Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why God Is Not Trying to Save Everyone Now

A common belief in traditional Christianity is that God is trying to save everyone now, in this age, and that this is the only day of salvation. But this is not true. Millions in the world have never had the gospel preached to them. God is not weak. He has the power to control this world as much as He wants. Jesus said that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). If God were trying to save everyone now, He would make sure everyone has had the gospel preached to them. That has not happened.

But why?

The Bible shows that everyone will have a chance to hear and understand the gospel and be saved, and helps to show why God is not trying to save everyone now, in this life.

This post will give a summary, for those who are interested, of God's plan for offering salvation to every human ever born, from Adam to this very time, not just in this age, but in the age to come. This is just a summary, and does not give every detail. I have numbered the main points for discussion.

1) Satan is the prince of the power of the air. He is king over this earth at this time. He deceives all nations and blinds mens minds. He does this through spiritually influencing mens minds, tempting them, leading them into error and sin. The whole world is deceived that way and cannot know the truth unless God intervenes and reveals it. God is stronger than Satan and Satan can only do what God allows him to do (Job 1:12, Job 2:6). But God allows Satan to do his work of deception at this time.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Ephesians 2:1-3, Isaiah 14:12-15, John 12:30-32, John 14:30-31, John 16:5-11, Revelation 12:9, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Matthew 4:8-9, Luke 4:5-7, Matthew 13:18-19, Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 25:7, 2 Corinthians 3:12-16, Matthew 15:13-14, Matthew 23:16-22, John 12:37-41, Romans 11:7-12, Matthew 13:13-15, Isaiah 6:9-13, Romans 11:25-27, Ephesians 4:17-19, Ezekiel 28:11-16, Jeremiah 17:9-10, Romans 8:7-8, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, Hebrews 4:1-2.

2) The term "call" can be used different ways and can mean different things, depending on the context, just like the word "law". There is a sense in which the "call" goes out to everyone who hears the message, whether they understand it or not. But when I use the word "call", I am referring to the following process, which is necessary for a person to become a true Christian and receive God's Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39, Romans 8:9-11), which is required for salvation:

a) The person must hear the gospel preached to him.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Romans 10:8-17, Mark 16:15-16, John 20:30-31, Acts 15:7-9, Romans 1:16-17, 1 Corinthians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Ephesians 1:13-14, Colossians 1:3-8, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, Hebrews 4:1-2, Matthew 13:23, Luke 8:11-15, John 10:9, Acts 4:9-12, Acts 11:13-14, Acts 16:29-32, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, Mark 1:14-15, John 6:47, 1 John 5:9-13.

b) God must supernaturally intervene with His Holy Spirit to open that person's mind to be able to understand and accept the truth and to be able to repent, otherwise, that person will continue to be deceived by Satan and cannot know the truth. God must do this so the person is able to understand and believe the gospel and to repent of sin, the two conditions for salvation. Also, repentance is a gift from God as well as a decision a person must make. God's Spirit works with a person before conversion to open his mind to the truth and grant repentance, then once the person repents in faith and is baptized, God grants the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell in the person.

FOR SCRIPTURES SHOWING THAT BELIEF AND REPENTANCE ARE CONDITIONS FOR SALVATION, SEE: Mark 1:14-15, John 6:47, Acts 2:38-39, 2 Peter 3:9, Acts 20:18-21, Hebrews 6:1-2

FOR SCRIPTURES SHOWING GOD MUST OPEN A PERSON'S MIND, SEE: John 6:43-44, Matthew 16:13-17, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Matthew 13:18-23, Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 25:7, 2 Corinthians 3:12-16, Matthew 15:13-14, Matthew 23:16-22, John 12:37-41, Romans 11:7-12, Matthew 13:10-17, Isaiah 6:9-13, Romans 11:25-36, Ephesians 4:17-24, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 8:7-8, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, Hebrews 4:1-2, John 14:16-17, 2 Timothy 2:24-26, Ephesians 2:1-3, Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18.

3) This is how God calls a person. Then the person must of his own free will choose to believe the gospel and repent. If he chooses not to do this, once God's Spirit has opened His mind, he has rejected God's calling. He has had his one chance for salvation and rejected it.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Mark 16:15-16, John 3:18, Matthew 9:13, Acts 2:38-39, Acts 3:19-21, Ezekiel 18:1-32, Ezekiel 33:10-20, Hebrews 6:4-6, Mark 3:28-30.

4) When a person hears the gospel, God opens his mind to understand it, and he believes and repents, God can give the person His Holy Spirit to dwell in his mind and that person becomes a Christian. Then, provided the person continues to obey God and does not turn away from the truth in this life, he will live a life of obedience in faith and overcoming and enduring to the end, and when Christ returns he will be in the first resurrection and be raised to immortality. At that point, his salvation is complete. He will be with Christ forever.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Acts 2:38-39, John 14:16-17, John 16:5-13, Matthew 19:16-19, Mark 10:17-19, Luke 18:18-20, 1 Corinthians 7:19, Revelation 12:17, Revelation 14:12, Hebrews 6:4-6, Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:13, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:26, Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:12, Revelation 21:7-8, 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 1 Corinthians 15:50-57, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Revelation 20:4-6.

5) In this age of man, while Satan is deceiving the world, God only calls a few this way compared to the entire population of the world. Probably fewer than 10% of all humans who have been born on the earth have ever had the true gospel preached to them. Of those, most are still blinded even after they hear it and cannot understand it, believe it, and repent.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Luke 4:5-7, Ephesians 2:1-3, Revelation 12:9, Revelation 20:1-4, Luke 8:11-15, John 12:37-41, John 6:43-44, Matthew 7:13-14, Matthew 13:10-17

Someone once asked me, why has God not called everyone at this time, in this age?

In trying to answer why God does this or that, I have to be careful because I do not necessarily know why God does everything that He does. There are clues for some of His reasons in the Bible, and some may be discerned based on Biblical principles, but I certainly cannot explain why God does everything He has done. Many of His decisions I do not understand, but I trust Him that His decisions are always based on wisdom and love. Also, even if I might correctly understand some of His reasons, that doesn't mean I know all of them. God may have ten reasons for doing a certain thing and I may only correctly discern one or two of them.

That being said, I will share what I think are some of the reasons why God has done things this way. This is based on scripture or on general principles ("God is love" - 1 John 4:8, 16) that are found in scripture.

6) When Adam chose to turn from God's standards and make up his own standards to follow, the world as a whole began to be cut off from God and to be under the influence of Satan. God allowed this for a purpose. God wants the human race to learn lessons, that Satan's ways are wrong and harmful and lead to suffering and death, and that man, apart from God, is incapable of correctly determining right from wrong and doing what is right, and that man's ways apart from God lead to bad results. That is why there is so much suffering in this world, and that suffering and death will increase to a climax at the end of this age, as described in the book of Revelation.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:11-12, Genesis 3:22-34, Luke 4:5-7, Ephesians 2:1-3, Revelation 12:9, Deuteronomy 28:1-68, Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Jeremiah 2:19, Matthew 24:21-22, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 2 Timothy 3:13, Revelation chapters 6 through 19, Romans 11:25-36.

7) God's plan is for Christ to return, put Satan away in a condition of restraint so he can no longer deceive and tempt mankind, and then Christ will rule the earth for 1,000 years. This will occur in the near future, at the end of about 6,000 years since Adam. During the 1,000 years of Christ's rule, mankind will experience peace and prosperity and happiness, as described in many prophecies in the Old Testament.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Revelation 20:1-4, Daniel 12:4, Isaiah 11:1-16, Isaiah 2:1-4, Micah 4:1-8, Isaiah 25:7

8) At the end of the 1,000 years of Christ's rule over the earth, there will be a general resurrection of mankind back to physical life. Satan will no longer be around to deceive man, and Christ will be on earth to rule and teach them. It is at that time that the billions on earth who never heard the gospel, or heard and were not able to understand because Satan blinded their minds, will for the first time hear the gospel preached to them and be able to understand it. Each person can then make his or her own free choice to believe and repent, or not. Those who believe and repent will be saved and those who do not will not be saved. But they will have the advantage of being able to look back at their past lives and compare living in Satan's present world of sin and suffering with a world of happiness living God's way under the rule of Christ. They will be able to look at the history man for 6,000 years, some of it they lived through, and compare it with the history of the 1,000 years of Christ's rule and the new life they are living God's way, and that will provide a lesson for them. They can see that God's way is better.

The whole 7,000 year plan of God is a demonstration that God's way is best. It will help those who are raised in the general resurrection to make the right choice.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Acts 10:34-35, Revelation 20:10-13, Isaiah 25:7, Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Acts 2:38-39, Ezekiel 37:14, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:3-5

9) This is why God is not calling the majority now and why God is not trying to save the whole world now. He wants to let this world as a whole, except for a few, remain unconverted and living Satan's way so there can be an object lesson of the suffering that results from it for 6,000 years. Then everyone will have an opportunity to be saved.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Isaiah 6:9-13, Romans 11:25-36, John 6:43-44, Isaiah 25:7, Revelation 20:1-4, Revelation 20:4-6, Isaiah 2:1-4, Isaiah 11:1-16, Micah 4:1-8, Revelation 20:10-13, Deuteronomy 28:1-68, Deuteronomy 30:15-20, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:3-5

10) The weekly cycle of six days when man does his work and a seventh day of rest when man draws closer to God in prayer, Bible study, instruction, and fellowship, in an atmosphere of peaceful rest from the burdens of working during the week, is a pattern for God's 7,000 year plan for mankind, with 6,000 years of man ruling himself under Satan's influence followed by 1,000 years of Christ's rule over the world

SEE SCRIPTURES: Exodus 20:8-11, Isaiah 58:13-14, 2 Peter 3:8, Revelation 20:2-3, Revelation 20:4-6, Daniel 12:4.

11) It is God's will that Christ will not rule alone after He returns, but will rule with the saints. So for that purpose, a small number are called and converted during the six thousand years so that they can be raised in a resurrection to immortality when Christ returns and fulfill offices of rularship under Christ. David will be king over Israel. The twelve apostles will rule over the twelve tribes. Some of the saints will rule over one city, some over ten cities, etc. Christ will be king of kings over the whole earth.

SEE SCRIPTURES: Revelation 20:4-6, Revelation 1:4-6, Revelation 14:1-5, Revelation 3:21, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Ezekiel 37:24-28, Jeremiah 30:8-9, Matthew 19:28, Luke 19:15-19, Revelation 17:14.

12) God calls a person by having the gospel preached to them and by opening his mind so that he can understand and believe the gospel. He has not called everyone now during the 6,000 years of man because this is the time for the world as a whole to be unconverted and carnal so that the lesson can be written in human history that Satan's way does not work. But God in His love, wisdom, and fairness (and there is a scripture in the Bible where God does say that He is "fair") will provide the same opportunity for everyone to hear the gospel and be able to understand and believe it and be saved, either in this age or the age to come.

SEE SCRIPTURES: 1 Corinthians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, John 6:43-44, Matthew 7:13-14, 1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:3-5, Ezekiel 18:25-29, Ezekiel 33:17-20, Acts 10:34-35.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Ten Commandments, the Sabbath, and Animal Sacrifices

I recently posted a comment on the The Bible In Depth blog about the Sabbath and animal sacrifices, and the writer of the original post (But I Don't Want To Go!!!!) raised a number of questions. Since the answers will be somewhat off-topic to his original post, I will answer them here.

"What is the purpose of animal sacrifices?"

The purpose of animal sacrifices is educational. God uses them to teach us about the sacrifice of Christ. They are symbolic. They are a copy and shadow of the real sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 8:3-6, Hebrews 9:23-28, Hebrews 10:1-10, Galatians 3:23-25). In these verses in Hebrews and Galatians, the term "law" in this context is referring to the law of Old Covenant animal sacrifices and rituals. It does not refer to God's spiritual law (Romans 7:13-25) or to the ten commandments (James 2:8-13). Just as today, a word can mean different things, depending on the context. The word "law" can refer to the spiritual law of God, or to the books of Moses, or in this case to the laws of the Levitical priesthood, that is, animal sacrifices.

Although animal sacrifices are not being used now in this church age, the prophecy in the book of Ezekiel from chapter 40 to the end of the book seems to show that there will be a system of animal sacrifices in the future, no doubt in the millenium. To the best of my knowledge, the conditions described in Ezekiel 47:7-12 (healing waters) have never been fulfilled in history, which is why I say this appears to be a prophecy concerning the temple in the millenium. If I am correct and if animal sacrifices are restored in the millenium, then those sacrifices can be a valuable teaching tool for teaching the people about the sacrifice of Christ.

Another indication that this prophecy has never been fulfilled in the past is the division of the land among all the tribes of Israel as described in Ezekiel 47:13-23 and Ezekiel 48:1-35. That has not occurred since the captivity of Israel by Assyria about 700 years before Christ. So this must be in the future.

"Were the 10 commandments a part of the Mosaical Law?"

Yes. The ten commandments are a summary of God's spiritual law (Romans 7:14). God's spiritual law is love (1 John 5:3). It is summarized as love towards God and love towards neighbor (Matthew 22:35-40). The ten commandments further summarize God's law of love and breaks it down in more detail, with the first four commandments teaching us how to love God and the last six how to love our neighbor, and the ten commandments are still in effect (James 2:10-11). Sin is defined in the Bible as the transgression of the law (King James Version) or "lawlessness" as translated in the New King James Version (1 John 3:4).

As a summary of God's spiritual law, the ten commandments are foundational to both the old and new covenants, and it is part of the Mosaical Law as well as part of the New Covenant. The New Covenant does not replace or do away with God's spiritual law, but rather the New Covenant promises that God will write His law in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10, Hebrews 10:16). Jesus in the sermon on the mount taught that we must obey the commandments in their fullest spiritual application, not just the letter (Matthew 5:21-30).

"What was the purpose of the Sabbath?"

There can be many purposes of the Sabbath, and not all are stated because God does not explain every reason for every command, but I think we can discern some of them. The Sabbath gives man much needed rest from the burdens of working six days. The Sabbath provides time for us to draw close to God in prayer and Bible study, to receive instructions from God's ministry, and to draw closer to our brethren in Christian fellowship. I think it is evident that the weekly Sabbath pictures the 1000 year reign of Christ after 6,000 years of man's rule on this earth under the influence of Satan. It can picture the spiritual rest we have in Christ (Matthew 11:28-30).

In addition to the weekly Sabbath, there are annual Sabbaths that help to illustrate God's plan of salvation for mankind.

But there are two purposes of the Sabbath that are stated in the Bible. One, God has used, and I have no doubt He continues to use, the Sabbath as a test command to test the obedience of His people. He used it to test ancient Israel and He specifically calls it a test (Exodus 16:4-5, 25-30). Note from these verses that the Sabbath was part of God's law BEFORE the ten commandments were given and the Old Covenant made with Israel. Also, Christ indicated that the Sabbath was made for mankind (Mark 2:27). The Old Covenant was never made with mankind as a whole but only with Israel. This shows that the Sabbath is not just a ritual limited to the Old Covenant, for then it would not have been made for all mankind, only Israel. So a purpose of the Sabbath can be a test of our obedience.

Secondly, the Sabbath is a sign. It identifies to us who the true God is, that is, the creator. It also identifies who God's people are to God, that is, those who obey Him. There is a scripture that seems to indicate that the Sabbath was made a separate covenent, not part of the Old Covenant, but a different covenant, for the very purpose of serving as a sign between God and His people, in Exodus 31:12-17, especially verse 16.

"Did Jesus fulfill the law?"

Yes. Jesus obeyed the law perfectly, setting us an example. He stated that He obeyed His Father's commandments (John 15:10). Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Since Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:14-15), He must have perfectly kept God's law. He also fulfilled prophecy concerning His first coming.

"Does or can the Bible contradict itself?"


All scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God cannot lie (Titus 1:1-3, Hebrews 6:17-18). Therefore, God cannot contradict Himself. Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:34-36).

If there appears to be a contradiction, it is because there is a mistranslation or because there is something about the scripture we do not understand.

I have proved that the Bible is inspired by God by prophecies that have been fulfilled, but I choose to believe that God cannot lie, and that is a part of my faith. So by faith I know that the Bible cannot contradict itself.