Revelation 19.1-7 – Salvation, Predestination, and God’s Glory
Posted: 16 January 2012 in Revelation

And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

Amongst other things, these verses give us a reason for salvation not being universal. Namely that God’s victory over his enemies will be part of both motive and substance for the worship of God in heaven. Of course, that might give rise to the perennial complaint that predestination is unfair. But that misses the point that we were not created for our own sake, but in order to serve God’s purposes, and it also misses the point that predestination does not negate human responsibility – when we are judged we will not be able to claim that responsibility for sin is not ours. The universe was created so that God could be thereby glorified, and it is governed with that end in view. All men, all women, and all things, will serve that purpose.

Irrespective of our eternal destiny we all have an unconditional obligation to worship our creator. A refusal to do that, possibly as the result of pride, could be said to function as an indicator of whether or not somebody is amongst God’s elect. If somebody is resentful of God, who is their Lord and reigns over them, and if they steadfastly refuse him their worship, they are hardly fitted to live eternally in his presence. Although what necessarily follows is sometimes described as eternal punishment, it is really something which they will have brought upon themselves – even though it is also something preordained by God for his own glory.

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Revelation 18.14-19 – Serving God (or not).
Posted: 6 January 2012 in Revelation

“And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, And saying, Alas, alas that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city! And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.”

It might reasonably be supposed that one day a similar lament to that of the merchants will be heard from all people who have spent their lives in pursuit of material prosperity, and their own will, rather than the will of God – and of course that means everybody.

It is difficult to overstate the extent of man’s dpravity, who will always live for himself, rather than for the God who is his Lord and creator. Without Christ there could be no salvation.

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John 5.24-29 – The eternal destiny of men
Posted: 5 January 2012 in John

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

There are Christians today, who not feeling comfortable with the idea that it is the eternal destiny of some men to be destroyed, want to believe that all men will eventually be saved. I personally know a couple of people wearing clerical collars who take that view. Whilst the sentiment is understandable, it is not one which can easily be given a biblical defence – and the Bible is our only authority on these matters. Such a view regarding salvation would necessitate the belief that, for something like two thousand years, men had been misinterpreting the Bible drastically, and only within the last fifty or sixty years has its true meaning finally been established. That sounds intrinsically very unlikely. We don’t have to like it, but those who do not have faith in Christ, and perhaps even those who have never heard of Christ, cannot not be saved. Feeling uncomfortable about that does not make it legitimate for us to creatively reinterpret the Bible, or to question God’s justice and righteousness.

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John 9.6-33 – God’s Revelation and our hardness of heart
Posted: 4 January 2012 in John

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing….. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet….. Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see….. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.

This passage is a good indication of the way in which people can resist believing something they don’t want to accept, no matter what the evidence. The events related in John 9 happened at a time prior to the age of science, so the scribes and Phatisees could not come out with, “oh well, science will explain it someday,” which is an assertion regularly heard from the new atheists. The only explanation they had available to them for such a miraculous event was the direct intervention of God into history, but still they didn’t want to believe it had happened. That is what is meant by “hardness of heart,” and it is always culpable in the eyes of God, who thereby reveals his power and glory to us. We, who live after the time of Christ, and also after the time of the great prophets, have God’s revelation made available to us primarily through the scriptures. The test for us is whether we are prepared to submit ourselves to the evidences and wisdom of God contained therein, or whether we prefer our own “wisdom” and limited understanding, because some of what we read makes us feel uncomfortable. If the latter is our preference, we stand an extremely good chance of calling God a liar.

It is noticable how it is the blind man – the person who has no power or position to lose – who had no trouble in first reading the signs of the times, and then submitting himself to God. Those of us whom God has providentially maintained in a state of relative poverty (despite of our attempts to defeat his intentions) ought perhaps to be thankful to him for that. Otherwise we, who live in a state of original sin, might too easily have been seduced by the false idols of power and prestige.

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Matthew 25.31-43 and John 14.15 – Faith and Works
Posted: 3 January 2012 in John, Matthew

“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me….. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.”

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

The passage from Matthew seems to say pretty clearly that we will be judged upon the basis of our works and the kind of life we have led. At first sight that might seem to sit ill with the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Of course the difficulty is fairly superficial, and the verse from John gives a clue as to why.

To have faith in God, is also to love God, and the acid test of our love for God is the strength of our desire to obey him and keep his commandments. That desire must be real. To obey his commandments only gradgingly is not to love God. An atheist could lead a life of outstanding altruism, but he nevertheless would not be saved, because salvation is through faith in Christ alone, and by the grace of God alone. Not surprisingly, that is an idea atheists sometimes have difficulty with.

God is sovereignly free, and salvation cannot be earned. Firstly God must endow us with the gift of faith, which itself is not something which is ours to pluck out of thin air. But if we do have the gift of faith, then the strength of that faith is measured by the extent to which we willingly obey God. It is in that sense that we are judged upon the basis of our obedience, as Matt 25 suggests.

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