I was reading Matthew 23:33, where Jesus uses the Greek word Gehenna to describe the destination of those who continue to do what the Pharisees did, while in Matthew 25:41 Jesus uses the phrase "eternal fire" to describe the lake of fire, while yet again in Luke 16:23 Jesus uses the word "torments" to describe the destination of the rich man whose name has been forgotten on purpose.
On the basis of this vocabulary usage, I've determined that there are three words used in the Bible to describe the destination of human unbelievers.
"torments": The place in the underworld where unbelievers currently reside. Only unbelieving humans reside here.
"eternal fire" (or "the lake of fire"): the final place to which all who are in "torments" will be transferred. Both unbelieving humans and Satan will be consigned here.
Gehenna (KJV "hell"): A deliberately ambiguous word that can refer to any place designated for separation from God.
Very true. On Gehenna, this is the Greek version of "the valley of Hinnom", the ravine south of Jerusalem where garbage and offal were deposited and burned (along with dead bodies eventually: Jer.7:32). This was also where Topheth was located (fire place?), the place where infant sacrifice to Baal was practiced. So by using this word Gehenna, our Lord gives His contemporaries a very tangible earthly parallel to "hell" (both the interim "torments" and the eventual, post-judgment "lake of fire" Ė a horrible place of foulness and foul practices, of stench and smoke and fire and separation from anything godly. So I wouldn't, however, say the term is "ambiguous"; perhaps "plastic" or "associative" would be better, since the word deliberately encapsulates the entire, horrible after-death experience of all who reject God and His one way of salvation, Jesus Christ our Savior.
In Jesus our dear Lord who delivered us from the lake of fire by His blood.
Do you believe that ALL men will be saved? Meaning the just and unjust.
Believers are saved. Unbelievers are not saved. Believers are "just" by having been "justified by faith" Ė meaning that although we are sinners steeped in sin, Christ died for our sins and the Father considers us just/justified based upon our Savior's work on the cross when we put our faith in Him (Rom.4:1ff.). Unbelievers choose instead to stand before God on their own merits; and as all human beings are spiritually dead at birth, nothing a person could ever do "for God" would ever change their status in God's eyes from "unjust" to "just" (even if someone could ever truly "keep the Law", the perfect standard of behavior Ė which is of course impossible: Rom.7:1ff). Only Christ could effect that satisfaction of the Father's perfect justice through His death for all sin, and only by being born again through faith in Him do we appropriate that forgiveness and that justification (see the link).
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Galatians 2:16 NKJV
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in whom alone we have life eternal,
First I want to thank you for your web site. I don't see how you can do all that you do; maintain the web site, work at a job and still answer all the emails. I am particularly impressed how you handle the seekers, the growing believers, the doubters and the outright obnoxious ones that can't agree to disagree agreeable.
If I understand your latest emails correctly, you state that the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46 will be divided at the second advent. If the believers (both asleep and alive) are taken to meet the Lord in the air at the second advent; who are the sheep in Matthew 25:31-46?
Thanks again for your wonderful help through your web pages. There is not the slightest doubt about what you believe about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and that is what I believe also.
Thanks much for your encouraging words!
As to your question, the sheep and goats judgments take place at the end of history. The sheep are the friends of the Bride (the millennial believers); the goats are all unbelievers from the beginning to the end. The Church was already resurrected at the second advent and undergoes its judgment at the beginning of the Millennium so as to share Christ's 1,000 year rule. You can find out all about this at the following links:
The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride: Revelation 19:6-10
The Last Judgment: Revelation: 20:11-15
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Greetings in the Light and Love of our Precious Savior, Jesus Christ! I hope this letter finds you well, Dr. Luginbill.
In our Adult Sunday School class, we are very carefully exploring those magnificent passages in John 5:19-47 and have been discussing them for weeks now. In Chapter 5, verses 28-29, the Lord says, "Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out - those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment." I'm trying to place my understanding of "when all who are in the graves" in context with what you've written about "Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State." I'm certain that you can help me comprehend what He is referring to here. I think perhaps His use of the word "resurrection" is key here. Are "those who are in the graves" those who were not believers, who remain in earthly graves and did not ascend to that "interim" state, but yet still did good things that may still warrant resurrection upon acceptance of Christ? Is he referring to earthly graves here, or is "graves" just a metaphor for any post-death experience or place? My understanding of graves is that of an earthly grave, or tomb, where the body remains. If there are those stuck in graves who "hear", then it appears that they are not in the "interim" state of existence that you refer to in the Third Heaven. I'm curious as to how those who are in graves are able to hear if their bodies are dead, unless their souls are there bound in the graves with their bodies. From the commentary I've read on the web, this passage has stirred endless controversy. I trust you as the only source (other than God the Father, Jesus and The Holy Spirit), to help me sort this out. I'm sorry for my confusion on this.
Thank you, Dr. Luginbill. Your writings and the manner in which you elucidate these challenging subjects are of great comfort to me. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
I've been keeping you in my prayers (hope you'll get that job!).
The word "grave" in the KJV in the Old Testament is often a translation for Sheol, the generic Hebrew word for the underworld generally. In John 5:28, however, the word in Greek is better translated as "tombs", so it is talking about the final resting places of our physical bodies. Thus, this verse refers in a general way to the fact that all human beings will be resurrected. So in my opinion, our Lord's words here this verse are absolutely consistent with everything else written in scripture about the resurrection, to wit, that 1) it is bodily (the first body being rejuvenated and completely transformed, or whatever is left of it by then), 2) it consists of both the righteous and the unrighteous (although for the latter this resurrection all happens at once; there is a two-fold staging of the resurrection of the righteous following Christ the firstfruits of the resurrection, one stage at His return, but with the Millennial believers resurrected at the end of the 1,000 years: 1Cor.15:23-24; see the link).
So, yes, the dead in Christ will "rise" at His return from the place where their mortal bodies were laid to rest (1Thes.4:14-17). John 5:19ff. presents a unified (and thus simplified) picture of the resurrection (as does also Dan.12:2, for example). What is revealed later Ė in the Pauline epistles and the book of Revelation Ė merely makes clear the sequence of the stages of that resurrection (this is an example of prophetic foreshortening as in the case of the first and second advents seeming to blend into one in the Old Testament with the sequence and staging coming to light only in later revelation; see the link).
It sounds from email as if some of the "controversy" has to do with the false doctrine of "soul sleep" (see the link). This passage, John 5:28-29, certainly does not lend any credence to that erroneous idea; to the contrary. After all, on the one hand dead bodies cannot "hear"; on the other hand, to the extent that this is not metaphorical, then the "hearing" would have to be done by the person in interim state Ė who really is conscious and really can hear before the actual resurrection takes place. And as Jesus said to add where Jesus speaking to Martha about Lazarus and all those who believe "never dying" Ė even though Lazarus was clearly physically dead in terms of his first body (Jn.11:23-27), it is clear that we don't have to wait for the resurrection to be "awakened" as she had apparently assumed: believers will never know any unconscious state but will be "with the Lord" at the end of this life whether through physical death that leads immediately to an interim state in heaven, or directly through the resurrection for those who abide until His return.
"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."
John 8:56 NKJV
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
Recently during our bible study we came across this "controversial" verse, Luke 23:43. Immediately I looked up to see if you have answered any such question and to my delight, you had! However, forgive me, but I had a little trouble making sense of it. I did not understand which side of the debate you had supported. Do you say that Jesus meant to say: Truly I tell you today, that you will be with me in paradise OR Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise. I know you have already answered such a question but I would be grateful if you could just clear this doubt of mine.
Good to hear from you.
As to your question, the adverb semeron, "today", in Luke 23:43 is to be taken with the second verb, "[you] will be", not with the first verb "[I] tell [you]". That is obvious from the Greek and so accounts for the fact that no reputable translation has ever rendered it otherwise. Also, there would be no point in Jesus saying "I tell you today" Ė as opposed to yesterday? tomorrow? Whereas being in paradise "today" was a great encouragement to the thief who had placed his faith in Christ.
This would not be any sort of controversy but for the fact that there are many individuals and groups today who wish to say that believers essentially cease to exist when they die Ė talk about enervating the Christian hope! Luke 23:43 is one of many passages which puts the lie to this false claim, and so as with many individuals and groups who are more concerned with their pet interpretations than with the truth of the Word and the spiritual well-being of fellow Christians, they apparently have no problem in "defusing" problem passages (problems for them) by any verbal gymnastics available, no matter how scurrilous or inappropriate (as with this ridiculous "alternative" translation).
"Whoever serves Me, must follow Me; where I am, there My servant will be also. Whoever serves Me, My Father will honor."
I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.
Philippians 1:23 NIV
Yours in the One with whom we shall always be, our dear Savior Jesus Christ.
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you for your reply. I thank God for the knowledge and expertise He has blessed you with. You have certainly cleared my doubt with regard to the "today" in Luke 23:43.
On reading your email replies on your website, I also came across the topics of resurrection. You have stated that, now, when believers die, along with all those believers dead since Adam, are all currently possessing interim/temporary bodies (2 Cor. 5:3) and we are all in the presence of the Father himself and are currently waiting for the resurrected/permanent bodies. To support your comments you have quoted 2Cor. 5:3 and Revelation 7:6-10 respectively. However, on reading the quoted scriptures along with the chapters it is mentioned in, I came to the understanding that, in both the scripture references, the author has spoken about resurrected bodies, i.e. our final bodies. In 2Cor. 5, it shows going from earthly (current) bodies to heavenly (resurrected bodies) and in Revelation 7:6-10, it seems to show that the multitude that John witnesses are those who have survived the Great Tribulation, and have been taken by Jesus during His second coming.
Could you kindly explain the reason why 2Cor. 5:3 and Revelation 7:6-10 speak of temporary bodies and not permanent/glorified bodies? Also, how would you corroborate for certain that, in our interim state, we are in the presence of God The Father himself. If Psalm 68:1ff. is quoted for the same, wouldnít it be questionable that it speaks of resurrected bodies and not interim ones?
I understand you have spoken in great detail about the above mentioned topics but once again, I do not want to just settle for it till I completely understand the exact reasons and I hope you would understand my state regarding this. Please do understand that I am in no way questioning your understanding but I would just like my doubt cleared, if possible. I am extremely grateful for all your help.
Yours in Jesus Christ!
You are most welcome. As to your current question, let me start with the operative part of the first passage you ask about:
(1) For we know that if our earthly tent-dwelling (i.e., our physical body) be struck, we have an abode [that comes] from God, a dwelling made without human agency, eternal in the heavens (i.e., the resurrection body). (2) For indeed we do groan in this one, desiring to put on our habitation which comes from heaven. (3) And even if we do put off this present one, at any rate, we (i.e., our spirits) will not be found naked (i.e., "body-less"; for we will enjoy an interim body in the meantime: cf. Lk.16:19-31; Rev.6:9-10; Rev.7:9-17).
2nd Corinthians 5:1-3
The resurrection is a fact; the interim state is a fact. Paul here wants to encourage the Corinthians with the reality of the resurrection; he also wants to let them know of a certainty that "even if" (v.3) they do not live long enough to see Christ return (and that is when the resurrection takes place), they do not have to worry about being obliterated or disembodied Ė for none of the actual recipients of this letter did in fact live that long, and they all no doubt had friends and relatives who had already died at the point of reading these words. Comfort on both points, therefore, was appropriate. After discussing the resurrection in verse one, and expressing our common longing for it in verse two, Paul assures us that "even if" we do die before the resurrection it is not a disadvantage or something to be feared in way: even if we do put off this present body, we will nevertheless "not be found naked". How is that possible? The body is the covering for the true "us", the human spirit; therefore the only way for the spirit not to be "naked" is to have a body of some sort. This we have from birth when the Lord creates the spirit within our just born physical body (Zech.12:1); this we shall have for all eternity once we are resurrected and our spirits put on the immortal body to come; and this we shall have Ė "even if" we die before our Lord's return Ė to be able to be with Him always as He promised us:
"Whoever serves Me, must follow Me; where I am, there My servant will be also. Whoever serves Me, My Father will honor."
The real problem with this passage you ask about (2Cor.5:3) is the way it has usually been translated. It is true that the vast majority of witnesses do have "put on" rather than put off, but that makes for a tautology which is difficult to explain. So I have preferred to accept the minority reading here as correct. The above agrees absolutely with all of the other evidence scripture provides on the subject. Just take for example, the story of Lazarus, Abraham and the rich man in paradise and torments; scripture presents them all as recognizable as who they are, conscious, and as doing things bodiless spirits could not do. The fact is, we were created dichotomous, spirits formed within our bodies at birth when we become "us", and are meant by God always to be so from that point of creation of new life forward Ė and thus shall we indeed always be (even in the case of those who reject the grace God offers in Jesus Christ).
As to Revelation 6:9-11 and Revelation 7:9-13, these passages are indeed speaking of the martyrs of the Tribulation, but they exemplify the pattern for the rest of us (rather than excluding the rest of us). We are not to conclude from these passages that only those martyred during the Tribulation are "not found naked", or that they are the only ones given a "white robe" (interim body), or that they are the only ones to have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb", or that they are the only ones who "are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple", or that they are the only one who "shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore", or that they are the only ones whom the Lamb "will shepherd them and lead to living fountains of waters", or that they are the only one for whom "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes". Clearly, all these things are the heritage of the entire Church of Jesus Christ. These passages say nothing to exclude other believers prior to the martyrdom of the Tribulation having been treated and blessed in exactly the same way, and as the examples above indicate it would be inexplicable if such were the case Ė and nothing in either passages indicates any such exclusion just because of the martyrs who are rightly the focus of the Great Tribulation from the divine point of view, and thus are rightly focused upon by John in turn in these passages. We certainly should not assume that the tribulational martyrs are blessed in this way but that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the twelve apostles are enduring some disembodied state or shadow existence or temporary oblivion, not being allowed into the presence of the Lord although these martyrs are (many of the apostles were martyred too, after all). That is not what scripture anywhere states or suggests; indeed, all biblical testimony is precisely in the opposite direction:
"For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him."
Luke 20:38 NKJV
"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."
John 8:56 NKJV
It is impossible for a human being to "live" in any sense of the word without a body; it is impossible to rejoice, and view historical events and be glad about them if not alive and possessing some sort of body.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
Many thanks for your reply. Again, my doubt seems to have been cleared. So correct me if I am wrong; 2Cor. 5:1-3 speaks of the resurrection first and then speaks also of interim bodies; but in order to "go with the flow", the translators have translated verse 3 to suit their taste. The only trouble I have regarding this is why anyone hasnít corrected it yet, if it means just the opposite of what is currently written. Why do all translations still mention it as "put on" and not "put off"? Also, again, correct me if I am wrong; all believers who have survived the tribulation and who have proved their worth are the ones mentioned in Revelation 7? Does that mean, at the time John saw this multitude, the tribulation was still ongoing? I had read earlier, Christ comes at the end of the great tribulation and thatís when rapture happens so that means the multitude that John saw were those believers who died from the time of Adam till the ongoing tribulation.
Lastly, I was always under the impression that man is made triune in nature, i.e., Body, soul and spirit. Nonetheless, I read your explanation on the same and why you feel that we are dichotomous and that the soul is our entire being (human spirit + body) which also made sense. However, people sometimes quote Ecclesiastes 12:7 which states that the spirit returns to God. So, the next question that arises is about the unbelievers. Do their spirits return to God as well? Even though they have denied their faith? If yes, then what is sent to hell?
I hope I am making sense of my statements above. I hope you understand that I am asking you such questions because I believe, so far you have been one among few who is actually making sense of the scriptures by giving historical and theological evidences.
Thank you once again for your time and effort. On reading your resources and explanations I feel even better that I, along with you, am counted among the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation and I am blessed to be aware of this same fact; all Glory to God.
The justification used for going with the incorrect translation in 2Cor.5:3 is its support in the mss. Here is what is what Metzger's A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament has to say in defense of printing ek- instead of en- :
It is difficult to decide between endusamenoi and ekdusamenoi. On the one hand, on the basis of external attestation, the former reading is to be preferred. On the other hand, internal considerations, in the opinion of the majority of the Committee, decisively favor the latter reading, for with endusamenoi the apostle's reasoning is banal and even tautologous, whereas with ekdusamenoi it is characteristically vivid and paradoxical . . .
In other words, what Paul is really saying would be "paradoxical" if the more well-supported reading were accepted as the correct one. So it is understandable that the major versions have gone with the more conventional approach.
As to the multitude in Revelation chapter six and seven, these are the martyrs coming out of the Tribulation; they are in interim state and will not be resurrected until we are all raised together at Christ's second advent return . . . at the end of the Tribulation. The book of Revelation, generally speaking, gives a chronological account of the events of the Tribulation and the resurrection does not occur until the end of the book at the Lamb's return (please see the link: "The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride").
Yes, dichotomy is the biblical position; this is not even a close call. So it has long surprised me that trichotomists are always so vehement in their obvious error. It does turn out to be a good litmus test to find out who is serious about the Bible and who is not, however. It is also a much more important point than it may first appear to be, since it impacts the issues of life, death, epistemology, regeneration, resurrection, and, as we see here , the interim state (just for starters). Ecclesiastes is a unique book written from the secular point of view to demonstrate that from the standpoint of the human perspective without any spiritual enlightenment everything is pointless ("Vanity! Vanity!). From that limited point of view "who knows?" what happens to the spirit (Eccl.3:21)? It is true that we have a spirit; but it is not obvious to the people of the world that their spirits will be going to torments to await the last judgment absent their acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. If it were, the issue of free choice would be vitiated. What is obvious (through natural revelation; see the link) is that God exists, that He is absolutely righteous, and that we are both mortal and sinful . . . which certainly begs the question of what will happen after we die. For all who follow the logic He has laid down in the world He has created, and even so much as "grope after Him" (Acts 17:27), salvation results; for all who want nothing do to with Him even so (that is, even in the face of death and its obvious consequences), He allows them live their lives in ignorance of the ultimate truths so that the choice of eternal status may be fair and unforced. "Who knows?". By the time Solomon writes chapter twelve, he allows that the spirit does return to God, but he doesn't say that there are two possibilities: torments or paradise (heaven now for believers in the Church age). But I would think that this verse would be a support for dichotomy; after all, where is the "soul" in all this? Unbelievers are in interim state just as we believers are after death; but their venue is one of torment; ours one of blessing for ever more. Neither is disembodied, ever has been, or ever will be.
Thanks for your kind and supportive words!
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Many thanks for your detailed reply. On reading your previous email, I have realized that though the Word of God is not at all flawed, the translators have managed to make some differences here and there. But then, Lee Strobel's Case for Christ would be slightly questionable, wouldn't it? For I remember him concluding that the Bible is not at all flawed, or maybe I am just mistaken. Please don't misunderstand, I enjoyed reading his book. It was enlightening and it helped me.
As always, I feel much better knowing more now. As I dig deeper, I realize that I have barely scratched the surface. Our God is unfathomable and too great for our finite human minds. Wow!
As I read the Word, I may have some more questions and I would gladly take a look at your website. Should I still be in doubt, I will not hesitate to contact you.
Thank you for being so prompt and diligent. I really appreciate it.
Yours in Christ,
You're most welcome. I've never read Strobel's book, so I can't comment on that. What I can say is that absolutely positively the Bible is the Word of God and it is not flawed in any way. But translations of the Bible are only as good as the translators who translated it and the text they used in doing so. This is a big and an important distinction. In the (present) absence of BB 7: Bibliology, here are some links on the subject:
Read Your Bible
Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading
Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading II
Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations I
Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations II
Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III
Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IV
Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations V
Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VI
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Dr., I don't believe in replacement theology but have a question related to Jewish believers who died and have not accepted Christ. Will they fall in the same category as gentile non-believers? I am not referring to Jewish individuals who are alive during Christ 2nd advent but who died prior to His glorious 2nd return. If I was to venture a guess they died an unbelievers death similar to the apostasy seen in the Jewish monarch history and during Christ 1st advent. Any non believe in Christ atoning work for our sins equals the 2nd death regardless if Of Jewish or Gentile ancestry
Please enlighten me if my biblical understanding is incorrect.
In Christ Jesus.
As to "Jewish believers who died and have not accepted Christ": the world has always been divided into two categories, believers and unbelievers. Before the cross believers looked forward with faith to God's ultimate provision of salvation through His Sacrifice; after the cross we look back to the actual suffering of Christ and the actual provision of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom.3:25):
What does Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
Romans 4:3 NIV
When the Lord arrives in person, He becomes the issue, personally. This may all seem a bit confusing to some of us, but it is not confusing to the Lord. He knows very well who has put their trust in Him Ė before and after the cross Ė and who has not. For those alive at the first advent, the arrival of the Messiah complements their faith and they believe in Him; those who were not really believers in the first place were the ones who rejected Him.
He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
John 1:11 NKJV
All who are believers before the second advent are resurrected at Christ's return; all who died in unbelief will share the fate of all who ever die in unbelief, the Great White Throne or "last" judgment which takes place at the end of history.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I know the unforgivable sin has always been rejecting Jesus but do you feel it was slightly different when Jesus came to earth in flesh?
Salvation has all been the same in essence: putting one's faith not in oneself but in God for deliverance from sin and death based upon His grace in resolving the problem of sin through His Sacrifice for sin (Gen.3:21; 4:26; 15:6). Until our Lord came into this world, the precise nature of His sacrifice was only dimly revealed in the shadows of the Law and the sacrifices:
Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.
1st Peter 1:10-11 NKJV
Once our Lord did come in the flesh, that was a stumbling block to many who refused to understand what the symbols and shadows of the past meant, that they were being and now have been fulfilled in Him:
He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
John 1:11 NKJV
But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.
1st Corinthians 1:23 NKJV
The gospel, or good news, however, has always been the same. To those of the past, it was that God would provide a Substitute for sins and salvation came to those who accepted that promise of deliverance; today we see Jesus as He is and Ė if we read the New Testament and accept its truths Ė understand clearly what the "prophets of old inquired diligently to understand", namely, that Jesus has died for our sins, and that salvation comes to those who accept the Spirit's testimony of the truth of His divinity, humanity, and death on the cross for our sins:
But now we do see Jesus crowned with glory and honor on account of the death He suffered, even Him who became "a little lower than the angels" [for a brief span] so that by the grace of God He might taste death on behalf of us all.
Here are some links:
The Gospel before the Cross (in BB 4B)
What is the Eternal Future of those who Lived before Christ?
Yours in our dear Savior Jesus Christ, the One who died for us all.
"Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD."
Does that mean that men knew they needed a savior before Christ? Did God even tell them about Christ? This seems to match what Romans talks about what man know in their hearts about God and themselves but I'm not sure.
The way of salvation has always been the same: faith in Jesus Christ, His perfect person and His perfect work. Before the cross, the details of the Substitute for sin which God was going to provide were a mystery, but in animal sacrifice the price that God would somehow have to pay for the rest of us was foreshadowed clearly enough. The protoevangelium (see the link), or "first giving of the good news", was made to Adam and Eve by the Lord Himself when he took off their fig leaves of human "good" works and replaced them with coats of skin, the remnants of the animals slaughtered to symbolize the blood of Christ (His spiritual death for sin). Everyone knows they need a Savior Ė because everyone knows they are imperfect and mortal (but many if not most of the human race blots these truths out of their heart as time goes by). There is much more on all this in BB 4B; see the link: "God's Plan to Save You". On Genesis 4:26 specifically, "began to call upon the name of the Lord", please see the links.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
How was Abraham saved? He was saved when Christ came down to paradise in order to take him into heaven. But without someone who was equally God (so as to gain entrance into heaven) and equally man (so as to have fellowship with us, as nobody can see God or be in fellowship with him because he is God), there would be no way for Abraham to enter heaven. Evangelicals do not teach this. They teach that our failure to obey the Jewish law (which are the 10 commandments) is the reason why we are condemned. But this is wrong, and I can prove to you why it is wrong: even if someone has perfectly follow the Jewish law (which are the 10 commandments), it would be impossible for him to be saved, because he is not God, and therefore unable to enter heaven. All humans have the free will to make choices for our actions, so it is not absurd for us to imagine a human being who has made the correct choices regarding whether or not to murder, whether or not to watch pornography, whether or not to worship idols, etc.... But even so, it would be impossible for him to enter heaven, because he is not God.
In order to be saved, you have to be in Christ, just like Abraham was in Christ. Once you accept that Jesus is both God and man, that he suffered both physical and spiritual death for our sake, and that he was resurrected, you will be born again as a new creation, and this new creation will be in Christ. This is not to say that Christ broke the law, because there is only one law, and that is the law of love. Christ followed this law perfectly. But you do not need the Torah or the 10 commandments to know the law of love, and in fact without being in Christ it is impossible to obey the law of love. While Abraham did not know when he was alive on Earth what Christ would do, he knew that he had to be in Christ in order to be saved. It is because he believed God's promise that he became in Christ. All Christians worship the God of Abraham, which means that we have to do what Abraham did in order to enter heaven.
Good points here. Yes, it's all about faith. That is the only we sinful human beings have of appropriating God's grace which the only means of salvation Ė by putting our faith in Him, in His truth, in the one and only Substitute He has provided for sin, our Lord Jesus who died for us.
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspringónot only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.
Romans 4:16 NIV
Yours in the dear Lord Jesus who died to take away all of our sins that we might be saved by grace through faith in Him.
p.s., one caveat though: even if they are mixed up about a great many things, most evangelicals do understand the principle of grace; but legalism is a growing problem in every branch of the church visible (except where anti-nomianism and libertinism are preferred instead).
I believe my step grandfather was a Mason but no one in my family has ever been involved in Freemasonry; my grandparents on both sides were Christians and I know my mother's father despised Freemasonry. The Catholics have certainly been responsible for some horrible things in the past but they also do a lot of good in many communities. I assume a Catholic person can still be saved, it's probably not the best path to salvation but it's better than being brought up in an atheist family or as a Muslim or Buddhist. Not many Muslims ever convert to Christianity, rare it seems. I'm glad your mother is in a good place and I will read your link.
I'm wondering if you might know of any good Christian YouTube channels? With so much misinformation out there, it's nice to get a recommendation from someone who's been walking with The Lord much longer than I have. It's easier for me to learn sometimes watching a video than it is reading. If not, no worries, just thought I would ask. I understand you guys are getting a snowstorm down there, be safe. Well, if you're from Michigan originally than you're familiar with the winters we have up here in Minnesota.
I was also wondering if your website touches on this verse: I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever." ó Mark 3:28-29 (CEV)
I don't recall ever speaking against the Holy Spirit, I've certainly cursed God in the past but it's unclear to me what this truly means. Again, thanks very much for your support, it's greatly appreciated.
In Jesus Christ
Good to hear from you always, my friend.
To take your second question first, yes indeed I get this question quite a lot: the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, aka the "unpardonable" or "unforgivable" sin is the sin of rejecting the Spirit's testimony of the gospel. In other words, it is a sin only an unbeliever may commit through rejecting Christ. All other sins are forgivable when a person turns to Christ; this one is not, since, by definition, it is rejecting Christ (specifically, the Spirit's witness to Him). Here are some links to places where the scriptures in question are taken up in some detail:
Blasphemy against the Spirit (in BB 5)
The Unpardonable Sin and Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
What exactly is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
Have I committed the unforgivable sin?
As to videos, yes indeed, I am very happy to recommend my good friend pastor-teacher Curtis Omo's Youtube channel; best bet now is to go first to his website: "Bible Academy" (see the link). I think you will find that it is solid, deep, encouraging, and just the thing for promoting spiritual growth.
You are in my prayers day by day.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hi Bro. Luginbill,
Please don't let the subject title of this email bother you; it describes something I have seen over the years in the body of Christ, which I find fascinating, but not really talked about much. What I am talking about is a phenomenon that seems to occur to certain born again believers in Jesus Christ. I tend to analyze patterns, and I have seen something that never really gets much press in Christian circles. I have seen this phenomenon in many, many of the letters you get from brethren, and I have read about it happening to saints in times past, such as William Cooper, who wrote many hymns, and John Bunyan, who was used mightily of God in years of yore. This "phenomenon" is when a true believer in Jesus Christ undergoes an awful, overwhelming oppressive mental and spiritual attack from hell that they have somehow crossed a line and have become as Esau or Judas, without hope of repentance, locked on a course for hell, Hebrews 10:26, and that whole thing. These are not people who have a doubt here and there, this is an overwhelming, oppressive mental and spiritual feeling and persuasion that the individual involved is without hope, hell bound and given over for lost, that some line was crossed and grace is lost, repentance being denied to them and such like. Often, subjects such as the unpardonable sin and scriptures like Hebrews 6:6 and 10:26 as well as others come in as instruments of torture to rack the individual involved. There is nothing like it in terms of terror, hopelessness and despair. Physical persecution is child's play compared to this "gauntlet of hell". I know all about this THING because I have personally gone through it. Only Jesus and the one who has gone through it can truly know what horrors it involves. Sleepless nights, pounding heart, feelings of wild desperation, awful thoughts of a burning hell forever and forever. Who can fathom such a thing, except one who has gone through it? It is an all out assault from the pits of hell against brothers and sisters in the Lord. I know the devil can counterfeit a lot of things, but this is one thing few have thought of that he can counterfeit, but he does most excellently - a believer's being apostate. Meaning, making a brother or sister who is walking with Christ come under such attack that they think they have been cut off from Christ, when in fact they are not. Case in point: John Bunyan. Have you ever read his biography? He went through this awful trial. Far worse than I ever did. It is a miracle he did not commit suicide. Yet, he came through it by God's grace and was used mightily by the Lord. My point is, even though during his trial he felt for sure he was damned without hope, those hellish impressions and persuasions were lies, plain and simple - irrespective of how convincing and strong they were. Like I said, the devil is a great counterfeiter, and he can manufacture such convincing persuasions that if it were not for the grace of God, the one subject to such an attack would succumb quite quickly. I been there and done that, only by God's grace I am coming out the other side with faith not just intact, but stronger now. The awful persuasions sometimes still come, but God still answers my prayers and refreshes me in it all. Hey, if I were really cut off from Him, would He still bother to encourage me, answer prayer and such? If the Holy Spirit were really gone from me, would I even still want to pray or walk with Him? This should be an encouragement to all who are going through this... whatever you wanna call it... hell's gauntlet is a good label. Hang in there with Christ even if you do not feel a scrap of His presence, even if awful, blasphemous thoughts try to shoot into your mind, even if at the time you have no desire to pray or witness. STICK WITH HIM! He will in time bring you through. He will NEVER leave you or forsake you. The only fatal error to make in that situation is to give up, turn coward, cave in and leave Christ. DON'T. He will see you through. One thing that probably made it worse is that I tend to have a melancholy temperament, and severe depression that runs in the family. Depression is not lack of faith or sin, any more than cancer or diabetes is. But through all of this, Jesus Christ has been my help, my strength, my all. And I like to say this: If the devil screams "NO" in your ears ten thousand times, but Jesus Christ whispers "Yes" just ONCE, who do you think wins?
God bless you, Bob...your site has been a big part of how the Lord has been encouraging me.
Keep up His good work.
Thanks so much for this awesome testimony! I do hope you will have no problem with me posting it (anonymously of course). This will no doubt be a wonderful encouragement to many people, because as you well know from reading the site et al. there are many of our brothers and sisters out there who are or have been in this situation Ė and far too many brother and sisters who are happy to (wrongly) confirm their worst fears. It's nice to hear the truth, especially in the wonderful and Spirit empowered way you have expressed it here.
Happy 2015 to you and yours, my friend!
In Jesus Christ, the Lord who loved us so much that He died for all of our sins.
Hi Bro. Luginbill,
Hope you had a nice New Years holiday. I stayed up until midnight. It was snowing out there but I managed to cart a few fireworks outside and light 'em up in the snow, whilst our neighbors fired aerial shells. As for posting the email I sent, go for it. I did not know I was gonna write a letter like that until I sat down and started typing and the Holy Spirit took it from there. I kind of even cried while writing...just flowed out of me. I fully intended for as many to read it as possible who are going through such a trial. Thanks for being willing to share it! Another old time brother who went through that was William Cowper, who wrote many blessed hymns. It kinda breaks your heart to read his testimony, yet he was clearly a believer. He battled with that THING to his last day, but held his faith til his last day as well. Now he suffers from it, forever no more. Is that what Jesus meant when He said for us to take up the cross? Could depression be that cross for some?
God bless, brother. Thanks again for answering!
I certainly do think that the types of suffering believers undergo in this present world and in these present bodies encompasses all manner of things, many of which will not be evident to others (unless we are told about them particularly). It's a wonderful thing that the Lord honors prayer on behalf of us all even when it is not as specific as it might be (or even should be). He has it all under control, and He certainly knows all about the particular burdens we each bear individually. It's a very good perspective you give in both letters, and one that will be an encouragement to many I am sure Ė I didn't realize that these brothers you name suffered from such torments, but I do know that many of my correspondents do Ė and there is probably no believer out there on earth who is moving forward with the Lord who is not subject to some such demonic attack from time to time (see the link: "Christians and Mental Illness").
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
Sometime ago I came across your website and do appreciate your perspective on many subjects posted. I am now studying your study on The Background to the Tribulation and appreciate what you wrote on the "gap" between Genesis 1 and 2.
I'm writing to get your perspective on the seemingly growing adherents of "Christian Universalism". It appears that Universalism is making a comeback reframed in a Christian context and accepted among many professing Christians. It appears the reason that this is becoming more widely accepted is the issue of God being a God of love and this being irreconcilable with Hell or eternal punishment and suffering. I am aware that perspectives differ somewhat among "Christian Universalist", but in the end it is still, from what I can see, Universalism.
When you have time to reply, or possibly direct me to an article you wrote that already addresses this issue, I would be very happy to know your perspective on this matter.
Thanks for your email.
Yes indeed, this is one of about two dozen or so negative trends in the church-visible and pseudo-Christianity which is becoming more virulent of late. I have received a number of emails about this over the years (both from those like yourself who are trying to combat it and also from vehement adherents of the false doctrine). For me, the growing prevalence and profile of this sort of heresy is another sign of the times as we draw rapidly closer to the end. The number of pseudo-Christians and marginal Christians is growing by leaps and bounds, while the number of those who really do put the truth of the Word of God first in their lives is shrinking proportionally Ė one of the key characteristics of our era of Laodicea (see the link). Not everything is posted yet, but here are some links to where aspects of your question is discussed further (do feel free to write me back about any of the material therein or with other questions which may arise):
Annihilationism, Universalism, Hell and Judgment
The Last Judgment
Against Universalism I
Against Universalism II
Against Universalism III
Biblical Anthropology I: The Nature of Human Beings and Human Life
Biblical Anthropology II: 'Soul sleep', & dichotomy vs. trichotomy
The Saved and the Unsaved
BB 4B: Soteriology: The Study of Salvation
"The Resurrection" (Peter #20)
"The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride" (in CT 5)
What will our relationship in heaven be with children who died young?
Why Doesn't God Prevent All Children from Dying?
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hello Robert, I have just read this article, do you disagree with it. If so, can you point out its errors? http://www.savior-of-all.com/blasphemy.html
I'm not sure after reading what this person believes positively, only what he says is "not true" (and he's certainly wrong about what "blasphemy against the Spirit" is in scripture: for it is the rejection of the Spirit's testimony about Christ).
From what I can read between the lines, this person seems to be part of some cult/church which is universalist, that is, the belief that all will be saved no matter what. That is a horrendous lie and contradicted throughout scripture, verbal gymnastics of the sort found here notwithstanding:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of Godís one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV
Bottom line: I have much better things to do with my time than to worry about what this person and those like him may or may not believe or mean or say . . . and so do you!
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Do Universalists believe Jesus is God?
Also do you believe this article writer is clearly Universalist?
It depends on the person. However, if a person does say that Jesus is God, said person is probably a believer (there are exceptions, however: one still has to put one's faith in Him for salvation, e.g.; cf. Jas.2:9). Most universalists are incorrect on basic principles of salvation. The link you provide gives an example of a variation on the theme. The main thing universalists have in common is that they don't understand the basic principle of life: free will. We are all here in this world to decide whether or not we are willing to be saved at the price of accepting Jesus Christ, God's substitute for our sins. Many people, contrary to what the link suggests Ė in fact most people Ė do not want an eternal future with God in charge. They don't want to go to hell, but they are willing to reject the One Way to heaven if it means giving up their will to God, even in accepting Christ as their Savior. There is no universal salvation; these people are greatly deceived:
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."
Matthew 7:13-14 NASB
"I am the Way Ė the truth and the life."
Here are some links:
Annihilationism, Universalism, Hell and Judgment
Against Universalism III: Unbelievers in the Plan of God.
Against Universalism II: Only Believers are Saved.
Against Universalism I: Free Will and the Image of God.
In Jesus Christ through whom alone we are saved.
In Matthew 12:31-32 Jesus says that anyone who accuses (speaks against) the work of the Holy Spirit as being the spirit of the Devil won't ever be forgiven. The Pharisees said that Jesus cast out demons by the spirit of the Devil, this was a blasphemous allegation against the Holy Spirit. Obviously they must have believed what they were saying as well. I have in the past with full knowledge of the truth turned away and believed and said for awhile that the spirit in Jesus was that of the Devil. I must of therefore committed the unforgivable sin, correct?
Or have these verses been misunderstood?
Let me assure you that if you believe in Jesus Christ, if you accept Him, His perfect person as God and man, and His perfect work in dying on the cross for our sins, then you are most definitely saved regardless of all other considerations:
He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:18 NKJV
It's all about faith and putting one's reliance in God and His solution to sin and death: Jesus Christ our Lord. It's also very important to remember, whenever being attacked by the evil one with his lies, that God is not trying to trick us, nor is God desirous of our condemnation, nor does God fail to do absolutely everything to save absolutely everyone who is willing to be saved. Are you willing to be saved? Then you have nothing to worry about as long as you hang on tight to your faith in Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to die for the sins of all so that all who were willing might be saved (see the link: God desires all to be saved).
(10) "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. (12) "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? (13) And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. (14) In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost."
Matthew 18:10-14 NIV
In the end, only those who reject Jesus Christ are condemned, condemned because of their own free will choice to eschew the Savior in preference for their own will.
As to the passage about which you ask (Matt.12:31-32), I have encountered many who have allowed guilt and fear to get the better of them so as to open themselves up to the torment of the evil one unnecessarily. Guilt and fear always go hand and hand: fear says "run!" and guilt says "hide!", but just as Adam and Eve ran from the Lord out of fear and hid out of guilt (Gen.3:10), so these reactions are not appropriate for those who know God through faith in Jesus Christ. We respect and revere Him but are not terrified of Him; we recognize our responsibility for our sins when we fail, and understand that we will be disciplined as sons and daughters of God. The difference is that the former, guilt and fear, are irrational and emotional, whereas reverence and acceptance of the reality of our failures and their consequences are spiritually appropriate and reasonable Ė because they are based upon the truth of the Word of God and our acceptance of that truth. Principle: whenever we are terrified or wracked by guilt for any reason, it is because we are not walking in the Spirit according the truth of the Word we have received. God promises forgiveness whenever we confess (1Jn.1:9), and assures us that any negative consequences we incur for bad behavior will be those of a loving Father correcting His own beloved sons and daughters (Heb.12:1ff.).
Key to understanding this passage you ask about is the context. When we take counsel of our fears and guilt, spiritual common sense and reasonableness in interpretation tend to go out the window. But if we were to approach the passage with an open heart it would be difficult to explain 1) how Jesus can have died for all sins but this "blasphemy against the Spirit" is not forgivable; 2) how Jesus is the one in the passage who is being doubted by the Pharisees, but the Spirit is the one said to be "blasphemy in very direct way, yet these individuals never even mentioned the Holy Spirit by name. Mark adds the explanation key to understanding the true meaning of our Lord's words here:
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit."
Mark 12:22-30 NIV
This passage makes clear, for anyone stopping to think about it, that this all has to do with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit's role in the presentation of the Kingdom (and in presenting the gospel) is to make the truth of what is said understandable to those who hear it (see the link: "Gospel Epistemology"). As these Pharisees were listening to the truth proceed from Jesus' lips, the Spirit made clear to them in their hearts that it was the truth. Nevertheless, they rejected the truth of these words of life and immediately sought a way to undermine the miracles which testified to the truth, miracles accomplished by the Spirit in the cause of the gospel. To refute the truth, they resorted to the most outrageous lie, accusing the Son of God of being in league with the devil . . . and by insinuation accusing the Holy Spirit of being an agent of Satan. It is not possible to reject the truth and accept it at the same time. It is not possible for a person to have the Spirit make the truth of salvation plain to him/her and be saved if that truth is rejected. Therefore the sin which cannot be forgiven is the sin of rejecting the Spirit's testimony about Jesus Christ. It is not possible to, at the same time, blaspheme the Spirit by demeaning His testimony and yet accept Christ. That these men had rejected Him was made clear by their words of blasphemy in attributing the Spirit's actions (and by application the Spirit's words to their heart) to the devil instead.
I would thus translate the definite article in verse thirty-one of Matthew ten with the demonstrative force which the article often has in Greek (being stronger than the English article): "this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit", namely, the specific blasphemy of saying that the gospel is a lie (and the Spirit thus a liar). Jesus died for the sins of the world but He could not die for the sin of rejecting Himself since He Himself is the only Substitute for our sins . . . and if we reject the gracious provision of Jesus Christ there is no further sacrifice for sins, "only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God" (Heb.10:27 NIV).
This is the only interpretation which fits the evidence, while any interpretation which seeks to apply these passages to anything but rejection of the gospel runs afoul of many other doctrines (such as confession, Christ's death for all sin, the mercy of God, the character of God, etc.). And consider, this portion of the gospels relates something that took place during Jesus' day, and the words He spoke were meant to relate to that situation in particular. Taking this all out of context and positing some generic "unpardonable sin" that may or may not have something to do with the Spirit is the stuff of guilt and fear, of "running and hiding" from God, when we know that we belong to Him in Jesus Christ and have no need to fear or worry anymore, just as long as we keep hold of our faith in Him.
Here are some other links which talk about this and related issues:
The so-called unpardonable sin.
Have I committed the unforgivable sin?
Have I blasphemed the Holy Spirit?
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
Rejecting Christ is blaspheming the Spirit
Please be encouraged, my friend. Our God is a God of mercy, love, goodness and forgiveness. Don't let guilt and fear destroy your faith. Confess whatever is on your heart to Him and He will restore you to fellowship with Jesus Christ our Lord:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9
In Jesus Christ who is our righteousness,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
Itís been an age since our last correspondence, I hope you are well and enjoying the new year! Just to give a bit of an update, Iíve been doing a LOT better spiritually. God is merciful and has gotten me past most of what I have gone through in regards to the spiritual crisis I had. However, there is one major issue that has been bothering me and has been truly agonizing to me spirit whenever I think about it. That would be about Catholicism/Orthodoxy. Now, I know your beliefs on this based on what Iíve read at Ichthys, that your pretty much agnostic as to whether or not they are Ďsavedí (true Christians). I really never gave much thought about this until my episode almost two years ago when I came across that super fundamentalist website that condemned them (and pretty much every other denomination except IFB) and it really hasnít left me. Youíre probably wondering why Iím even bringing it up, that Iíll explain in the following.
So growing up, I was raised by Christian parents and grandparents (more particularly on my momís side) on the more non-denominational but still more Protestant nature. I was also educated at various Christian schools from pre-k-12th grade (2 were non-denominational, 1 was assemblies of God, and the last was Lutheran-Missouri Synod) that were all pretty conservative yet very much Protestant in nature as well which is where I learned most of what I know of Godís word. Now I was always sort of told that Catholics were Christians but had a variety of doctrines that were wrong. Maryís intercession, saint intercession, the pope, infant baptism, etc. It wasnít until my incident that I really understood how hot of a topic this was amongst other Protestants. I knew about the reformation and learned about all that, but I never was told that Catholics were not Christians in spite of all this. My Grandma who is one of the most fervent Christian soldiers I have ever known taught me about some of the wrong doctrines in the church yet she always affirmed them as Christians despite some of these doctrines (sheís been helping me through understanding all of this, but I need another ear as well). So, I never gave much thought to it other than I knew they were Christians that had screwed up doctrines. Another point of issue for me is that, the other half of my family is Catholic and I have never doubted their salvationÖuntil recently. Now they really arenít Ďgoodí Catholics by the Churches standard as they rarely attend mass, they have never talked about the saints or Mary in any particular way at all, they do believe Jesus Christ is their Savior and affirm all the proper doctrines about Him, the Trinity, etc. I also know they disagree with the church on a number of things like birth control, priest celibacy, and other issues that the church holds dear to them. I also have a lot of Catholic friends who Iíve never doubted as Christians. Now I have this very judgmental mindset like, "oh youíre Catholic? I doubt youíre a Christian" and I truly hate that. I feel like God reprimands me when I think like that because I immediately feel sick to my stomach. Like this is against how He wants me to think. I probably sound like a nutcase to you, but it truly is something that has been plaguing me and there are a few questions/points I have for you to look over. To be honest, I was a little bit skeptical coming to you about this (I donít mean this offensively, please donít think Iím trying to offend you) because I knew your stance already. However, youíve always provided a civil discourse and have always heard me out/addressed my concerns in a very caring sort of way. So, I hope you can understand where Iím coming from about this. Iím also pretty well informed on their beliefs and of the various beliefs most Protestant teachers/people/denominations now so, Iím more just picking your brain as to the points I have more than anything.
1. My first concern is about the Pope. I never really knew much about the office of the Pope other than he was the head of the Catholic Church. I had no idea people thought of him as the anti-Christ until recently. I also never knew about the infallibility thing and that they believe he is Christís replacement (apostle or something like that, vicar). They also think that about the priests, nuns, and various clergy as well, that they too are false teachers. What are your thoughts on this? Now, I donít believe that any future Pope is THE Antichrist, but I do understand why many thought this through the years after the reformation. The Pope had far more power than he does today (now heís more of a Ďmoral authorityí of the Catholic Church and really has no political/social power) so I can see why they would have thought that. As far as the Pope and the clergy are concerned, I never really thought they were false teachers either. I consider a false teacher someone who denies Christ, the Trinity, etc. Like Mormonism for example, that to me is indeed false because they say the Trinity is three separate gods and that Jesus died but, he does not save. While Mormons believe in that, the official teaching of the church is to have faith and do good works. There is no specification whatsoever as to what you must have faith in. Not to mention they believe we become gods when we die and Jesus had a family etc. Iím sure you are familiar with all of that. I have just noticed that many lump Mormons and Catholics together as Ďfalseí, but that just seems wrong to me. Although Catholics have messed up doctrines, they also have a lot of Biblical ones. They affirm Christís death and resurrection, faith means believing in that, the proper view of the Trinity, etc. I feel we are in firm agreement on those points and I know the priests do teach that (Iíve been to mass a couple of times, not often though) and the Pope. So while I recognize those Orthodox beliefs, I also recognize the audacity of the other things taught. My other question is, are they truly false for preaching both the Orthodox (what I view as the #1 most important teachings of Christ) teachings while also teaching other doctrines that are not correct? Iíve been told this is called heterodoxy. I just have a hard time putting a blanket statement over them like, ĎOh yes, every clergymen and Pope ever has been a false teacherí. I just donít feel that is correct. Even if they earnestly are ignorant about some of the false doctrines they teach, does that automatically make them false or just misguided? I hope you can see what I mean by that. I also know they go by Ďfatherí, is it wrong for me to call them that? I know Jesus said to call no man father under heaven. Does this mean to not give any person this title in religious authority (I call my dad father but donít feel that is wrong)? I have called a priest father before when I went to mass those couple of times, but I only used that as a title, not because I believe they are my father. I really never assigned any significance to the term other than thatís their title, nothing more. Would this not also fall under calling someone a teacher, pastor, bishop, reverend, rabbi, etc? Itís very confusing to me.
2. My next questions involve the most important aspect of our faith, salvation. To me, this is obviously the key factor in this whole issue. I understand they say that you are saved through faith and good works (it must be Ďmaintainedí through works is what I understand). I also know they seem to place more of an emphasis on works but thatís because you already have faith. Iím just a little tied up with it. On the one hand, they believe Jesus died on the cross, rose again etc. Hearing that, I would say they are saved. Once they say, now you must do good worksÖthatís where I get lost. I feel they are justified when they first believe as they fulfill John 3:16 and Romans 10:9 along with many other verses. However, I feel they are in error on how much emphasis they place on works. I feel like they have a wrong understanding of James especially, but does having a misunderstanding of that necessarily condemn you? My biggest point of contention with this is Galatians. I guess Iíll sort of run through that quickly. Paul addresses them as brethren which, as youíve told me before, is a title only used to describe Christians in the New Testament. So, theyíve let in these Judaizers who teach you must be circumcised to be saved and some have taken part in that. Paul exhorts them which is the purpose of the letter. Could you explain the part of Galatians 5 that talks about Christ not being of value to them? Is this salvational or more of a fellowship sort of deal? Like if you get circumcised, you have committed apostasy or more of, you arenít in the comfort of Christ by relying also on that? This is the tricky part to me (what is the meaning of Ďfallen from graceí? Salvation? Comfort in it? Fellowship?). Because Paul does refer to them as Ďbrethrení even though some are participating in that. I guess my take from this is, yes, they are justified/saved by believing in Christ yet are not in good fellowship with Christ by allowing themselves to take up this doctrine. Therefore, they are not in a good place. Is this the correct view? I feel like this book alone is the biggest hint hint, nudge nudge at Catholics as they seem to emphasize works while they still believe. Could this also be a Ďsaved by the skin of your teethí scenario? Where you are wandering so far away by being circumcised (or adding works to the equation) that your barely make it through? Itís just a confusing book for me in that regard. Could you also inform me about the Ďfalse brethrení part of Galatians 2:4? I mean, are these people saved as they are referred to brethren? Are they Ďfalseí in the sense that they are teaching false doctrines yet brethren because they are Christians? It almost is like a cheating husband, heís still a husband yet he is unfaithful. Another thing Iíve noticed in my reading, correct me if Iím wrong, is how many people view the Judaizers as mixing the gospel with circumcision (works). At first glance in Galatians, that is what it seems. However, it appears to me they are only interested in making Jewish converts, hence the term ĎJudaizerí. To me, they seem uninterested in harming a Christianís fellowship with Christ, they want them to detract and revert back to Judaism altogether. Now getting of the Galatians part, this truly is the most conflict for me. I understand that one doesnít have to have a perfect view of the gospel to be saved, however, how much of an imperfect view does one have to get wrong before they are not saved? In my experience, many Catholics seemed to be very nominal Christians because of the issues in their teachings. I think it is very easy for many (certainly not all) to apostatize because they are not firmly grounded, they only have a tiny foot hold. Iím just really trying to understand this. Catholics also seem to have different kinds of grace. Like, salvational grace is from Christ yet the saints, Mary, baptism, the sacraments, etc. also have a type of grace that is more like a blessing. Anyway, I hope you can sort of understand where Iím coming from in that, itís hard to really articulate via email. Iím hoping you get the gist of it.
3. My last section is really just some of the other questions I have in regards to some of their practices and how Christians should look at them. Iconography is one. Iím an artist, Iíve painted, drawn, and sculpted since I was a child and really appreciate it. I personally really like the statues/artwork of the saints, Mary, Christ, tales from the Bible, etc. I never really viewed that as an issue. I disagree with venerating them, but I really appreciate looking at them because it makes me really think about that person or that story. However, I hold no significance to the actual statue itself. It simply is a statue and nothing more. Not a vehicle of the saint nor something I would bow down to. My question is, is this still idolatry even though I personally donít worship it? I know the Ten Commandments says not to make any image however, I always read that to be an idol. Something you worship over, or instead of God. I believe veneration to be bordering that and donít like it. I like learning about the different saints (I believe all Christians are saints, Iím just referring to Ďcanonizedí ones or ones who have been great in expressing their faith) throughout history yet, I would never venerate them through art or prayer. I really just appreciate the artistry of it but still feel like Iím doing something wrong by even doing that (again, this wasnít a big deal until that one website pointed that out and now Iíve felt bad ever since). What are your thoughts on the relics they keep? Bones, blood, etc. Iím not sure the actual purpose of keeping that stuff but, I feel they believe it is somehow blessed because it was from a saint (not that all of them really are, thereís no way to really know the authenticity). My other question would be in regard to communion with Catholics. I understand the doctrine of transubstantiation is incorrect, it is just stupid to me to even think the elements change yet they still appear as bread and wine. While I donít believe in it, is it wrong to eat the wafer/drink the wine even though they offered it as transubstantiated? I have done this at one mass before I really knew why it was looked down upon. I took it more as a commemorative thing than feasting on Christís actual flesh. Some preach that this is idolatry to do so, was it wrong for me to have eaten it? Are they committing the sin of idolatry by taking it? If I remember correctly, the apostles even ate food offered to idols but said a blessing over it (correct me if Iím wrong). This was kind of a strange thing for me to learn about but, it is a problem nonetheless.
Iím so sorry about the length of this email, I know mine always end up turning into books. I just really feel the need to address this as, like I said, it truly has been agonizing to my soul. I have never felt anything quite like it Dr. Luginbill, itís a conflict like none Iíve ever felt before. On the one hand, I donít want to completely write off the Catholics (condemning believers as non-believers) while on the other hand, I donít want to encourage something that is Ďfalseí. Itís hard because so many people believe they arenít Christians, some Ďex-Catholicsí have come out and said it is impossible to be saved there (I disagree, I think that wherever the Bible is being preached that God can work through it even in the presence of falsehoods), and thereís very little room for discussing these civilly with these people as they will automatically brand you a heretic. Some do believe they are Christians though they are few and far between. I very much recognize the false teachings they espouse, I abhor them. However, I just feel like completely giving up on them and their Orthodox teachings because of some false teachings is wrong. Itís also hard for me to truly get closure because I feel like even if someone presents evidence for them being true believers or the opposed, I still am skeptical and not entirely able to agree with them. Itís like a voice telling me not to believe either one which really confuses me. Iíve prayed about this every night Dr. Luginbill and whenever it gets brought up, I feel God tugging on my conscience (Iím just not sure to which side, He tugs on me with both it seems). I just want to make sure Iím doing what He wants instead of what I want. Itís hard though because I just donít feel right accepting or condemning them, I feel like I just need to understand it with a thorough explanation. I talked to one of my old Theology teachers recently who has a Doctorate, studies the Greek, and is very on point with the scriptures what he thought about the whole thing. He basically told me that he believes Catholics are our brothers in Christ but, have allowed too many false teachings into their midst. Donít quote me verbatim but he basically said something to the effect of we should welcome them with open arms as brothers and sisters in Christ, but espouse like a tolerance sort of deal with them. Like, itís hard to explain/remember exactly what he said, but gently inform them about why you donít agree with them/why they should stop doing this or that. Yet if they wonít stop doing it, almost just let them be on their own and have God lead them away from certain practices and return to better fellowship with Him. I donít know, I want to agree with him but I just feel like Iím doing something wrong if I do. Sounds stupid doesnít it? I think the main reason Iím doing that is because during my bad time, I went to this one website where this pastor flat out wrote that if someone accepts Catholics as Christians, that I am DENYING CHRIST because they err on the role of works. That is what I think worries me the most. I donít feel I am denying Christ by this, do you think so? How should I address this? That to me is part of the core that is making me so doubtful and leading me through all this turmoil about Catholic/Orthodoxy (I include them in this as well as they share similar beliefs). I just canít simply put a blanket condemnation over an entire denomination(s) because I donít know each personís heart. Catholicism seems even more split up to me than Protestantism, every Catholic Iíve ever met seem to believe various truths in their church while having varying beliefs on their own, none ever really being exactly like other peoples Iíve met. Itís also hard at the same time because I felt so theologically sound before my spiritual crisis from everything I was taught my whole life, to suddenly doubting it, to realizing I was taught for the most part correctly, to now doing the same thing again. Iím not holding onto it just because it was what I was Ďtraditionallyí taught, I just donít want to make the same mistake again. So Dr. Luginbill, I leave this to you. I pray you will be able to understand where I am coming from and help me especially through my scriptural understanding in this regards as that is the true authority I want to base my beliefs on. Itís just an agony like none other when I think about it that I need to come to terms with because it is just so taxing. So, please take your time reading/answering this. I apologize again for the length as I know you are a busy man, but I truly feel like this is one of the closing chapters to this big ordeal Iíve gone through.
It's good to hear from you, my friend, and I rejoice to hear that you spiritual state is solid and sound. Keep taking in the Word of God day by day, love and live it, and you will continue to do well.
As to your questions, answering them individually may be a bit difficult inasmuch as they are interrelated. I will do my best here to speak to all of your concerns, but do feel free to write back if I overlook anything.
The first thing I would like to point out is that while I do have some personal experience with Roman Catholicism, and have known many who "belong" to that church over the years (with various levels of commitment), and have formally studied the history of that church in seminary, and have also had occasion to look into some of these matters since, I would in no way wish to present myself as an expert on that church, either historically or in terms of where it is at this present moment. So please keep that in mind as you read my comments.
The second thing to note, maybe the most important thing, is a point that does come through in your epistle, but also seems to be not fully digested Ė and therefore may be at the root of your spiritual indigestion: that is, there is a big difference between an individual person who has some relationship with Roman Catholicism on the one hand and the Roman Catholic church on the other. Now that church seeks to obliterate the difference and always has, but the difference is profound. The essential thing to take away from this important point is that you are neither to be condemned for having an opinion about the R.C. church or its communicants in general terms, nor is having a comprehensive view about it, no matter how well thought of, of any particular help in dealing with person X who is some sort of "Catholic". That is true even if you become involved in a conversation where you try to get person X to "see the light". Because the last thing that is likely to convince person X is a long-winded discussion about the nature of the R.C. church, either present or historical, and its doctrines. First, because person X may or may not understand, be aware, believe or agree with our understanding of particular points of R.C. doctrine; second, because if we want to lead others to the truth, then we need to be talking about the truth, not about incorrect teachings held by others. So to me, this a bit like trying to fight racism by generalizing about races Ė which is what political operatives do all the time Ė when the solution to all such problems is to deal with individuals one on one in a loving, Christian way. That is the way I would choose to deal with someone who might let me know that he/she was Roman Catholic. Good for him/her. If he/she is interested in talking about the truth of the Word of God, I am ready to do so Ė and that truth towers above any church or tradition.
Now if it is a matter of apologetics, that may be a different story. If your God-given mission in this life were to be, say, saving Mormons from the Mormon church, then knowing everything you could about that cult, historically and in terms of its present evolution, would be valuable. And since, instead of witnessing opportunistically you would be involved in interventions with people who did not come to you first, you would of course need to have your opinion about that organization solidly down, and would also have to approach person X to some degree as "a Mormon". However, even in that case, person X is an individual and may or may not hold the same view of his/her "church" as you do, and may or may not believe what he/she is supposed to believe. So even here you would have to be flexible about your preconceptions, and always, always be trying to steer the conversation to the truth, regardless of all other concerns.
Simply put, since there is such a big difference between the Roman Catholic church and person X, the real question here is "why is person X maintaining a relationship with the R.C. church?" As predicted in the book of Revelation, the centralized church-visible "died" during the era of Sardis in the first half of the last millennium, and that "death" occasioned the Reformation. Ever since, the R.C. church has been a political organization first and foremost. That is not to say that those who constitute its power-structure are all "bad people" or that they do not do "good things", but there is very clearly Ė clearly at least to my mind Ė no presence of God, no spirituality, no real truth: the formal doctrines they possess which are not incorrect are a matter of boiler-plate (as is the case with many creeds), with the Bible being very low on their list of authorities. But none of that matters inasmuch as their objective is not to find the truth or teach the truth or love and the live the truth: their objective is to serve, preserve and grow the R.C. church. In such a case, why would person X be in that church? In my opinion, there are only two possible reasons: 1) traditionalism (religion as habit); and 2) because of having been convinced that the R.C. church is "the one true church" (as of course they teach: extra ecclessiam nulla salus Ė "there is no salvation outside of the [R.C.] church").
In the case of #1, whether a person is a traditional-only Protestant (or Buddhist or Muslim or whatever), if "religion" is just something one does to fit in, a cultural part of life, if the person is not born again and has no interest in having a real relationship with Jesus Christ, there is very little that anyone can do to persuade him/her otherwise. In such cases, we have to wait on the Lord to work, and while we know that He has organized each person's life so as to maximize the chance for salvation, even so, most refuse to be saved. Whether they are lost "in the R.C. church" or anywhere else makes no difference in the end. They wished to live their lives free of God and have no use of an eternity where they would have to worship Him (just like the devil refused to do so). There are plenty of "good people" who are really like this deep down Ė in fact the vast majority of the human race from Eden to kingdom come.
In the case of #2, even here our options are limited. If we have an interventionist ministry, then perhaps challenging the underpinnings of the false assumptions such persons may have might in some cases help to wedge them loose. However, if said persons were really interested in getting closer to the Lord, He would provide a way to do so. If said persons were really on fire in their hearts to live for Jesus Christ beyond all other considerations, He would certainly lead them to a place where they could do so. And that place would certainly not be the R.C. church. That church is dead. A little leaven leavens the whole lump, and the R.C. church is awash with leaven (as your email makes clear enough in discussing many of its problems). Again, its not the specifics of its "doctrines": that church is not in the business of seeking the truth; it is the business of growing and protecting the organization. And that is not a charge, by the way, which I mean to level exclusively at Roman Catholicism. To a greater or lesser degree, that charge is applicable to all denominations of the Christian faith Ė and to many individual churches as well. This problem, of putting numbers and money and (in some cases) fame and power over the truth of the Word of God is one which has always plagued the church-visible historically, and has reached a fever pitch here in the last days of Laodicea in all denominations and in almost all organized churches Ė which of course explains much about why this ministry is on the internet only.
Can a person be saved in the R.C. church? I think so, but it begs the question: why do they stay once saved when everything about that church will militate against spiritual growth and even their faith? Are there good priests et al. in that church? I am sure that many of them are "good people" who do "good works" Ė but if they are not saved, or, if saved, are perpetuating the spiritual enslavement of many others, how "good" can their works be? If they are not done in the power of the Spirit of God, they are not "good" in His eyes at all.
So while I can understand people making mistakes, or being brought up in a tradition of mistakes, at some point we have to accept that people are responsible for their own free will actions in this life. How much more so is that not the case today? Centuries ago, options were limited and consequences for going against the established order could be profound. But this is still a semi-free country, and we are certainly allowed to believe what we wish and to give our allegiance to the truth and to those people and places which are at least trying to pursue the truth rather than to individuals and organizations which clearly are not.
No doubt many Mormons are deceived (and many R.C.'s too). Eve was deceived; but she still acted out of free will and paid the price. Adam chose Eve over the truth, and paid an equally heavy price. Both realized their mistake and gratefully accepted God's means of restoration: the promise of Christ (see the link "the coats of skin and the protoevanglium"). Thus has it ever been. I feel sorry for anyone who is really a believer but in the wrong place to feed and nurture their faith. But I do know that God provides for all who make the effort: if we "knock", He will open. Now it may take quite a bit of knocking over a long period of time, but all who truly wish to find the truth do so Ė by the grace and mercy of God. So while I wish that everyone in the R.C. church who is a believer (and every believer in any wrong place) would leave and find a place where the truth was valued and taught in an uncorrupted and incorruptible way, I have to say that the vast majority are there out of choice (whatever "there" we are talking about), so that it would take more than my efforts to spring them free.
Can people in that church be saved if not yet born again? Again, that is an individual issue. Salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. If a person truly believes in Jesus, that person is saved. As I have said before, as you know, it seems to me that probably many people in many such organizations are saved, but in the wrong place to grow (so that their faith will always be in some peril). And as I also say Ė and as you have discovered as well Ė most who have "escaped" and weighed in on the matter tend to say that salvation is not in fact possible under such a legalistic system. It is true that if a person is relying on their works instead of faith in Christ, there is no salvation along that route. It is, however, often very difficult for us, mere human beings that we are, to know what is going on in the hearts of other individuals, even when they confide in us. But God knows "who are His" (2Tim.2:19). And He has not made salvation difficult Ė for us. Rather, since the Lord Jesus died for every sin of every human being who would ever live, salvation is easy Ė for us Ė as close as our hearts and our mouths (Rom.10:8):
"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV
Being in a place which teaches doctrinal error about anything is not a good situation for a believer Ė and there are plenty of Protestant denominations and individual churches where that is the case as well, even where salvation is concerned. The R.C. church is, however, an egregiously bad example of this. The camel's back can be loaded down with just so much dead weight until it breaks. The fact that the faith of some in that organization may not have broken for all the terrible burden of legalism, falsity, and idolatrous paraphernalia is not much of a recommendation. It reminds one of Lot's situation after taking up residence in Sodom:
[The Lord] rescued righteous Lot who was tormented by the depraved lifestyle of those lawless men Ė for through the things he saw and heard just by dwelling among them this righteous man was damaging his righteous way of life day by day on account of their lawless deeds. For the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation . . .
2nd Peter 2:7-9a
We sympathize with Lot Ė but we have to remember that he chose to live in Sodom, and that he had ample opportunities to escape before its destruction, and only did just survive "by the skin of his teeth". Lot's escape through the Lord's faithfulness is thus no recommendation for remaining in Sodom. And another point that is parallel here is that of Abraham's perspective. Abraham was a godly man who wished to think the best of at least his relatives in Sodom, and importuned the Lord for its deliverance "if only ten righteous" dwelt there. But in the event, Lot was apparently the only righteous one at all! Everyone else was destroyed, including his wife who couldn't tear her heart away from that foul place (and his daughters are questionable at best for obvious reasons). So if this parallel applies Ė and there is much to recommend it Ė it may be that, yes, there may indeed be "some righteous" there, but probably far fewer than we might imagine in our optimistic hopes. They remain there for a reason, after all. Sodom suits them.
Mind you, this does not mean Ė nor should it be taken to mean Ė that unbelievers of any stripe or persuasion (or marginal believers either) are not worthy of our Christian love and prayers. It also does not mean that they are "bad people" or bad citizens or bad neighbors or bad family members. They may pleasant, they may be friendly, they may be admirable and honorable in many ways. And we should of course treat them with the respect with which we treat all of our neighbors and fellow citizens. But that is not the spiritual issue or the spiritual question. The first issue is "what think ye of Christ?", and the second is, "will you follow Him?" These are the two questions around which human life revolves Ė from God's point of view. Any organization whose modus operandi makes answering the first question in a positive way difficult and answering the second in positive way impossible is one to be avoided at all cost.
On the subject of legalism and good works, I have written quite a bit about this and I will direct you to some appropriate links. Suffice it to say here that genuinely "good works" are 1) things God sees as "good"; 2) always empowered by the Holy Spirit (thus requiring the believer to be operating in the sphere of truth); 3) often not what the world (and the R.C. church) thinks of as "good works" at all: trusting God is a "good work", as Abraham can testify (Jas.2:21-23), and siding with Him and His people against the traditions and opinions of one's own kith and kin is a "good work", as Rahab can testify (Jas.2:25) Ė these are the examples James actually uses in his discussion of the matter of the "works" without which faith is dead (not at all what we would call "charity", e.g.).
It's not a minor issue. As mentioned above, there is a tendency for a little leaven to work its way through the whole lump (Gal.5:9). In the case of the individuals in Galatians who were relying on keeping the Law for salvation (and upsetting that congregation with their false teaching), they were indeed not saved, even had they previously been saved Ė because they were putting their faith in what they did rather than in Christ. This is not faith in Christ; this is not salvation by grace Ė that is salvation by self-effort through "helping God", that is the height of arrogance. Since that is in effect the consequence of taking many R.C. teaching to their logical conclusions (even if those particular teachings contradict others Ė the R.C. system is replete with contradictions), one does despair of the salvation of any in that church who embrace its views wholeheartedly.
As I say, it is not as if the R.C. church is unique in this. I dare say some of the groups/websites you encountered may very well do the same thing (teaching water-baptism as necessary for salvation as many falsely do is equally pernicious, for example). And it is often the case that one group will seek to justify its existence and define itself by its opposition to another Ė that is hardly a recommendation for a believer seeking spiritual edification, nor is it an indication of possessing the truth merely by opposing others whose views are questionable: both can be wrong. There is plenty of legalism in the Protestant world as well.
Legalism, Past and Present
Legalism, Past and Present II
The Dangers of Messianic Legalism IV: Unclean and Impure?
The Apostles, the Jerusalem Council, and Legalism then and now.
The Dangers of Messianic Legalism III
The Dangers of Messianic Legalism II
The Dangers of Messianic Legalism.
Combating Legalism VI
Combating Legalism V
Combating Legalism IV
Combating Legalism III
Combating Legalism II
Combating Legalism I
Finally, in regard to saints, "Mariolatry", popes, icons and the like, I think that any wise Christian will steer clear of all such things Ė just as we steer clear of all other temptations to things untrue, unwise, and potentially sinful. No good comes from worshiping people, even if we downplay the act enough so that it doesn't rise to the level of worship. We love Jesus Christ. We therefore ought to be thinking about Him more and more, walking closer to Him, learning more about Him. Physical representations whether graphic or plastic or in video etc. are not going to accomplish what we want. They will merely supply a false picture (it can't be the true one since He is invisible to us at present) which makes war against the spiritual picture we are trying earnestly to paint in our hearts through the truth of the Word of God Ė and that would be a very poor substitute indeed. How much more is that not the case when it comes to venerating human beings, whether Mary, or a pope, or a saint, or a priest. Mary was a great believer Ė and would certainly not appreciate how her person has been misused by various churches. We can't know the truth about the "saints" (much of it is fictional propaganda); as to present popes and priests, I feel sorry for them, rather than venerating them Ė but we all make our own choices in this life. Here are some links:
Christianity versus Contemporary Kitsch
Art and Mimesis
Role of politics (and art) in Satan's system
Thou shalt not make an image
Culture and Christianity
All of this has more importance today than ever before. That is because we are on the cusp of the Tribulation wherein any and all emotional attachment to organizations which are not truly "of God" will be an incredibly serious liability once antichrist's false religion begins to gather momentum. That religion will coopt all other earthly religions, including the denominations of Christianity. The beast, after all, will proclaim himself to be "Christ" with the result that all of organizational Christianity Ė the church-visible as opposed to the Church Ė will accept him as such. That will be the beginning of the Great Apostasy wherein fully one third of genuinely born-again believers will fall away. So if a person is in a spiritual tenuous situation now, it does not bode well for his/her survival of the Tribulation with faith intact. But that is true of all such organizations, and also of all Christians who have placed worldly things of whatever sort before spiritual growth, progress and production, not just the R.C. church. The pope is not the antichrist, but the antichrist will use the pope Ė and all other Christian "leaders" of substantial organizations Ė to lead believers astray. It has never been a good idea to be involved in any organization which weakens rather than strengthens faith, and we live in a time where that particular bit of truth is about to be accentuated to a great degree.
So I don't condemn the Roman Catholic church Ė or any other church or religion. My job is to teach the truth to all who are willing to receive it, understanding that this is all about individual choice, not organizations and their structure of formal statements of faith. For . . .
(10) For we must all stand before Christ's tribunal, so that each of us may receive recompense for what he has accomplished through this body, whether it be good or worthless. (11) Therefore since we know the fear of the Lord, while we attempt to persuade men God sees us entirely for what we [truly] are Ė and I trust that what we [truly] are is equally clear to your consciences.
2nd Corinthians 5:10-11
Here are some pertinent links:
The persuasiveness of the tribulational false religion
Characteristics of Antichrist's Religion
He [will] make the world and all its inhabitants worship the first beast
Do Not Join or Cooperate with Antichrist's False Religion
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you for your quick reply and for your kind words! Itís been a rough couple of years spiritually, but God always pulls me through. As Corrie Ten Boom once said, "There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still." I apologize for not getting back to you faster, it has been a busy weekend and it took some time to look through the links youíve provided (thank you for doing so). I do still have a few things I want to clarify as well as some other things that have been on my mind. Not necessarily troubling to me but I feel the need for some further clarification.
I also wanted to something I hope you didnít take incorrectly from my last email. Probably not best to send an email at 3 am, but sometimes I just have to get it out before I forget some things. Firstly, I hope you didnít take my Ďraised Protestantí point that I feel I am Ďgoodí simply by being in that environment. My direct family are all firm believers in Christ, I was more referring to how I was taught in more of a Protestant type of doctrine. Protestant denominations certainly arenít perfect and I donít believe them to be infallible. I do however feel that they are in a sense Ďmore rightí if you will in terms of Biblical doctrine than Catholics/Orthodox. Although it can be argued that some err, rather badly at that. I hope that may clear it up a little, I certainly did not want it to seem that I am somehow putting my faith in a type of institutional security.
I also some some specific questions. First, you mentioned previously that those dividing the Galatian church werenít saved, are you referring to the teachers of those doctrines (circumcision in this case) or also the Galatian believers who may have done this as well? Just wanted to clarify that.
It's my pleasure. I didn't at all think you were relying personally upon any sort of membership for your own salvation or spiritual progress and security. The question has to with others who are definitely doing so. That was the main point or theme of my response. We don't know the hearts of others, but God does know them. We can't choose for others or even understand the true basis for the choices they make, but God knows. And every person chooses for him/herself. More importantly, God knew what each person would choose in every detail, and every choice has been made part of the divine decree which is playing our as history unfurls. Whenever anyone puts their faith in Christ for salvation, that person is born again, renewed and given new life, and becomes part of Christ Ė and that is an "is" or "is not" situation and question in every case: a person either is or is not a believer, regardless of how we may choose to parse the issue or define the terms or evaluate the evidence our eyes can see. But God knows the heart.
My main problem with legalism or any sort of behavior which could rightly be defined that way is that it turns what is truly a grace relationship Ė God blessing us by grace in Christ and allowing us into His family when we were worthy only to be condemned Ė into a transactional one. That is the heart of paganism. Paganism imagines its own gods and does things for them, then expects that these gods will alternatively help them and not harm them. We who are faith know very well that God loves us and does not desire our harm in any way, especially as we now belong to His Son; and we understand Ė or certainly should Ė that our blessing from Him is a result of His goodness in every instance and NOT anything we deserve. We who are of faith understand, moreover, that this life from God's point of view is all about the spiritual, with the material being only meaningful at all in light of the spiritual. Paganism makes everything material (even its supernatural aspects are really only hyper-material) . . . and legalism does the same thing. This is why Paul became apoplectic with the Galatians in the readiness of some of their number to return to ta stoicheia, the material principles of the world, once they had started out with the Spirit. Depending on baptism or day-observance or circumcision or the adherence to a code, whether the Law or the Baptist "big five don'ts" is essentially putting grace to death. Understand, being involved in such things is bad in and of itself, but depending upon such false issues is the gangrene of faith.
What is faith? Faith is believing . . . in Jesus Christ; faith is relying . . . on God to save us from sin and death. True Christian faith thus has two inseparable pieces: 1) an understanding and appreciation of the goodness and the grace and the wonder and the worthiness of God the Father and the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, and 2) being willing to lean on Him for solution to all of our problems, initially and most importantly the problems of death and sin in the face of the righteous judgment to come. As I say, these two things are really inseparable. The more we understand and believe about the true character and intrinsic qualities of our God, about the selfless and ineffable sacrifice of our Savior, the more willing and likely we are to lean on Him, to rely on Him, to believe in Him, to have faith in Him, and to be faithful to Him. The more we actually do rely on, lean on, believe in, set our hearts on, try to follow and love and serve Him, the more we come to know and believe and understand and accept and comprehend about who He is. That is what truth and its acceptance means: loving the One who loved us first, setting our hope in Him and believing His promises of life eternal, and growing our faith day by day through nourishing it in the truth and applying it aggressively to everything we see and think and do.
To use a purely material analogy, there is a big difference between a pauper who has fifty cents in his pocket and a multi-billionaire. And the difference is not just quantitative. The pauper may spend all he has for a cup of coffee and then he will have nothing; the multi-billionaire has so much that it seems almost an impossibility that he might even possibly come to be similarly impoverished; the pauper is in dire danger of destruction; the multi-billionaire does not even seem to be susceptible to the same. The same is true in many points of those so poor in faith that their faith is on the point of being extinguished on the one hand, and those of the faith of Abraham who have so much faith that even an unimaginable test like that of being required to sacrifice his one and only son could not even dent. In fact, while the world cannot really even "get" this analogy as viscerally as believers should, the difference between the one and the other is even more profound than in the case above used for comparison, so many positive aspects in this life and in the next does having built up one's faith to Abraham-like proportions possess.
This analogy also helps, I hope, to clear up some of the points in our discussion. It is very easy for a person to say "I believe doctrines A, B and C". But actually believing them requires having understood them through faith and having made them part of one's heart through that belief (and they also have to be true doctrines of course). And there are infinite degrees of "knowing and understanding" any single truth of the Word of God. When Paul says he believes something (e.g., 2Cor.4:13), it should go without saying that the depth of faith connected with that belief is magnitudes deeper than that of many marginal believers today. So it isn't about toting up doctrines and comparing their fine points Ė that is a collective thing in any case. It's really all about the depth of individual faith, the level to which a person's faith has reached regarding accepting the truth that is in question. If a person is an organization which teaches baptismal regeneration and witnessing as the litmus test of faith, or one which is adopting the ceremonies and trappings of the Law all over again Ė or in a more traditional "church" where there are plenty of things which militate against the growth of faith through a genuinely spiritual process Ė then it has to be asked "what is he/she doing there?" More to the point, if a person is totally committed to any wrong place, and so much so that he/she has become a careerist in that organization, then what are the chances that said person is really relying on Jesus Christ, rather than that organization?
I think you will find that if you could really test the genuineness and strength of the faith of almost anyone who is in a cult or a traditional "church" or any sort of organization which is teaching the wrong things and is thus ipso facto not interested in the truth, you would find that the individuals therein are very weak in faith Ė if they have any true faith at all. They may say the right things, but God know just how slender a reed of faith upon which they are leaning. We rejoice that they are still believers, those who are, but we are concerned for their welfare. Because the great TEST is about to unfold worldwide (cf. Rev.3:10), and those who are unprepared are the most likely to apostatize altogether.
True spiritual growth comes from a love of the truth Ė the actual truth Ė meticulously learned, ardently believed, meditated upon and consistently applied through the day by day process of spiritual growth. True faith in the truth cannot be faked. It cannot be substituted for. And there is no easy way to build it up. It does not come "naturally". Great faith is in each and every case the result of good personal choices over a long period of time. Just as we trusted Him for salvation by putting our faith in Christ, as believers we believe the truth we subsequently learn about God: He is faithful; then we apply that truth: we trust Him in times of trouble. The more we know about the truth of the entire Bible, the more we know about God and His character; the more we apply the truth we know to the events of our lives, the stronger and better tempered our faith becomes. On the other hand, the more we "farm out" our faith to an organization, to a set of rituals, to a code of any sort, to a system of rules and regulations, to exciting experiences or imagined miracles, to other people and their opinions, then the more the opposite will happen. The less we know about the truth, the less we will actually trust the Lord and in fact the less we will even be able to rely on Him when trouble comes. This explains why officials in religious organizations often behave badly (they are not walking closely to the Lord in the application of faith Ė if they have any at all), and why they often have and express their doubts about all manner of "doctrines" (they do not actually have much faith in God because they have not learned to trust Him to the point of believing to the depth of their marrow that all He says is actually true). It is one thing to say "I believe!", another thing to say it and really mean it, and another to say it, mean it, and mean it so deeply that it actually affects one's conduct, both in defense (to live a sanctified life), and even more importantly (and of a greater level of difficultly) in spiritual offensive action: moving forward in the Lord and passing the tests of life designed to make faith grow more and more, eventually resulting in the individual in question being "fit for action" in service to Jesus Christ:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2nd Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV
Substituting people, an organization or its paraphernalia, rituals and "miracles", rites and rules for the truth is a sure way to, at best, condemn faith to infancy; at worst it is a recipe for apostasy. That is why I am reluctant to make excuses for people who are in "the wrong place", wherever that "wrong place" may be. On the one hand, I don't condemn anyone: as in our Lord's example, "A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish" (Is.42:3). But on the other hand, I don't want to give anyone the wrong idea that this is not the most important thing in the world: it is by far the most important thing in the world. My policy on legalism and false doctrine of any type has always been the same: no compromise.
This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
Being a servant of Christ and free in respect to the world, I think by now I have made my position clear, and will try to give a very brief response based on the above to your specific questions:
On the first question, the teachers had abandoned grace entirely Ė that is how Paul puts it (Gal.5:4). When a person is no longer relying on Jesus Christ for salvation AT ALL, that person is no longer saved. That is the problem with legalism of every sort. It may start small but quickly spreads like gangrene (2Tim.2:17). It is the process of moving away from the spiritual which cannot be seen in preference for the material which can be. Walking by faith is antithetical to walking by sight. Relying on money for security (e.g.) is antithetical to relying on the Lord. No doubt in very many cases the person in question may be a believer but is conflicted, "halting between two opinions" (1Ki.18:21), but, in the end, either the LORD is the LORD or Baal is (or some other substitute, like Mammon) in the heart of the person concerned.
Second this is really from my own thoughts on the Judaizers of Galatians. I know it is frequently taught that they were Ďmixing law and graceí but, Iím personally not so sure. To me it seems these people were trying to win converts back to Judaism as there is no mention of them saying to have faith then do this. Could you maybe elaborate on this? I just canít find anything that says they told them to both believe and be circumcised, they just wanted them to be circumcised back to Judaism. Itís just something I picked up after reading the textÖI hope Iím not reading too far into it.
Maybe they were once believers. But it is hard to see how a person who had a single shred of faith left might possibly engage in aggressive behavior designed to shipwreck the faith of others. Rather, this is classic satanic conduct, attempting to support one's own lies by getting other people to see them as true. It's madness, but it is at the heart of all such arrogance following the pattern of the devil's rebellion precisely (see the link).
After reading your legalism links, Iím still somewhat perplexed and trying to wrap my head around this concept. Sorry if I appear ignorant or stubborn, it takes me a while to really grasp certain things sometimes. In regards more towards Messianic legalism/mixing grace and works, this I would say is probably the heart of my conflict with Catholics/Orthodox people. I know that when you first believe in Christ as your Lord and Saviour that He died on the cross and rose from the dead that you are saved/justified (justified being more of my emphasis). What happens though when you believe you must then do good works, be baptized, speak in tongues, or something afterwards in order to Ďget ití, prove its real, make it real, or to maintain it? Obviously there are lots of doctrines in this regard and I know this doesnít touch on all of them but, I think you get the idea. Does this mean youíve apostatized, youíre not saved/werenít saved/arenít saved, youíre in error yet still saved, youíre saved but headed down the path of apostasy by trusting in those things, your saved but not in good fellowship, or something I havenít listed? I think Iíve written to you before about a friend in the Church of Christ denomination where they believe in baptismal regeneration. This person told me that we are saved through trusting in Christ but also must be baptized (then pointed to a number of verses supporting this, it was very convincing but I still didnít quite buy it) in order to seal the deal. We must be buried in Christ (immersion) and rise with him (coming to the surface) in order for it to be authentic. Donít quote me verbatim but, thatís basically the gist of what I got. Itís hard because I know this person loves Christ, believe Heís their Lord and Saviour, died on the cross and rose again, etc. Pretty much everything Orthodox I believe in except for baptism (I have been baptized but I didnít believe that act saved me). I would say this person is saved by verbally admitting Jesus is Lord/Saviour, died and rose again for their sins but, is in error for believing you must also be baptized. Thatís whatís hard for me to grasp I guess is yes, they fulfill John 3:16 and other verses saying that whoever believes in him (his work on the cross/resurrection) that they are saved butÖ.then the whole baptism (or whatever else) thing really trips me up. I know Paul in Galatians talks about falling from grace, does this mean salvation (apostasy) or falling away from the comforts of grace meaning, burdening yourself with unnecessary things thus hindering your walk? My other friends from other denominations if you will (Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Coptic, etc.) I have talked to and they all have said they believe Jesus Christ is their Lord and Saviour, death/resurrection, everything that makes me believe they are saved. Iím not 100% sure about their beliefs on works and their place, the Coptics put a heavy emphasis on diet I know so, I canít attest to that. Assuming they believe what their churches traditionally teach, what do you think? Obviously only God knows the heart but Iím just curious. I feel we all can delve into legalism from time to time sometimes unconsciously but, I donít think that necessarily negates my salvation. Itís sort of hard to directly express it via email but, I hope you can understand where Iím coming from. I also hope you donít think Iím trying to justify or make excuses for whatever works based beliefs they might have whilst having faith, Iím just trying to understand the Soteriology a little better.
No doubt many of the people in said groups are believers. However, one thing is very clear: their faith must not only be very weak (since it is not based on the truth) but also in a perilous condition. Understand, we are talking about a genuine reliance upon the living God, about trusting Jesus Christ for everything in this life and beyond. If I am relying instead upon, say, water-baptism, for my relationship with Him, I am turning grace into a transaction whereby I am owed something for what I have done:
If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast aboutóbut not before God. What does Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness
Romans 4:2-3 NIV
On baptism, there is MUCH at Ichthys. This link will lead to most of the others: "Baptism: Water and Spirit VI".
My next question is more Catholic/Orthodox in nature in terms of interacting with them. The priests typically go by Ďfatherí and I know the Jesus said to call no man father under heaven. Iím just wondering how to address this/understand this. Jesus said to call NO MAN father under heaven yet I still call my dad father. Does this refer to just a religious leader? Or does this more emphasis the meaning you place on the term Ďfatherí? Now, Iíve been to different cathedrals and churches and have called the priests there Ďfatherí. This was before I read the Ďcall no man fatherí section by the way. I addressed them as such because that was their title, I placed really no emphasis on it. Iím just wondering if itís ok to do this or if I should refrain? I donít want to be rude but, I also donít want to be disobedient either if it isnít something Iím supposed to do. This was brought up in a conversation with a friend (they are evangelical) and they told me that it would be legalistic to keep you from saying a word or addressing someone with a title. Iím not sure about that bit of advice, but it has made me wonder about it. Would this not also apply to the term pastor, reverend, bishop, sister, brother, or teacher? (I know Iím missing some). Jesus did also say in Matthew 23 to call no man Rabbi which means teacher so, Iím just curious about thatÖIíve also called an Orthodox Rabbi ĎRabbií as well. This also leads me to a subpoint: Matthew 23 also talks about the Pharisees wearing adorning robes and taking special seats. Does this mean that clergy in Protestant/Orthodox/Catholic churches who wear such things are necessarily hypocritical false teachers? I know the archbishops/cardinals/various elders who visit different churches usually have special seats as well. What is your opinion of this? Didnít really hit me until recently yet Iím not 100% convinced that they are all false if they do thisÖI donít know, thoughts? I could also bring up the Ďcumbersome loadsí in regards to whatever works/baptism/fasting, anything they believe they need to observe as well. Does this make them modern day Pharisees? Iím sure they too observe/practice these things though, I just donít want to necessarily put a blanket statement over it.
On the trappings of individual church leaders and the pomp, titles, power, respect et al., all this sort of thing makes my stomach turn. I don't verbally object. I think any wise Christian would give all such things a wide berth. We, the Church, are all "one" in Christ, and we are all important to the whole. Besides, if anyone want to be "first", they need to make themselves "last" and serve Jesus Christ His way . . . following in His footsteps. See also the link: "Call no man 'father'".
My next question is communion with Catholics/Orthodox. When I was younger, I have taken the wafer and the drink from them before in celebrating communion. I had no idea about the transubstantiation doctrine when doing so and how that was looked on as Ďidolatryí (not sure if that term is an appropriate fit, Calvinists primarily say this) or in error. If I ever go to church with one of my Catholic family members or friends, what should I do? Should I not take it? Take it though I donít believe in transubstantiation? The only thing I can take from this is how the apostles would eat food offered to idols as long as a blessing was said over it. How should I approach this?
If you don't darken the door of such a church, the problem will never come up; if the problem comes up, I'm not sure it can be parsed away (cf. 2Ki.5:18).
My next question is a little off topic but still something I need clarification on. Matthew 6:15 talks about how God will not forgive you if you donít forgive others. Now, I typically can always forgive others as I try to separate the person from the actions. However, this proves difficult sometimes. If you donít immediately (or ever for that matter) forgive a particular person for what theyíve done to you, what exactly is the consequence meant here? God wonít forgive your sins unto salvation (I donít feel this is correct)? Or God wonít forgive you for the sins you commit after you are saved thus leading you away from fellowship from Him, hence hindering your spiritual growth? IF the second one is correct (or if it is something else), would you have to forgive that person directly in order to be restored or else you will be forever isolated? If one were to ask God to forgive them of their sins just in a general sense to restore fellowship, would they still be distant because they havenít yet forgiven that person? Any clarification on this would be great as it raises a lot of questions for me.
We should of course forgive; if we are walking in close fellowship with our Lord, this will become easier and easier, and our failures on this score will be less easy to forget or leave unaddressed. But it's not a "pins and needles" thing anymore than as if our salvation depended upon making one mistake. Jesus loves us. Whenever we don't follow what we know He wants, it does not help the relationship. We should be seeking to walk closer to Him in all things, not allowing anything to cause us to drift the slightest distance away (see the link: "Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness ").
As far as the various Popes, priests, clergy, nuns, etc are concerned, are they all truly false teachers because they teach Catholic doctrine? Many of those websites I viewed claimed that none of them could possibly be saved because they teach false doctrines. If they believe/teach Jesus is Lord and Saviour yet also teach these doctrines, does it automatically make them false teachers (not true believers) or are they simply in error? I donít have a super clear view of what a false teacher truly is as many talk the tiniest things certain preachers preach as being Ďfalseí (or debatable) and automatically label them a false teacher. There are many websites dedicated to Ďoutingí them, some examples include Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer (what is your view of women in ministry by the way?), Benny Hinn, etc, whom espouse some very problematic teachings yet also teach very orthodox teachings (Christ as Saviour, His death/resurrection, Trinity, salvation through Christ, etc.). What should one view of them?
Teachers come under a stricter accounting. They have to look after themselves. Believers are responsible to find a good source of truth. They don't have to know anything more about "wrong places" than that they are just that, so that they may keep clear. The "fruit test" is sufficient for anyone who genuinely wants to find the truth to find it and to steer clear of the opposite venues (see the link).
My very last question is about what that website author said. That if I (or anyone) believes Catholics/Orthodox as saved brothers and sisters in Christ, that I am in fact denying Christ as I am affirming their doctrines simply by accepting their acknowledgment of their faith in Christ. This is scary to me because I certainly donít ever want to deny Christ however, I also donít want to encourage false or problematic doctrine at the same time nor do I want to potentially condemn someone who is a fellow believer. I feel this is a scare tactic in a way yet, I feel there is a bit of truth to it. What are your thoughts? Do you believe I am Ďdenyingí Christ by even entertaining these thoughts? I know you said previous that having an opinion will not condemn me but, what about this?
Hopefully I am a bit clearer in this email as to some of my questions. Any sort of help you can give me would be extremely appreciated! Thanks again for taking the time to read my lengthy epistles.
This is just another sort of legalism. We are responsible to grow spiritually, not to condemn or find fault with others. People and groups who can only truly define themselves by what they are against are by definition not wholeheartedly "for" Jesus Christ and His truth. My concern for you is not that you will fail to condemn Roman Catholicism (I don't believe I have ever done so myself); rather it is that in an effort to be loving and understanding you will wrongly make excuses for people you may know who are not interested enough in Jesus Christ and in His truth to abandon that church. Whether or not they are believers, they are making their own choices. Trying to evangelize them away with dire warnings is no doubt a mistake: the problem is not the R.C. church but rather their willingness to go along with it at least to the extent of not replacing it with something good. Always be ready to give a good account of the hope based on the truth that is in you (1Pet.3:15), and try your best to set an example of uncompromised and uncompromising adherence to the truth no matter what may betide . . . in the hope that some small flickers of the flame of faith may yet be set ablaze through your example and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Apologies in advance for anything missed and for any and all typos in the above.
Your friend in the Lord Jesus Christ who is the very Truth of the Word of God incarnate.
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you for your replies. I feel much better after reading this, I definitely feel like God led me to the right person to answer my questions as I had so many unanswered questions. This has been something that has been bothering me for so long but, I feel like I have a much firmer grasp on these issues now. It's very hard knowing people who rely on certain things that I deem incorrect and what goes against what God truly wants. I certainly hope I am not trying to make excuses as to the erroneous beliefs that some of the people I love hold on to. My approach has always been to read straight from God's word and let His word speak for itself, hopefully planting some seeds in areas they may not recognize as wrong. Like I said previously, it gets complicated as the people I know from these various backgrounds (Catholic, Church of Christ, etc.) admit to believing in Christ as their Lord and Savior yet practice other beliefs that are unnecessary and burdensome. Of course I can only go by what they tell me, only God knows the heart. It's also hard because some of those beliefs are often ingrained and I feel they do start to diminish the fire they have for Christ. Everyone has a journey and I think God will work on them if they truly seek Him. I can't say they don't have a relationship at all, I just think as you said, it is very weak from the weights of these burdens set upon themselves. Anyways, I really appreciate all your help Dr. Luginbill! I will continue to look over our emails to really help set it in better, to read my Bible, and to pray about this. I don't know how but, God always gets me through these issues and I am so so grateful. I actually had another question for you but, I completely forgot what it was. I will be sure to email you about it when I remember, if you don't mind?
You're very welcome.
Feel free to write back about the lost question or whenever you want. It seems you have a good perspective on things we've been discussing.
Your friend in Jesus Christ our Lord,
I recently saw someone asking this question... "If babies haven't either accepted nor denied God, will they enter Heaven"... and I wondered what you have to say about this, I think you will probably quote scripture about children having their angels facing God in heaven, still I would like to know your views, as usual.
It's a good verse you mention! And you are of course correct: all who die without reaching an age where they can legitimately be held accountable for their eternal choice are automatically saved Ė that is only just and fair (and logical as well as theological).
While it is certainly true that salvation is through faith in Christ, it is also "by grace" (Eph.2:8-9), and it is worth asking how grace, mercy and love can be reconciled with the damnation of those who never actually had an honest chance to express their eternal choice. After all, God could have gone straight from creation to eternity and placed us in heaven and unbelievers in hell without even going through the exercise of time and history . . . if genuine free will did not matter. But it does matter Ė more than we know Ė and explains why Jesus did have to die for the sins of all mankind. That being the case, human beings are only condemned for refusing to accept Jesus as their Savior, whether overtly or, as seems to be more common, passively, allowing life to run out and never being willing to turn to God through Him. Truth be told, if they had ten thousand times ten thousand years, the decision (or lack thereof) would be the same: all who really do want to be with the Lord forever, all who are willing to grab at the chance to have a Savior, are saved. I fully expect that those who never got the chance would have taken that chance as we have, had they had it. But not having it, they most definitely are saved. That is the only way that the statement in Revelation 5:9 to the Lamb that "you purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" can be true, after all.
He said, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ĎWho knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.í But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."
2nd Samuel 12:22-23 NASB
Here are some other links where you can find more details on this:
The Age of Accountability: At what Age are we responsible for believing in Christ?
Severe Mental Handicaps Ensure Salvation
Why Doesn't God Prevent All Children from Dying?
What will our relationship be in heaven with children who died young?
Natural Revelation and Accountability
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,