and can yet receive eternal life after that. But those who do not sincerely repent and have faith in Christ will die the second death.

"...we must accept or reject God in this life, and that we don't get a second chance?"

What I am saying is that the general resurrection for these people is not a second chance for acceptance of Christ in faith and repentance leading to forgiveness. It is their first chance. Anyone who has a chance in this life to obtain forgiveness of sins through repentence and faith in Christ is getting that one chance now and will not have a second chance in the general resurrection.

I appreciate your questions, and I too would like to continue this dialogue. You seem to have an open mind that is willing to learn from the Bible. I also am willing to learn if I find I have made a mistake.

There is a lot in traditional Christianity that is in error. That may seem surprising, but it is true. The Bible does not teach what most churches teach.

As you study these things, don't rush yourself. Take as much time as you need. I will be happy to answer questions the best I can.

Todd G said...

First, I want to thank you again for your willingness to put so much time and though into your replies! I appreciate it very much.

I'm at school now and so am not able to look closely at all the scriptures you referenced, although I will when I get home later.

I am interested if you could give me the scriptures of Elijah's post-whirlwind letter, as I've never heard of it. I'll check out that portion of your book later too.

Anyway, I'll get back to you after considering your answers.

God bless you and keep you

Todd G said...

Ok, friend, I've had some time to look over the scriptures you referenced and here is what I've come to:

In Luke 12:47-49 when it speaks of those who know His will and don't do it will get many stripes, but those who don't know His will and don't do it get few stripes, I think the "stripes", or punishment, is hell.

So I look at these verses and see that to whom much is given, much is required (verse 49).

It seems to me that both of those who didn't do His will will perish, but that the hellfire punishment for those who God revealed more to will be worse, whereas someone who didn't know very much at all but didn't follow what little He did know, will perish with little punishment, or hellfire.

When I looked at Matthew 13:19 and John 16:2, speaking of those who hear the truth but don't understand it and satan snatching it away, and speaking of a time when those who kill you will think they offer God service, I agree with you that these people are confused, but I don't think that their confusion will be a reason for them to be raised and get another chance to understand.

My reason for this is Matthew 7:21-23 and Luke 13:25-28 where some say to Christ "Lord, Lord", believing they were following Him, but He says "Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness" and thrusts them out of the Kingdom to weeping and gnashing of teeth. So from these accounts it seems that those who were confused will be destroyed.

I think that is because if we become confused about God (and actually kill Christians in service of God), it is because we have rejected whatever light He has revealed to us, and so God says He sends a strong delusion that they should believe a lie (2 Thessalonians 2:11). It seems as though God's Spirit works on all men, and everyone receives a measure of faith (Romans 12:3), but when we turn away and become confused, it is because of our own decision.

Another verse that popped into my head during my final exam the other day, that I wanted to ask you about, is
What do you make about John 5:29 where Jesus says that there is a resurrection of life, and a resurrection of condemnation. That fits into my belief that there will be a resurrection of the righteous at Christ's second coming (resurrection of life), and after the thousand years, the wicked will be raised to receive their punishment (resurrection of condemnation). To me, this passage says that there is one resurrection where everyone who is raised will live forevever, and one resurrection where everyone who is raised will be condemned. So if the people of the second resurrection will be given a second chance to accept truth, as you believe, it seems that none of them will accept it.

I have the same thought about God's people in the Old Testament being "Christians". It seems that just as we look back in time to Christ, through scriptures, they looked forward to Christ, through scriptures, types, and prophecies of Christ to come. It seems as if they almost needed more faith back then, to believe in a Savior yet to come, while we believe in a risen Savior.

On the subject of Old Testament "Christians", that is the context I see Hebrews 11:13 in, that they died in faith (of a coming Messiah) having not received the promises (of a coming Messiah). And the same with Hebrews 11:39, I feel they "did not receive the promise" in that they didn't see the Messiah come. So I feel like the promise these verses speak of is the promise of Christ, instead of the promise of eternal life. BUT, keep reading...

So anyway, those are the scriptures that came to mind when looking through the verses you referenced about a general resurrection where people get another chance to believe.

NOW, about the idea that everyone is still sleeping in the grave...To be quite honest, according to scriptures, that may actually be the case! (Except for the local resurrection of many saints around Jerusalem after Christ's resurrection (Matthew 27:52-53)

Firstly, I've always wondered about John 3:13, which says no one has ascended to heaven except He who came down from heaven, it seems so clear. But I just put it aside and figured it was a general truth that had a few special exceptions.

Secondly, I've also noticed the fact that the scriptures don't actually say Enoch went to heaven, but that he "was not", or "was not found" for "God took him". Although in regard to Hebrews 11:5, since the verse says "Enoch did not see death", it seems to me that it's talking about the first death, because of the past tense "did not". It seems if it was talking about Enoch not seeing the second death (which is in the future, in hell fire), it would say Enoch "would not" see death, or "will not" see death.

Thirdly, I've never though about the possibility that the three meanings of heaven (atmosphere, space, God's throne) could apply to the scriptures about Elijah being taken to heaven in a fiery chariot. That, coupled with the letter from Elijah to Jehosephat's son Jehoram during his reign when Elijah was already gone during Jehosephat's reign, was very compelling to me.

I did a quick google search about that topic because I could think of no scriptures that would shed anymore light on the subject, and the theory I read about was that Jehosephat and Jehoram had a co-regency and actually reigned at the same time. Now I'm not actually sure about that and generally don't like to let any ideas outside of scripture define the meaning of the scriptures themselves, so I just put that idea on a shelf in my mind.

So anyway, this conversation has led me to some very deep Bible study and contemplation of God's word. I feel very rewarded from our conversations of faith and doctrine, and would love to continue discussing these and other matters, if you continue to have the time and desire.

May God bless you and keep you until next time we speak.

Happy Sabbath

Todd G said...

p.s.

It's ok to me that I don't agree with everyone on every point of doctrine, but I want to make sure I always keep a humble spirit when discussing different views. So, please know, as always, that I know that I don't know everything.

If/when you reply to my lengthy comment, I'd love to hear your views of the scriptures I mentioned in regard to these subjects, and how you view their meaning.

Thanks again for the efellowship :-)

author@ptgbook.org said...

Hi Todd, and thank you for responding.

You seem to be very diligent to prove things by the Bible, and I am glad.

My understanding of Luke 12:47-49 is that "few stripes" does not refer to the second death in the lake of fire. "Many stripes" may well refer to that. Dying the second death in the lake of fire from which there will never be a resurrection seems to me to be the maximum punishment, the ultimate punishment. Those who are destroyed in the lake fire will be excluded forever from eternal life in God's kingdom. I can think of no greater punishment.

"When I looked at Matthew 13:19 and John 16:2, speaking of those who hear the truth but don't understand it and satan snatching it away, and speaking of a time when those who kill you will think they offer God service, I agree with you that these people are confused, but I don't think that their confusion will be a reason for them to be raised and get another chance to understand." I agree with you that God will not give them a second chance. If they really had a chance to understand, then this life is their first and only chance. If they could have understood, but they refused to understand due to their own fault, then this life is the only chance they will have. If they do not repent, then they will be condemned to the lake of fire I think. On the other hand, if they were not able to understand, if their lack of understanding is not their fault, then they never have a real chance in this life to have their sins forgiven. In that case, they will get their one and only first chance to understand the truth and repent in the general resurrection described in Ezekiel 37. Which is it? Could they understand or are they not able at this time? God is the judge. He can judge each of us individually because He knows our hearts.

Everyone is guilty of sin. But everyone gets one chance to learn and understand the truth, to have faith in Christ, to repent, and to be forgiven. No one gets two chances. No one gets zero chances. Exactly one chance for every person. Those who do not get a chance in this life will get their one chance (not second chance) in the general resurrection. That is my understanding.

"My reason for this is Matthew 7:21-23 and Luke 13:25-28 where some say to Christ "Lord, Lord", believing they were following Him, but He says "Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness" and thrusts them out of the Kingdom to weeping and gnashing of teeth. So from these accounts it seems that those who were confused will be destroyed." I think these can be a different catagory than the seed that fell by the wayside. These might be the catagory of the seeds that fell among thorns and were choked by the cares and pleasures of this life. They understood the truth. But they continue to sin ("practice lawlessness"). They think that because they call Christ "Lord" and preach in His name, maybe even do miracles in His name, that that makes them acceptable to God. But they don't practice what they preach. They continue to sin.

Judas could perhaps fall into this catagory. He heard the gospel. He was apparently able to understand the truth. He preached in Christ's name and worked miracles in Christ's name (Mark 6:7-12). No doubt he called Jesus "Lord". Yet Judas was a thief (John 12:4-6). He preached to the people that they should repent and belief the gospel, but he himself continued to sin. He did "wonderful works" in Christ's name, but He also "practiced lawlessness".

I think the primary application of Matthew 7:21-23 and Luke 13:25-28 refers to those who are getting their one chance in this life. They are able to know the truth, but they do not give up their sins. Since they only get one chance, this life is it. If they do not repent, they will not have another chance in the general resurrection. But there can also be an application in the general resurrection yet future. Those who do not get a chance in this life to hear and understand the gospel and get their only chance in the general resurrection still have to make their choice at that time. If, during the period they are alive in the general resurrection, they call Christ "Lord", teach in His name, and do works in his name, yet refuse to repent of their sins, they also will go into the lake of fire.

2 Thessalonians 2:11 - yes some as you say who hear the gospel in this life will be able to believe it by whatever light God gives them, and if they reject that light, they will become more strongly deluded, and will have their part in the lake of fire. This life is their only chance. But what I am saying is that not everyone falls into that catagory. Some of those outside the Church are not necessarily given the light that will enable them to understand. Those who have no chance in this life will have their one chance later. Notice that Romans 12:3 is specifically addressed to the Church, not the world as a whole, because the whole book is a letter from Paul to the Church of God in Rome. The world as a whole is not given faith.

I looked up the word translated "condemnation" in Enhanced Strong's Lexicon, and the number is 2920, Greek "krisis", which the King James Version translates "judgment" 41 times, "damnation" 3 times, "accusation" 2 times, and "condemnation" 2 times. Some of the meanings given include a trial, a contest, a selection, a judgment, an opinion or decision concerning anything especially concerning right and wrong, as well as sometimes a sentence of condemnation and punishment. So most of the time this word is translated "judgment".

Why did the translators use the word "damnation"? Most translators have their own religious views, and when they have to make a choice of which English word to translate a Greek or Hebrew word into, they have to make a judgment based on what they think the Bible means in that case, and their judgment can easily be influenced by what they already believe. Most of traditional Christianity, and that would include most translators who consider themselves Christian, do not know about or believe in the general resurrection in Ezekiel 37 or the blinding of the world by Satan so that most men are not able to understand the truth in this life. Nor do most of them believe in and understand the 7,000 year plan of God. Almost all traditional Christianity believes that this life is the only chance anyone will have to be saved.

But if you translate that word as "judgment", it fits perfectly with Ezekiel 37 and Revelation 20.

Judgment is a process. It is not necessarily an immediate decision, sentencing, and carrying out of a sentence of punishment. The whole period of time that people live in the white throne judgment period will be a trying and testing of them. Those who repent and accept Christ in faith will be able to be forgiven. But repentence and faith are demonstrated by a lifetime of obedience, and they will have a chance to demonstrate if their repentence and faith are genuine. They will have to grow in grace and knowledge over time just as Christians do today. The main difference is, they will not have to overcome temptations from Satan as Christians do today (because Satan will be put away), so it will be easier for them, but also in most cases they will receive a lesser reward in the Kingdom of God than Christians who have to overcome Satan in this life.

Judgment does not mean condemning. Notice 1 Corinthians 11:29-32: "For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world." Notice that if God judges someone in the Church and punishes them in this life, such as some of the Corinthians being weak or sick because of eating the Passover in an unworthy manner, God is doing it as a corrective punishment to teach us lessons and turn us from our sins so that we will will not be condemned.

Also, some of the meanings of the Greek word "kosmos" translated "world" include order, government, the ungodly multitude, world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly, the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments, riches, advantages, pleasures, etc. My understanding is that in this context, "world" can represent this world's system or order, not every person in it. And this world or system will come to an end when Christ returns and sets up His Kingdom on the earth and it will be a new world, a new society, and new order altogether. This world's system and all those who never repent of it will be condemned. But those who live under this world's system and never have a chance to repent in this life will be given their one and only chance in the general resurrection. If they still hold to this world's way and refuse to repent, they will also be condemned. And those who hear the gospel in this life and are able to understand it and repent, but who refuse to do so, will be condemned.

I think the heart and core of where we disagree is about everyone having a chance in this life. I notice in your comment the phrases that keep coming up "second chance" or "another chance". I think you believe that everyone has a chance to be saved in this life, so if anyone has a chance to be forgiven in a general resurrection, that is a second (not first) chance. If that is true, then you are certainly right and I am wrong about anyone having a chance to be saved in the general resurrection. Because I agree with you that no one gets two chances. No one who has a chance in this life to believe the gospel, repent, and be forgiven and converted will get a second chance if they reject this one.

So really the question is, does everyone in this life have a chance for forgiveness and salvation? And to say yes, we have to account for all the billions who have never heard of Jesus Christ, including even small children that have died in childhood or even infancy. We have to deal with verses that seem to paint a picture of a world deceived and hardened by Satan so that most people are not able to turn to God in repentence, as I have covered in several of my posts. We have to account for the verses that seem to say that faith in Christ and the receiving of the Holy Spirit is required for salvation. I think we would have a hard time reconciling these verses with the idea that everyone in this life has a chance for salvation. We can try if you like, and go through all these verses. But I don't think that conclusion will fit these verses.

Regarding Elijah, I think you are wise to be cautious about letting any ideas outside of scripture define the meaning of the scriptures themselves. Notice in 2 Chronicles 21:1-4 that Jehoshaphat gave gifts to his other sons while he was alive. Then notice that Jehoram murdered his brothers after he became king. Also Jehoshaphat was a righteous king according to 2 Chronicles 20:32. Yet Jehoram was a wicked king who murdered his brothers, the sons of his father Jehoshaphat who had given them gifts (2 Chronicles 21:1-6). It doesn't sound like Jehoram was sharing the throne with his father Jehoshaphat while he was murdering Jehoshaphat's other sons. Could Elijah have sent the letter to Jehoram before he murdered his brothers while he was sharing the throne with his father Jehoshaphat? No, because the letter from Elijah rebukes Jehoram for murdering his brothers (2 Chronicles 21:12-15).

Whoever suggested the idea of a co-regency between Jehoshaphat and Jehoram as an explanation for Elijah going up into heaven in the article you found is probably sincere. He has probably been taught that Elijah is in heaven and is trying to find an explanation consistant with the traditions he was raised in. That shows how strong an influence tradition can be. Bible translators can have the same problem. That is why I am glad that reference works like Strong's Concordance and lexicons enable us to look at the original Greek or Hebrew words and see how they are used elsewhere in scripture.

Thank you for your questions. I enjoy this opportunity to explore the Bible together with you.

Todd G said...

I really enjoy this opportunity to search scriptures as well.

I think you're right about where the heart of our difference on this subject lies, namely whether or not everyone gets a chance during this life.

I will surely be studying this subject more in-depth and will probably put up a post on my blog about it. And on the subject of whether anyone is in heaven, I'll also be spending some time reflecting on John 3:13.

You are right in that I had in mind that people don't get a second chance once they've decided against Christ, but since you agree that people get 1 chance (not 2 and not 0) I can see more clearly how it could be that, if some didn't have a chance in this life, God would give them their one chance later.

For the sake of not getting entrenched in one subject, I think it wise for us to spend some time in prayer, reflection and study on what we've covered, and possibly start studying some other areas.

I noticed you have a post about Elijah, and I'm eager to see what thoughts others have about it. If you get a chance, I'd love if you could stop by my blog and take a crack at the few questions I have most recently posted.

As always, God bless you and keep you until we study again!

author@ptgbook.org said...

It is interesting that you suggested a period of study and reflection on these subjects, because I was thinking along the same line myself. I like to organize my Bible study time around a project so I can be focused on a subject for my studies. I made a plan this week to start a Bible study on the general questions discussed in this blog to re-check my beliefs and to see if I can learn more detail and information. I will be starting this next Sabbath. It will take a long time because I will combine this with my general Bible reading.