Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Judgement of the Nations

Matthew 25 : 31 - 46 describes the Judgement of the Nations, which most commentators or theologians believe to be a description of the final judgement of mankind at the end of time to decide who will be saved or enter the kingdom.

I suspect this is not a correct interpretation for the following reasons .....

1.   This is a judgement with consequences in the ages to come.  If it happens at the end of time, there are no ages left for the consequences to be played out.
2.   It is a judgement of nations or tribes, not individuals.  The salvation of individuals is not involved, and, in any case, the salvation of individuals is not a matter of works or the offering of charity, but is a gift to all.

3.   This story is the last piece of Jesus' answer to His disciples' questions that were asked at the beginning of chapter 24 involving the destruction of the temple, which occurred in AD 70 and before the generation to whom Jesus was speaking passed away (Matt 23 : 36 and 24 : 34).
4.   It is a parallel with Matthew 16 : 27 - 28 (compare with Matt 25 : 31 - 33) in which Jesus assured his listeners that at least some of whom would personally see.
5.   The nations referred to were probably the tribes of Israel, or the tribes of the land.  Matt 24 : 30 calls them so, and back then historians like Josephus regularly referred to the nation of the Galileans, the nation of the Samaritans, etc. within the land of Israel. 

Jesus told his disciples to "go and teach all nations" and I think He was understood to be referring to the ethnic groups within Israel or Judea because of their surprise when they eventually discovered Gentiles being saved in the mid and later chapters of Acts.  (Acts 10 : 14 and 11 : 18.  
It's also worth noting that Jesus told his disciples that they wouldn't have finished going through the cities of Israel before Jesus was to return (Matt10 : 23), thus expecting them to be spreading the gospel to Israel or Judea, and that Paul stated that the Gentiles being included in the gospel was a mystery prior to his revelation (Eph 3 : 6).

I therefore, as an uneducated bush theologian, prefer to view this judgement as one on the tribes or nations of Israel in AD70, and Jews being law-keepers, would be judged on how well they kept the law and offered charity to those who lived in the land with them.

That's where I'm up to, but I'm always learning.
Comments, as always, would be most welcome.
Blessings, Barry

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Do We Really Die?

Here is a topic that I think about a lot, and my thoughts seem to be at odds with the vast majority of Christian authors. 
But what's new about that?

Most authors suggest that when people leave this planet (physically die) they remain asleep until a resurrection sometime in the future.
The "goodies" get resurrected to be given Life, and the "baddies" get resurrected to be given death.  (Some resurrection that would be!)

But I find that view inconsistent with the view taught by Jesus and His followers, who say that Jesus came to give us Life right now. 
Do we get that Life and then have it taken from us for the time between when we physically die and some future resurrection? 
That doesn't seem very logical to me either.

I appreciate that several verses can be quoted to support the idea that when our physical bodies cease working and we depart this planet we are dead, real dead, or at least sound asleep, but they are all OT verses, statements made by poets (and others) expressing their understanding at that point.
Here are a couple......

Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
    Who praises you from the grave?  [Psalm 6 :5  NIV]

For the living know that they will die,
    but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
    and even their name is forgotten.
Their love, their hate
    and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
    in anything that happens under the sun.  [Ecclesiastes 9 : 5 - 6  NIV]

Indeed, without further revelation from Jesus, we would not be in a position to say anything much different. 
The physical evidence screams similar conclusions at us too.

But look at the new information Jesus reveals .....

“I am the resurrection and the life.
The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;
and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. "  [John 11 : 25 - 26  NIV]
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life."  [John 5 : 24  NIV]

John affirms Jesus' words with .....

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  [1 John 5 : 13  NIV]

Jesus goes even further than promising Life for His followers .....

"But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’
He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” [Luke 20 : 37 - 38  NIV]

I appreciate that the theology of many old hymns sometimes doesn't follow Scripture too well, but I like the Christmas Carol "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," which has this verse .....

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Not too much about death there!
Anyway, what do you think happens to us when we leave this planet?
Would love to hear your thoughts.
Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Great White Throne Judgement

As you know I am currently writing the chapter on the Good Judgement of God, although I have done very little in the past few months for several "good" reasons.
However I have squeezed in some good reading between events and have discovered an interesting snippet in these readings that I had not run across before.
In Revelation 20 : 11 - 15, we have the following:

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books  (scrollets  Gk: biblion) were opened. Another book (scrollet  Gk:biblion) was opened, which is the book (absent in Gk text) of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books (scrollets  Gk:biblion).
13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.
14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book (scroll  Gk:biblos) of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (NIV)

In verse 12 all the books mentioned were scrollets or small scrolls (Gk:biblion), but the one mentioned in verse 15 is the normal scroll (Gk:biblos).
The book of life gets bigger, becomes a normal sized scroll, during the Great White Throne judgement. 

What do you make of that?
Who do you think gets added to the book of life during the judgement?
Who remains to get thrown into the lake of fire?

Please share your thoughts on these questions.
Blessings, Barry

Monday, November 4, 2013

Another Look at Zacchaeus

We have now been in our new church home for twelve months and are continuing to enjoy the loving fellowship there. 
I am also enjoying the challenges that a different church style, system, and approach to the Scriptures present.
Yesterday, the gospel reading was about Zacchaeus and the sermon (called a reflection) and related discussion group raised many ideas from this simple story, some of which hadn't occurred to me or seemed worth reflecting on before.

One thought that really grabbed my attention was the observation that it was only the crowd that called Zacchaeus a sinner, not Jesus.
Why would that be so?
And me being me, let my mind wander on that question for the rest of the day.
Could it possibly be that Jesus knew he would soon deal with everyone's sin on the cross, and no-one would therefore deserve to be called a sinner again?
Maybe .. it did remind me of 2 Cor 5 : 19 which says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and so no longer counting people's sins against them.
And, of course, Jesus started that ball rolling on the cross with, "Father forgive them, they don't know what they're doing."

I love reading, researching, and studying the Bible.
Well, maybe not all of it.  
I usually jump right over the long lists of genealogies, but one day I became inquisitive and stopped to have a closer look.
In the NT, Matthew and Luke both have genealogies of Jesus.
Although Luke was a Gentile, his family tree listed 76 men, all Jewish.
Matthew, a Jew, took a different route and listed 40 men and 5 women, and by including the women, he picked up some Gentiles on the way.

Tamar, was Gentile daughter-in-law of Judah, who didn't honour a promise he made to her, so she boldly set him up for a pay-back.  What a bold, inventive Gentile woman!
Rahab, was a Gentile prostitute from Jericho, who risked her life to save Joshua's spies.
Ruth, was also a Gentile - the saintly, widowed daughter-in-law of Naomi, who became the wife of Boaz and the grandmother of King David.
Bathsheba was possibly not a favourite of Matthew because he just called her Uriah's wife.  Uriah was a Hittite, so she was probably a Gentile also.  She was immodest and unfaithful to Uriah, but became the the wife of King David (who himself was an adulterer and murderer) and mother of King Solomon (a polygamist)
(Some Christians are surprised to discover that the great Jewish King David had a Gentile grandmother and a wife who was probably a Gentile.)
Mary was saintly, Jewish young lady, yet was seen in her community as immoral and worthy of being stoned.  Nevertheless, she accepted her Godly calling, knowing it could well cost her her life.

Matthew's list might give us a clue about who Jesus came to save.
Men and Women, Jews and Gentiles, Saints and Sinners are all there, and we don't have to look too hard to see some reflection of ourselves in the list too !!

Clearly, He came to be the Saviour of us all.

Jesus said he would draw all people to himself.
Paul says, “We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.”
John says, “Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.”
And Matthew finishes his gospel with Jesus sending his disciples to all nations, inviting them to become his disciples.

It doesn't matter who we are, Jesus died for our sins.
Your sin, my sin, has been handled; as has our neighbour's and anyone's we meet in the street.
When we come to believe that, we begin to enjoy life in fellowship with God.

So, as believers, who know what God has done for us, who have begun to live and enjoy life in fellowship with him, Paul encourages us to be so thankful and to become  ambassadors for God.
My prayer for us all is that we will live in such a way as to become reliable and effective ambassadors for God, the Creator and Saviour of the world, by showing those who don't yet know Him, the true value of new life in Christ.

Blessings, Barry

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Jesus Visits Hell for Three Days

Hi Everyone
Have been distracted for the past twelve months with family health issues, but I am about to recommence work on the book and will post some ideas here for you to bounce around with me.
I am ready to commence work on Chapter 5, God's Judgement is Good, so the flavour of the posts for next few weeks will be on hell and judgement.
Are you ready to play with me?  Please do.

Many in mainstream christianity believe that the penalty for not becoming a follower of Jesus in their lifetime on this planet is eternal torment in a place they call hell.
Others, who don't wish to portray their 'God of love' as being so cruel, suggest that these folk will be annihilated, totally destroyed, rather than suffer the hell torture.
Even if the Bible is not known very well, let me suggest that any rational person would struggle to reach either of these two conclusions.

Let's begin by considering the time Jesus spent in hell (or in death).
Jesus paid the full penalty for the sin of the whole world.
How long was he dead?  Three days.
Three days' death paid the full penalty for the sin of the world.

I now have two questions to explore.
1.  If Jesus paid for all of the world's sin, how come anyone has anything more to pay?
2.  Even if you could find some reason to argue that some payment is still required, how could that payment be longer than three days?
Surely a person only has to pay for his own sin, not for the sin of others, and the maximum penalty for a person's own sin would have to be less than the 3 days Jesus paid for the world's sin.

In either scenario, no payment required or a payment of less than 3 days, where is the possibility of endless torture in hell for unbelievers?
If anyone had to go to hell forever, surely it would have been Jesus, who was paying for the sin for all of us.  But He didn't.

Now let's consider what happened to Jesus after he was in hell.
He rose from the dead after 3 days.
He came back to life, was resurrected.
Even better still, He went to heaven soon after His resurrection.

Wasn't annihilated?
Went to heaven after being in hell? 

However we look at it, endless torment or annihilation clearly cannot be the penalty for sin.

Blessings, Barry

(You can find previous posts on hell and judgement by looking through the blog archive in the side panel on the right. A starter on hell was posted on August 4th, 2010, for example.)

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Cancer Parable

Those who have been following our family cancer journey will know that for several months I have been researching alternative treatments that might kill and/or prevent cancer.

One of the things I have learned is that cancer cells cannot survive in an alkaline environment, while healthy cells flourish.
These destructive little cancer critters are themselves destroyed when the body they are invading is alkaline - has a PH somewhat above 7.

So Darrell, who has had his third case of brain cancer in less than 10 months, is working at maintaining his PH at 8 or 9, a level which is about 50 or 60 times more alkaline than it normally is.
If the science we have been reading is correct, Darrell's cancer cells (and any other unwelcome products of an acidic environment) should be killed in this environment and expelled from his body.

I have also been thinking a lot about the kingdom of God lately, and how we can live successfully as participants in it.
And I've been noticing an interesting parallel with my cancer research.

If the Scriptures are correct, being filled with the Holy Spirit also produces two outcomes.
Firstly, the sin/worldliness in us is killed and expelled from our lives and ministry, as evil cannot survive in a spirit-filled environment.
Secondly, the good/Godliness already in us is enriched and empowered to be even more effective in kingdom duties and responsibilities.

So just as Darrell is working to keep his body more alkaline to rid his body of unwanted nasties and to enrich his healthy cells and organs, we need to work at keeping ourselves more spiritually saturated and Christ-oriented to rid ourselves of the nasties that compromise our witness as followers of Jesus and to make us more responsible and productive members of Christ's kingdom.

Blessings, Barry

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Is God Rational?

As most of you know, I am in a new (for me) Christian environment, so I spend much of the time listening and learning, and only occasionally asking a question or offering a comment. 
And, as you would also know, being more of an observer than a leader in a Bible study setting is also very new to me.  :-)

In a recent Bible study discussion on God and the possibility that He might, or might not, be involved in our personal lives, it was suggested that we must be rational when formulating our ideas about God and the ways He operates.
Being the observer that I have currently chosen to be, I allowed that suggestion to go without question or comment, and the discussion headed off in another direction.

I know you find that action (or inaction) on my part hard to believe, because you know how God has been involved in our lives over several decades in ways that are impossible to describe as rational.

But I will break my silence here. 

The ways in which God has shifted us around the country, the miracles we have been privileged to see in our various adventures and ministries, and the way He has brought us through several family challenges, all point to a God who intervenes in lives in ways that refuse to be restricted by mankind's sense of rationality.

But let me generalise beyond my personal experience, so we can all address this question together.

God's grace is nowhere near rational.
Is it rational, can we really comprehend, that the Creator of this universe extends grace and mercy in such awesome measure as He has and does towards such a wayward and rebellious humanity?

Christ's resurrection is not rational - nor will ours be.
Is it rational that God's forgiveness is given to all without any performance or sacrifice on our behalf, but solely as a result of Christ's death and resurrection?

Christ's teaching is often not rational either.
For example, He tells us to .....

  • forgive without limit - yet a rational mind would declare there are some things that are unforgivable, and some forgiven people will never change their offensive behaviour but seek to take advantage of us.
  • be at peace with all - yet a rational mind would suggest that violence and evil will run rampant when surrounded by such a pacifist mindset.
  • give unstintingly to the poor and needy - yet a rational mind would suggest that too much of that will only encourage some people not to work or even try to get a job.
  • love our enemies and do good to them - yet a rational mind would such that such a response would encourage our enemy to totally destroy us.
For me, God is way beyond rational.
To create this enormous universe out of nothing is way beyond rational itself, let alone His dealings with it and those He created to populate and manage it.

"Rational" belongs to our limited, but logical, way of thinking - not to God's.
We can't confine God to the same size box most of humanity lives in.

Let's continue to look for the irrational, the supernatural, from the God who loves, forgives and sustains us without limit.
Blessings, Barry

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How Thick Is Your Bible ?

Over the years, I've spent many hours trying to build a belief system and a worldview that is consistent with the teachings of the Bible.
The Bible is the standard, so whenever I discover a conflict between my thinking and the Bible, I question my thinking.
For me, the Bible teaches truth, so any discrepancy is on my side and needs to be remedied.

As you know, I am now fellowshipping in a liberal church where most people don't seem to hold the Scriptures in as high a regard as I am used to. 
Even though readings from all parts of the Bible are listed in our lectionary for each week of the year, the Gospels are the books given the most attention.
And recently I attended a small home group that even pruned the Gospel of John from this list as well, leaving them with a very thin volume comprising just the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

These lovely people, whose fellowship, hearts and Christ-like ministry I am enjoying and applauding, have their reasons for relegating the other books of the Bible to "ancient sacred texts." 
I won't go into those reasons here, but I will mention the reason for the home group eliminating the Gospel of John.

This Gospel quotes Jesus as saying that He is the way, the truth and the life, and that no-one can come to the Father except through Him.
Considering that many in this group believe that all will get to God no matter what route they take or what religion they belong to, John's Gospel is considered to be restrictive, exclusive, and in conflict with their universal belief.
So, the offending Gospel has to go.

Being a Christian Universalist and having a high regard for Scripture, I don't see the conflict.
Jesus IS the way.  Absolutely true, as John proclaims.
God reconciled the world to Himself through Christ and is no longer counting anyone's sins against them.  [ 2 Cor 5 : 19 ]
So no-one could possibly come to the Father without Jesus having done that.  

Jesus IS the only way we get to the Father.
And absolutely everyone WILL get there because He did this for the whole world.  [ 1 John 2 : 2 ]

So no matter who you are, where you live, or what religion or political party or football team you follow, Jesus has determined your eternal future.
No need to throw out John - or Paul or anyone else for that matter.
We can keep the whole Bible and still guarantee everyone will get to God eventually.

Blessings, Barry.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Last night we watched a British comedy called "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."

It's the story of a group of misfit British pensioners who were enticed to retire to a hotel in India that was in very poor repair.
It didn't grab me to begin with, but it grew on me, and by the time it was finished I had been well entertained.

A quaint line often repeated by the Indian manager of the hotel went something like,
"Everything will be all right in the end.  So if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end."
How that resonated with me as a person believing in God's plan to reconcile all of creation to Himself in the end.
Since all are not yet reconciled to God, we are definitely not yet at the end.

How beautifully true.
God still has the remainder of this age, and more ages to come, in which to complete His mission.
But complete it He will, or the Saviour of the world will have wasted His time.

Blessings, Barry

Chapter 4

Hi Everyone
Well it has finally happened.  Today I had an uninterrupted block of time several hours long while sitting on the verandah at Darrell and Anne's house in Withcott with my laptop on my knee. 
It has been so long since this has happened - with coffees, boats, trips to Queensland, coffees, boats, afternoon snoozes, coffees, etc. occupying my days - getting a slab of time available for writing has been difficult.  (Retirement is soooooo busy)

As a result of today's miracle, I have finally completed the first draft of the next chapter, which I began writing in February 2011, and has not been touched for 6 months.  phew .....
It is hiding in the usual spot.
for those with failing memories.  :-)
I will leave it up there for a month or so.  You will need the password grace3 to open it.

If you can spare me the time, I would love you to read it and give me your harshest feedback.
You are my only reviewers and editors - so questions, comments, criticisms, requests for more information, and plain old, "I just don't like this paragraph because ..... " statements will be most welcome.

Love and blessings to you all,

Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Do Unbelievers Get Saved?

Recently I was asked, "Could you help me through the scriptures with how the unbelievers will be saved?"
I have replied and thought I would share the reply with you for your consideration and feedback.

I am happy to journey through the Scriptures with you on this, although I have to admit, before we commence, that there are not too many clues in the Scriptures about HOW God does most things, including the saving of unbelievers, whether they are on this planet, or have left it.
In many cases we know WHAT he does/did, but not HOW he does/did it.
For example,
We know that God implanted Jesus into the womb of the virgin Mary, but no clues are given about how he did it?
We know that Jesus turned water into wine, but no clues are given about how he did it?
We know that Jesus raised the widow's son in Nain from the dead, but no clues are given about how he did it?
You and I received faith in God and Jesus' sacrifice for our sins, but I, for one, cannot explain HOW we got that faith?

We, as the creatures, will never understand how he, the Creator, does such things, unless he tells us, or we make guesses from clues sprinkled through the Scriptures.

So let's start with the WHAT, about the fate of those who leave the planet as unbelievers, which is well documented in the Scriptures.
Col 1 : 19 - 20 :   God will reconcile all things, in heaven and on earth, to himself.  The same sacrifice of Jesus that got you and me reconciled to God will reconcile the rest of his creation.
2 Cor 5 : 19 :   God is no longer counting our sins against us - any of us.
1 John 2 : 2 :   Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world.
1 Tim 4 : 10 :   God will save all people, not just believers.
Romans 11 : 32 :   God will have mercy on us all.
Ephesians 1 : 10 :   The end result will be the unity of all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

HOW God will save unbelievers beyond their time on this planet is just as difficult to explain as the HOW he saves those who become believers while still here (people like us).
We are made aware of our sin, God's provision for dealing with it, and his being reconciled to us.
God gives us the faith to believe these truths, as Jesus draws us to himself.
We respond by confessing our faith in Jesus and his completed work for us.
We are reconciled to (at peace with) God, and express our appreciation and devotion.
This happens in a multitude of ways and circumstances and places - it's all God's doing and timing.

Those who leave this planet as unbelievers will be reconciled to God through a similar series of "steps" that converted unbelievers experience in their lifetime here - awareness, faith, drawing, confession, reconciliation, appreciation and devotion.
Here are my guesses .....
Because God is already reconciled to these unbelievers when they show up before him, they will discover that God holds nothing against them and does not need to be feared (because of the completed work of Jesus in dealing with their sin).
Believing these truths will be easy in the presence of Jesus; they will be drawn to him, confessing their conviction that he is their Lord and their God.
This will happen far too late for them to experience governing with Christ and previous believers in the kingdom age, but will carry them reconciled into eternity.

So what clues have I based these guesses on?
One way or the other God's plan (the WHAT above) must be fulfilled.  [ Psalm 135 : 6 ;  Isaiah 46 : 9 - 11 ]
Jesus came into the world to save it, not judge it, and he is the same yesterday and today and into the ages.  [ John 12 : 47 ;  Hebrews 13 : 8 ]
God is already reconciled to all of us and holds nothing against us.  [ 2 Cor 5 : 19 ]
The experience of Thomas.  [ John 20 : 24 - 29 ]
Jesus' parable of the prodigal son and how his loving and merciful father dealt with him.  [ Luke 15 ]

Well, that's where I'm up to on this topic.  What are your thoughts?
Blessings, Barry

Do you lovely bloggers have any thoughts on this?  I'd love to explore this with you too.
Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Glenn's Tricky Scripture

2 Thessalonians 1 : 6 - 10
Background .....
Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonian saints about the middle of the first century AD, either in the year 50 or 51, only a short time after he had written his previous letter to them.
These saints were clearly under great stress due to "religious" persecution from non-Christian Jews (verse 4 and Acts 17) and were being encouraged by the promise of  relief and a just end-result (verse 6).

The tricky verses .....
Here is the NIV translation of these verses, amended to reflect a more literal rendering of the underlying Greek text.

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.
This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his powerful messengers in blazing fire.
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
They will be punished with age-lasting ruin and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed.
This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

Explanation of amendments .....
Messengers (verse 7).
The Greek word here is 'aggelos' and is most often transliterated as 'angel' rather than translated as 'messenger' or 'agent.'  Not using 'angel' is wise as sometimes the messenger or agent is not a celestial courier, but a human one (for example, John the Baptist).  In the case here, the text does not reveal what type of messenger is meant.
Age-lasting ruin (verse 9).
The Greek word here is 'aionion.'  It is the adjectival form of the noun 'aion.'  Aion is 'age' or 'eon' in English, an unspecified period of time which has a beginning and an end, so 'aionion' must be related to an 'age' or 'eon' in some way.  It should never be translated as 'eternal' as 'eternity' is the timeless realm, having no beginning or end.  Unfortunately, most popular, volume-selling English Bibles translate 'aionion' as 'eternal' in order to give strength to the theological position of their translators and publishers, and of their potential church market.

My Comments .....
The events discussed in these verses had great relevance to the Thessalonian saints, and of course, to all other saints of that era who were being persecuted by the Jews.
The relief promised would have been in their lifetime or would have been of little comfort to them.  Indeed Jesus confirmed this timeline to his disciples when he said, "Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom [or sovereignty]." [ Matthew 16 : 28 ]
It wasn't suggested that the relief would come when they died and left this planet and moved into the peaceful presence of God; it would come when the Jesus-empowered agents came and took away their enemies in blazing fire.
This fits the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish centre of religion by fire in AD70 by the Romans, who were Jesus' agents of the fiery judgement that had been predicted by Jesus and several OT prophets.  Indeed Jesus warns the Jewish leaders about this fiery future judgement quite often, using the fire of Gehenna as his illustration.

So, although many in mainstream Christianity see this passage as dealing with yet future events, I don't agree.  Persecuted Thessalonian saints of the first century would hardly be comforted by promises to Christians living thousands of years later.

The punishment administered to the Jews would be their ruin or destruction as God's chosen people through whom the nations would be brought to God, and would last until the end of the next age.  Jesus had earlier confirmed this when he said to their chief priests and elders, " ..... the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." [Matthew 21 : 43]
Consequently, the Jews will not enjoy God's presence or his powerful rule in the kingdom age.  Anyone reading Matthew's Gospel can't miss the constant references to the kingdom in many of Jesus' parables and his repeated warnings that Israel would miss out on the kingdom age if they refused to change their ways.  The parable of the weeds in Matthew 13 is probably one of the best known.  

(Nevertheless, Israel will be all saved after this age, as Paul reveals in Romans 11 : 25 - 26.)

So, although many in mainstream Christianity see this passage as forecasting the eternal, future destruction of all unbelievers of all ages at the end of time, I don't agree.  The age-lasting fate of Jewish persecutors of first century followers of Jesus is the focus here.

Please do not hesitate to offer any of the C's to this post - comment, clarification, correction, criticism, challenge, cross-examination - as the discovery of truth is the name of the game for me.

Blessings, Barry

Friday, January 25, 2013

Opposition to Universal Reconciliation

I appreciate that most of you read what I write here and either don't comment at all or write to me via email with questions, comments, suggestions, etc.  And that's fine.

But, right now, I would like to get some input here on this blog site regarding my present project, as I am entering an important phase of my research and final preparation for my book(s).

I have spent much time during the past 2 years answering questions and rebutting opposition to the view of the universal reconciliation of all - both from those with whom I have engaged in personal discussion, and from published authors, who promote eternal torment or future annihilation of those who leave this planet as unbelievers.

My present project is to read the whole of the New Testament, slowly and carefully, using several literal translations, to discover if there is anything anywhere in the NT that might throw doubt on the validity of the UR position.

So what am I asking of you?  What input am I asking for?
If there are any verses or passages in the NT that you feel I should not overlook in this "read-through," please let me know by adding a comment below.
After I have investigated the portion you mention, I will place the result of my consideration in a reply to your comment.  That way we will all be better educated about our position, and also become familiar with Scriptural answers to the frequent objections to it.

Would you do that for me please?

Blessings, Barry

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Is Jesus Only the Savior of Believers?

One of the most interesting positions taken by many Christians is that Jesus Christ is their Saviour ONLY when they believe that he is.

To generalise this position .....  a fact is only true when we believe it is true .......
For example, centuries ago most of the world believed that the earth was flat.  Although this belief had an important influence on the people of the time, especially on ocean-faring merchants and sailors, it had no bearing on the actual shape of the earth, on the facts.
In other words, beliefs can never determine facts.  Rather, facts must already be true (in existence) before they can be the subject of belief.

Now let's consider the facts about Jesus and salvation.

For God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him (Christ), and through him (Christ) to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
[ Col 1 : 19 - 20 ]

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them.
[ 2 Cor 5 : 19 ]

These are the facts.  Whether they are believed or not will not alter them.

As Jesus himself said, " I will draw all people to myself."  [ John 12 : 32 ]
He is the Saviour of the world, of all people.  That is a fact.

So what role does belief play?
Firstly, there is the obvious one .....

Those who believe in the Son of God (Jesus Christ) accept this testimony (of the facts about Jesus).  Those who do not believe God have made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 
[ 1 John 5 : 10 ]

Secondly, the one where people have been led astray by poor English translations .....
And this is the testimony: God has given us life in the ages (NOT eternal life), and this life is in his Son.
Those who have the Son have this life; those who do not have the Son of God (Jesus Christ) do not have this life.
[ 1 John 5 : 11 -12 ]

And that is another fact.  Believers have life in the ages (the current age and those ages still to come), while unbelievers wait until the ages are completed for their "drawing to Jesus" to occur.

All will be reconciled to God eventually, but there is something special for believers - they will rule (govern) with Christ in the ages.
The Apostle Paul hints at this in his encouragement to Timothy .....

That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.
[ 1 Tim 4 : 10 ]

Believing doesn't alter the facts; but believing the facts about Jesus and salvation has special (first-fruit) benefits.

Blessings, Barry.

Monday, January 7, 2013

More From Les Miserables

Let's follow through Valjean's truth from "Les Miserables" one step further.
Remember what he said to Cosette?

"You will learn.
Truth is given by God
To us all in our time,
In our turn."
And remember what God says to us .....
just as one offence resulted in condemnation for all people,
so also
one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
[Romans 5 : 18]
Firstly. let me highlight the fact that what we do has no effect on whether we are justified or eventually have life.
What Jesus achieved on the cross (his righteous act) did it all.  Jesus didn't just start a process for us to complete.  He didn't lay a foundation that we must build on. What he did resulted in justification and life.  It certainly doesn't need any action from us (including belief) to validate it. (1)

Just as we had no say in the result or consequence of Adam's "one offence," so we have no say in the result or consequence of Jesus' "one righteous act."
God has decreed them both, without any input or approval from us.

Now. let's consider the truth from Valjean.
Just as we cannot experience the curse placed on us by Adam until we are physically born, so we cannot experience the victory placed on us by Christ until God chooses to reveal it to us, until we are spiritually born.
For the firstfruits, that will happen in this life; for the rest of creation it will happen in the next..... each in our turn.

Isn't God magnificent?
Blessings, Barry

(1)  Unfortunately, this is not what mainstream christianity teaches.  It teaches that we had no say in the result of Adam's offence, but we do have a say in the result of Christ's righteous act - we can thwart the work of Jesus by our so-called "free will" but we can't stand up against Adam's.  Does this sound like we have been taught that Adam is stronger and his work is more powerful than Jesus and his ????? 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

That "Les Miserables" Day

I don't get to talk much with my regular church friends about God's plan to reconcile all of creation to himself by the end of the ages.
Although they have heard me quote the universal verses from the Bible, especially from Paul's writings, and don't deny them, their major stumbling point is the tradition of the church.
"How can you possibly be right when the whole church has taught the opposite for so many centuries?" they ask.
(I guess Martin Luther got the same question in his day.)

Majority opinion becomes the orthodox view, whether it's correct or not.
A view that then opposes orthodoxy, or even just questions it, is considered heresy, and the questioner a heretic.

However, on the same day I saw the Les Miserables movie, a conversation with my friends over a coffee touched on the subject of God's grace.  One of my friends reminded us of the common evangelical use of GRACE as an acronym for God's Riches At Christ's Expense.

As the conversation continued I quietly mentioned that I use GRACE as an acronym for a quite different expression.  Eventually someone realised there was a question floating around somewhere in the room just begging to be voiced, and asked for what expression was GRACE an acronym for me.
I was happy to tell them, that for me, GRACE stands for God Reconciles All Creation Eventually - the ultimate manifestation of God's Grace.

Everyone stopped talking, seemingly stunned.  One person even admitted he had recently read that idea somewhere in one of Paul's epistles. (1)
Wow! The gently dripping tap may be finally making an impression on the hard ground of tradition that surrounds it.

God's time for one of his saints in this group to see the tremendous truth of universal reconciliation may be approaching. 
God's timing is his alone to determine.
I (we) just need to be faithful ministers of his reconciliation message. (2)

Blessings Barry.

(1) For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Christ, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in the heavens, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. [Col 1 : 19 - 20]

(2) God was in Jesus Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's sins against them.  And the message of this reconciliation has been entrusted to us. [2 Cor 5 : 19]

Friday, January 4, 2013

Les Miserables

This afternoon I went to see the latest release of the movie "Les Miserables" with four of my grandchildren.
I'm not a grant fan of musicals, but I so love the story line of this novel that I couldn't resist the invitation to join the expedition to the cinema.

One of my favourite lines is spoken by Valjean while speaking to Cosette, his "adopted daughter."
He says to her,
"You will learn.
Truth is given by God
To us all in our time,
In our turn."

As I read the Bible it seems clear to me that the truth 

that God exists,
that he is love and sovereign,
that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the world and to reconcile all of us to himself,
is indeed given to all people, and in their turn.

In fact, the only difference between us (believers) and others (unbelievers) is God's timing in revealing truth.
The only thing that makes us different from others is timing.

We, the believers, the “called," the "firstfruits," are simply further along God's ordained track than the rest of His creation.
God is doing an early work in us.   It is only the timing of His grace that makes the difference.
But not only are we further along the track.  We are chosen early for a reason - to be ministers or messengers of reconciliation to all others.

Valjean in Les Mis declares a profound truth that is only seen by a few at this time.

Blessings, Barry