THESIS #57 of 95 - For much of their history the churches especially in the West have been under the misapprehension that their institution and the practice of the Christian faith primarily exists to enable people to go to heaven when they die
Mt25:34-35 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink etc, etc.
Mt16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works
Rom2:9-11 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of mankind who does evil, for the Jew first, also for the Greek, but glory, honour and peace to everyone who does what is good, to the Jew first, also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.
Rom8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers
1Pet2:9 You are a CHOSEN PEOPLE, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR GOD’S OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light
Rev19:7 The marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has prepared herself.”
Rev3:21 He who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat with My Father on His throne.
Rev5:9-10 And with Your blood you bought people for God of every race, language, people and nation and made them a line of kings and priests for God, to rule the World
A collection of prooftexts such as the above cannot do justice to a thesis as radical as this. What is needed is a complete re-synopsis of the bible, and this (I am clear with the Spirit’s help) I have already provided [link#1]. What the first four texts point to is the fact that ultimately, we are to be judged by what we do, not what we claim or understand ourselves to believe. Yet what we do and our manner of life is GOVERNED by what we believe, or more particularly whether we possess “faith”. Note that Paul writes “AS IT IS WRITTEN, ‘the righteous shall live by faith’” But WHERE was it written? In Habakkuk2:4. The apostle was not introducing a new-fangled concept of justification by faith – it had always been the case. What WAS new in terms of Paul’s revelation concerned the annulment of Torah.
Hence Gal5:6 – “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE. As 2nd century Clement of Alexandria rightly asserted “faith is that which OF ITSELF AND FROM ITS OWN RESOURCES chooses at once what is best”. That is why the Mt25 sheep acted as they did – because they possessed and utilized the God-given quality of faith. Likewise, those who “do what is good” in the Romans 2 passage quoted. This is not how I in the past and no doubt many Christians today understand “faith”. But interpreted in this way, it resolves many tensions or seeming contradictions of scripture – not least the moral and juridical teaching of Paul vis-à-vis Jesus, James and John.
The latter five bible references, which to some may seem to be saying something different again (hence the “however”), pertain to the fact that whilst God cares for the wellbeing of all people of good will, He has chosen a particular people for Himself who are to be permanently associated with His Son. Only these are what the bible refers to as “saved” in the present age. Only these currently possess the Life God intends for those he has made in His own image.
Some recent theses dealt with what the bible means by “death” in the spiritual context. In a sentence it is a disruption in the soul’s communion with its Maker resulting from a defilement of the conscience (cf. Heb9:14). It is a result of the Fall.
The immediate cause of such is what Paul describes as “the body of this death” and the solution is a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ (Rom7:24,25). THAT is what Christianity is for. It is for those Peter goes on to describe as a “royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for GOD’S PERSONAL POSSESSION“. In terms of what happens at the end of physical life, Christians are being prepared for something that others cannot be. True disciples are being refashioned into the image of their Master (Rom8:29). They already partake of the divine nature (2Pet1:4) – a clue to their ultimate destiny, as are the quotes above from Revelation.
Expressed another way, becoming a Christian enables one to be raised to eternal life. That in turn relates to being re-united to God in Christ:
“And this is eternal life, that they might know You the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (Jn17:3)
“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has (present tense) eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn6:54)
“No murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1Jn3:15)
Eternal life (literally age-life) is something to be experienced now; a higher form and quality of life than that which one can naturally know as fallen human beings. It should be noted that even the sinless Saviour asserted that He “lived by the Father” (Jn6:57a). In the same way “those who eat Me shall live by Me (Jn6:57b). It affirms that “life” as Jesus, Paul and others speak of it does not refer to avoiding perdition or “going to heaven when you die” for that was hardly an issue for Jesus, yet even He “lived by the Father”. It relates rather to a present empowering relationship with the divine; “death” being the deprivation of such.
So much for the Christian – what of everyone else? The definitive New Testament passage on final judgement (Mt25) should make it clear enough that whether or not one gains admittance to God’s eternal Kingdom is not determined by religious faith or practice. That is not so much as mentioned, merely the exercise of compassionate LOVE towards those in need – with whom Christ as Son of Man personally identifies. That in turn pertains to natural law – whether one has a positive response to the innate spiritual faculties with which everyone is provided, functioning through the conscience. For everyone who is truly humane shows themselves to be of God (1Jn4:7).
But only those who have a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ can be saved from what Paul described as the body of this death (Rom7:24,25). Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they follow the inclinations of their spirit rather than succumbing to the flesh – so that they might Live (Rom8:13 Textus Receptus Greek). Partaking of the Lord’s body and blood, their “consciences are purged from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb9:14; cf. 1Jn1:7). Such are to be raised on the last day (Jn6:54; Rev20:6). Those of the faithful still alive at the Parousia shall be joined to Christ (1Thes4:17). Whether alive or resurrected, the souls of such will have been made ready for the unspeakable glories destined for them in the age to come.
Such is the context of the Church and Christian salvation within broader benign providence. God’s declared wish is that every soul that CAN be healed is ultimately restored and brought to a realization of the truth (1Tim2:4). It is perhaps not that surprising that God does not intend that all humanity are betrothed to His Son and come to share His throne (Rev3:21 &9:7). But many more shall one day comprehend WITH the saints what is the width and length and height and depth of the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. Each to be filled, according to their varying capacities, with the fullness of God.
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