Why Do We Need A Saviour?

When I first met Jesus I saw Him as my spiritual guide, or guru. It was over a year before He confronted me with the concept of salvation. I’m not sure if being told I was a sinner before then would have helped much in alerting me to my need of a Saviour. What I initially understood was that there is a God who sent His Son to Earth because He loves us and wanted to reach out to us. My view, until He opened my eyes to the reality of sin, was that the people of Earth were so lost, not only did they not recognise their Creator, they executed Him for no other reason than that He told them He was the one true God.

As I became more familiar with the teachings of Jesus through His Word, I began to understand the concept of sin and our need for salvation. In The Bible I was introduced to words such as atonement and redemption, justification and sanctification. Each one of these words is packed full of significance and implications for the follower of Jesus Christ. They are all talking about a relationship that has been broken and needs mending. This is a primal relationship that was damaged almost as soon as it was forged. The human race was cut off from their Creator. This momentous event is known as the Fall.

Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)

Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)

The Creator could justifiably have abandoned His creation when Adam and Eve defied Him and sent His universe into a spiral of sin, pain, suffering and death. The One who brought it into being from nothing, could simply have reduced His universe to naught and started over again. Or He could have left His Earth to descend into a world that looked like nothing more than Sodom and Gomorrah from horizon to horizon – a world where brute power and savagery reigned as innocence and love were destroyed by lust, hate, greed and violence. Instead, at great cost to Himself, He set out to redeem those who choose to adhere to His original plan and purpose and live according to His guidelines, sending them out into the world as His ambassadors with the message of His love and holiness.

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God created a perfect universe, but He chose to allow the creatures He made to have dominion over His world – the people He created in His own image – to have individuality. He chose to create us with superior intelligence and free will. These unique gifts, which will make us fit to be His companions throughout eternity, were the very things that cost Him the life of His Son.To restore what was lost at the Fall, the Father sent His only Son to humanity with His message of salvation, knowing just what humanity would do in response. God did not orchestrate the crucifixion, but He foreknew it would happen and He worked through it, encompassing it into His great plan of salvation. He sent His Son into the path of evil and evil thought it would reduce God’s plan to rubble. But God victoriously raised His Son from death, as the First of His new, eternal creation. God would not only overcome evil with good, He would overcome death with eternal life. As Paul explained to the Corinthian church:

If our hope in Christ is only good for this life, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in the world. But Christ rose from death and became the First of those who are dead to be raised. Just as death came by means of a man, in the same way the rising from death comes by means of a Man. Indeed, all people die because of their union with Adam, likewise all those in Christ will be raised to life because of their union with Him. But all will be raised in the proper order: Christ is first of all, then, at the time of His coming, those who belong to Him will be raised like Him. Then the end will come. Christ will overcome all spiritual rulers, authorities, and powers, and will hand over the Kingdom to God the Father. For Christ must rule until God defeats all His enemies and puts them under His feet. The last enemy to be defeated will be death. (1 Cor 15:19-26)

The message Jesus Christ came to bring the world was not only about restoring our relationship with our Creator, it was also about God’s plan to eternally destroy evil and death. To do this He must destroy this present, fatally flawed creation. The weeds that have grown up in God’s beautiful garden overwhelm and strangle the fragile flowers. Hate, lust and greed; self-righteousness, idolatry and envy, all these tendencies left unchecked will strangle compassion and mercy; love and forgiveness. But one of the greatest problems for humanity is wilful arrogance. People cut off from their Creator imagine themselves capable of guiding humanity into a better future. Deceived by their own gifts and intellectual prowess, they believe their God given ability to think and reason will enable them to live apart from their Creator. This is the very idea that led Satan to rebel.

We were created for the tremendous purpose of communing with our Creator. We cannot function to our full potential in any other capacity. If we break away from God we break away from our only eternal hope. We will ultimately be nothing more than the flowers of the field, beautiful for a short season, but destined to fade away to nothing (James 1:11). The tragedy of people rejecting their eternal destiny is beyond contemplation. My heart aches for the lost, while our post-modern culture moves rapidly away from any real understanding of our individual, personal need for salvation. Our Father has given us this season to repent and turn to Him. He has ensured His message reaches every corner of His magnificent planet and He came Himself to confirm the Truth of this message.

When Jesus was born He brought Good News for the lost, God has promised there will be an eternal Kingdom free from sin, pain, suffering and death, but we must be born again of His Spirit to take our part in His eternal Kingdom. As John records the words of Jesus:

Jesus responded, “I tell you the truth, unless a person is born again, it is impossible for them to see the Kingdom of God.” And Nicodemus said, “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and of the Spirit. Mortal humans can reproduce only mortal human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to eternal spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say you must be born again.” (John 3:3-7)

Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, which was called the Sanhedrin. He came to Jesus at night to discuss His teachings and he appears to be one of the few Jewish leaders who actually recognised their Messiah at that time. Jesus revealed to Nicodemus the great plan God was working out for humanity through His incarnation. In John’s record of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, the Lord unveils the mystery of the ages to one of Israel’s leaders. God had become Man so that humanity might come back into relationship with God. Thus, individuals can be saved from perishing, when this present universe is destroyed by fire before the new heaven and the new Earth are created where God will dwell with His eternal people. The first heaven and the first Earth will pass away (Rev 21:1), but those people who have been born again will realise their eternal destiny in the new heaven and the new Earth.

© Samuel Micut | Dreamstime.com

© Samuel Micut | Dreamstime.com

Jesus explained to Nicodemus that to be part of this new creation, people must be born again of His Spirit. They must believe and put their trust in Him. After explaining that He is the only Son of God, who came down from heaven with a mission no other person throughout human history could accomplish, Jesus asserted:

Whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His only Son into the world to condemn the world, but rather, that the world through Him might be saved. He that believes in Him is not condemned: but he that does not believe is condemned already, because he does not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that Light came into the world, and men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil or not inspired by God. For every one who spends their time on wicked or unimportant matters hates the Light and is not drawn to the Light, thus avoiding their deeds revealing their own self-centredness. But whoever acts in truth comes to the Light, that their deeds may be made manifest and it will be obvious to all that they are inspired by God. (John 3:15-21)

Jesus was pointing out that the default position for humanity is to perish as a mortal creature. When the Father finally draws this universe to its predicted end, those who have not accepted God’s gift of eternal life will perish. We can spend our time and energy on our own pursuits, these may be literally evil, or they may simply be things we think are useful or make us feel good, but unless they are centred in Truth they lead nowhere. We can spend our time pursuing pleasure, money or fame, or in conscientiously studying and gaining degrees and qualifications, but ultimately these will all pass away. Only those actions that promote eternal matters, that is, those activities that are in line with God’s guidance and Truth, will be of any eternal significance.

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If we ignore the words of our Creator and turn our backs on Jesus’ assertions that we must believe in Him, accept His death on our behalf and be born again, then we are already condemned to perish. We can only be saved from this tragic end by placing our trust in Him and accepting that His version of God’s plan and purpose for His universe and our eternal existence is God’s Truth. We must be saved through grace by the only Saviour the world will ever know. The Lord Jesus Christ was born into the human race to offer us the gift of everlasting life and a place in His Eternal Kingdom; thus saving us from perishing (The Bible also calls this eternal destruction) along with this present, doomed creation, when the Father brings an end to sin, pain, suffering and death.

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Halleluiah, Jesus Christ was born to give us eternal life. Praise God!

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Coming – Ready or Not

One of our favourite games when we were kids was Hiding. Someone would cover their eyes and everyone else would find a place to hide. The person whose eyes were covered would begin to count, then call, “Coming, ready or not.” During the counting we’d all scamper around looking for a place to hide, and I’m sure, being small children, we found a lot more places to hide in those days than we’d find now.

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At the moment I feel a little like we are facing a countdown. I believe our world is poised for the second most momentous event in its history, The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The most important event in history so far, the birth of Jesus, changed the world immeasurably. Even though many modern historians are trying to write His influence out of history, they will find it difficult to alter the calendar around which the 21st century world revolves. Every time we write a date we are making reference to that world-changing event, when God was born into the world to save humanity from destruction.

Some people insist they don’t need saving. I remember hearing someone at the National Gallery of Australia, who was standing in front of a renaissance painting of the crucifixion, saying, “I didn’t ask Him to die for me.” It wrenched my heart to stand there and look at someone who had no idea of their enormous need. We need to be changed to meet our Creator. And no matter whether we’re ready or not, Jesus will come again. He told His disciples a number of times He would return after His ascension and the early Christians continued to repeat the message of His imminent return.

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God gave details of the return of Jesus in such a way, that throughout the history of the church, the followers of Jesus were always hoping He would come in their lifetime. Knowing this, why should we have any confidence in the idea that He will actually return in the immediate future? Why is it that many Christians believe it will actually happen very soon?

The answer is to be found in the study of Bible prophecy. Prophecy is a particular way of communicating a message that will only be understood by the people it is intended for. If Christians do not take the time to prayerfully study prophecy, they may not hear God’s message to them. Until recently, not everyone had access to the scriptures, but now that so many people can study the Bible for themselves, many Christians are looking very carefully at New Testament prophecies, and also at those in the Old Testament that appear to be awaiting fulfilment. And a surprising number of these believers feel the signs point to Jesus returning in the not too distant future.

The timing of the Lord’s return has always been an important issue for His followers. Matthew records an incident that occurred during Jesus’ time on Earth:

And as He sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of you coming, and of the end of the world?” (Mat 24:3)

Most people would be aware that if we do not know the language or culture of another person, it is very difficult to understand what they are saying to us. In the same way people need the Holy Spirit to open Bible prophecy up to them so that they can understand what God is saying. As Peter wrote:

Know this, no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Prophecy is not meant to be understood by non-Christians, it is God’s special message to His people, who are filled with His Holy Spirit. God opens His Word to people at just the right time, and now, at this point in history, as people have been seeking to understand the signs Jesus gave to His disciples, He has been opening the scriptures up to indicate that His return is at hand.

reading scriptureOver the past 100 years Christians have been studying and sharing ideas on the many biblical passages surrounding this topic and many believe that Jesus will actually return twice. The first will not really be a return of the Lord Jesus to Earth, Jesus will come to lift the believers out of the Earth. This may not be a time when unbelievers will actually see Him, they may only be aware that many people, who were followers of Jesus, suddenly disappeared. Paul described this episode in his letters. He writes:

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1Cor 15:51-53)

To the Thessalonians Paul wrote:

For they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the One who is rescuing us from the wrath to come. (1Thes 1:9-10)

In the same letter he goes on to say:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thes 4:13-18)

Paul is concerned that believers should not be ignorant, or “uninformed”, about Jesus’ return, like people who “have no hope”. He is writing to assure believers that “those who have fallen asleep in Jesus”, that is, born-again believers who have already died, will be resurrected and will “rise first”, before the believers who are still alive at that time are transformed to be united with them. Then they will all be “caught up together” to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air. This is a description of an event that has come to be known as The Rapture (from the Latin rapturo or raeptius, which means to seize, carry off or to snatch out or away).

rapturePaul clearly explains that this event is a time when believers will be rescued, when they will be snatched away from the wrath to come. He then goes on to explain what will happen next:

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, you don’t need me to write to you. For you know perfectly that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. For when they are saying, “Peace and safety”, then suddenly destruction will come upon them, like labour pains upon a woman with child – and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sister, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Th 5:1-9)

This event does not sound like the Second Coming, because Jesus does not come all the way down to Earth during this event. He only comes to meet the believers in the air. Paul explains that The Rapture will be a comfort to believers, because it will be a supreme act of God’s grace, when His love and mercy rescues them from the wrath and sudden destruction that is about to be poured out on the Earth during a period called The Great Tribulation. In his letters Paul is describing two incidents occurring in two different places. The children of the light have the hope of salvation and will be lifted away, while those who persist in darkness will remain to experience the wrath to come.

Believers will be rescued from the worst of the persecution, wars, natural disasters, and judgments that the Revelation, the book of Daniel and the other prophetic scriptures explain will occur during the seven year period leading up to the Second Coming. Christians will not to be caught off guard by The Rapture because they have been warned to remain watchful and sober.

However, unbelievers will be feeling reasonably safe and secure at this time and they will not be prepared to listen to their Christian friends who are waiting and watching for their Lord. For the unbeliever, Jesus will come “like a thief in the night”, to snatch away the saints. He will come and take away His people, and because they will not be watching for Him, the unbelievers may not even be aware it is happening until after the event.

Although there are some Christians who reject this understanding of prophecy, it creates a striking harmony between the many scriptures that cover the topic. I have written in far more detail about my reasons for coming to this conclusion in my book (see the Revelation chapter). I have also covered a number of reasons why many students of eschatology feel the Lord’s return is imminent.

Sadly, people who are not born-again believers in Christ at the time of The Rapture, will remain on the Earth to live through what Jesus referred to as the Great Tribulation (Mat 24:21). However, the Bible teaches that people who repent and turn to Jesus as their personal Saviour and Lord during the Tribulation, will be forgiven of their sins, regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit and saved from ultimate judgment and eternal destruction. These new believers will still have to endure the horrors that will occur on the Earth during that time, and many will face martyrdom, but I believe God will give them a special outpouring of His Spirit to enable them to reach out to the lost in God’s last momentous attempt to reach people before Jesus returns and this present age draws to a close. This will be the time when people are offered their very last chance to be part of God’s eternal kingdom.

When Paul describes the “sudden destruction” as being like “labour pains” (1 Thes 5:3), he is using the same concept the Lord Jesus used when He explained that the world will experience “birth pangs” in the last days (Matthew 24:8). At that time Jesus was talking to a Jewish audience, and just as with Paul, He then went on to give a description of the Tribulation, during which time He will be reaching out to His people, the Jews, in a mighty effort to bring them back to Himself (Is 27:12,13). Revelation tells us God will recruit 144 000 Jews to perform this task of evangelisation during the Great Tribulation (Rev 7:4).

While we don’t know exactly when The Rapture will occur, it seems it will not come during a time of intense “contraction” such as a major economic or military upheaval or natural disasters, but rather, during a time of “release”; a time when things appear to the non-Christian world to be peaceful and safe. We know labour pains start out with long pauses between contractions, and gradually become more frequent and more intense. Jesus explained that there would be signs that were simply the beginning of the labour pains and that once these began to occur people would know the end was near. As no one could possibly describe any moment during The Great Tribulation as a time of “peace and safety”, it follows that the Rapture cannot take place during this time when God pours out His wrath on a world that has resolutely refused to turn to Him.

For those of us who are eagerly anticipating His return, Jesus tells us:

“I leave you peace. It is my own peace I give you. I give you peace in a different way than the world does. So don’t be troubled. Don’t be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am leaving, but I will come back for you.’ (John 14:27-28a)

Jesus was assuring His disciples that even though He was about to be crucified, He would return and they should not be afraid. If He were to return for the saints at the end of the Great Tribulation, it would be very difficult for Christians not to be troubled by the events that will precede His coming. In the book of Revelation we have a very clear picture of a time that would terrify even the most pious of saints. Instead, the Lord assured His people He will rescue them from this horrific time.

Following the resurrection, Jesus did return to His people for a short time. However, His last instruction for them before He ascended was that they should tell people everywhere about Him. This is exactly what Christians have been occupied in doing since He went to be with the Father. In the 21st century, Christians have added a new aspect to this message – anyone who wants to be part of God’s rescue program, which is scheduled to occur just before the Great Tribulation, can find their hope of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.

After Jesus was caught up in the clouds at His ascension, some angels assured His watching followers that Jesus would return again. As Luke described it:

“But the Holy Spirit will come on you and give you power and you will be my witnesses. You will tell people everywhere about me – in Jerusalem, in the rest of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world.” After Jesus said this, He was lifted up into the sky. While they were watching, He went into a cloud, and they could not see Him. They were staring into the sky where He had gone. Suddenly two men wearing white clothes were standing beside them. They said, “Men from Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky? You saw Jesus carried away from you into heaven. He will come back in the same way you saw him go.” (Act 1:8-11)

Throughout the history of the church Christians have eagerly anticipated the return of Christ (1 Cor 1:7; Php 3:20; 2 Tim 4:8; Heb 9:28). Today, many believers are not anticipating having to endure the Great Tribulation, because the Lord has promised they will be spared from God’s wrath. Instead, these believers are anticipating being taken away to be with the Lord forever (1 Thes 4:18). This is a wonderful hope. The fact that Jesus has not, as yet, returned simply means more people will have the opportunity to be part of His rescue plan and His eternal kingdom. But before this kingdom can be realised on Earth, there is yet the Great Tribulation to be actioned on Earth. As Matthew records, Jesus told his disciples:

“For then shall be Great Tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be.” (Mat 24:21)

The Great Tribulation will be the time when God’s judgment on evil will be executed on Earth. It is hard for mortal people to understand the immortal, omniscient, omnipotent God who created the universe, but He has given us His Holy Spirit and His Word, The Bible, through which we can learn a great deal about His purposes and plans. God has very good reasons for this final outpouring of His wrath upon the Earth. I address these reasons more fully in my book. We can choose to avoid this horrific time by simply acknowledging our Creator as having supreme authority over us and giving our lives into the hands of His Son. He has been reaching out to humanity with love and mercy from the beginning of time, but He will not allow evil to endure forever. In Revelation we find:

And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and the chief captains, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains; and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of their wrath is come; and who is able to stand? (Rev 6:15-17)

This will not be a game. God created a magnificent planet and filled it with miraculous living creatures, but humanity has despoiled God’s creation. People have lied, hated, cheated, killed, polluted, perverted and destroyed, and they have resolutely refused to be subject to their Creator. This is His universe and many choose to be wilfully ignorant of His plans and purposes for their lives. During the Great Tribulation there will be nowhere to hide from the Creator or from His Truth. However, this is not the end. Jesus said:

“But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Mat 24:29-30)

the-second-coming1This is not part of the events described by Paul during The Rapture, this is a description of the Second Coming, which all the world will see. It will occur at the end of the Great Tribulation, when Jesus returns to the Earth with the transformed saints to establish His thousand year reign on Earth (Rev 19:11-20:6). He will come, whether we’re ready or not.

For those who know and love Him, Jesus will return to take them to be with Him eternally. Those people who have chosen to remain on planet Earth during the Great Tribulation will then live through the worst seven years humanity has ever endured. During this time many will turn to their Creator, having been driven, finally, to an understanding of their need for salvation. However, those who resolutely refuse to acknowledge the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ as their Creator may try to hide. But eventually, we must all face our Creator. Will we stand before Him as a beloved child, redeemed, cleansed and transformed, or as a rebellious renegade, doomed for destruction?

Eternity

When I was young I lived and went to school in the city of Sydney. Many times during my early days I saw the message “Eternity” written in chalk in beautiful copperplate handwriting on the footpaths of our beautiful harbour city. I have no idea how much this one word effected me, but I do know that now it is one of the most important words in my life.

EternityHBWhen I consider this word my mind jumps in two directions, the first and most powerful is the thought of those people around me who will miss out on Eternity. It breaks my heart. I want to strap on a sandwich board and stand in the centre of the city alerting people to their need for repentance. But what would they understand if they heard the word “Repent”? I was saved and had committed to living my life for my Saviour some time before I really understood anything about repentance.

The man who wrote Eternity on the streets of Sydney during the 50s and 60s was called by God to do so. God called him and God enabled him; he could hardly write his own name, but when he wrote Eternity on the streets of Sydney it was beautifully executed. Arthur Stace, who came to be known as Mr Eternity, had lived a desperate, profligate life; mostly drunk from the age of 15. When he met Jesus his life changed completely and he understood just what Eternity was all about. He’d been to the depths of depravity and the light of Eternity was a beacon for his soul. How do we reach out to the people of the 21st century and alert them to God’s offer of Eternity?

arthur-stace1I think we need to be clear in our minds about the issues involved. A large portion of the population today have a sort of sentimental idea that they will be reunited in some other place, and live on in some other life, with departed loved ones. This is because many people, including some Christians, believe in an immortal soul.

I also have a number of friends who are atheists and they are very pragmatic; as far as they’re concerned the soul is nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain. Their catch-cry is, “When you’re dead, you’re dead”. To a certain extent I agree with this sentiment. It is far more biblically sound than the sentimental journey the after-lifers imagine awaits us. The difference between the atheists’ idea of death and that of The Bible is that before the final, second death we learn about in Revelation, there is a Day of Judgment. This is when those who have rejected God’s gift of Eternity will understand just what it is they will loose. They will meet their Creator and know without doubt that He loves them, but that He has a plan for the future that they can only be part of by being in Him (Romans 8:1).

We don’t really know much about life in Eternity, but those of us who know Jesus know we will be with Him, and that is more than enough to assure us that Eternity will be magnificent. This, of course, is the second thing that comes to my mind when I think of Eternity. It will be unbelievably wonderful. If we could make it clear to people that they have a choice between Eternity with a Father who loves them so much He was prepared to die for them, and the second, final, irreversible death, perhaps they would have a better understanding now of what this momentous choice is all about.

Jesus preachingUnfortunately, a large portion of the church has swallowed the Greek idea of an immortal soul, although Christians historically have referred to it as an immortal spirit. This is not a biblical concept (see What is the second death? for a more comprehensive discussion on this topic), this idea was imported into the church in the second century by converted Greek philosophers and perhaps originally came from Hindu teachings.

Adam and Eve 2This belief is a direct result of Satan’s first recorded lie to humanity, when he told Adam and Eve they would not die (Gen 2:16-17). Sadly, many people today have believed this lie. Demonic spirits use the idea to great advantage through spiritualism and mediums, and even those who refuse to believe in the God of The Bible can be heard to refer to some departed person “looking down on” or “watching over” them.

Christians carry this concept of an imagined afterlife into ideas about the fate of the unsaved. As Christians, we need to find doctrinal truth in The Bible, and not blindly accept church traditions, they can be wrong (Mat 15:6). The Bible teaches that after we die we are resurrected to face judgment. Christians will be judged before the Bema Seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10), where they will either receive their rewards or find themselves surrounded by cinders (1Cor 3:12-15), but all will go on into Eternity, because they have been given eternal life. Before receiving this gift we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Mat 8:22; Eph 2:1).

Unbelievers will not be resurrected until after the millennium, when they will stand before the Great White Throne of their Creator to be judged. John tells us in The Revelation:

And I saw a great white throne and the One sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from His presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. (Rev 20:11-21:1)

Thus we learn that the present creation will disappear just before this judgment, and a new heaven and a new earth will be created immediately after this judgment. Between the destruction of the old creation and the appearance of the new one the fate of the unbelieving dead is sealed. We are told that they are judged “according to what they had done”. I believe a valid interpretation of these verses is that some people, who had not consciously accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour before they died – perhaps because they had never come across the gospel during their lifetime, may indeed find their names recorded in the Book of Life. If their names are not in this book then logically they will have no life beyond the judgment, they will experience the second death.

We do not have eternal life unless we accept this great gift from the only One who can make it, the only One who has conquered death. Without the gift of eternal life we will have no Eternity. Nowhere in The Bible do we read that God gives eternal life to the unbelieving dead to go on in some unknown state forever. Those who have received the gift of eternal life and are part of the new creation will find:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Rev 21:4)

I believe this verse is telling us that even the second death is gone. All these things are gone forever, the Lake of Fire and everything in it will disappear, along with the old creation. Eternity is a place for the living, and only those who have accepted eternal life from the Lord of Life will go on into Eternity.

What an incredible opportunity we are missing by creating this unbiblical afterlife for the unbeliever. The idea that we can claim God is love, but then go on to insist He will send unbelievers to eternal torment, is not logical. This fact is not lost on the lost. We have created an unbiblical doctrine, presented it as Truth, and then told those who reject it that they are rejecting the love of God.

What many of these people have rejected is a contorted doctrine about a tyrannical God who knew He would be sending people to eternal torment and nevertheless went on with His plan. Although He is holy and just, the God of The Bible is indeed a God of love. He loves people so much, He will not force them to spend Eternity as sinful, fallen humans. It would be intolerable living eternally with our selfishness, greed, insecurities, arrogance, hate, malice, deceitfulness and all the other products of sin that plague unredeemed humanity.

God offers each one of us the opportunity to choose His alternative to the second death. We must be born again of God’s eternal spirit to live in Eternity. There is no other alternative. In John’s first letter he explains that eternal life is only found in Jesus and that those who are in Jesus can be assured they have eternal life:

And this is the witness, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in His Son. He that has the Son has life: he that has not the Son of God has not life. These things have I written to you that you may know that you have eternal life who believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:11-13)

God’s new creation will be without sin, pain, death and suffering, and only those who have been transformed by God’s Holy Spirit (John 3:5) will be fit for Eternity. We must each make a momentous choice. If you don’t already know you have eternal life, will you now choose Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Through Him you can be saved from the second death and go on into Eternity?

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Tolerating Intolerance

What is it that one can say to the inhabitants of a world that will pass away? Christians believe this world has a finite end. In the last book of the Bible we learn that sometime in the not too distant future, God will create a New Heaven and a New Earth and the Old Earth that is filled with pain, death and suffering will pass away (Rev 21:1). Could anyone really have a problem with the revelation that God has a plan and a program to deal with all the suffering in this world? So what can we say to our fellow travelers on this beautiful planet about God’s revelation and His plan?

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It all depends on whether we believe that those who have rejected the gift of eternal life from the Lord of Life will also pass away, or perish along with the old creation. Jesus uses the word “perish” in the famous verse from John’s gospel where He says:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
(John 3:16).

After 40 years of study I am convinced the Bible does not teach that everyone has an eternal or immortal soul. The Bible teaches God alone is immortal, and every individual who is born on our planet must “put on” immortality, just as Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians. Those who reject the gift of eternal life from the Lord Jesus Christ will indeed perish, just as Jesus warned. Therefore, what I feel is vital to communicate to people who have yet to meet the Lord Jesus, can be quite different to the words other Christians who believe everyone has an immortal soul might say.

Since the very early days, when the concept of an immortal soul was introduced from Greek philosophy, the church has almost universally incorporated this doctrine into its teachings. Some traditions that have been added to biblical doctrine are blatantly obvious and easy to identify, but this idea is subtle, and for me it finds its roots in the Garden of Eden. Satan told Adam and Eve that God had lied, they would not die if they disobeyed their Creator (Gen 3:4) and he has introduced this idea into many pagan traditions.

I find no biblical teaching for this doctrine, the Bible seems very clear that God alone is immortal (1Tim 6:16) and we must “put on” immortality (1Cor 15:53-54). Yet people who claim to be Bible believing Christians insist that orthodox Christianity must include the doctrine that every human being, whether saved or unsaved, has an immortal soul. Why? And why are believers who accept this teaching so hostile to considering this doctrine might be wrong? I have actually met with a certain amount of hostile intolerance from other Christians to the idea of human mortality.

This intolerant attitude is not unique to Christians. I cannot find any empirical evidence to show people are born gay; it seems more likely that this is a choice people make about their sexuality. I believe this because numerous people, who thought they were gay, have chosen to leave that lifestyle behind. They assert that God has spoken to them and convinced them that this choice is the product of human, fleshly desire (Col 3:5-7) and that God has enabled them to move on. However, people who insist they were born gay have a problem with exgays and people like me.

I am happy to respect the rights of other people to hold their beliefs; that does not mean I have to agree with their beliefs, but I respect their right to hold them and I try to understand why they do. This courtesy is becoming less common amongst folk who believe people are born gay; they call me homophobic and some go so far as to say I have no right to believe what I believe. I am definitely adverse to homosexual behaviour, because the Bible teaches that this way of life is completely incompatible with a life where God is central and one seeks to follow the teachings of Jesus. To my way of thinking, condoning homosexuality is condemning those who practice it to a lesser life than the one God has for them. But that’s my belief, and I would think in our modern, democratic, tolerant society I would have the right to believe this.

People who condemn others because they don’t agree with their beliefs often feel they have grounds for disrespect or violence toward those people. This sort of intolerance can come in all shapes and sizes and may be held by people with various worldviews, but they are all acting from the same spirit, the spirit of intolerance. Christians can choose to love those who identify themselves as homosexual, or people who follow Buddha or Mohammad, because that is what Jesus commands and enables us to do.

While we choose to hold to our belief that Jesus Christ is the only Way, and continue to follow His teachings and guidelines from His Word, we can love and accept others who have completely different worldviews. As I strive to live a life of love towards all, no matter what their beliefs, I am also trying to learn how to tolerate the intolerance of others.