Table of Contents
The subject "On Being Saved" is of extraordinary concern to every Christian. It is not a topic that can be ignored, avoided or treated lightly. Much of our peace of mind as Christians rests upon a clear understanding of this subject. Yet we find that people may often exhibit greater concern over their financial portfolios than they do about the health of their relationship with Christ. This must not be so with us.
A dictionary definition of "save" in a theological sense is, "to deliver from sin." The theological definition of "salvation" is "spiritual rescue from sin and death." This would seem easy to understand because the Bible clearly teaches that we are all sinners and, therefore, Gods judgment stands against us. We also have learned that a way has been provided to lift that judgment against us through Christ. All Christians are in agreement on this. Other religions may have different approaches to sin. Christianity is unique in presenting Christ as the only means of lifting the judgment of death from us.
Jesus said, "I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (John 10:7-9). That may seem dogmatic, but this is the message of Jesus Christ himself.
It is easy to use words such as "saved" and "salvation" without regard to the biblical context or some of the overriding qualifications when the entire subject is brought into focus. Anyone may quote a scripture or two, and if it is quoted long and loud enough, it is easy to come away feeling that is all that the Bible has to say. Yet the Bible is a book with many texts that are qualified by other Biblical texts. When there are over a hundred verses on "being saved" and only one or two are used, there is a danger that we may come away with an improper or inadequate view.
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," is a beautiful
text (Acts 16:31). But what does it mean to "believe"? James tells us, "The
devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19). Are they "saved"? No! What
does it mean to be "saved"? These are questions that, hopefully, will be
answered in this biblical presentation. Why did Jesus make the terms for receiving
"everlasting life" so difficult for the young nobleman? Why is this so often
overlooked? How can we harmonize all the Bible has to say on being "saved"?
Other topics included will be: What is the meaning of Gods grace? How are grace and faith necessary to being saved? The subject of "faith" and "works." Does once in grace mean always in grace? How do character development and Christian works affect our relationship to God? Is there another day of salvation after Christs church is joined with her Lord? Finally, every text using the word "saved" in the New Testament will be listed for clear examination.
The mere repetition of the phrase "I believe" or "I am saved" is
not a mantra with magical powers that will deliver us into God's Heavenly Kingdom. We urge
all to consider the entire weight of this subject to enhance our relationship with Christ.
Why should we settle for just a few texts on "being saved," when with a little
effort we might examine the complete range of these instructive Bible verses?
When the Catholics wanted men to go forth on their Holy(?) Crusades, they assured those who might be injured or killed a reward in heaven. When the Muslims in the Middle East want men and children to blow themselves up as martyrs to kill Jews, they promise a heavenly reward. Each martyr is assured of seventy virgins in a heavenly harem. That seems more generous than the Catholic offer. The Native American Indians go to their happy hunting grounds in heaven. The Eastern religions offer repeated opportunities to gain heavenly bliss. One may be reincarnated many times until, at last, heaven is achieved. If it were only Christian religions that used heaven as a tool to gain and hold a following, it would not be quite so obvious that heaven is being exploited.
One must ask-Does God have any choice in who will enter heaven? Doesn't it seem wrong to preempt the Lords judgment by assuring heaven to anyone? Would you allow anyone to have permanent residence in your home without your consent? Yet people are being promised heaven as though anyone may enter by just saying, "I believe in Jesus." Why would the devil pass up such a marvelous opportunity to send his followers to heaven? If he could send just one unregenerate sinner to heaven, what triumph that would be. God would no longer have his will done in heaven even as it is not being done on earth. Better yet, that the devil should send millions of his wicked children to heaven. It would be far better to send them to heaven to corrupt God's dwelling place than to have them underfoot in his proverbial "hell."
Is there any danger of this happening? No! "For our God is a consuming fire"
(Hebrews 12:29). "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living
God" (Hebrews 10:31). Anybody can say, "I believe in Jesus." All one has to
do is read church history to see what terrible things professed Christians have done.
"And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and
kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I DO that I may inherit eternal
life?" (Mark 10:17)
The nobleman was a Jew under the Jewish Law arrangement. The law of Israel promised:
"Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man DO, he shall
live in them: I am the Lord" (Leviticus 18:5). If they could keep the law perfectly
they would gain eternal life. However, this was not possible, because of their inherent
imperfection. This young man had tried to live by "keeping the Law" but found
that something seemed lacking. When reminded of the commandments he said, "Master,
all these have I observed from my youth" (Mark 10:20). Obviously, he had made a noble
effort at keeping the Law, but the Great Teacher knew that he failed in one area. Jesus
told him, "One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to
the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow
me" (Mark 10:21).
The Handicap of Riches
Jesus used this occasion to teach another lesson. "And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:23) This was discouraging to the disciples. It was hard enough to arouse interest in Gods kingdom. Jesus seemed to place further obstacles in gaining converts. Not only did Jesus outline strict requirements for discipleship, but he also threatened the sacrosanct domain of riches. This was foreign to their thinking-the rich and powerful were generally highly esteemed and often given preferred treatment. Jesus seemed to indicate that the rich would be greatly disadvantaged in entering the "kingdom of God." "And the disciples were astonished at his words" (Mk. 10:24). Jesus was placing insurmountable obstacles to enlisting people to Gods kingdom.
When Jesus and his disciples were in Herods magnificent temple, Jesus observed the rich giving from their riches to the temple treasury. He especially noticed a poor widow who gave "all that she had"-two mites (Mark 12: 42-44). This widow had done something very similar to Jesus, who had given "all that he had"-that is why he was so impressed. The rich were giving of their abundance, whereas the widow gave more "than all" the others-she gave her all. Jesus was observing matters from heavens vantage point. The poor widows heart condition made her an easy candidate to become Jesus disciple.
Returning to the rich young ruler, we read: "And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?" (Mark 10:26) This event left them sorely perplexed. They had had some success in reaching people with the Gospel message that the kingdom of God was at hand. Their ministry was greatly enhanced by their ability to heal the sick and cast out demons; Jesus had even raised the dead. All this gave their message enormous impetus, for the people could see Gods power being demonstrated on a frequent basis. Heretofore, they had not thought about shortcomings of character or the proper use of personal wealth. The events of this day brought new dimensions to the disciples thinking. Here was a rich man who seemed a perfect candidate for the kingdom of God. Jesus quenched this noblemans quest for "eternal life" and his seeking to enter the kingdom of God. To add to their dismay, they all seemed to realize that Jesus "loved him" (Mark 10:21). Why was Jesus making things so difficult for someone he loved?
Jesus told the nobleman a similar message he had expressed to his disciples in his Sermon on the Mount. "Because strait [difficult] is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto [eternal] life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:14). Just as few today pay attention to this verse, so the disciples had heard Jesus words without comprehension. In their zeal to find people to receive their message, they knew the easier the conditions of discipleship, the greater response they would receive. Jesus conditions for "eternal life" brought a measure of sadness to them. Could it be that the requirements for "eternal life" might be much more difficult than just saying, "I believe in Jesus"? Could it also entail a full consecration to do the will of God, followed by an entire lifetime of discipleship?
When the disciples asked, "Who then can be saved?"-were they asking, "Who will be saved to heaven?" The evidence is not conclusive. Jesus informed them "no man hath ascended up to heaven." Certainly that seems clear-none before Jesus could be in heaven. The Heavenly Calling was not understood until after Jesus death. Jesus opened "a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh" (Heb. 10:20). This way was opened only after Jesus "gave his flesh" for the life of the world.
"Sit on Thrones, Judging the Twelve Tribes"
"And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:29, 30). The hopes of Jesus disciples were tied to the Kingdom of Israel. They looked for a Messiah who would deliver the Jewish nation and restore its sovereignty. They hoped that it would then become a great kingdom on earth-a nation that would bless other nations.
The disciples were promised "thrones" while judging the "twelve tribes of Israel." This promise was a great encouragement to their national hopes. They felt the burden of the Roman yoke. Every full-blooded Israelite longed to be released from it. Israel believed their Messiah would secure their national sovereignty. They hoped for a glorious Jewish nation, even greater than in Solomons time. Revelation 21 was not available to the disciples yet. It would be later that they would learn about a "New Jerusalem" coming down from heaven, with "twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Rev. 21:2, 14).
"What Shall We Have Therefore?"
The story continues after the nobleman left, "sorrowful: for he had great possessions." We read in Matthews account about this same event: "Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" (Matt. 19:27) They had all watched this nobleman make his great refusal. Then Peter, sizing up the situation, began to realize that they had done what this nobleman had refused to do. They had left all their earthly business and now fully followed the Master. Peter was a deep thinker. On another occasion Jesus had asked them, "Who do men say that I the Son of man am?" (Matt. 16:13) He got many different answers, none of which were correct. Then Jesus asked the most penetrating question of them. "Whom say ye that I am?" (Matt. 16:15) Peter amazed our Lord with the correct answer. He said, "Thou art the Christ [Anointed One], the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). Jesus complimented Peter, realizing that God had revealed this to him.
Peters question, "What shall we have therefore?" implies they really did not know what they would receive. They had enlisted without any promise of heaven. They were fully committed disciples before knowing what would become of them or what reward they would have.
Jesus words came as a grand revelation that day. He said: "Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my names sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life" (Matt. 19:28-29). The "thrones" and "everlasting life" would wait until the time of the "regeneration." We know the apostles never sat on thrones in their life-time.
"An Hundredfold Blessing"
The disciples learned they would receive what the nobleman wanted, "eternal life," but also something else-"an hundredfold blessing." It is difficult to forsake "houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children." Not that a Christian is to desert his family and responsibilities. The oriental way of speaking here meant his disciples had placed Christ above all others. Christ must be ranked above ones family for a Christian to receive the "hundredfold blessing." This blessing may begin in the present life.
The Christian receives abundant blessings while employed in the Masters service. A hundredfold return is an excellent return. Imagine if the stock market promised a "hundredfold" return, people would be in a frenzy to secure such stock. The blessings that the Christian now receives come not in monetary gain, but are, in reality, spiritual blessings of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance-not in big demand these days. Please notice that this "hundredfold" blessing comes in return for a Christians sacrifice. Jesus also promised his disciples "eternal life" in the "regeneration." This, too, comes as a result of taking their "cross" and following Jesus. These two lessons of Jesus linked blessings to works.
"Isnt grace supposed to be free?" Yes, grace is always something over and beyond what justice demands. Grace is Gods unmerited love and favor. Christs sacrifice and blood atonement were provided to rescue the human race from the judgment standing against it. No work or price of ours could lift this divine judgment. It was provided totally by grace. Christs ransom sacrifice brings remission of sin, or justification. If we once receive justification, the judgment of death is lifted from us and God can begin dealing with us as sons. This is wonderful grace.
The purpose of God in dealing with his people is to lift them up to share his holiness. Everlasting life in Gods kingdom, whether on earth or in heaven, will require character. Christ gives his disciples the grace of "justification" or forgiveness of sin, but he does not bestow character carte blanche. Character is something that the Christian has to develop. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). The Christian is exhorted to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12, 13).
Was Jesus requirement of a true disciple unrealistic, especially in light of todays easy presentations? Many preachers would have received the young nobleman who wanted "eternal life" on much easier terms. They would say to him, "You have come to the right place. All you have to do is, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).
Paul Turns to the Gentiles
It was not until the Jews had become belligerent toward Paul and Barnabas that they stopped their exclusive ministry to the Jews and turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:50). Pauls message to the Jews had been very direct. He said, "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38, 39). Because of a poor translation, the context seems to support the thought that "justified" is synonymous with "eternal life." Acts 13:48 reads, "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained [Greek., tasso, appointed, ordained, disposed, addicted, and set] to eternal life believed."
The thought the translators wished to convey is that "as many as were ordained" to eternal life believed. This translation suggests that "eternal life" is divinely ordained and quite irreversible. The word "tasso" is used eight times in the New Testament with a wide variety of meanings. Rotherham* (*Rotherham Emphasized Bible, by Joseph Bryant Rotherham, published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 1984 Edition.) perhaps gives the most accurate reading, saying, "And they believed-as many as had become disposed for life age abiding" (Acts 13:48).
If "eternal life" was something that was predestined or ordained, Jesus might have told the nobleman, "No use inquiring about eternal life, for you are not predestined for it." Or he might have said, "You have no need to inquire, because you are predestined to eternal life." He gave neither answer, but allowed the nobleman to make the choice. The harmony between the "predestination" and the "free grace" controversy is simply resolved.
"Predestination" is not personal, but rather speaks of the requirements for "eternal life"-in other words, certain rigid standards were determined for those whom God foreknew (Rom. 8:29). They must be "conformed to the image of his Son."
"Free grace" pertains to the unmerited favor that comes to persons who are
drawn by God to the Son. None are "called of God" because of good works.
"The High Calling of God in Christ Jesus"
Something has developed making the "high calling of God" into nothing more
than an escape hatch from a "burning hell." The "flames of hell" have
been quenched in most religious preaching today. Heaven is the only place remaining for
the deceased to go. Apparently Paul had not learned of the new easy salvation.
Today many "born again Christians" confidently boast that they are "saved" and going to "heaven." How does this compare with the Apostle Pauls description of himself as a runner using all his energy to pass the finish line? The idea of unconditional acceptance of sinners by God not only before they accept Christ, but afterward as well, no matter what their sins may be, has serious dangers. It is born largely of modern psychology rather than a sound Biblical basis. Such a concept lowers the standards for which Christians should be striving in their efforts to follow in the footsteps of their Lord.
Peter preached the same high standard, as did Jesus. Peter said, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Pet. 1:4). This indeed is a "high calling" because it speaks of becoming "partakers of the divine nature." The divine nature is the nature that God himself possesses. It is the highest nature, one in which death is not possible, immortality.
Paul says, in speaking of God, "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Tim. 6:16). Some believe every person has an immortal soul within him. However, one would be hard pressed to find scriptural support for this allegation. It is borrowed from Greek mythology, not the Bible. The Bible says, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Eze. 18:4). A host of scriptures speak of "soul death" but none, no, not one, of "soul immortality."
Paul tells us that Christians seek for "immortality." He says in Romans 2:7, "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life." You do not seek for what you possess. Hence, it is clear that those who seek "immortality" must do so "by patient continuance in well doing."
Such a "high calling" will require a transformation of heart and character. Peter tells us what this transformation of character entails: "Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity [love]. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:5-8). These are transforming works of the holy Spirit in the lives of disciples which should be evident in their conduct. As Paul says, "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). This is required of all who hope to share "Gods holiness."
When Karl Marx wrote his Das Capital, there were just a few hundred communists in the world. In 1903 he convened the Third Communist Internationale in London. They had a discussion as to "Who is worthy to join us?" Some said, "We need everybody we can get, because we are small, we have no money, and we are persona non grata from everywhere. Lets accept anyone." In that discussion a well-spoken man stood up with a different vision. He stared at the crowd and said:
"Are you out of your mind? We will never conquer the world with the partial loyalty of anybody. We are interested in total dedication or nothing. A Communist is not one who gives a little part of his substance to the cause. A Communist is not even one who is willing to die for Communism. A Communist is one who has already died, and who lives the balance of his life on borrowed time. A Communist is a dead man on furlough. If you believe that, come with us, and if you dont, get out!"
Thats what Karl Marx said. Most of the group got out, leaving only about seventeen or eighteen followers. He spoke to that little group and said, "Gentlemen, you are people of destiny. You can conquer the world. History has laid its hand of destiny upon your shoulders. We will move out in ever-widening circles. We will capture nation after nation, and finally the world, and a transformed future will be ours."
Karl Marx missed the mark on Communism as being the great panacea for all human ills.
He was wrong in believing that all evil was embodied in Capitalism. Evil is a human trait,
generously spread among all men. It infects communists as well as capitalists and everyone
in between. As long as imperfection exists, men will only succeed in replacing one evil
with another, albeit some evils are more tolerable than others.
It might be equally true to use Karl Marxs analogy by changing the word "Communist" to "Christian." "A Christian is not one who gives a little part of his substance to the cause of Christ. A Christian is not even one who is willing to die for Christ. A Christian is a dead man on furlough." We might add, a true Christian is one who not only sees unseen great realities, but is also governed by them, possessed by them, lives by them, and is wholly given over to them.
Religious But Not Holy
People may wish for heaven as an escape from a preconceived concept of hell. The question that must be addressed is, do most people really desire to draw near to God? It is easy to imagine that people would flock to be in Gods presence. However, facts do not warrant this conclusion. We have an incident in history that indicates otherwise. When Moses gathered Israel before Mt. Sinai to receive Gods law, the assembled nation found that being in Gods presence was terrifying. They heard Gods voice speaking. In Exodus 20:22, we are told: "Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven."
Contrary to what many might think, the people did not enjoy this experience and drew
back from the mountain. "And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will
hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Ex. 20:19). The Israelites were so
terrified in hearing the Lords voice, that they could not endure it. They pleaded
with Moses to act as an intercessor between God and themselves. They felt that they would
die if God continued to speak to them directly. Strangely, they could not endure being
within hearing range of Gods voice. Yet today, people think they can easily enter
heaven without any concern of standing in the awesome presence of God. What say the
Scriptures? "The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the
hands of the living God" (Heb. 10: 30, 31). Most people would prefer to have a
Mediator stand between God and themselves. This is what Gods kingdom will bring to
The Israelites who heard the "voice of the Lord" immediately asked Moses to mediate between God and themselves. To this day, religion is most popular when leaders stand between God and men. That is how clergy and laity concepts were formed. The desire to see Gods glory with an open face is lacking. Moses had to wear a veil after God spoke to him because his face shone. The people couldnt bear to look upon him (2 Cor. 3:13). People love to worship God-it is innate in the human heart. At the same time, people are reticent to be overly religious. It hasnt changed since Moses time. Religion is most popular when God is a safe distance from the believer.
Evangelized But Not Converted
In Christianity Today,* (*Christianity Today, by David F. Wells, January 14, 1991, p. 28.) David F. Wells, speaking of evangelistic revivals, said "They prove hollow, and when a mere ten percent of the professed converts in a crusade are still faithful after a year, evangelists and pastors pronounce it a great success. What happens to the substantial number of people who decide for Christ but find their decision was apparently empty of spiritual reality?" The vaccination against sin does not take with the vast majority. What do you do with those allegedly "saved" whose lives are devoid of "spiritual reality?" People motivated to accept Christ for a day, week, or a month, respond like fish caught in a revival net-they wriggle out of the net back into the same environment they were in before. No one likes to talk about this, but Mr. Wells found it very troubling. This is a theological conundrum for those who believe that once "saved," one cannot be "unsaved." Some who confessed Christ and were allegedly "saved," later reverted to a previous lifestyle. Is this the kind of "disciples" Jesus was seeking?
Some may have been led to accept Christ while on an emotional high without wishing to become a true disciple. Jesus never engaged in this kind of activity. He discouraged the nobleman from becoming his disciple by making the cost very high. Never would Jesus sweet-talk anyone into following him. If they loved houses or lands or mother and father or anything more than they did the Master, they were not worthy to be his disciples. Some churches confuse this matter. They have switched from making disciples from among all nations (Matt. 28:19) to "saving" souls from a burning hell.
Lowering the Standard
Facing the fact that some "born again" converts do not live any differently from those not "born again" is embarrassing to evangelical Christians. They have tried to overcome their discomfort by saying "saved people arent good people, theyre just forgiven." Isnt that remarkable? When Paul wrote to the brethren at Rome he said, "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints" (Rom. 1:7). The epistles of the New Testament are addressed to "saints," not just people in general. So if some who are "born again" make no claim to being good or saintly, that should disqualify them from considering themselves as foot-step followers of the Master.
"Forgiveness of sins" is offered to enable a disciple to be transformed into the image of Christ. Paul speaks of this in Romans 8:29: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." To be thus developed into the character likeness of the Savior is a chief desire and work of the Christian in this life and it is a progressive process. It must be acknowledged that the Lords true disciples have fleshly imperfections that mar their performance. Paul said, "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom. 7:19, 20). The point Paul makes is that "to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not" (Rom. 7:18). The Christians desire to do Gods will is hindered by human weakness, but, thankfully, the Father has promised grace for every trial and the needed strength to overcome.
In the following chapters we wish to understand the meaning of "saved" as it is used in the New Testament. While the word "saved" (Greek., sozo) appears one hundred and nine times, it often (less than half) means to be healed or saved from physical disabilities or harm. More frequently, it is used to denote a spiritual connotation, and it will be these usages in which we will be especially interested.
Fifty days had passed after the Jewish religious leaders had secured Jesus death. It was rumored that God had raised Jesus from the dead, but only his disciples were witnesses to this fact. Jesus had been the talk of Israel while he lived with them and performed miracles, so his death remained a subject of much discussion. Many with sincere hearts felt a sense of shame and guilt about the fact that such a good person had been so badly treated. Some blamed the religious leaders, some the Roman government, and perhaps others felt, after the fact, that they might have done more to save Jesus.
When the day of Pentecost came, and after the Spirit descended on the disciples in the form of "cloven tongues" bestowing the gift of languages upon those assembled, the Apostle Peter addressed the crowds. They were amazed to hear their own languages spoken, even though the assembled Jews came from fifteen different nations and languages (Acts 2:2-12). The Lord, who had confused the tongues at Babel, was not going to allow language barriers to hinder the spread of the Gospel. With the gift of tongues or languages the apostles were able to bridge the translation barriers. The assembled Jews were each able to hear the Gospel in a language they understood.
Peters Pentecostal Sermon
Acts 2:36-38, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Peter had laid the matter clearly before them. They were a part of a nation that had "crucified" Jesus. Those standing there were not personally responsible for Jesus death, yet they could not help but feel some shame and guilt. They wished to be relieved of this burden as well as for their own personal sins. They did not ask for "eternal life," nor did they ask that they might go to heaven. Peter had told them to "Save yourselves from this untoward generation" (Acts 2:40). This is what they wished to do. Three thousand repented and received exactly what they were promised: "remission of sins" and the "gift of the Holy Spirit."
It is conceded that everyone who is begotten of the holy Spirit is imbued with the hope of a Heavenly birth. We are called in the "one hope of our calling" (Eph. 4:4). In the natural realm, all begotten do not come to birth. Miscarriages are very common. Some fetuses may be carried to birth and then be stillborn. Hence, everyone who received the begettal of the holy Spirit had a legitimate hope of a spiritual birth, but not a guarantee.
The logical question is, has anyone ever received more than the Pentecostal converts did? There is no reason to believe so. Anything more is not possible. To receive the free gift of "justification" and to be imbued with Gods Spirit of sonship is unspeakable grace. This is the starting place where disciples are enrolled in the Christian racecourse. Paul says, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Cor. 9:24-27). "Many are called, but few are chosen" and fewer still remain "faithful" (Matt. 22:14; Rev. 17:14).
The Philippian Jailer
When the Philippian jailer received Paul and Silas under his guard, his life depended on securing them so they could not escape. Had they escaped, according to Roman law, the jailer would be put to death. When an earthquake freed Paul and Silas, the jailer thought his prisoners had escaped. He was prepared to take his own life rather than submit to a Roman execution. So Paul and Silas actually saved his life by telling the guard, "Do thyself no harm: for we are all here." The jailer found Paul and Silas and led them out of the prison. He then asked them, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" The answer was, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved [Gk., sozo], and thy house" (Acts 16: 28-31).
These fourteen words did not represent the full conversation that took place that night. We believe much more was said, but the jailer whose literal life had already been saved that night, was seeking salvation from the sin and judgment standing against him. The jailer and his household received the same blessing as the Pentecostal believers, "remission of sins" and the "gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 3:37, 2:38). This placed them on the path leading to eternal life, but did not instantly provide them the character attainments that are also necessary.
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and Thou Shalt be Saved"
This phrase has become the stock and trade keynote of many evangelical preachers. They have shouted these words outside taverns, on the street corners or wherever they can capture an audience. In contrast, never did Jesus cry aloud for people to believe on him. He spoke in parables and dark sayings, so that the people could not grasp the full weight of his ministry. His disciples later asked him why. Jesus told them, "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them" (Mark 4:11, 12). Jesus invited only believers to enter the "strait [difficult] gate" and the "narrow" way that leads unto life (Matt. 7:14). It seems evident that Jesus ministry was very focused, as compared with many of todays frenzied efforts to save everyone in sight.
Consider again the words of Paul and Silas in Acts 16:31, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." The most overlooked part of this formula for salvation is the true meaning of the word "believe." In the Greek, this is "pisteuo." It is defined as "to adhere to, [to] trust, [to] rely on" (Youngs Concordance, p. 86). If one really relies upon Jesus as his Savior, trusts in him fully, clings to him, and is convinced that he is the redeemer of the world, what a change will be wrought in his life! Such a believer no longer lives to self, but renounces self will and gladly dedicates his life to doing the will of God. Jesus words become the keynote of his life: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24).
Thus, the seemingly simple scriptural declaration that belief in Christ leads directly to assurance of salvation takes on added meaning. The account of Paul and Silas in Acts 16:30, 31 as rendered in the Amplified Version seems especially incisive: "Men, what is it necessary for me to do that I may be saved? And they answered, Believe in and on the Lord Jesus Christ [that is, give yourself up to Him, take yourself out of your own keeping and entrust yourself into His keeping], and you will be saved. And they declared the Word of the Lord [that is, the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God] to him."
John 3:16, perhaps the most beloved verse in the Bible, is rendered thus in the Amplified Version: "For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He (even) gave up His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts, clings to, relies on) Him may not perish-come to destruction, be lost-but have eternal (everlasting) life." Be it noted that this is the kind of belief spoken of and required in the Bible-relying intimately upon the Savior and laying down life itself in his service. This is the mature belief that leads to justification of life, full salvation and peace with God. We trust that all can see that this is quite different from a mere nominal expression of belief or glib utterance of words.
Paul clarifies the subject of justification in the Book of Romans. In
Romans 5:9, 10 we have this explanation-
We are told, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15, 16).
"Saved By Hope"
People dont look very different from each other. We would not be able to stand on a street with people going by and tell who are "justified by his blood" and who are not. In time, all names appear in the obituary columns with no observable difference. The righteous and evil die alike. From the worlds observation point it matters little whether Christs blood reached any. The human scale of observation is of little value in assessing whether being disciples of Christ brings any reward. This fact has given religions a large playing field. They all claim some kind of life after death. If one follows the religious rites prescribed by each, a blessed afterlife is promised.
It is revealing that even non-Christian religions teach death is merely the door to a higher form of life. Many require re-incarnation until reaching the ultimate goal. The Bible teaches that death is an enemy that will be destroyed by Christ (1 Cor. 15:26) and death is the absence of life (Ecc. 9:5, 10). Only the Bible provides mans true hope, which stems from Gods provision for a RESURRECTION from the dead and a restoration to life (Acts 24:15; John 5:28, 29).
Christianity is the only religion, besides ancient Judaism, currently teaching a resurrection from death. This is a distinguishing feature setting it apart from other religions. Jesus, the founder of Christianity, was initially the only one who died and rose again-because it was Gods purpose to raise him from the dead (Acts 2:32). Jesus promised to resurrect all true disciples and "all that are in the graves" in due time (John 5:28).
Jesus died believing God would resurrect him. His hope was realized when God
"raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.
[This was] far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name
that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all
things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church"
(Eph. 1:20-22). Jesus, the "firstfruits" of the resurrection, implies there
shall be after fruit (1 Cor. 15:23).
"Confess" and "Believe" in "the Lord Jesus"
It is easy to take a scripture and read more into the verse than is actually stated. When there are one hundred and nine verses mentioning being saved, and people build their faith on only one or two texts-we have serious concern. If God wanted us to build our faith on only one or two verses, why did he provide the whole Bible? Unless we consider all the texts on a subject and harmonize them, we have not rightly divided the Word of Truth. The Bible often states something in one place and then places a qualifying scripture in another place. The student must examine matters very carefully. God does not overtly prevent anyone from believing what they may want to. Only those who harmonize all the texts on a subject will understand the eternal truth the Bible teaches.
Paul says, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved [Greek., sozo]. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:9, 10). Paul speaks of two things the believer must do-"confess with thy mouth" and believe that "God raised him from the dead." Belief in Jesus death and resurrection will bring "righteousness" or justification. However, the individual must also make "confession unto salvation." He must own his belief and give public expression to it in his daily life. This is what a true believer would do. It is not what someone whose life is devoid of spiritual reality would do.
Romans 10:13 continues, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved [Gk., sozo]." Only one requirement is made of the believer. The same apostle is not discounting what he said in the preceding verses, but merely emphasizing that belief in Jesus is the sole means of being "saved" from our sins or the judgment standing against us. As already shown, there is much more to such belief than a casual expression of words. Wholehearted belief and consecration lead to a heavenly reward, but we are not to presume that a mere "call" upon the name of the Lord guarantees heaven to anyone.
"All Israel Shall Be Saved"
Many people have had concern over Jews who have not accepted Christ. According to traditional thinking, they are lost. Consequently, Jews have been pressured into accepting Christ. It would not have been so bad had they been entreated with the Gospel, but more often, the Jews have been bitterly persecuted in the most unchristian manner. They have been subjected to all kinds of hate propaganda and abuse merely for being Jews. Of course, Christians have been highly motivated; after all, they only wanted to "save" the Jews. Nearly five million Jews have been murdered in our day. Much of the hatred toward them, unfortunately, was learned from church history. Jesus was not the source of hatred toward his people. If Christian churches gravitated toward hatred of Jews, it came from another master.
Paul tells of the reconciliation of Jews and their Messiah. Rom. 11:26 says, "And so all Israel shall be saved [Greek., sozo]: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." When the time comes for Jews to be reconciled to their Messiah their conversion will come easily and painlessly. The "Deliverer" shall come from Mt. Zion, where Davids throne was established. Jews will accept him as the heir to Davids throne. He will "turn away ungodliness from Jacob." The story of Jesus and his natural brethren could not have a happier ending. "All Israel shall be saved." Will they be saved to heaven? No, but they will be saved from the condemnation that has been against them as well as all men. They shall receive "remission" for their sins. God will enter into a New Covenant with the Jews, which will be written in their hearts, not on tables of stone (Jer. 31:31-34). The results will be wonderful. In the resurrection all the hateful deeds that men have committed will be played back to their shame. Deeds of love and kindness will be sweetly remembered forever.
Heaven-Safe Harbor for Past Sins?
There will "be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust" (Acts 24:15). That which was done in an imperfect world will play back in a perfectly ruled and ordered society. God says, "Is not my way equal (equitable)?" (Eze. 18:25) Things done with evil intent which were not addressed in this life, will be addressed in the "times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets" (Acts 3:20, 21). Nobody will get away with anything. In the "regeneration" mankind will correct all past evil works. Good and kind deeds will bring sweet remembrance. One reason heaven is so popular is people think that in heaven, past sins will be erased-no one will have to face up to his past. Those who are judged worthy of the first resurrection will have their past sins blotted out. However, these are the saints who walked closely in the footsteps of their Master, who kept their robes "white and clean" and unspotted from the world. All others will return from the grave to see their past opened for all to observe.
What do the scriptures say? "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation [properly translated, judgment]" (John 5:28, 29). God has "appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man [the man Christ Jesus] whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). Mankind will return to earth in the "regeneration" with a full opportunity to overcome their past failures and to grow in grace, knowledge and virtue. This will be a character-building experience for those who come forth to be tested during Christs reign. Men will learn there is no quick remedy for a life lived without love for God or for ones fellow men. The road back to God is as long as the road away from God. Gods ways are equal.
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness;
but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18
There was the case of a minister from a Bible seminary who came through a local neighborhood. All seminary students were required to go door to door with a message something like this: "If you were to die today, do you know if you would go to heaven?" One person answered he did not wish to preempt God in judgment and humbly said, "God is my judge, and I cannot and will not judge my own case before God." The seminary student said, "What kind of weak faith do you have? Here and now I can guarantee heaven for you." He told the person if he offered this prayer he would be guaranteed heaven. It reads:
"Dear Jesus: I know Im a sinner. I know I cannot save myself. I know you died on the cross for my sin. I ask you to come into my heart, and forgive my sins, and take me to heaven when I die. Amen."
Regrettably, this type of preaching is going on almost everywhere in person, on radio and on television. Quoting one or two verses of the Bible, preachers are offering free tickets to heaven, while leaving out vast numbers of Bible verses that suggest other needed qualifications. This type of preaching is very popular in todays easy virtue society. Who can prove them wrong for offering a free passage to heaven? It satisfies the emotional longing for security to believe that with an easy confession, such as, "I accept Jesus as my Savior," heaven is certain. Jesus never offered heaven on such a simple basis. Remember how he discouraged the nobleman whom he loved from eternal life by making the terms difficult?
What shall we say about Pauls words, "unto us which are saved?" (1 Corinthians 1:18) Here we find the translators are a little too relaxed. They evidently believed in the theology that you are either "saved" or you are not "saved." However, the Greek, [sozo] "saved" used here means clearly "being saved." It is not a forever-accomplished fact, but an ongoing process.
The New American Standard Bible, Greens Interlinear Greek English and most
accurate modern translations support the thought of an ongoing salvation for "being
saved." Quoting the entire verse from the New American Standard Bible, we read,
"For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who
are being saved it is the power of God." How beautiful is this correct reading. Some
may not like it because it robs them of "saved" to heaven as an accomplished
fact. Everyone seeking the truth of Gods Word must have a good, honest heart and
strive to understand and harmonize the Bible.
God is not mocked, "For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (Galations 6:7, 8). It is a grand delusion for any to hope to be "saved" while living lives devoid of spiritual reality. There is no Biblical support for an easy entrance to heaven. Yet some preachers will assert that all works diminish grace. This, too, is a mistake.
The works necessary to salvation are works of character and faith. The Christian must
put on all the "graces" of the "Spirit." They are works of grace
accomplished in the Christian through the holy Spirit. The Christian must put on the
"Lord Jesus Christ." How can one be a follower of Christ in any other way? The
form of works properly deprecated in the Bible can only refer to outward works or
self-justifying works. These, all will agree, cannot commend anyone to God. However,
inward works of character and faith enhancement are necessary to Christian growth in
"Saved: Yet so as by Fire"
In 1 Corinthians 3:15 "fire" brings salvation. We read, "If any mans work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved [Greek, sozo]; yet so as by fire." Two classes build upon the "foundation of Christ." One class builds with "gold, silver and precious stones." The other builds with "wood, hay and stubble." The Christians faith will be subjected to "fire" to test his faith structure. Those who build with the "gold, silver and precious stones" of the pure Word of the Lord will be able to pass the "fiery trials." Those who build on the foundation of Christ with faulty theology that does not harmonize the Scriptures will find themselves in trouble. "Wood, hay and stubble" of human tradition and popular errors will not do. Their faith structure will be consumed in the fiery trials the Lord will bring upon them, yet because they built on the true foundation of Christ, they shall be "saved," in the sense of being delivered out of the fire. However, they will suffer the loss of "living and reigning with Christ." The Lord in his mercy has a place for these poor builders-before the throne, where they will "serve him day and night in his temple" (Revelation 7:14-17).
"Them That Are Sanctified"
"For by one offering he hath perfected for ever [once for all] them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). This text has been used to prove that with one sweeping sacrifice the Lords followers are "sanctified" forever. It is true that our justification is a finished work provided by Christ when he ascended in the presence of God "for us." It cannot be a process of justification or "being justified." The moment God accepts our consecration to do His will, from that moment we receive justification or "remission of sins." This is not an ongoing activity. We are justified by our faith in Christ. Sanctification is another matter. We are in a continuing mode of sanctification until it is accomplished. Sanctification means to "be purified" or a state of "holiness," according to Strong* (#38). (*Strongs Exhaustive Concordance, by James Strong, S. T. D., L. L. D., published by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI 1987 edition.) It means following after Gods holiness, "without which no man shall see the Lord." "This is the will of God, even your sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3). This is an ongoing work in every true Christian.
Hebrews 10:14 has been used to teach what the Greek does not say. Rotherham translates it correctly, "For by one offering hath he perfected for ever them who are being made holy." Every true reading should have "being made holy" or "being sanctified." Translators have generally rendered a great service to all that love the Bible. In the process of translation, judgments have to be made. Sometimes it is easy to make wrong judgments that seem innocent enough. The term "perfected for ever" refers to justification, which is a continual basis for the remission of sins. This is an accomplished fact for all in Christ. Christ does not have to die over and over again for our justification. He died once and "dieth no more" (Romans 6:9). This is in contrast to the Jewish arrangement when sinners had to offer repeated sacrifices for their sins because, in fact, these sacrifices never really took away their sins. The translators did not see the difference between justified ("perfected for ever") and "sanctified." "Perfected for ever" refers to remission of sins or justification provided through the finished work of Christ. "Being made holy" is the ongoing work in all Christians. The work of God in us is our "sanctification" or "being made holy."
In Romans 12:1, 2 we read, "I beseech you therefore, brethren...that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God... And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind..." This text leaves no room for those living lives devoid of spiritual reality. The Christian must be "transformed by the renewing" of his mind. Failing in this, he will be "conformed to this world." One is either being "led by the Spirit of God" or being "conformed to this world" which is under the ruler of darkness.
Gods will is done in heaven. It always has been, and always will be. God is committed to having his will done. In the outworking of Gods plan, those who wish to live outside of his will cannot hope for life everlasting in heaven or on earth. God does not grant "remission of sins" to any who wish to have a license to sin. Those who find pleasure in unrighteousness cannot enjoy fellowship with God and his dear Son. God had a solution for sin even before he created man on earth. The solution was very simple and final-death. We knew nothing before birth-neither lifes pleasures nor its heartaches. As it was before we were born, so it is after we die, except for the hope of the "resurrection of the dead." "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
"Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according
to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is
no more grace.
One does not make an instantaneous change from a life of sin to a life of holiness. First, the sinner must repent of his sins and sinful condition. Second, he must be converted or turn from practicing or sympathizing with sin. Third, he must reform and remake his lifestyle from sin to seeking to feed upon the Lords word. Fourth, this must lead to discipleship or consecration to do the will of God. These four steps may be made quickly or they may take weeks, months or years to bring about the condition of heart needed before God will grant justification by faith in the sacrifice of Christ.
God receives those who come to him through Jesus unconditionally only after the sinner has repented of sin, converted, reformed his heart and mind and finally consecrates to be a disciple of Christ. To assume that God accepts the sinner while still living a life of sin would be a mistake. The whole purpose in Gods election and grace is not to sustain sinners. No one needs Gods grace to sin. Sin comes naturally to sinners. Even after one receives Gods grace, Paul exhorts, "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain" (2 Corinthians 6:1). Grace received from God that does not draw the Christian to God is "grace received in vain."
The "election of grace" is not of works. God did not choose or elect anyone to be drawn to his son because his or her works met Gods approval. Paul is arguing that "grace would not be grace" if God chose only those individuals capable of works that pleased him. God selects by "grace" those whom he chooses to be "conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29). God chooses people like the potter selects clay that he wishes to make a vessel of honor. The clay has little value in itself. The potters interest in the clay is that he knows what his skill and workmanship can make of that unseemly clay. By grace of the potter, the clay is molded, shaped, baked and finally glazed into a vessel of rare beauty.
God, the great potter, loves us not alone for what we are, but for what he sees he can make of us. If the clay becomes marred in his hands, the potter may remold it or even cast it away. God has the same privileges as any potter; hence his "grace" is most evident in the selection of the clay.
God sent Jeremiah down to the potters house to learn the way God deals with his people (Jeremiah 18:1-10). Jeremiah saw a potter working with clay, but then the clay "was marred in the hand of the potter." This is not supposed to happen in mans view of a divine potter. It is supposed that when God lays hands on the clay, it must respond to his sovereign power. The clay cannot be "marred" in his hand. That is not the lesson Jeremiah learned.
God informed Jeremiah that, when he promised to "build and plant" a kingdom and those to whom he made such promises disobey, God would repent of the good he promised. He also taught Jeremiah that Gods judgment to "pull down, and to destroy" a kingdom was not irrevocable, for if that nation repented and did what was right he would "repent" of his judgment against them. The lesson shows that God factors in the response of people and nations in both judgments and blessings.
Paul teaches that God does not select anyone because of good works. No one is worthy of the high calling. Everyone is chosen on the basis of Gods grace-not personal merit. If we were chosen because we were better than others, more holy, more perfect, more virtuous or more anything, then our selection would be on the basis of works and not of Gods grace. Grace would not be grace. This is the lesson of Romans 11:5,6-Gods election of his people is on the basis of Gods grace, not on the basis of our works.
The Psychologists Remake of God
When modern psychology entered religion, strange things began to happen. No longer was the Christian supposed to be remade into Gods image-to share his holiness. Modern psychology does not concern itself with holiness. The psychologist receives his client without being judgmental, without any moral judgment-this is defined as unconditional acceptance. Some Christian psychologists have created a similar image of God, claiming God receives the sinner unconditionally. While todays psychologist does not claim to love his clients, the modern concept of God is he loves his client. Hence, God endeavors to help his client love and accept himself so then he can love and accept others. This describes the god of psychology. God is supposed to receive unconditionally all sinners who reach out to him and save them to heaven.
The "free grace" reasoning is that once anyone is saved he or she cannot be unsaved. Hence, if the believer comes with sins as "scarlet" they are all made as white as snow forever. If grace can do that for the sinner when he accepts Christ, then it can do so throughout the believers lifetime. This view alleges that sin is never a barrier between God and his client thereafter. Of course, God wishes the believer would make some progress toward righteousness, but he would not let a little unrighteousness lessen his acceptance of the believer. Gods grace is supposed to be infinite and any works that a Christian may do would only serve to diminish Gods grace. This view gives an appearance of reasonableness, but it cannot be harmonized with the Bible.
Two things are said to mark the depravity of man: (1) When man has no God. (2) When man has a god no higher than himself. The latter condition results when men make God into their image. Whether man makes a god of sticks and stones or whether he creates a god bearing his own image through philosophy, it is the same. It is idolatry either way. Unfortunately, abusing and twisting Gods Word is often done to create God into our own image.
Does God Receive a Sinner Unconditionally?
When the language of psychology is used instead of biblical language, problems occur. While God does love the world and gave his son to provide salvation, it is quite apparent that only a few have committed themselves to becoming footstep followers of the Master. God has not yet undertaken the massive restitution program that will rehabilitate the sinful world.
The day is coming when God "will pour out his Spirit on all flesh" (Joel
2:28). That day has not yet come and awaits the point in Christs Second Advent when
he will establish his kingdom on earth in power and great glory. From this standpoint God
has not received the sinful world at all, even though his Son has provided payment for
sin. Let us look at some scriptures describing what it will be like when the work of sin
removal is in progress. These are all future:
Hidden in the allegation that God receives sinners unconditionally is the secret longing to escape judgment. Modern psychology avoids all judgment. Make no mistake: God is a God of judgment. It is because he could not receive sinners in the first place that he found a way to lift the judgment of death and condemnation. The sinner needed Christs blood atonement for justification in the Gospel age. When the world of mankind will be brought back to life in the Millennium they will not be received unconditionally. They will need a Mediator, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified [to the same all] in due time" (1 Timothy 2:5,6). "If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward," it would be folly to believe God is so eager to reach sinners that he has laid aside judgment (Hebrews 2:2). "The LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed" (1 Samuel 2:3).
No one escapes Gods righteous judgment. Not that God visits judgment for sin immediately upon men. "Some mens sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after" (1 Timothy 5:24). For the sins that "follow after," God "hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). The world will find themselves on probation under the rule of Christ (Revelation 20:6,12,13). This does not describe unconditional acceptance.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that
we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:8-10
A Christian may not continue in evil works and call for more of Gods grace. Paul makes it very clear, that "we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works." We are enabled to do "good works" only by Gods grace. God works in his people to "will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Unless such a transformation of heart and character has taken place, it is doubtful that any are "his workmanship." Paul says, "Shall we continue to sin, that grace may abound? God forbid" (Romans 6:1, 2). Christians, however sincere, do sin, but not willingly, for they will to do righteousness. It is one thing to be overcome by human weakness and another thing to live after the flesh. When we are told that some "born again" Christians have a lifestyle no different than the world, and that grace compensates for this unregenerate way of life, that is hard to believe. "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:5).
"Faith Not of Yourselves: It Is the Gift of God"
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves" (Ephesians 2:8). This raises the question as to whether God supplies faith as well as grace. Does the individual exercise faith or does faith come by endowment? The answer is that God provides the basis for faith in his word. Paul tells us, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). It is in this sense that Paul says faith is "not of yourselves." No one could exercise faith without some basis or platform for it. God provides the platform for faith. This should not be construed to mean the individual does not need to exercise personal faith. It is clearly written, "Without faith it is impossible to please him" (Hebrews 11:6). In other words, once God provides the foundation for faith, then the individual must be willing to step out on the promises of God with full assurance. God develops our faith by the revelations of his love, through his promises, through his Word.
The "free grace" movement tends to minimize individual inward effort in the process of "being saved." It is sweet music to some to hear that God will guarantee transport to heaven by merely professing to accept Jesus as their Savior. How convenient to believe that with such a confession, heaven is guaranteed and that once "saved" one cannot be "unsaved." That is a better deal than Tetzel* (*John Tetzel, a Dominican Friar who used high pressure tactics to sell indulgences during the 1500s, would say, "The moment you hear your money drop in the box, the soul of your mother will jump out of purgatory." The Church in History, by B. K. Kuiper, published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.) offered while selling indulgences for sin. (The Roman Catholic Church used the system of indulgences as a means for penitent sinners to buy a release from sins.) To secure an indulgence the individual had to put a princely sum in Tetzels coffer. Under the "free grace" terms, heaven is guaranteed by Gods grace to all those who accept Christ. Even when these acceptors of Gods grace continue to sin, no matter, Gods grace is limitless and his love unconditional. The sinner does not need to pay an indulgence for sin, but gets one free from Christ. This is an incredible offer. No wonder the "free grace" siren song is attracting adherents. It sounds almost too good to be true. In fact, that is exactly the case. God is not "mocked."
Religion is a field that attracts all kinds of beliefs and all kinds of believers. The unique thing about religion is that it does not have to be true to have followers. Everybody dies no matter what his or her belief. Standing before the awesome power of death, people can deny its reality and suppose that God is obligated to transfer these "immortal souls" to heaven. What would God do with all these immortal sinners in heaven? His will would not be done then in heaven as it is not being done now on earth. This is a popular view even though not one verse of Scriptures says that man has an "immortal soul" or an "immortal anything." No, not one verse may be found.
Without here exploring the full depth of the subject of the soul, we will offer but a
sampling of what the Bible says. Note how these examples clearly reveal that the soul is
not an undying entity and that it can cease to exist:
"Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:9, 10). No one may boast that works make him or her acceptable to God. The "grace" of God extended to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus is the sole means of access to God. Having received "remission of sins" and the "Spirit" of God, then we become Gods "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." Gods "workmanship" in the Christian must lead unto "good works." The "good works" include the Christian graces being developed within and also faithfully witnessing to Gods truth in Christ. Only after becoming Gods "workmanship" do "good works" follow.
"And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve [Greek, will save] me unto his heavenly kingdom" (2 Timothy 4:18). Paul is using the word will save in the sense of will preserve or that of being kept unto "his heavenly kingdom." There is little doubt that Paul is speaking of his future great reward and not of being justified. The Christian is justified and given the gift of the Spirit for the ultimate purpose of receiving a heavenly reward. So the word "saved" has grown into broader usage. However, one must carefully read the context to understand how it is used. A heavenly reward may not be read into every usage of the word "saved." It must be remembered that in nearly one-third of the uses of the word "saved," it has nothing to do with "justification" or receiving the "gift of the Spirit" or of heaven. It simply means healed or saved from drowning or a similar common application. See the listings of all the uses of the word "saved" on pages 81-87 in the back of this booklet. "Saved" in black type has no spiritual meaning and applies to the everyday use of the word "saved."
God's grace may have been involved in works of healing, being saved from drowning, or being saved from death or harm. However, such grace is not tied to being justified or having the judgment against us lifted. When Paul's ship which carried him to Rome was wrecked, all on that boat were to be saved from drowning if they stayed in the boat (Acts 27:31). The only person justified by Christ's blood on that boat was Paul. This did not stop God from granting a favor to all in the boat, even though the blood of Christ covered Paul alone. The context must always be considered when the word "saved" is used.
The woman with an issue of blood had such great faith that she knew if she could but touch the hem of Jesus' garment she would be healed (sozo, saved).
Jesus said to her, "Thy faith hath made thee whole [saved]" (Mark 5:34). The translators knew this only meant she had been healed or saved from her malady, so they properly used the word healed. However, by giving the word, save, different meanings they hid the broad usage of this word.
When Jesus was on the cross being taunted, the malicious crowds said, "He saved others; himself he cannot save" (Matthew 27:42). Now, they were not saying that Jesus could not save himself to heaven, but that he could not save himself from the cruel death on the cross. If they knew that he was the Lord of glory, that he would be raised from the dead, invested with all power in heaven and earth, they would not have crucified him (1 Corinthians 2:8).
The Lord is looking for those who would love him supremely and only such will live and reign with him. Jesus said, "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it" (Matthew 16:25). Any accepting Jesus to escape from their mistaken view of a burning hell, are motivated by selfishness and not by a true love of God and of his dear son.
Jesus clearly stated the terms of discipleship. In Matthew 10:37-39 he says, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." Those merely seeking an escape from "hell fire" certainly do not seem to meet these requirements. Christ is looking for worthy disciples. Only if one meets the high requirements needed to be a worthy follower of Christ should he enlist to be a footstep follower of the Master. We would only encourage those who truly love Jesus to consecrate their lives into a baptism of Christ's death.
Paul explains true baptism in Romans 6:3-23, "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death." Heaven is promised those who are "dead with Christ" and only such may indeed look for a heavenly reward. To seek this reward without meeting the requirements laid down by Jesus will neither please the Lord nor gain the salvation being sought. Not one word is said about water baptism in this chapter. The baptism being presented here is the "baptism into Christ's death." While water baptism is proper it should be remembered that it is only a symbol of the true baptism of the heart into Christ's death.
James on "Faith" and "Works"
James is the Bible writer that ties faith and works together. His presentations have caused some consternation among those who see works as counter to grace. Yet there is no conflict, only perfect harmony once properly understood. It is clear from Pauls treatment of grace that works were not relevant in Gods election and selection. This matter is rather clear and most Christian writers would agree with this assessment. However, one must understand another matter that troubled the early church-Gentiles were being confronted with keeping the Jewish law. Works of the law, the keeping of Sabbaths, dietary restrictions, the feasts, the cleansing rituals, circumcision, etc., were permissible to the Jewish Christians who still wished to keep them. They had the freedom to do so. But trouble arose when these rituals were being enjoined on Gentile converts to Christianity.
"There rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them [Gentile Christians], and to command them to keep the Law of Moses" (Acts 15:5). The occasion for these words was the conference at the Church in Jerusalem. Some were saying Gentile Christians had to keep certain features of the Jewish law, and others were saying, not so. Meanwhile, the controversy caused whiplash to those who were being yanked from one direction to another. The Jerusalem Conference was called by the Apostles to settle this controversy in clear, understandable terms for everyone. The conference ended with this clarion message to all the churches: "That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well" (Acts 15:29).
Before the Law of Moses, God forbade partaking of blood and strangled meat improperly bled. In Gen. 9:4 God told Noah and the flood survivors, "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." This was enjoined on the entire world after the flood and still stands today, even though few concern themselves with this commandment. In our modern world all meat sold meets these requirements. However, the Apostles enjoined this law on all Christians, and it still applies.
Keeping from "fornication" is a moral requirement also enjoined on
Christians. The only compromise made was in "not eating meat offered to idols."
This command was given so as not to offend the conscience of any who might witness this.
No compromise was made with the Jewish Law Covenant. "Destroy not him with thy meat,
for whom Christ died" (Rom. 14:15). Eating meat sold in the market place which had
been offered to idols would not harm the individual in itself. However, if it offended
another, it would be wrong to do. Paul clarifies the matter saying: "As concerning
therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know
that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh" (1 Cor. 8:4, 13).
The free grace movement has taken all the arguments used against works of the law to
deny all works. This is a serious mistake. For instance, the Bible says, "For
whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). This whole chapter deals with
Christians who were bound by Jewish features of the law. Paul says in Romans 14:17,
"For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy
in the Holy Spirit." Christians need not follow dietary restrictions of the law.
However, if their conscience condemns them for not keeping certain features of the law,
they should honor their conscience. If they keep the dietary Jewish law out of lack of
faith in Christs atonement sacrifice, it would be "sin."
"Was Not Abraham, Our Father, Justified by Works?"
James 2:21, 22 reads, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" Words are easy to generate. The world is full of wonderful words and beautiful sentiments; but if the world were filled with wonderful deeds and beautiful actions, it would be a sweeter place to live. Words are not dependable. Lawyers only accept legally signed contracts. A verbal agreement will not do. Courts are filled with cases of broken contracts. Words are hard to keep without character. Character enables promises and agreements to be kept.
Abraham believed God. How do we know this? Works demonstrated his faith and belief. God put Abraham to the test, asking him to do the hardest thing a man could be asked to do-to offer his son in sacrifice. God asked Abraham to act out what God himself was going to do. Abraham played Gods role flawlessly. Abraham demonstrated by his works his faith and love for God. That is why Abraham is called "the Friend of God" (Jas. 2:23). James then says, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (Jas. 2:24).
James is showing that the measure of faith and love that a man has for God will not be determined by words alone. Words need to be backed by deeds of love and faith. The free grace movement almost implies that one may promise God anything without delivering it, and it is all right with God. That would be like saying that God embodies love so no one needs good character.
James says, "Was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (Jas. 2:25, 26). Rahab jeopardized her life and family to save the lives of the Jewish spies. Her works demonstrated her faith. If "faith without works is dead," so it must be that living faith will be demonstrated by works-the things we do, the company we keep, the thoughts we think, the love we bestow, etc. Paul defined love by works-qualities of love (1 Cor. 13:4-8). To argue against Christian works is to argue against love and the graces of the Spirit. James correctly says, "Faith without works is dead."
So-called orthodox churches have been engaged for centuries in "saving souls from hell" and guaranteeing them a place in heaven. The very possibility of such "saved souls" being subsequently lost finds no place in most theology. Many Christians labor under the belief that once they have allegedly been "saved," heaven is guaranteed. This argument is only possible because "saved" to them means "saved to heaven."
Such heavenly salvation is contingent upon continued faithfulness and growth in the graces of the Spirit, as we have seen. Hence, one may be "saved" from the judgment of sin and brought into a relationship with Christ and then lose that standing. Let us note what the Scriptures say in this regard.
Jude 5 tells us, "I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not."
Here is a case where a great number of people were saved out of Egypt, and again saved through the Red Sea, and then later destroyed. Twice the children of Israel experienced Gods grace; but subsequently, because of their hardness of heart and refusal to believe, God decided to destroy the adults in the wilderness over a period of forty years. Only Joshua and Caleb were privileged to enter the Promised Land, whereas all the other adults that left Egypt were destroyed in the wilderness.
Here is proof that "saved" people could subsequently be destroyed. These Bible stories were given for our instruction. It is clear that most of the "Israelites" received the grace of the Lord in vain and, therefore, never set foot in the Promised Land. Paul uses this lesson to teach, "Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb. 4:11).
Jude 23 says, "And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating
even the garment spotted by the flesh." In this text "save" embodies
salvaging lives that are being overcome by fleshly sins so that their spiritual well-being
is not harmed. Notice that it is not the "blood of Christ" that saves in this
text. Rather, fellow-Christians are engaged in restoring those involved in activities that
threaten their relationship with Christ. If those "saved" must all be received
in heaven, then Judes exhortation would seem unnecessary. Must God receive all to
heaven unconditionally, no matter what they do or how far they wander from Christ? This
teaching gives license to living a life devoid of spiritual reality. It is a very
Christians Who Violate Gods Grace
Peter speaks of Christians who place themselves outside of Gods grace. He says, "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Pet. 2: 20-22). Character can become seriously corrupted, making recovery difficult and, in some cases, impossible.
Paul says, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (Heb. 6:4-6).
We read in Hebrews 10:26, 29-30: "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, the Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
These verses are sufficient to show there are limits to Gods grace just as there is a higher purpose being served when God extends grace. Gods grace is not given so that we may continue in sin, but rather God calls his people to share his holiness. His grace enables the Christian who has weaknesses and frailties to strengthen his character and to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. The same mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead will work in the hearts of those seeking to walk in the footsteps of their Master.
"Good Figs" and "Bad Figs"
Jeremiah was shown a vision of baskets with "good" and "bad" figs. When the Lord asked him to describe what he saw, he said, "Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil" (Jer. 24:3).
God had already discarded the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel some one hundred fifty years earlier because of corruption. Those who had once been Gods people were rejected and were taken captive into Assyria. Only those who filtered out of the ten-tribe kingdom and associated with Judah retained their relationship with God. The others lost their standing and became mixed with the heathen nations. They ceased their worship of God and their endeavors to keep the Law Covenant given them by Moses. Then the nation of Judah came under Gods scrutiny. The Lord used Jeremiah to warn the Jews in and about Jerusalem to repent.
The Jews who went into captivity in Babylon during Nebuchadnezzars first incursion were the "good figs." The Jews who went into captivity during the final reign of Zedekiah were the "bad figs." They "would not listen" and were rejected as the "basket of bad figs." The "bad figs" went into captivity and then lost contact with God altogether. Many died; the others merged with the heathen nations and ceased to have a relationship with God.
Notice how the Jews saved out of Egypt were later destroyed in the wilderness. Then the ten-tribe nation was discarded, and still later the "bad figs" were cast off. God rejected them from the position of favor that they enjoyed. He retained the "good figs" and continued to deal with them. When the "bad figs" ran out of virtue, God cast them off from his favor, at least until the "Times of Restitution" of all things. The idea of once in grace always in grace does not seem supported in these historical presentations.
"Angels Which Kept Not Their First Estate"
Jude tells us, "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their
own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of
the great day" (Jude 6).
There are no exceptions to Gods rule. Whether men or angels, when they chose a course of sin, they were alienated from God.
This may refer to Genesis 6:2, which says, "That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose." Some have demurred at this conclusion, but the arguments raised against this view seem strained and weak.
Jude makes the point that "angels who kept not their first estate" were restrained until the "judgment of the great day." This account suggests that evil spirits-fallen angels-have been contained in "chains of darkness."
Just as the pre-flood world suffered a double tragedy of having both men and angels spread violence and wickedness, so the present evil world is plagued with evil men and evil angels that spread iniquity in the world at an accelerated pace. Much of the evil in this world originates with evil spirits and their leader Satan.
How Much Personal Responsibility Does Each Person Bear?
If anyone tries to use Gods grace as a cloak to cover a lack of personal effort to attain character development, they are looking in the wrong place for comfort in the Bible. True, there is forgiveness with God, but even that is extended on the basis of our own willingness to forgive others their trespasses against us (Matt. 6:12).
Gods favor to our first parents was conditional on their obeying his instructions. They were clearly instructed as to what was permissible and what was not. They were told what the penalty would be for disobedience and found that sentence executed with dispatch. Their life was conditional upon perfect obedience. When they violated Gods law, his immediate favor abruptly ceased. True, God found a way to redeem the whole human race through the sacrifice of his Son. This was made possible by Gods grace as we have noted, and not without great cost both to the Father and the Son.
Did God make such an extravagant sacrifice of his very own Son, and then somehow fail to make all benefit from it? This is not likely. The fact that all men do not believe on Jesus today does not mean they never will. Only erroneous theology has misread Gods plan and concluded there is only one day of salvation.
From Jesus day until now God has been selecting those who love Jesus more than husband or wife or children, more than the world and its allurements, more than houses or lands. These will become the bride of Christ to live and reign with him.
Then the invitation will go to the world, "the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).
When Gods Kingdom is established on earth, the event for which we all earnestly pray, it will be the time in which God "will pour out" his "Spirit upon all flesh" (Joel 2:28). Gods grace will reach all not visited with his grace in this age.
No one can justly claim they merit this favor, so in this sense it comes from Gods unconditional love. He extends this grace to all men in his coming earthly Kingdom. This is unmerited favor. It is not extended without purpose. It is provided through Christ to recover mankind from inherited sin and the effects of sin in their hearts and lives.
We are told, "And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people" (Acts 3:23). Moses was a mediator between God and Israel. He failed in his mission because he could not bring the people up to Gods standard. Hence it was prophesied, "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken" (Deut. 18:15). Christ will succeed where Moses failed.
Revelation 21:24 speaks of salvation that will reach nations. "And the nations of them which are saved [Greek., sozo] shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of earth do bring their glory and honor into it." Nations "are saved," but it is unthinkable they will be carried to heaven. Rather, these nations are granted entrance into the city of God on earth-the New Jerusalem. Man who was created in glory and honor shall again have glory and honor. Those saved in this text shall enter into "eternal life" in the paradise of earth. Eden, that was lost, will be regained on a worldwide basis.
Then Matthew 25:34 will be fulfilled: "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Even in the Kingdom of God on earth there will be a separation of "sheep" from the "goats."
God closed down the first kingdom when Adam sinned. However, God never intended that
man should live in heaven. That again is faulty theology. Man is of the earth, earthy.
Earth is the only place that is suitable for human beings. If God wanted man to be in
heaven he would have given him a spirit nature.
Scriptures Emphasizing Character and Works
It is so easy to believe what we want, rather than what the Bible teaches. How comforting to think that all one needs to do is ask Jesus "to come into my heart, forgive my sins, and take me to heaven when I die." Jesus has promised "forgiveness of sins" and the "gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). The Christian is promised "grace to help in every time of need" and a host of other promises showing his Spirit will work in us to encourage and sustain us, as well as to "will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). To assume that heaven is guaranteed when one confesses Jesus is assuming too much. It is the sin of presumption to believe Jesus is obligated to bestow upon every believer a character suitable for heaven. The devil would encourage all of his followers to accept Jesus, and then he could fill heaven with his unregenerate children. Heaven would be as corrupt as the earth is. Didnt the devil sow "tares" in Gods wheat field (Matt. 13:24-30)? Do you not think he would be glad to send his "tares" to heaven? When separating the "sheep" from the "goats" at the end of the Millennium, the basis of judgment will not be merely belief in Jesus, but good works and failure to perform good works. See Matt. 25:32-46.
The following verses pertaining to the Gospel age should give pause to all believers
who imagine that a mere confession of sin and belief in Jesus will assure a heavenly home.
Bold letters are our emphasis:
When there are millions upon millions in the churches today, it may appear preposterous that only one hundred forty-four thousand will attain the honor of living and reigning with Christ during his thousand-year reign. However unacceptable this may be, it is still true. This does not mean that only this number will receive a heavenly reward. There will also be a "great company" who will be invited to the marriage "supper" of the Lamb.
"Saved By Hope"
In Romans 8:24 we learn: "We are saved by hope." Many promises of the Bible
must be understood in relation to hope. For instance, 1 John 5:11-13 reads: "God hath
given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and
he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that
believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and
that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." Yet, the facts show that all
Christians throughout the age died literally. However, these verses by faith and hope
enable the Christian to lay hold on this promise, and believing into Christ fully, receive
the assurance of eternal life. Even though they have died, we are told, "the dead in
Christ shall rise first" (1 Thes. 4:16).
The Bible contains some promises that are not qualified in the immediate context, but at the same time it has verses in which the promises are definitely qualified. In 1 John 3:14 it is written, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." Only those who attain to perfect love for the brethren meet this requirement. John further confirms this lesson saying, "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him" (1 John 3:23, 24). How beautifully the scriptures complement one another when properly understood.
"But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiners fire, and like fullers soap: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver" (Mal. 3:2, 3). God will try those who love him in the fire of testing and tribulation. God is seeking pure gold. That is what the refiner does; he removes the dross from the gold in the heated crucible. When the gold is pure, it will reflect his image.
The Great Company
Two classes build upon the "Rock" which is Christ. "Now if any man build upon this foundation [Christ] gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every mans work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every mans work of what sort it is. If any mans work abide [can survive the fire] which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any mans work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1 Cor.3:12-15).
Those who build with "gold, silver, precious stones" will be able to stand the test of Gods "fire" which serves to demonstrate the "work" of each Christian. However, if one builds with "wood, hay, stubble [all flammable]" he shall "suffer loss" but "but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
Notice, both classes build upon the "Rock" which is Christ. One class builds with the biblical truth of "gold, silver, precious stones." Such character will stand the test of Gods consuming fire. However, another class builds their faith structure with "wood, hay and stubble," representing perhaps vain traditions and philosophies of men. Yes, they are full of good intentions and they do build upon the "Rock." God in mercy exposes their folly as their faith structures disintegrate in the "fire." Yet, because, they build upon the "Rock" they will be "saved; yet so as by fire." No, they will not be the "bride of Christ" or "reign with him," but they will be "bridesmaids."
Revelation 7:14, 15 speaks of those "which come out of great tribulation [fire], and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them." Notice their "robes" need washing here in contrast to those in Revelation 14:5 who are "without fault" or "spotless." Even so, they will serve in "his temple," implying a heavenly reward. The faithful followers of Christ are promised to "live and reign with Christ" and also to sit in "his throne." However, the tribulation saints of whom we speak are "before the throne of God." This same class is described in Revelation 19:6 as "a great multitude." These are rejoicing for they hear the invitation, "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:9). The "bride" and "groom" are not the ones invited. They are the ones who do the inviting.
Hence, of those who receive a heavenly reward, many will not be the bride of Christ. These "suffer loss" and will be forced to "wash their robes" in the "blood of the Lamb." They will come through "great tribulation," but in the end will serve before the throne. The "Great Company" class will receive a heavenly home. These truths should be a comfort to those who truly love the Lord and desire to serve him, yet have been hampered by a faith structure not properly grounded in biblical truth. Thus, by Gods grace there will be many more than one hundred forty-four thousand who will receive a heavenly reward. The earth will still be the eternal home for the vast majority of mankind who do not have a vital relationship with Christ in the present time.
When a separate, subsequent day of salvation is understood as depicted in the Bible, it relieves the frantic necessity for everyone to either accept Christ now or be condemned to so-called hellfire. The early Christians, following the example of Jesus, did not cudgel and badger people into accepting Christ. Just as Jesus words discouraged the nobleman in his quest for "eternal life," in like manner Jesus followers in the early church held high the standards of discipleship. They did not do what Christian churches do today-try to save immortal souls, which dont exist, from a burning hell fire, which also does not exist. This must be a vexation to God as well as an exercise in futility.
When the Christian church used Christianity for world conquest that is where it lost its way. Christianity was only intended to call and develop those who would be footstep followers of Jesus Christ. Saving souls from hellfire was never the work God authorized.
"Who Will Have All Men to Be Saved"
The Bible says of God, "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). It does not say God wills that all men be saved to heaven. In Gods purpose "all men" will be saved from the condemnation of death standing against them. This will take place in two different time periods. In the Christian age, believers are given "remission of sins" and the gift of the Spirit to begin in the pathway to the heavenly calling. During the Millennium, the rest of mankind will return from the grave and be given the opportunity of receiving everlasting life upon the earth.
Everyone except Adam and Eve had no choice about being condemned to death. We all were sentenced to death in Adam. "For as in Adam all die" (1 Cor. 15:22). The judgment of death stands against all men and none have escaped. We were all sentenced in one man and, by the same legal requirement, one man-Christ-may redeem us all from the same sentence standing against us.
In this Christian era, only those who present their "bodies a living sacrifice" may receive "remission of sins" and the invitation to the heavenly calling. However, in the Millennium of Gods kingdom on earth, the judgment incurred by Adam will be lifted from all men. When awakened in the regeneration, mankind will still have sinful propensities, but the Mediator, the man Christ Jesus, who will stand between them and God, will cover these. It will be very much like the children of Israel under their Mediator Moses. Moses failed because he could not bring the Israelites up to Gods perfect law. Christ will succeed because he has the resources to make the inhabitants of earth learn righteousness.
Some say it is only Gods wish that he "will have all men to be saved." They say God cannot help it if men turn down His offer. However, the Bible does not say this. Various translations show that it is indeed Gods will that "all men should find salvation." (See the New English Bible for 1 Tim. 2:4, for example.) Yet the Bible does not say that God "will have all men to be saved today," does it? Just because today most of the world turns away from Christs sacrifice, does not mean his sacrifice will not reach everyone later. The wonderful truth is that there are two days of salvation. Many churches have totally missed this clear teaching in the Word of God. Let us examine this matter.
"The Day of Salvation"
"We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation)" (2 Cor. 6:1, 2). There it is-"Now is the day of salvation." Some would have us believe that is the final word of the Lord on this matter. However, this is a faulty translation and does not correctly convey the meaning of the original Greek. The King James translators are very inconsistent here. In Isaiah 49:8, the basis of the passage in the Old Testament, they translate it correctly. Then in the New Testament (2 Cor. 6:1, 2) they render it incorrectly.
Isaiah 49:8 reads: "Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee,
and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for
a covenant of the people, to establish the...desolate heritages." Isaiah speaks of
"a day of salvation" which will be followed by another day of salvation in which
those who were first "helped" and "preserved" will then be given
"for a covenant of the people, to inherit the desolate heritages."
Of this day we read: "And it shall come to pass afterward [after the Gospel age], that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh" (Joel 2:28). Notice the similarity here to Pentecost, when God poured out his Spirit "in those days [the Gospel age] upon the servants and upon the handmaidens" (Joel 2:29).
Here two ages come to view in full contrast-"in those days" (the Gospel age)
and "after those days" (the Millennium). The Gospel Age is a very special time
beginning at Pentecost and ending when Christs bride is selected and glorified.
Believers were specifically promised "remission of sins" and the "gift of
the Holy Spirit" as the heavenly calling was opened up during the Gospel Age. In the
next age, the Millennial Age, which takes place "afterward," God will pour out
his Spirit "on all flesh" and will also grant "forgiveness of sins" on
a worldwide basis. The difference is that those called during the Gospel age are offered
the "high calling of God"-to glory, honor and immortality. In contrast, the
great majority of mankind will be brought back from the dead in the "times of
restitution" and will be blessed with life in a perfect worldwide Edenic paradise. No
matter how we approach these scriptures, they reveal salvation occurring in two different
days or time periods and are addressed to two entirely different classes.
The history of the Christian church is a horror story of massacres, torture chambers, holy(?) wars, crusades and endless conflict. First pagans were pressured to convert to Christianity. Subsequently, Christians turned on Christians of other persuasions. Church history is cruel and terrible. How could those who profess to follow Christ be so different from the lowly Nazarene who was "holy, harmless and separate from sinners"? Christianity became the religion of the state, "of God and country." How easily Christ became divided to serve national and political agendas. Christian nations soon engaged in war with other Christian nations, each seeking Gods blessing.
Scriptures were sometimes modified to accommodate prevailing opinions. Translators
generally did well in translating the Bible, but sometimes theology got in the way of good
judgment and honesty. We have already considered an illustration of where the translators
took such unjustified liberties. In quoting Isaiah 49:8 the New Testament translators
wrote: "For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the [a] day of
salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the [an] accepted time; behold, now is the
[a] day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). The bold word (the) was supplied without
authorization. It is not in the Greek.
When properly translated, Pauls words allow for another day of salvation. This is the teaching of Isaiah 49:8. A class visited "in a day of salvation" will be preserved and given for a "covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages [of Eden that was to fill the earth]." These blessings will occur in a subsequent (yet future) day of salvation.
Paul avers to this in Romans 8:19-21: "For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature [creation] was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. Because the creature [creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." This is the glorious hope mankind desires, however, this awaits the "manifestation of the sons of God." When will this take place?
The "Wheat" and "Tares"
Our Lord illustrated what would happen at the end of the Gospel age in Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43. The "Son of man" sowed "good seed" in his field. While "men [apostles] slept [passed away]," the "enemy [devil] sowed" tare seed in the field. False teachings planted by the devil within the church caused a massive growth of "tares." "Tares" look like "wheat," but have no value. "Tares" are defined as "children of the wicked one." The Lords servants asked if they should root up the "tares" at the beginning of the age. The Master said, "Let both grow together until the harvest." The "harvest is the end of the world [age]." In the end of the Gospel age the Lord would cause a separation of "wheat" from "tares." The "tares" are bundled together and finally burned. Not actually burned as people, but "burned" as professing Christians. In the conflagration they will admit that they were Christians in name only-living lives devoid of spiritual reality.
Some churches avoid mentioning this parable. It can be very uncomfortable to tell churchgoers that they may be "tares" instead of true Christian "wheat." One of the errors planted in some churches is that once "saved" they cannot be unsaved-once in Gods grace heaven must inevitably follow. With such a concept, it is unnecessary to grow in the graces of the Spirit or to "follow after that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord."
After the "wheat" is gathered and "tares" destroyed to their false Christian professions, the Kingdom of God will be established on earth. This is the "manifestation of the sons of God" Paul referred to in Romans 8:19. Next will follow a day of blessing, such as earth has never known. Those in their graves shall be called forth from the sleep of death. Then "the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).
Are Ye Able?
Summary and Conclusions
The subject "What Everybody Should Know About Being Saved" has been presented to open dialog and stimulate further thought on the subject of "saved" and "salvation." By reviewing a broad scriptural spectrum, the reader will see the need to factor in a host of Bible texts to find harmony and clarity. This study was written to give depth and breadth for all desiring it.
Because the Bible has so much to say in this area, it is difficult to encapsulate a message in quick phraseology or in a paragraph or two. People want brief explanations that can be summarized in a few words or sentences. This characterizes the haste of our day. The nobleman did not want to divest himself of his riches to gain eternal life. Most people do not wish to do that either. Too often they are unwilling to take a few hours to learn the facts. It is easier to accept an assurance of eternal life based on one or two verses of the Bible. That is quick and easy, but it is also very dangerous.
In this study we have considered the terms Jesus presented for "eternal life." We learned that even his disciples were dismayed with those terms, saying, "Who then can be saved?" (Mark 10:26) This caused the disciples to assess their hope. Jesus then gave them needed encouragement. Was Christs standard of discipleship too high? Surely it could not be such if the Master was the author. Then we went on to define a Christian as "a dead man on furlough." We were reminded that this is a "high calling."
We started with the Pentecostal blessing to learn what the first disciples actually
received. Then we traced how the Gospel went forth and the various terms used to engage
discipleship. The terms for reconciliation were reviewed. We noticed a difference in the
past tense of "saved," and the present tense of "being saved." The
need for sanctification and holiness were reviewed. We turned next to the subject of grace
and saw how psychology became involved in the grace movement. We presented a strong
biblical basis for a future salvation that reaches beyond the present time. The
relationship between grace and faith were presented.
Once we realize the high standards required for true "discipleship," the need for another day of salvation becomes manifest. We learned there were two days of salvation and the translators of the Bible often failed to clarify this. We concluded by addressing the "wheat and the tares," a parable which seldom is treated. It is fortunate for the "tares" that Gods grace has another day of salvation to remedy their plight. Finally, we will present in the appendix all the usages of the Greek word sozo, "saved," so that the reader may observe this subject in its entire biblical context. Because this subject is so vital to every Christian, we pray that each one may carefully avoid basing faith on only one or two verses, and will strive to harmonize all the Bible has to say, "on being saved."
New Testament Usage of the Greek Word Sozo-"Saved."
(Words in italics are from the root Greek Word "sozo," as listed in
the Englishman Greek Concordance.)
One Solitary Life
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a
copy, call toll-free
To print this booklet just click "Print" on your browser's menu.