PART 15 The Spirituality Puzzle
What causes someone to become a child of God and have assurance of eternal life?
How does the forgiveness of sins and final judgement relate to the salvation message? Let’s find out.
At the Final Judgment Will Sin Be an Issue?
I’m sure the first thing you are thinking about is, what is the final judgment? It is a future day when every person past, present, and future will be judged. Judged for what? For us living here right now wouldn’t we want to know the answer to this question, so we can make sure that our judgment is in our favor? And by the way where does forgiveness or rather the forgiveness of sins come into play? Let’s search the scriptures and find out.
In a brief manner, maybe the first question we should attempt to answer is, when will this final judgment take place? Currently, we are living in an age of time, called the Church Age, which many believe began on the day of Pentecost and will end when the church, born-again Christians, are taken out from the earth before a seven-year period of time called the Tribulation Period begins. Some believe we will be taken out from the earth by means of an event called the rapture. This is a study in and of itself, so we will leave it as is for now. Acts 2:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:52
The Tribulation Age will be a period of time involving seven years, when anti-Semitism will abound and the world will be on the brink of World War III. It appears that the focus during this time will be on converting unbelieving Jews to believe in Jesus as their Messiah/savior. Apparently, a world ruler will rise up and bring about a peace treaty, which will seemingly avert total annihilation, albeit only for a short period of time. During the next three and a half years, there will be world peace. At this time, the Jewish people will have finished rebuilding their temple at Jerusalem and resume worshipping their God Jehovah under the institution of the Mosaic Law. Daniel 9:24-27; Revelation 3:10; Matthew 24:1-3; Matthew 24:21; Jeremiah 30:7
Unfortunately, after three and half years has gone by, this world ruler goes to Israel and decides to enter the temple area and desecrate it with idol worship of some sort, which undoes the peace treaty. In response to this, an all-out effort by Israel’s enemies is reignited and they try tirelessly to kill every last one of them. This conflict goes on for three and half years and nearing the end of such Jesus comes back with his church (his risen saints) and intervenes, thus preventing world oblivion and total extermination of the Jews. Matthew 24:15; Revelations 13:5-7; Matthew 24:29-30
Jesus sets up an earthly kingdom with himself in control and whose capital is at Jerusalem. This is a new dispensation of time, called the Millennial Reign, which will be in effect for one thousand years. At the close of this period of time, there will be one more rebellion inspired by guess who, the devil. This will be his last hurrah. Eventually, when the time is right, he will be apprehended and cast into a place called the lake of fire and brimstone, where he will reside forever and presumably never be heard from again. And then what we have talked about takes place, i.e. a final judgment will commence. Revelations 20:4-6; Revelations 20:1-7
What is this final judgment all about and how does it relate to the forgiveness of sins?
Revelation 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
The final judgment is a judgment that will take place before a great white throne (the supreme court), on which will sit God the Father, from whom the earth and heaven (the whole universe) will disappear.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
And before this throne will be all who have died, both common and great, who will appear before him. It is interesting what we are told next in that there is mentioned a collection of books and one separate book. We are told that these people (unbelievers) will be judged according to their works (a record of human deeds), which are contained in these books. And that none of them would be considered acceptable. Why not? I think the answer will be found when we look at the other book that would also be opened, called the book of life. What is this book all about? The following verses will give us a glimpse.
Luke 10:20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
Philippians 4:3 And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.
Revelation 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
According to these scriptures, this book contains the names of those, who are saved. Is there anything else that these scriptures convey to us? Yes, it seems that the names of every person, who were ever born, was initially placed in this book. And the basis for their names staying in it was, did they respond to God’s initiation for salvation? What about their works, were they judged?
Please go to 1 Corinthians chapter 3.
Of What Sort It Is
1 Corinthians 3:13-15
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
These verses concern the works of believers. Are these judged, yes? In what way? Scripture tells us that they will be tried by fire (by the Holy Spirit) as to what sort it is. The words “what sort it is” means as to their quality; to their character; or as to them being empowered by God. For what purpose are they judged? We are told that whichever works abide (remains) shall receive a reward. So, believers works are judged as for reward. And by the way, scripture also tells us that if a believer’s works are burned and there is nothing redemptive about any of them, the believer will still be saved. Why? Well, who do you think is residing in them, the indwelling Spirit?
There is no mention of the works of the believer being judged at the white throne judgment other than that the names of those who are saved are contained in a book, called the book of life. So, what can we deduce about the works of those, which are contained in the books? Not only was there any empowerment by God, when they were exercised, but there was no indwelling God living inside of the person. That’s why each and every one of them, whom we can call unbelievers were cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.
This brings us to what this chapter is essentially about, and that is the relationship between the forgiveness of sins, final judgment, and the salvation message. Nothing is mentioned about anyone being judged for their sins, whether a believer or unbeliever. Furthermore, nothing is mentioned about an unbeliever’s sins not being forgiven. What I am trying to convey is that sin and its forgiveness was not an issue in terms of the final indictment against unbelievers. This would I allege say to me that the reason why this is the case is because the debt of sin and subsequent forgiveness was taken care of on the cross.
The scriptural concern as to what was just said is this, how could an unbeliever repent and believe in Christ and yet go to hell because they were not baptized in water, which according to the salvation message of Repentance, Belief, Water Baptism, and Godly Works forgives sins? A response to this could be that works produced in the power of the sin nature are sinful. I would agree that some works or deeds are sinful, but not all.
Interesting! What I would like to do is leave you with closing remarks. Has it been decided that one of these salvation messages is the one that would cause an unbeliever to find God or become his child and at death go to a better place? Turn the page and find out.
As I am about to conclude this study, I can’t help but think that a dialogue on what constitutes the salvation message with my daughter Renee would culminate in a joint study by both us, which has taken about three months and twenty-four chapters later. This has stretched me beyond measure meaning that I had not only had to better understand the salvation message that I have ascribed to for many years, but I had to understand the salvation message of the church my daughter is attending and be able to explain it with accuracy and clarity.
We started looking at four different salvation messages and narrowed them down to two. After this intensive study you might ask, what are my thoughts as to whether one of these salvation messages is the one that I will present to unbelievers? There is one that I’m leaning towards, but each of us has to make our own choice in this regard.
Below, are the bullets and salvation message for Repentance and Belief.
●Jesus paid the penalty and provided forgiveness for all sin on the cross.
●Water baptism does not forgive sins.
●Water baptism does not cause the receiving of the indwelling Spirit.
●Water baptism is not necessary in the salvation process, but is important.
●Godly works might evidence the filling of the Spirit, but not as to whether someone is saved or has lost their salvation.
●A believer who lives in habitual sin will be disciplined by God, but not lose their salvation.
●The Baptism of the Spirit means to have received the indwelling Spirit.
●The Baptism of the Spirit causes a believer to be placed in union with Christ and is actually
identified with him in his death and resurrection.
●The filling of the Spirit means that a believer is under the Spirit’s control, when they are yielded to him; and when this is such, they will manifest his fruit i.e. love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance] and operate in his power (to manifest his gifts).
●Water baptism is symbolic of a believer’s identification with Christ in his death and resurrection.
●Following repentance and belief the believer will receive the indwelling Holy Spirit.
This is the salvation message that would be presented to an unbeliever and hopefully responded to, by them.
I acknowledge that I am a sinner, who desires a new nature so that I don’t have to continue in committing mental, verbal, and overt sins.
I believe in you Jesus, being deity, who is one of the members of the trinity, the other two being God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, left heaven being born of a virgin, having never committed one sin, died on a cross, paid the penalty for sin in order to satisfy the justice of God, forgave these sins putting them away forever never bringing them up again, rose again after three days never to die again, his sacrifice being accepted by God the Father, and ascended into heaven to be seated at His right hand.
Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to come into my life, who is evidence that I belong to God the Father and the assurance of going to heaven at physical death.
Proponents of the Gospel of Repentance and Belief would have three concerns with the Gospel of Repentance, Belief, Water Baptism, and Godly Works.
~ The first has to do with the filling of the Spirit coming before the indwelling. The same question I asked earlier still remains to be answered and that is, how could an unbeliever receive the power or filling to exercise the gifts of the Spirit and be under his control when they are yielded to him and subsequently increasingly manifest his fruit before they were indwelt by him at water baptism?
~ The second has to do with the final judgment for unbelievers, who were judged according to their works and not according as to whether their sins were forgiven at water baptism.
~ And the third one has to do with the allegation that Christ’s death on the cross paid the debt for sin, but didn’t forgive it (didn’t remove the record of it), which could only be received at water baptism. This would make Christ’s work on the cross non-efficacious meaning to not be effective as a remedy.
With that said, while there might not be total agreement between these two gospel messages both my daughter and myself have the same heart, and that is to see unbelievers be saved. So, now I welcome her to present the salvation message from the church she attends and provide a closing statement.
Below, are the bullets and salvation message for Repentance, Belief, Water Baptism, and Godly Works.
●Water baptism forgives sins.
●Water baptism causes the receiving of the indwelling Spirit.
●Water baptism is necessary in the salvation process, without it a person is not saved.
●Godly works evidences whether a person’s salvation is genuine.
●A believer who lives in habitual sin will lose their salvation.
●Water baptism causes a person to be placed in union with Christ and be actually identified with Christ in his death and resurrection.
This salvation message that would be presented to an unbeliever is as follows.
The salvation message is the good news of Jesus Christ, the message of which is that God sent him, his Son, being deity, who is one of the members of the trinity, the other two being God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, being born of a virgin, having never committed one sin, died on a cross, paid the penalty for sin in order to satisfy the justice of God the Father, having forgiven all sin putting it away forever never bringing them up again, rose again after three days never to die again, his sacrifice being accepted by God the Father, and ascended into heaven to be seated at the Father’s right hand. Prior to, but understood to be aligned with it, the unbeliever would be asked to repent (a confession of sins; a hearty purpose to turn from them167).
Following their confession of faith, we will remind them that hopefully in the near future they will be baptized in water, and by adhering faithfully to the Bible they will be evidencing godly works. John 7:37-39; John 3:16; Acts 17:30; Romans 10:10
I want to thank my daughter for her joint cooperation with me in writing this paper, maybe soon to be book. We’ll see. I would like to turn this over to her for her closing remarks.
I, too, am grateful to have been able to collaborate on this study as it has stretched my understanding of the scriptures and prompted the need for me to study deeper. In doing so I’ve also realized that there can seemingly be grey areas within the Bible that Satan uses to confuse us into disobeying God’s clear commands. While we, as humans, may never have every full understanding of God and his words in their entirety, I must rely on Jeremiah 17:9 that reads: “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” That being said, I think it’s crucial that when facing doctrinal questions, we don’t rely on our “heart” i.e. how we feel, to lead us to conclusions. Just as the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-22 went away sad when faced with God’s truth, we must also accept that God’s truths won’t always leave us feeling good. Sometimes we may even be left disturbed by what His truths ultimately mean for us or our loved ones. Yet we should not confuse this heart reaction with false doctrine, if what we are faced with is rooted in the scriptures.
I have found by studying the scriptures that amidst a God that is so clearly loving and gracious, the scriptures also depict a God who has clear qualifications and expectations for all who will enter His kingdom. I see accounts of men and women who had belief, love, and good intentions toward God, yet Jesus had to make it clear that more was needed for their salvation. Mark 10:17-22 is the story of the rich young ruler who was a religious, believing man that lacked one thing to receive eternal life (salvation). The one thing he lacked was not faith or belief, yet he still had not attained salvation. Luke 14:25-33 describes a scene where multitudes of people were traveling with Jesus, yet Jesus lays out clear instruction of what it would take for them to truly be his disciples. He didn’t find it enough that they were believing, even to the point of faithfully accompanying him on his ministry journey. Further, we see Jesus, in Matthew 7:15-23, referring to false prophets as those who have an appearance of religiosity, yet can be verified by their “fruit,” i.e. their life. False prophets can be identified by something we can actually see, i.e. something they are doing. Additionally, Jesus warns all that belief and religiosity alone does not save, that we cannot say one thing and yet do another, to the extent that one could even perform many religious acts and miracles yet remain unsaved. The saved will instead be the ones who actually do God’s will, which, in 1 Timothy 2:4, is described as God wanting all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Therefore, to do God’s will, we must have a life purpose of bringing others to God.
In 1 Corinthians 3:1-15, the “works” being referred to is that of building God’s house, which is comprised of all Christ’s followers. So, the work that will be revealed and tested is that of saving souls, not just of our character. But the fact that it is measuring various qualities of building, of saving souls, implies that this is referring to those who are in fact making disciples, which would mean living like a disciple. However, the quality of which they are making them may differ. So, anyone who isn’t living like a true Christian by actively making other disciples isn’t even included in the analogy, for they are not living as co-workers to begin with.
As 1 Timothy 4:16 states, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Here we see clearly that both life and doctrine are considered necessary for salvation, as both the salvation of us and our hearers depend on them. We cannot have one without the other.
The multitude of scriptures addressing how we must live and the cumulative process of salvation leaves me with fear for anyone willing to risk their eternity for any reason that might negate them. Even if there might be a scripture that would allude to the alternative, it would be a huge gamble with potential grave consequences to decide to side with that over the other. And I wonder, if there seemingly are scriptures to support both views, why is there such an inclination to side with one view over the other? Further, while I believe Jesus bore our sins by dying on the cross, I do not believe the sins of all were forgiven at this time, as we see many conditions regarding forgiveness of sins in the scriptures. Aside from Acts 2:38, which states that we are baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, even Matthew 6:14-15 states that God will not forgive our sins if we don’t forgive others. These scriptures would cease to exist if forgiveness was taken care of on the Cross. As Luke 13:22-27 states, sadly many will try to enter God’s kingdom but few actually will; this scripture is not addressed to atheists or those who worship other things, it is addressed to those who believe and are actually trying to enter God’s kingdom. Yet they will fall short for lack of obedience in some part of their conversion or life as a Christian. Similarly, Matthew 7:13-14 tells us that only a few will be saved. “Faith alone” does not support this reality as many have faith or have at one point had faith, nor does false doctrine.
I will end my closing remarks with Deuteronomy 12:32: “see that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.”
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