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This question was posed to me recently:
Why is it that this earthly state of being is the point where so much is at stake for being with God? If you don't believe when you’re alive now, then you're eternally separated from God.
What about this 'earthly state of being' makes it so vital for us to believe in God? Why was so much importance placed on it?
Alternatively, why can't people die and see that there's a God and then believe? Why is the not-seeing-God-but-still-believing-in-Him bit the way it has to be?
Faith and the timing of that faith are at the heart of this question. There are two parts to this question: (1) Why should I believe in God now? (2) Why am I not given a chance to see God (in the afterlife) and then believe?
If this question were posed to me in a live Q&A forum, I would have asked the questioner this question, “Do you think that a man would easily believe in God if he sees HIM in person or has a direct and a personal encounter with God?”
The questioner should respond in the affirmative because the second part of the question presupposes that man will believe in God if he sees HIM in person.
However, the Bible teaches us that a man has the disposition to not believe God even if he sees HIM in person.
First, man is very capable of rejecting God’s Word. The Bible teaches us that Adam & Eve disobeyed God even though they had a personal and a direct encounter with HIM. They did not believe in the commandment of God (God’s Word). This unbelief led to their disobedience.
Second, man is capable of rejecting God even if God were to provide man with a tangible knowledge of HIMSELF. Consider the Lord Jesus Christ.
When God incarnated in the form of the Lord Jesus Christ, man (a good majority) continued in his state of unbelief citing various reasons (those who were living in the time and age of Christ’s incarnation and later). Hence, a man could choose to disbelieve in God, even if God was to present HIMSELF in the form of a man.
Therefore, the second part of the question suffers from the logical fallacy of
Petitio Principii or Begging the Question
(assuming the truth of an argument or proposition to be proved, without arguing it). The second part of the question presupposes man’s belief in God upon sighting/encountering God. This premise could be invalidated.
If a man would still not believe in God upon seeing HIM, then the second part of the question self-destructs.
Now let me address the first part of the question. The Bible defines faith as, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:1,6; ESV).
God is Spirit. So man cannot see God.
Although man cannot see God, man is expected to believe in an unseen God. If God has not revealed HIMSELF adequately to man, then man cannot be expected to believe in God. But God has provided man with revelations of HIMSELF. (These revelations of God offers the man a very pertinent knowledge of God.)
God has revealed HIMSELF through general revelation. The Bible teaches us that since what may be known about God through nature is plain to man, man is without an excuse, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1: 18-23, NIV).
Outside of God’s general revelation, there is God’s special revelation. God’s Word (the Bible), the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the physical appearances of God, dreams, and visions etc. are the various forms of special revelation.
Therefore, God has revealed HIMSELF adequately to man. These revelations are the knowledge that man requires to believe in God.
But God can only be known through faith. The type of faith necessary for salvation involves both
, or assenting to facts and trusting in a person. We
God and we
HE loves us and hence sent HIS Son, the Lord Jesus, to save us.
Faith, then, has a twofold nature: giving credence to affirmations and trusting in God. This is wonderfully revealed in Christ’s interaction with the disciples of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus whether HE was the Messiah or should they expect someone else (Luke 7:19). Jesus responded to them by saying that there's enough evidence for anyone to believe in HIM, “And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”” (Luke 7:20-23, ESV).
Therefore, God has adequately revealed HIMSELF to man, so that man does not have plausible reasons to reject God. Only a hardened heart continues to reject God. This hardened heart is impervious to reason and evidence.
If God has adequately revealed HIMSELF to us, in this time and age, then we are asked to believe in HIM, now. The timing of our faith in Christ is NOW (in this time and age), not in the future, and most certainly not in the afterlife.
We are offered time until our death to either believe or reject God. This is so because we sin against God in this time and age. Hence it is in this time and age that we should repent and believe in God.
In fact, who knows, we may not even have an opportunity to believe in Christ (because of death), if we do not believe in HIM now.
If you are struggling to believe in the God of the Bible (the living God), then please
HIM to reveal HIMSELF to you. HE will most certainly draw you closer to HIS presence.
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24 Mar 2019
Rajkumar, You make an excellent case for what many will argue against. It is given to us to choose belief or unbelief to our eternal joy or to our everlasting suffering accordingly. Many don't want to hear that and seek something easier to accept. Thank you for your detailed commentary!
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