Mercy for all

209 mercy for allWhen on the day of mourning, on 14. September 2001, people gathered in churches throughout America and other countries, they came to hear words of comfort, encouragement, hope. However, a number of conservative Christian church leaders have unwittingly spread a message that fuels desperation, despondency, and fear, contrary to their intention to give hope to the grieving nation. For those who lost loved ones in the attack, relatives or friends who were not yet acquainted with Christ. Many fundamentalist and evangelical Christians are convinced that anyone who dies without having faith in Jesus Christ, if only because he has never heard of Christ, will go to hell after death, suffering indescribable torments - from the hand of the god, whom the same ironically Christians lead as the God of love, mercy and mercy in the mouth. "God loves you," some of us seem to say to Christians, but then comes the fine print: "If you do not speak before the death of a fundamental prayer of repentance, my merciful Lord and Savior will torture you for all eternity."

Good news

The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news (greek euangélion = happy news, message of salvation), with an emphasis on "good". It is and remains the happiest of all messages, for absolutely everyone. It is not only good news for the few who made acquaintance with Christ before death; it is good news for the whole of creation - for all human beings without exception, even those who have died without ever having heard of Christ.

Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice not only for the sins of Christians but for the whole world (1Joh 2,2). The Creator is also the reconciler of his creation (Kol 1,15-20). Whether people get to know this truth before their death does not depend on their truth content. It depends solely on Jesus Christ, not on human action or any human reactions.

Jesus says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life" (Jn 3,16, all quotes revised Luther translation, unitary edition) , It is God who loved the world, and God who gave his Son; and he gave it to redeem what he loved - the world. He who believes in the Son whom God has sent, will enter into eternal life (better: "to the life of the age to come").

With no syllable is written here that this belief must come before the physical death. No: The verse states that believers are "not lost," and as even believers die, it is obvious that "being lost" and "dying" are not one and the same. Faith prevents people from being lost but not from dying. The lostness of which Jesus speaks, translated from the Greek appolumi, denotes a spiritual death, not a physical one. It has to do with final destruction, eradication, disappearance without a trace. He who believes in Jesus will not find such an irrevocable end, but enter into life (sa) of the coming age (aion).

Some will come to life in the coming age, to the life in the realm even during their lifetime, as earth walkers. But they represent only a small minority of the "world" (cosmos) that God loved so much that he sent his son to save them. What about the rest? This verse does not say that God can not or will not save those who die physically without believing.

The idea that physical death obstructs God's ability once and for all to save someone or bring someone to faith in Jesus Christ is a human interpretation; There is nothing like that in the Bible. Rather, we are told: Man dies, and then comes the judgment (Hebr 9,27). The judge, we always want to remember, will, thank God, be none other than Jesus, the slaughtered Lamb of God who died for the sins of man. That changes everything.

Creator and reconciler

Where does the idea that God can save only the living, not the dead come from? He overcame death, did not he? He has risen from the dead, right? God does not hate the world; he loves her. He did not create man for hell. Christ came at the time to save the world, not to judge it (Joh 3,17).

On the 16. On September, the Sunday after the attacks, a Christian teacher told his Sunday school class: God is as perfect in hatred as in love, explaining why there is a hell besides Heaven. Dualism (the idea that good and evil are two equally strong opposing forces in the universe) is a heresy. Did he not notice that he is shifting dualism into God by postulating a god who carries and embodies the tension of perfect hatred - perfect love?

God is absolutely righteous, and all sinners are judged and condemned, but the gospel, the good news, opens us to the mystery that God in Christ has taken upon Himself this sin and judgment on our behalf! In fact, hell is real and terrible. But it was precisely this terrible hell reserved for the wicked that Jesus suffered on behalf of humanity (2Kor 5,21, Mt 27,46, Gal 3,13).

All men have been punished (Roman 6,23), but God gives us eternal life in Christ (same verse). That is why this is called: grace. In the chapter before, Paul puts it this way: "But it is not the same with the gift as with the sin. For when through the sin of the One the many have died [the many, that is, all, all; there is no one who does not bear Adam's guilt), how much more has God's grace and gift been abundantly given to the many by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ "(Rom 5,15).

Paul says: As hard as our sin punishment is, and it is very harsh (the judgment is in hell), it goes back behind grace and the gift of grace in Christ. In other words, God's Word of Reconciliation in Christ is incomparably louder than his damnation in Adam - one is completely drowned out by the other ("how much more"). That's why Paul can help us in 2. Corinthians 5,19 say: In Christ, "God [reconciled] the world [everyone, the 'many' of Romans 5,15] with themselves and did not expect their sins [...]"

Back to the friends and loved ones of those who have died without professing faith in Christ: does the gospel give them any hope, any encouragement, concerning the fate of their dear dead? In fact, in the Gospel of John, Jesus says in verbal speech, "And I, when I am exalted from the earth, I will draw all to me" (Jn 12,32). That's good news, the truth of the gospel. Jesus did not set a timetable, but he declared that he wanted to attract everyone, not just a few who had managed to meet him before they died, but absolutely everyone.

No wonder that Paul wrote to the Christians in the city of Colossae that God "pleased", mind you, "pleased" that through Christ "he reconciled everything with him, be it on earth or in heaven, making peace through him Blood on the Cross "(Kol 1,20). That's good news. And it is, as Jesus says, good news for the whole world, not just for a limited circle of chosen ones.

Paul wants to let his readers know that this Jesus, the Son of God raised from the dead, is not only an interesting new religious founder with some new theological thoughts. Paul tells them that Jesus is none other than the creator and preserver of all things (verse 16-17), and more than that: that he is God's way to put right absolutely everything that has been in the world since the beginning of history has failed (verse 20)! In Christ, says Paul, God is taking the ultimate step to fulfill all the promises made to Israel - promises that one day he will forgive all sins in a pure act of grace, comprehensively and universally, and make everything new (see Acts 13,32 -33; 3,20-21; Jes 43,19; Offb21,5; Rom 8,19-21).

Only the Christian

"But only Christians are meant for salvation," the fundamentalists howl. Certainly, that's right. But who are "the Christians"? Is it only those who parrot a standardized repentance and conversion prayer? Is it only the baptized by immersion? Is it only those who belong to the "true church"? Only those who gain absolution through a duly ordained priest? Only those who have stopped to sin? (Did you do that, not me?) Only those who meet Jesus before they die? Or does Jesus himself - in whose nail-pierced hands God has laid the judgment - ultimately make the decision who belongs to the circle of those to whom he pays mercy? And once he's at it, he decides who has conquered death and who can give away eternal life to whom he wants, as well as when he brings someone to faith, or we meet the all-wise defenders of the true religion , this decision in his place?
Every Christian has at some point become a Christian, that is, brought to the faith by the Holy Spirit. However, the fundamentalist position seems to be that it is impossible for God to persuade a person to believe after his death. But wait - Jesus is the one who raises the dead. And he is the one who is the atoning sacrifice, not just for our sins, but for the whole world (1Joh 2,2).

Great gap

"But the parable of Lazarus," many will object. "Does not Abraham say that between his side and the rich man's side there is a big, unbridgeable gulf?" (See Lk 16,19-31.)

Jesus did not want to understand this parable as a photographic account of life after death. How many Christians would describe heaven as "Abraham's lap," a place where Jesus is nowhere to be seen? The parable is a message to the privileged class of Judaism in the first century, not a portrait of life after the resurrection. Before we read more than Jesus put in, let's compare what Paul writes in Romans 11,32.

The rich man in the parable is still unfinished. He still sees himself as rank and class higher than Lazarus. He still sees in Lazarus only someone who is there to serve him. Perhaps it is justifiable to assume that it was the continuing unbelief of the rich that made the gap so unbridgeable, not an arbitrary cosmic necessity. Remember, Jesus Himself, and only He, closes the otherwise unbridgeable gap between our sinful state of reconciliation with God. Jesus emphasizes this point, this statement of the parable - that salvation comes only through faith in him - when he says: "If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead" (Lk 16,31).

God has in mind to lead people to salvation, not to torture them. Jesus is a reconciler, and believe it or not, he does his job well. He is the Savior of the World (Joh 3,17), not the Savior of a fraction of the world. "For God so loved the world" (verse 16) - and not just a man of a thousand. God has ways, and His ways are higher than our ways.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "Love your enemies" (Mt 5,43). It is safe to assume that he loved his enemies. Or is it to be believed that Jesus hates his enemies, but requires us to love one's enemies, and that his hatred provides the explanation that there is a hell? That would be extremely abstruse. Jesus calls us to the love of the enemy because he also owns them. "Father, forgive them; because they do not know what they are doing! "was his intercession for those who crucified him (Lk 23,34).

Certainly, those who reject Jesus' grace even after meeting them will eventually reap the rewards of their stupidity. For those who refuse to come to the Lamb's meal, there is no place but extreme darkness (one of the figurative expressions that Jesus uses to describe the state of estrangement from God, the Divine, see Matthew 22,13, 25,30).

Mercy for all

In Romans (11,32), Paul makes the amazing statement, "For God has included all in disobedience, that he may have mercy on all." In fact, the Greek original word designates all, not some, but all. All are sinners, and mercy is shown to all in Christ, whether they like it or not; whether they accept it or not; whether they experience it before death or not.

What more can one say about this revelation than what Paul says in the next verses: "O what a depth of wealth, both, wisdom and the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his dishes and unfathomable his ways! For who knew the Lord's meaning, or who was his counselor? Or, who gave him something before, that God would have to pay him back? ' Because of him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever! Amen "(verse 33-36).

Yes, so unfathomable are his ways that many of us Christians simply can not believe that the gospel can be so good. And some of us seem to know God's thought so well that we just know that anyone who is not a Christian at death is going straight to hell. Paul, on the other hand, wants to make it clear that the indescribable extent of divine grace is simply unfathomable to us - a mystery that only reveals itself in Christ: in Christ, God has done something that transcends the human horizon of knowledge.

In his letter to the Christians on Ephesus, Paul tells us that God intended this from the beginning (Eph 1,9-10). It was the deeper reason for the calling of Abraham, for the election of Israel and David, for the covenants (3,5-6). God also saves the "strangers" and non-Israelites (2,12). He even saves the godless (Rom 5,6). In the literal sense, he really draws everyone to himself (Joh 12,32). Throughout history, God's Son has been "in the background" right from the beginning, doing his redemptive work of reconciling all things with God (Kol 1,15-20). God's grace has its own logic, a logic that often seems illogical to religious-minded people.

The only way to salvation

In short, Jesus is the only way to salvation, and he absolutely draws everyone to himself - in his own way, in his time. It would be helpful to point out the fact that the human mind can not actually grasp. One can not have anywhere in the universe at all but in Christ, because, as Paul says, there is nothing that was not created by him and does not exist in him (Kol 1,15-17). The people who finally reject him do so in defiance of his love; not Jesus rejects them (he does not - he loves them, died for them and forgave them), but they reject him.

CS Lewis put it this way: "In the end, there are only two types of people: those who say to God, your will be done," and those to whom God in the end says that YOUR will is done. Whoever is in hell has chosen this fate himself. Without this self-determination, there could be no hell. No soul that strives seriously and permanently for joy will miss it. Who seeks, who finds. Anyone knocking will be opened "(The Great Divorce, 9, chapter). (1)

Heroes in hell?

As I Christians so about the meaning of the 11. Heard the preaching of September heroic firefighters and policemen who sacrificed their lives trying to save people from the burning World Trade Center. How does it agree that Christians call these rescuers heroes and applaud their sacrifice, but declare that if they have not confessed themselves to Christ before they die, they will now be tormented in hell?

The Gospel explains that there is hope for all who have died in the World Trade Center without prior confession of Christ. It is the risen Lord whom they will meet after death, and he is the judge - he, with the nail holes in his hands - eternally ready to embrace and receive all his creatures who come to him. He forgave them even before they were born (Eph 1,4, Rom 5,6 and 10). This part is done, even for us who now believe. For those who come before Jesus, all that's left is to lay their crowns before the throne and accept his gift. Some may not do it. Perhaps they are so rooted in self-love and hatred for others that they will see the risen Lord as their archenemy. This is more than a shame, that is a catastrophe of cosmic proportions, because he is not her archenemy. Because he loves her, anyway. Because he wants to assemble her in his arms like a hen chicks them if they just let him.

However, if we believe Roman 14,11 and Philipp 2,10, we can assume that the vast majority of people who died in that terrorist attack will happily rush into Jesus' arms, like children in the arms of their parents.

Jesus saves

"Jesus saves," Christians write on their posters and stickers. Right. He does it. And he is the beginner and finisher of salvation; he is the origin and goal of all creation, of all creatures, even of the dead. God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, Jesus says. He sent him to save the world (Joh 3,16-17).

Regardless of what some say, God invariably wants to save all human beings (1T in 2,4, 2Pt 3,9), not just a few. And what you still need to know - he never gives up. He never stops loving. He never stops being what he was, is and always will be for men - their creator and reconciler. Nobody falls through the net. No one has been created to go to hell. Should anyone ever go to hell - into the small, meaningless, sinister nowhere corner of the realm of eternity - then it's only because he stubbornly refuses to accept the grace God has in store for him. And not because God hates him (he does not). Not because God is vengeful (he is not). But because he hates 1) the kingdom of God and rejects his grace, and 2) because God does not want him spoiling the joy of others.

Positive message

The gospel is a message of hope for absolutely everyone. Christian preachers do not have to work with hell threats to force people to convert to Christ. You can just tell the truth, the good news: "God loves you. He is not angry with you. Jesus died for you because you are a sinner and God loves you so much that he saved you from everything that destroys you. Then why do you want to go on living as if there's nothing else than the dangerous, cruel, unpredictable and merciless world you have? Why do not you come and start to experience God's love and taste the blessings of His Kingdom? You already belong to him. He has already cashed your sins. He will turn your grief into joy. He will give you inner peace as you never knew him. He will bring meaning and orientation into your life. He will help you to improve your relationships. He will give you rest. Trust him. He is waiting for you."

The message is so good that it literally bubbles out of us. In Romans 5,10-11 Paul writes, "For if we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, when we were still enemies, how much more will we be saved by his life, now that we are reconciled. Not only that, but we also glorify God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. "

The ultimate of hope! The ultimate of grace! Through Christ's death, God reconciles his enemies and saves them by Christ's life. No wonder we can boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ - through Him we already participate in what we tell other people. They do not have to go on living as if they have no place on God's table; he has already reconciled them, they can go home, they can go home.

Christ saves sinners. That's really good news. The best that can ever be heard by man.

by J. Michael Feazell


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