Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Brave Israel Told Only Half the Story

Israel Folau has caused quite a stir in saying God's plan for gays is that they will go to hell "unless they repent of their sins and turn to God".
He has since quoted 1 Corinthians 6 : 9, 10 to support his opinion.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The word "hell" is not mentioned in this quote and, in a correctly translated Bible, would not likely be used at all. (You can read about "hell" in previous posts "What is Hell?" published on 4th August 2010 and "Jesus Visits Hell for Three Days" published on 4th September 2013.)

So all Paul (and Israel) are saying is that there are some people who will be in the unseen realm (hell) and therefore will not inherit (be present in) the kingdom of God during the remaining eons of space and time.

Before discussing this further, let me first congratulate Israel for standing up strongly for what he believes. So few Christians seem to be brave enough to do this, especially if they are being attacked in the public arena and their livelihood depends on their public acceptance.
So well done Israel. I sincerely wish there were more Christians like you.

Now to the other half of the story.
It is true that people who are not yet reconciled to God will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

The kingdom of God is the rule of God in the heavens and on the earth during the present and future ages (or eons) and is a joint venture administered by Christ and his chosen followers.
Clearly only those reconciled to Christ, those chosen by God to believe the gospel in their lifetime, will be co-workers with Christ in this enterprise. In other words, only the righteous, those with right-standing before God, are going to be comfortable being in a joint venture with him.

And who will these people be?
They will be those who have been called by God "to repent of their sins and turn to God", using Israel's simple description.

And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them. [Romans 8 : 30 GNB]
The co-workers with Christ in the kingdom are just the first-fruits of the harvest. Beyond those kingdom ages, when the ages have completed and we progress into the eternal realm, all of God's creation will be in unity and harmony with God. Yes, there will be eventual universal reconciliation as a result of what Jesus did on the cross for all of us.
In all his wisdom and insight God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ.
This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head. [Ephesians 1 : 8 - 10 GNB]

Although all of us are sinners while we live in our earthly bodies here (and the list of sins is even longer than the one Israel quoted above), there will not be sinners in the kingdom of God or in the eventual eternal realm - only ex-sinners of all shapes and varieties who have been changed by God into Christ-likeness. 

So Israel is correct. All sinners not reconciled to God will miss the kingdom of God era: however all will be reconciled to God in the eternal realm after the ages have been completed, just as Jesus promised.

"When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me." [Jesus quoted in John 12 : 32 GNB]

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Benefits of Knowing God's Plan

First of all, let's remember what God's plan is for His creation?
Paul in writing to the Ephesian church tells us what God revealed to him about His plan - the plan which had not been disclosed previously, although hints of it had been given to some of the Old Testament prophets.

He (God) made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment -- to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. [Ephesians 1 : 9 - 10 NIV]
If this is to be so, then sin and death must be dealt with along the way.
Well, Jesus dealt with sin 2000 years ago ...

Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
[1 John 2 : 2 NIV]

and, as a result, God no longer holds our sins against us ...
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. [2 Corinthians 5 : 19 NIV]
And Jesus will deal with death at the end of the ages (when the times reach their fulfillment) ...
For he (Christ) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. [1 Corinthians 15 : 25 - 26 NIV]
So all is in place for God to achieve His "unity plan" at the end of the ages.

Now, let's consider the benefits of knowing this?
There are quite a few for me.

One, my opinion of God as a God of unconditional love is reinforced.

Two, I have a terrific single-focused good-news message for the  world, that God is not mad with them, He is reconciled to them and plans to give them the best eternal future possible.

Three, I can distance myself from the good-news/bad-news dichotomy often presented by mainstream Christianity that God is love on the one hand yet He will oversee the torture of the majority of His creation forever on the other.

Four, I can relate to everyone of my friends, colleagues and neighbours as people on the journey to the same destination as me, even if they are at a different stage of that journey. As such, I can pray for people with much more hope and optimism than I previously might have had, knowing I am praying in line with God's will.

To know the end result of the space-time realm in which we live is as reassuring as it is empowering, and encourages me to roll up my sleeves and be involved in the ministry to which God has called me - the ministry of sharing "the message of reconciliation".

What about you?
Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

I Just Can't Believe It

One of my very best friends, who is almost as big a Bible junkie as I am, just can't believe that all of creation will eventually be reconciled to God.

He acknowledges what the Bible says in verses like

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

For God had allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfilment in him. [Ephesians 1: 9 - 10 Phillips]

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
[1 Corinthians 15 : 22 NIV]

For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. [Romans 11 : 32 NIV]

and genuinely hopes this really might happen 
BUT ...
just can't believe people like Hitler will ever accept God's offer of salvation.

There are three major problems here.

First: Salvation is not a Gift.

God's salvation does not depend on people's acceptance of it.
God doesn't offer salvation as a gift to be accepted or rejected. He has already graciously given it through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.
It's a done deal.

God was in Christ personally reconciling the world to himself—not counting their sins against them—and has commissioned us with the message of reconciliation. [2 Cor 5 : 19 Phillips]
A bit like someone putting a million dollars in your bank account rather than offering the money in cash for you to accept or not. It's in your account - it's already in the bank - it's a done deal.

Let me share a real-life illustration of this happening in 2018.
A couple from our church dined at a local High Street Italian restaurant. After finishing their meal, the husband went to pay the bill. The waitress told him there was no need as the bill had already been paid.
He contested this, saying he still had a debt to pay. Then the waitress explained that a local High Street trader has a table selected for each sitting and that he always covers the bill from that table.
So my friend and his wife had no debt to pay - it had already been taken care of before they had even eaten, and no matter how much the bill might have come to.

That's how it is with our sins. They have already been paid for - 2000 years ago. We have no debt to pay, our salvation was secured on the cross of Calvary centuries ago. It was all God's doing, we had nothing to do with it - it's a done deal.

Second: Jesus' Sacrifice Was Successful

Either Jesus was successful in His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, or He wasn't.
All Christians I have met, including my friend, will agree that Jesus' mission to die for the sins of the world was successful. But then, illogically, assert that all will not be saved because some will not choose to accept God's gracious gift, thus contradicting their initial assessment of Jesus' success.

He (Jesus) himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. [1 John 2 : 2 NLT]
And when I (Jesus) am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself. [John 12 : 32 NLT]
Third: God is Sovereign and Will Always Get His Way
Although God has chosen to save all, skeptics believe many (most) people will choose not to be saved and therefore overrule God's choice. In other words, the created being will overrule the Creator and His plans for His creation.

But who are you, my friend, to talk back to God? A clay pot does not ask the man who made it, "Why did you make me like this?"
After all, the man who makes the pots has the right to use the clay as he wishes, and to make two pots from the same lump of clay, one for special occasions and the other for ordinary use. [Romans 9 : 20 - 21 GNB]
People may plan all kinds of things, but the Lord's will is going to be done. [Proverbs 19 : 21 GNB]

God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.
[Ephesians 1 : 11 BV]

Believing salvation is a done deal, Jesus' sacrifice was completely successful and God's sovereignty will make sure His plan for the full reconciliation of His creation is achieved is the correct Biblical view and gives God the honour and respect He deserves.

Blessings, Barry

Monday, April 2, 2018

How Will We Look in the Millennium? - Part 2

In our previous post, we noted two different resurrection bodies of Jesus.
One looked quite human and one looked very celestial.
The human-looking one was worn by Jesus when he was on earth after his resurrection and the other was worn by Jesus after his ascension to heaven.

So what body we have probably depends on where we will be ruling with Jesus in the millennium.
If on earth, then with a human-looking body like the resurrected Jesus on earth: if in heaven, then with the celestial body like the resurrected Jesus from heaven.

So where will we be in the millennium?

My guess about where we will be and therefore what bodies we will have in the millennium is influenced by another guess that I am currently investigating.
I am guessing (and trying to establish) that redeemed Israel will rule on earth while the Body of Christ will rule in the heavens, the celestial realm.

So my current guessing leads to ...
If you are a believer, and therefore a member of the Body of Christ, you will be ruling with Christ in the heavenlies and will therefore have a heavenly body, a celestial one, one like Jesus had when he met Saul on the road to Damascus.

If you belong to redeemed Israel, and therefore a member of the Bride of Christ, you will be ruling the nations with Christ on earth and will have a human-looking body, one like Jesus had when he ate breakfast with his disciples on the seashore.

What do you think?
Blessings, Barry

PS 1. If you are an non-Israelite unbeliever, the only category of humankind remaining, you will not be aware of the millennium as you will be asleep until you are resurrected at the consummation of the ages.

PS 2. I promise I'll get back to more faith-building topics next.