Against Perseverance of the Saints

Against Perseverance of the Saints

Introduction

It is appropriate in retrospect to say that the saints have persevered, but is it appropriate to say that all saints persevere? It would be appropriate to say this with the condition that if the saint falls he gets back up and therefore was a saint at the beginning and at the end of his Christian life. There is a teaching however that says that when someone becomes a saint they cannot fall away and deny the faith or apostatize. This means that once someone becomes a saint it is guaranteed that they will persevere without condition. Adherers to this belief also believe that one becomes a saint on the basis of his initial faith in Jesus alone. Is this teaching true? Well I believe that our own experience as Christians and historic witness as evidenced in Scripture and Christian tradition prove this teaching to be false.

Christian History

If we look in Scripture we can see examples of the Apostles writing of the possibility of falling away from the faith and of them in fact guaranteeing that people will. We not only have admonition from the Apostles but also from Jesus in His teaching.  

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” 1 Timothy 4:1

 

“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.”

Romans 11:22-24

 

“As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.”        2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

 

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that was passed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “The dog turns back to its own vomit,” and, “The sow is washed only to wallow in the mud.”

2 Peter 2:20-23

 

“You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability.” 2 Peter 3:17

 

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” Hebrews 3:12

 

“For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.” Hebrews 6:4-6

“And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.”

Luke 8:13

“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” John 15:16

Not a Teaching Perpetuated by the Church

The big reason that the perseverance of the saints is categorized as a protestant teaching is because it is not the teaching of the more historic churches. John Calvin is one who is often credited with this teaching, while Luther is said not to have held to the teaching. The Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Church of the East, nor Eastern Orientals hold to this type of teaching. It can be said that it was introduced to the church and found prominence during the reformation period and following. Not only do the historic churches not hold to this, but we as Christians today also experience something in our daily lives that is much different to this teaching. What about our own Christian walk? Isn’t it true that we stumble, need repentance, and often have a hard time walking in His footsteps? Surely if it was guaranteed that we would persevere we would not have such a hard time nor would temptations ever get the better of us. After all aren’t there people out there who indeed once were in the church who now say they have renounced Christianity? 

Why do some hold to this? Tradition and Necessity

The obvious reason to why some hold to this teaching is because of their church tradition stemming back from the reformation. “Reformed” Christians such as Presbyterians and such like to hold to it because of their tradition, but a lot of people who hold to a more “faith alone” type of justification will also invoke this teaching or its similar Baptist cousin “eternal security.” Of course they say they have Scriptural proof, but we will look at this in a moment. To these evangelicals and protestants such a teaching is necessary to uphold the faith alone schema. Of course traditional Lutherans do not hold to this teaching. The other protestant and evangelical argument often is that if one did not enter Christianity on the basis of works then neither will one ever be held to the standards of works by God in order to remain a saint.

Why the Teaching is Dangerous

If the teaching is not true, which I believe it also not to be, then there is danger that comes along with such a teaching. If we are indeed judged by our works and one is instructed that they will without a doubt produce the “right works” then the motivation of some will be stunned and a false confidence will be gained. One thing to keep in mind is that those who hold to this teaching also teach that “one’s fruit” or deeds prove whether one to be a Christian or not. To some extent this is good because they will often prod each other with the idea that someone may never truly have become a Christian (which to them means genuinely have had faith in Christ) because their deeds may not be good. In one sense this is good because they are calling each other to repentance and therefore achieve a similar outcome to those who know they are not guaranteed to persevere. On the other hand they make the error that one cannot genuinely believe the Lord Jesus or His work simply because they refuse to obey Him, which is false. They have to make this error in order to show the validity of their teaching, but in doing so they simply deny the reality that one can believe in Jesus yet not obey Him or remain committed to Him. In doing so they tend to confuse one another about what it really means to have assurance and faith in God. They also reveal a hole in their own argument and show that works indeed are a necessary continuation that doesn’t just happen because one is originally justified by faith. Although many who hold to this teaching will try to patch this up by saying God makes them do the works, so they aren’t the ones actually doing them.

An Unrealistic Model

So to continue on from the last section, this teaching sets up a model that says faith is followed by guaranteed works. If there is no works then it is guaranteed there was no faith to begin with. I think this corrupts the more accurate model that says faith is to be followed by works with the help of God. If no works follow the faith then that current faith is incomplete and can be said at the time to be disingenuous because of the lack of follow through. However the initial faith or profession to Christianity does not need to be slandered or said to have been disingenuous to begin with. I can slander my own profession of faith at the present time by laziness or choice of rebellion, but those lazy actions that happen in the present are in no wise indicative of my past profession or past continuation in the faith. This does not mean that initial false professions in Jesus cannot be made and that it can never be said that one “never truly believed in Jesus.” It does mean however that this is certainly not always the answer, nor is it probably even usually the case. 

What about 1 John?

Our holy and poetic Apostle John says in his epistle that those who had gone out from them had not been of them and the proof that they were not is that they did not remain, or abide with them. So does this show John believed in this teaching? Hardly. John is the great teacher of ‘abiding in Christ.” In other words those who do Christ’s will remain in Him as he already wrote in the 15th chapter of his Gospel account and here in his own epistle. Speaking to those whom he believes to “have eternal life” and to be “born of Him” he also reminds them to continue to abide in Him so that they will not be put to shame when He comes (1 John 2:28). So looking at those whom are already abiding in Christ and therefore remaining born of him he tells them that those who left were indeed not of them, because of their current position of remaining in our Lord as opposed to the apostates position of not remaining in Christ. So no 1 John is not a good argument for this teaching, but rather the opposite; that being the necessity of remaining in Christ to attain eternal life.

Conclusion

Is the Protestant teaching of perseverance of the saints true? Not a chance. Is it harmful? Well yes it is still harmful in its efforts to give false assurance to those who are instructed to do their best to persevere until the end. One of the questions that I have for those who hold this teaching is If the church would persevere until the end how do the protestants have any justification for their claims that the church immediately became corrupted in the first place and that it needed reformed? Let us not forsake the warnings and admonitions of our Lord and of His Apostles. Instead let us continue on knowing who is worthy to be followed and who’s way it is that leads us unto Eternal Life. Continue in His ways and you will not be put to shame at His coming. 

Are we Justified by Faith Alone?

Are we Justified by Faith Alone?

Introduction

Is it possible to be saved by faith alone? Well, of course it is possible to be saved by faith alone because after all we are saved by faith in the first place. What do you mean by faith? If you mean that “faith” is an initial mental affirmation of Jesus as Lord, then okay. If by “alone” you mean that a person has to do absolutely nothing else besides express faith as outlined above, then okay. I would say that this absolutely can and does justify, initially. By initially I mean that a person at that moment indeed becomes justified outside of any other type of deed or work, this I will not deny. It is how we are justified. Now this understanding needs no further explanation or thought if only a person did not live for more than a couple of hours after his initial belief. If however like most of mankind you should find yourself to live more than a few hours then more explanation is indeed needed on the subject because we are no longer talking about “one moment”, but instead about a person’s lifetime. Faith, indeed at that moment, is achieved by the person who simply believes, but faith cannot end there if a person’s life extends beyond that point. A person’s faith must also extend. This is where works and faith work together to complete faith. Faith is not to be measured in how much a person believes or how much he once believed, but also by how much a person does with what he believes. Can someone be said to have faith in a moment where they reject to follow the Lord’s commandments? If this person refuses to be baptized, to partake of His body and blood, to continually confess his sins, and to give to his destitute brother can this person be said to be expressing faith? Hardly. It does not matter if this person initially expressed faith in our Lord because by his impenitent heart He has not maintained the completed/perfect faith which our Lord is looking for. Faithfulness is the type of faith required of us and while none of us remains faithful to our Lord at all times we are still not exonerated from this requirement, but are admonished to repent.

Abraham the Father of Faith; Positive Example

Abraham is often presented as our example by the Apostles when it comes to faith. I don’t believe you can take away the element of “works of the law” from their writings and come to a proper understanding, but for the sake of the writing at hand I will refrain from discussing this. Both Paul and James prop up Abraham as an example of justification and faith. While Paul highlights the fact that Abraham was justified by faith apart from Mosaic works, and indeed other works, it is James who says that Abraham was justified by works. James also says that we are indeed justified by works and not by faith only. Both quote the same verse about Abraham’s faith being reckoned as righteousness. So Paul highlights Abraham’s faith in God broadly apart from Mosaic works of the law and James zeroes in on the action Abraham took part in that “completed faith”. So while broadly speaking Abraham was justified by faith, James reminds us that Abraham still was justified by his deeds due to faith being completed by actions. Ultimately Abraham was justified by faith, but it cannot be said that works were excluded because it is by works that faith is made complete. As Abraham’s life extended beyond the point of his call so did his faith as is proven by his attempt at sacrificing Isaac.

Unbelieving/Unfaithful Israel; Negative Example

The negative example that we have in Scripture concerning “faith” is Israel. Israel is a people group that was chosen and elect by God to be His servants on the Earth. Through their disobedience Paul says in Romans that they were unfaithful/unbelieving. Scripture often connects the idea of faith with obedient action and connects the opposite of faith, I.E. unbelief, with disobedient action. Through their rejection of Jesus, their unbelief, those of Israel had fallen yet those outside Israel who believed were grafted in to the promises of God. The warning that Paul gives to the church to those who have indeed had initial faith is that they needed to continue in God’s kindness so that they themselves might not fall. If simply believing in Jesus one time was enough for someone to be considered justified “forever” and without works then what exactly is Paul warning the church for? He is warning them to continue in God’s kindness of living under the teachings and practices given to the church. It continues to stand to reason that a working faith is needed to justify. Israel, speaking corporately, has failed time and time again. Yet there were those who didn’t and we also won’t fall if we continue in His teachings.

So what’s the big deal?

Many Protestants who hold to the inappropriate version of “faith alone” would agree with a lot that is written here. They do indeed believe works plays a role in salvation, however not as expressed above. For Protestants faith is something that is totally separated from works. Works are often described as something that comes from faith rather than something that works with and completes faith. Where the understanding above differs from the Protestant one is the idea of what follows faith. Ideally yes good works always follow faith. Is this always the case? Certainly not. Should it be? Certainly, but it is not true that just because someone has initial faith it means they will complete it with good works. Protestants have come up with new ideas which assert that if someone claims to have faith, but does not have works they were never truly a believer. The nuance is that they lied about having initial faith in Jesus and that is the reason they did not persevere in good works. The truth is that we can all have initial faith in our Lord Jesus as King, but still fall and turn away from Him by denying Him both in word and deed. James does not make the argument that faith follows works, but rather that works complete faith. This contentious matter is one of the big ones that remains a stumbling block for Protestants to enter into historic Christianity.

Then What must I do?

The obvious answer for someone looking to enter into the Kingdom of Righteousness is to have faith in our Lord Jesus. Only do not let your faith be in word only. Let it be something that continues on seeking to fulfill every teaching and practice of the church. Love Jesus and fulfill His commandments. Get Baptized, engage in the sacraments, help your brother, and anything else our Lord requires of us may you also be at work doing. While Protestants may misplace the idea of works, many still believe that works function somewhere in salvation. They believe that “a true believer” is shown to be one by his works. While the church has not affirmed their nuance of “works always following faith” the church has indeed also said that “true faith” is accomplished in action. Faith is something we continue to participate in and not something we “once did” only. If we say we are justified by faith alone then let it be a penitent, continuing faith that seeks His kingdom until the end. Remembering that He will judge us all according to our works and also that He has mercy on all the penitent let us continue on for Him.

*Disclaimer*

To be fair when I mention “Protestants” I am speaking of a large group of people who hold different understandings from one another. Some Lutherans may look at some of what I portrayed as a Protestant belief and affirm it, while denying other parts of what I presented. The same with Evangelicals and other Protestants.

Roman Catholic Response to the Reformation (Council of Trent)

The Response of the Roman Catholic Church to the Protestants on Justification (The Council of Trent on Justification)

Introduction

Protestant and evangelical churches have ideas on justification that greatly differ from those of their Roman Catholic and Orthodox counterparts. Being that the Protestants broke from Roman Catholicism it is necessary to look at the early response of the Roman Catholic Church to get a better understanding of the great difference of understanding on this topic. This article is set out to show the early response of the Roman Catholic Church to the Protestant’s asserted beliefs on justification.

Faith Alone

One of the biggest pillars of the Protestant understanding of justification is the teaching of faith alone. The idea that Christians are justified by faith is not a new teaching, nor is the understanding that Christians are justified by faith alone (Canon 9). The details and conclusions of how one is justified by faith alone as asserted by the Protestants is one that is indeed incompatible with the prior understandings of the faith, which is not confidence alone (Canon 12). Also the idea that one must adhere to faith alone in faith alone or be absolutely sure he is justified in order to be justified is also condemned (Canons 13 and 14).

Selected Canons

Canon ix. If any one shall say, that by faith alone the impious is justified; so as to mean that nothing else is required to co-operate in order unto the obtaining the grace of justification, and that it is not in any respect necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

Canon xii. If any one shall say, that justifying faith is nought else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or that it is this confidence alone by which we are justified; let him be anathema.

Canon xiii. If any one shall say, that it is necessary unto every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any hesitation arising from his own infirmity and indisposition, that his sins are remitted unto him; let him be anathema.

Canon xiv. If any one shall say, that man is absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself to be absolved and justified; or that no one is truly justified save he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are perfected; let him be anathema.

Predestination

Canons 15 and 17 due away with the introduction of reformed predestination. That is the ideas that God predestined evil and good for those whom He chose to receive grace and not to receive respectively and that those who have faith are to be confirmed that they are of this type of predestinate.

Selected Canons

Canon xv. If any one shall say, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinated; let him be anathema.

Canon xvii. If any one shall say, that the grace of justification only befalleth those who are predestined unto life; but that all others who are called, are called indeed, but receive not grace, as being, by the divine power, predestined unto evil; let him be anathema.

Free will and Total Depravity

Canons 4, 5, and 6 condemn the idea that free will is entirely done away with from Adam’s fall and that man’s free will does not co-operates with God to receive justification.

Selected Canons

Canon iv. If any one shall say, that the free will of man moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates to the end that it should dispose and prepare itself for obtaining the grace of justification; and that it cannot refuse consent, if it would, but that, like something inanimate, it does nothing whatever, and is merely in a passive state; let him be anathema.

Canon v. If any one shall say, that, since Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with a name only, yea, a title without a reality, a figment, in fine, brought into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema.

Canon vi. If any one shall say, that it is not in the power of man to make his ways evil, but that God worketh the works that are evil as well as those that are good, not by permission only, but properly, and of Himself in such wise that the treason of Judas be no less His own proper work than the calling of Paul; let him be anathema.

Perseverance of the Saints

The idea introduced to the church that everyone who receives the grace of justification will indeed persevere unto the end and not fall away from the faith is condemned by canons 23 and 26. Canon 24 does away with the idea that good works are a “fruit” of faith only. It is said to build up the faith he has and is necessary.

Selected Canons

Canon xxiii. If any one shall say, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, throughout his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial, except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds respecting the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema.

Canon xxiv. If any one shall say, that the justice received is not preserved, and also increased in the sight of God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of justification received, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

Canon xxvi. If any one shall say, that the just ought not, for their good works which have been done in God, to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God, through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if they persevere unto the end in well doing and in keeping the divine commandments; let him be anathema.

Conclusion

No matter what sect of Christianity one finds himself to be in I believe this information is helpful for the understanding of early Protestant and Catholic relations on the theology of justification. There are other canons on the topic of justification and one can read, as I have, the Council of Trent’s canons here.

(Musings) On Original Sin

(Musings) On Original Sin

Ancestral sin or Original sin is the title of the teaching that refers back to man’s downfall and the welcoming of sin into the world by man. Christianity has affirmed the teaching since its beginning. Judaism also has had those who have affirmed the general tenets of the teaching in the times before Christ as evidenced by several Jewish apocryphal sources and in the commentaries of the Babylonian Talmud. While Christianity has long held to the idea of original sin it has not always been in unison about some of the details. What has generally been agreed upon is this

*Adam and Eve, the first two people, sinned against God by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil

*Their action was the origin of sin in man and on Earth

*They brought an alteration of their being and death upon themselves and to all of their descendants

*Mankind is corporately considered to be “in sin” or “sinners”

*Original sin must be dealt with by the grace of God in Christ; historically understood as not only through Christ’s death and resurrection, but also through an individual’s baptism.

Generally this is affirmed by all sects of Christianity, although some Protestants may object to part about baptism. While the teaching of Original sin is somewhat of a small master piece of intellectual systemization, the reality of its existence is a bitter realization. The fact that this is real, even though atoned for by our Lord Jesus, is still a sad reality. When broken down simply as I have done above curiosity is bound to bubble. This is what I mentioned earlier about the “details” of this teaching. In this article I would like present what my current understanding is on the first listed tenet. I have change my opinion on this subject several times and consider myself to be growing in knowledge and curiosity of this grand subject so do not consider my thoughts to mean too much.

Examining the Fruit

One of the things that I have been most curious about concerning this subject is what ability this fruit had for mankind. In retrospect Adam, his wife, and all of us as his decedents are in possession of the ability granted by the fruit. “Knowledge of good and evil”. Did Adam and Eve really have no concept of good or evil? Could they really not tell the two apart? What does “good” and “evil” even mean from the standpoint of the author of Genesis and what does it mean from the standpoint of God?

I believe that they both did know good from evil before they took of the tree. I think what was granted them upon eating was a widened imagination. To have a greater imagination of good and evil from within themselves. I think the main problem was that in the state they were in, and as we are in today, they were unable to handle or control this new ability. As we are we cannot handle this imagination that is plenteous in both good and evil. One of the greatest and obvious consequences of this new ability is our sin. While some are more proactive in sin than others, we all are guilty of sin. The original sin committed by our first parents has put us on the path to sin. This isn’t to say that we are totally sinful or only sinful.  What is sin and how does this ability cause us to sin? I think sin is disharmony of God’s desire. It is our actions that are contrary to what God wants us to do.

I hope to touch more on this subject of sin in the future. I believe this ability causes us to sin because our imagination is so widened that our current state is not powerful enough to totally overcome the desire we incur on our individual imaginations. In other words we cannot control ourselves. While we can control ourselves to a certain extent and grow in temperance, especially through the grace of God poured out in Christ, we still are unable to fully live complete and perfect to God. We are like children given one of a mature adult’s capabilities. Having only one mature ability does not make one mature. A mature adult has multiple things working together to make himself a whole man. A child who has one mature capability is not only immature, but he is also unable to properly function as the person he is. He is corrupted and unfortunately he will not mature, but will die before adulthood because he could not function properly in the state he was in. Thus like a disobedient child man has taken for himself something that wasn’t good for him and that he was not ready for. The result is His death.

Is All of Humanity Worthy of Eternal Judgement?

Is all Humanity Worthy of Eternal Judgement?

Does Paul teach that all humans are deserving of eternal punishment because of the original sin of Adam? This is the predominant thought of Christianity in the west, but I don’t believe it is so of Christians in the East. The thought that God has burning anger within Himself for all people which is only quenchable by eternal torment is often backed up by Paul’s teaching in Romans chapter 5, 6, and 1 Corinthians 15. So does this teaching stand the test of clear exegesis? Are all men worthy of eternal wrath in the lake of fire?

 

Romans  5:12-17 NET

“So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world, but there is no accounting for sin when there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed. But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many! And the gift is not like the one who sinned. For judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift from the many failures led to justification. For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!”

 

Here in Romans 5 we don’t see Paul make any mention of “the lake of fire” or eternal death, but just simply death. Paul is teaching that death has been around from the beginning, even before the Law of Moses, because of the sin of Adam. That’s it. We see death reigning in humanity, but we don’t see eternal condemnation being taught as man’s reward for Adam’s sin.

Romans 6:23
“For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Again no mention of eternal torment seen here. We only see that God judges mankind with death initially, but believers are freed from death and instead live forever; have eternal life.”



1 Corinthians 15:20-23

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man.  For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him.”

 

Just like in Romans 5 Paul is contrasting Adam to Jesus. In Adam all die and in Jesus all live. He does not say that in Adam all are condemned to eternal torment, but death only. This death that Jesus frees humanity from is done away with when He returns, before the great judgment.

 

Conclusion

While the teaching of eternal punishment for the wicked is a true teaching, the teaching that all humanity is worthy of eternal punishment is not. Paul teaches in Romans and 1 Corinthians that Death is what all humanity inherits from Adam and not Adam’s personal guilt. God judges every man according to His deeds and He will give everyone what they deserve for what they have done on the final day.

3 Considerations to Make before Jumping to a Conclusion on Predestination

Another Perspective on Predestination

The Scriptural teaching of predestination has led Christians to a few different positions. It can be difficult at times to first grasp this concept and what it really means. Does God make people follow His will and believe on Jesus? Do people have a choice in the matter on whether they can be saved? Is there another way we should understand this? Whatever way you pick let your conclusion be because of the Scriptures in honest attempt to understand them. For those struggling on this issue and even for those who have made up their mind I hope you will consider these three things that relate to the teaching of predestination as found in the Bible.

 

1. Our justification comes by God’s grace; which is Jesus’ faithfulness

Grace has been used and abused. Many in Christendom will acknowledge this, but many themselves are actually guilty of a different facet of this abuse that they probably haven’t thought about. When it comes to inheriting the promises of God concerning salvation such as entering the kingdom there are two principles that we have to work with. That is God’s works and our works. God’s work is making the promises and making them available while our work is aligning ourselves with that promise for the purpose of inheriting it. Many Evangelicals and Protestants tend to morph the two when it comes to God’s grace. I say God’s work in salvation is His grace, while our work in aligning ourselves with the promise is not God’s grace. In evangelicalism the two principals work like this:

  1. The Gospel/Jesus’ atonement (God’s Grace)

       2. Mankind accepting/having faith in Jesus to inheriting the promises (Also God’s Grace)

For me I see it pretty much the same way, except I would have a different understanding of faith as faithfulness. Either way when evangelicals approach this model they are keen to say that both are God’s grace when in most cases in Scripture the first only is applied as God’s grace. Practically speaking evangelicals often make our “faith” as a means of grace when really the only means of grace that God gives is that He first and fore mostly desired to give mankind the future kingdom and made it available by the work of Jesus. So consider this when reading portions of Scripture that deal with God’s grace. Entrance into the kingdom is not a divine right, but is an act of grace and mercy from God, which He completed through the faithfulness of Jesus.

 

2. People, a kingdom, and a King are predestined

The second thing to remember is that while people are predestined to God’s kingdom, so is its King and its existence. I think the authors of Scripture are clear in portraying that the way in which people are predestined by God is through His will in desiring them to enter. Then individuals placing themselves of their own free will into that position to inherit the promises. Many will say that because God predestined people to the kingdom that proves God’s determination in practice, i.e. that God makes people practice the things which will guarantee their salvation. In other words God makes people have faith and causes them to persevere in the Christian religion and in this way they were predestined. My point for this section is this. If predestination immediately means determined practice, then in what way did God manipulate Jesus in becoming King and in what way did He manipulate the inanimate kingdom into coming into existence. When we come to a conclusion based on one word we are missing some steps. What does the fact that other things in the Bible are mentioned as predestined do for our understanding of a predestined people? 

 

3. The means by which we align ourselves to the promise is determined by God in philosophy, but not in practice.

I touched on this in the last point, but I will briefly reiterate this here. When reading passages of Scripture that discuss the topic of predestination remember that predestination does not always mean determined practice. Predestination can also mean determined desire. We know that in God’s love He desires all to be saved, but we also know that in His sovereignty He does not accomplish the salvation of all men. So if God predestines the kingdom and wants all to enter, but some forfeit their chance of entering in because of unfaithfulness, then we see that God’s predestination does not extend to practice. Only the elect, that is those who are faithful to Jesus and God, are spoken of in context as being the ones whom will receive salvation as the predestined ones.  So the philosophy of who will inherit the Kingdom is determined by God, but the individual practice of that philosophy is not orchestrated by God. God determines what must be done and in this way is sovereign, but He does not force or determine individual compliance to this philosophy.

 

What God does:

Make the way for mankind (Jesus) à Determine what mankind must do in response to this to inherit the blessing

What man does

Considers the commands of God -> Makes the choice of obedience or disobedience-> Enters or fortifies the Kingdom

Conclusion

So when considering the different approaches to the Scriptural teaching of predestination consider first these three principals.

  1. God’s grace is His own mercy in wanting to give us these salvation promises
  2. People are not the only thing predestined in Scripture and that should make us consider some things.
  3. Predestination and election do not immediately equal manipulated practice.

Remember to come to the conclusion on your own. Don’t ever allow a leading theology book, teacher, or anyone else bully you into an unconvincing position. God’s peace.

The False Dichotomy of Faith and Works (Part 3)

Early Theologians

In the last two parts of this series I have tried to introduce the reader to two commonly overlooked factors concerning salvation. The first is that God brought about the promised blessings by first promising them according to His will and then fulfilling it in the faithfulness of Jesus’ atonement as a man. The second commonly overlooked factor is that human faith and works are not at odds with each other as faith should be understood as a righteous disposition.

We shouldn’t understand early Christians to be just as authoritative as the Apostles of our Lord Jesus, but there are good reasons to value what they say and what their understanding on a matter was. I have selected just one passage from three different early Christians to help the reader understand how these authors understood salvation and to help him understand that these views were in fact present in the first century. I have chosen some of the oldest Christian writings we have whose authors are termed as Apostolic Fathers. I have chosen Ignatius, Clement, and Polycarp. These three men are termed apostolic fathers not only because they lived in the times of Apostles, but because they also had a personal relationship with them. Both Polycarp and Ignatius are recorded as disciples of the Apostle John. Clement is known to have worked personally with the Apostle Paul. Check out what these three have to say below.

Ignaitus

Epistle of Ignaitus to the Ephesians 14

 

“None of these things is hid from you, if ye perfectly possess that faith and love towards Christ Jesus which are the beginning and the end of life. For the beginning is faith, and the end is love. Now these two, being inseparably connected together, are of God, while all other things which are requisite for a holy life follow after them. No man [truly] making a profession of faith sinneth; nor does he that possesses love hate any one. The tree is made manifest by its fruit; so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognized by their conduct. For there is not now a demand for mere profession, but that a man be found continuing in the power of faith to the end.

Wherefore none of the devices of the devil shall be hidden from you, if, like Paul, ye perfectly possess that faith and love towards Christ which are the beginning and the end of life. The beginning of life is faith, and the end is love. And these two being inseparably connected together, do perfect the man of God; while all other things which are requisite to a holy life follow after them. No man making a profession of faith ought to sin, nor one possessed of love to hate his brother. For He that said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” said also, “and thy neighbour as thyself.” Those that profess themselves to be Christ’s are known not only by what they say, but by what they practice. “For the tree is known by its fruit.”

Ignatius points out that faith in regards to Christians is that of action and loyalty to God and Jesus. Their faith is not something recognized by word only, but also by conduct.

Clement

1 Clement 31-32   

 

CHAPTER 31

31:1 Let us cleave, therefore, to his blessing, and let us see what are the ways of blessing. Let us consult the records of the things that happened from the beginning.

31:2 On what account was our father Abraham blessed? Was it not that he wrought righteousness and truth through faith?

31:3 Isaac, with confidence, knowing the future, willingly became a sacrifice.

31:4 Jacob, with humility, flying from his brother, went out from his own land and journeyed unto Laban and served as a slave, and there were given unto him the twelve tribes of Israel.

CHAPTER 32

32:1 If any one will consider these things with sincerity and one by one, he will recognize the magnificence of the gifts that were given by him.

32:2 For from Jacob came the priests and all the Levites that serve the altar of God. From him came our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh; from him came the kings and rulers and governors of the tribe of Judah; and the remainder of his tribes are of no small glory, since God hath promised, Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.

32:3 All these, therefore, have been glorified and magnified, not through themselves or through their works, or through the righteousness that they have done, but through his will.

32:4 And we who through his will have been called in Christ Jesus are justified, not by ourselves, or through our wisdom or understanding or godliness, or the works that we have done in holiness of heart, but by faith, by which all men from the beginning have been justified by Almighty God, to whom be glory world without end. Amen.]

If one was to take the modern understanding of soteriology and apply it to this author it would be impossible for this writer to not be contradicting himself from the first chapter to the next. He says in the first chapter that Abraham and others received the blessings by working righteousness through faith. Then in the next chapter he says that righteous works were not the reason they were magnified with the blessings, but rather they were magnified because of God’s will. He then immediately equates justification through “Jesus, God, and faith”. Therefore this author understands that the “faith” that justifies is through “Almighty God.” In this he is in full accordance with James chapter 2 and Hebrews 11.

Polycarp

Polycarp to the Philippians 1:1-3/2:1-2  

Chapter 1

“I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because ye have followed the example of true love [as displayed by God], and have accompanied, as became you, those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord; and because the strong root of your faith, spoken of in days long gone by, endureth even until now, and bringeth forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death, [but] “whom God raised from the dead, having loosed the bands of the grave.” “In whom, though now ye see Him not, ye believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory;” into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that “by grace ye are saved, not of works,” but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.”

Chapter 2

“Wherefore, girding up your loins,” “serve the Lord in fear” and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and “believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory,” and a throne at His right hand. To Him all things in heaven and on earth are subject. Him every spirit serves. He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead. His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him. But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; “not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing,” or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching: “Judge not, that ye be not judged; forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you; be merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again;” and once more, “Blessed are the poor, and those that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”

In the first chapter it is clear that Polycarp did believe that salvation was by grace and not by works. In saying that it is not by works he understands that it is “by the will of God through Jesus Christ.” Then in the next chapter he affirms that Christians will receive the promise “if we do His will, and walk in His commandments.” It’s interesting to note that he did not believe that this contradicted the Scriptures he quoted concerning “believing in Jesus”. So again we see another early Christian affirming that God’s grace is equated with God giving up Jesus and that the response of the Christian should be good works to enter into the promised blessings.

 

Conclusion

So in this series I hope to introduce the reader to another way of understanding the teaching of salvation as presented by the Apostles and authors of Scripture. I hope the reader will understand that the promises of God in salvation did not come about by either human faith or works, but instead by God’s desire in promising it and His faithfulness in fulfilling it through Jesus’ atonement. I also hope the reader understands that faith is more of a loyal disposition rather than a mental assent and is not at odds with good works at all. Questioning this perspective is good, but do know that early Christians seem also to have had this perspective as well. I hope to have demonstrated this well in this last part of the series.

All Church Father qoutes were taken from “Ante-Nicene Fathers” by Philip Schaff. “ANFO1”. Accesed through CCEL.org
https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01

 

Part 1

Part 2

The False Dichotomy of Faith and Works (Part 2)

Another Perspective on Romans and Galatians

In Evangelical circles it is a staple to make sure that you teach people that “salvation” is by faith and not by works. Paul’s contrast in both Romans and Galatians is the foundation for this mantra. Evangelical theologians are wrong however in how they both understand and teach this teaching of Paul. It is often taught that Paul is contrasting what actions we have do in order to receive “salvation” in certain proof texts found within Romans and Galatians. Unfortunately it is better understood that Paul is actually explaining how “salvation” or mankind’s rescue has come about. Paul in Romans and Galatians is hammering away-with a common thought in the early church. That thought was the understanding that the Mosaic Law is a necessary add on for the Christian life. Paul in Romans and Galatians destroys this argument by comparing the Mosaic Law to the faithfulness of Jesus. Its Paul’s understanding that the Mosaic Law is not necessary in order to receive the great blessings God has in store for humanity and that by Jesus’ faithfulness God brought about His original promise of eternal life and resurrection. God’s righteousness or the fulfilment of His promise are not through (Mosaic) works, but by Jesus’ faithfulness (works). It’s also not by our own deeds that the promise is coming, but rather by God’s grace through Jesus only. So establishing that Moses, lineage, and works are not the way the great promise was fulfilled we understand that it is by God’s grace in Jesus that brings the promise about. This is about how the promise comes and not to whom the promise blessing is applied to. Whom then will receive the promise of Eternal Life according to Paul?

“For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”

Romans 1:17 NET

and again he says

“He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness. There will be affliction and distress on everyone who does evil, on the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, for the Jew first and also the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”

Romans 2:6-11 NET

"By Faith Alone" Usurping "By Jesus Alone"

In an attempt to be faithful in Scriptural teaching many have not only misunderstood Paul in Romans and Galatians, but they also have become guilty of purporting a real works based salvation. The way that many define faith really categorizes it as an action even though they refuse to admit the obvious. When this action of human faith replaces the faith(fulness)of God through Jesus, then works based salvation has become perfected by Evangelical theologians. Some Evangelical and Protestant theologians are hopeful in concreting this belief by the means of the theological system of individual determinism, also know to many as Calvinism. However human faith is not in view in regard to the righteousness of God in these specific contexts as previously mentioned of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians chapter 2. Therefore trying to mask away works based salvation by saying God gives humans the expression of faith is not a viable solution to keep the new system. So to continue on Paul is arguing that the promise of God is by His grace through the faithfulness of Jesus. In regards to how to inherit the promise He gives the illustration of Abraham who received the promise long ago. By use of this illustration Paul declares that one must do what Abraham did and exercise faithfulness to God. This is the condition Abraham was in when he received the promise. This is to fit in line with how he started the book of Romans declaring that “The righteous will live by (God’s) faith(fulness)” and also that the Mosaic Law can not “justify.” 

Part 3 Early Church Theologian’s Understanding of Faith and Works

The False Dichotomy of Faith and Works (Part 1)

The False Dichotomy of Faith and Works (Part 1)

Is Salvation by Faith or by Works?

Christians certainly have great promises from God such as resurrection from the dead, eternal life, and entrance to an eternal, peaceful kingdom. So how does one become the type of person that God will allow entrance into this kingdom and what must he do? A lot of controversy today is centered on “faith” vs “works”. Those who take a strong faith alone approach practically teach that God cannot be pleased with anyone’s good deeds, or works, in the context of it being a means by which someone receives entrance into the kingdom. They major on the idea that faith is a mental action and practically speaking is simply you affirming God’s truth about Jesus in the Gospel. Good works are affirmed to be pious and good by those who take this approach, however works are taught to “come from faith” and are to be considered in a totally separate category from faith. For those who take a strong works approach the idea that is taught is that those who do God’s will and work righteousness are those whom God will bless with entrance. Faith is understood not as a onetime event in your mind, but rather a lifestyle of faithfulness to God. So who is right if either is right? Here are my thoughts for those to consider.

 

Back to the Basics

The resurrection of the dead first and fore mostly did not come by either man’s faith or man’s works. What often gets lost in this grand topic is what I would call the basics of salvation. The most basic thing that people forget is that the great promises did not come by either mankind’s works or by his faith. God has decided to give humanity eternal life, resurrection from the dead, and entrance into the kingdom because of His own desire. We do not annul death by basic human right, but rather by God’s grace in wanting death to be annulled. “Salvation” is totally by God’s grace in this sense and it is not by works or faith of a person. The second and most basic thing that often gets overlooked is that God chose to bring about the resurrection of the dead by the faithfulness of Jesus. The Scriptures attest many times of God’s grace in delivering up Jesus and that by Jesus’ faithfulness to God in His atonement mankind can therefore have eternal life. So to sum to this section I say that part of the reason that this topic gets so complicated is because people forget that God’s grace in Jesus is the first and foremost reason why humanity will receive the great promises in the first place.

Who Recieves the Promise?

Many will say, “Of course we believe it is by Jesus, but what must we do in order to be considered those who will receive the promises?” This is a good question because after all while all will be resurrected not all will be allowed entrance into the eternal kingdom. So then what must one do or not do to be allowed entrance into the kingdom? Well a strong theme in Scripture is that in “the end”, at the final judgment, everyone will be judged by God according to their works and receive what they deserve for what they have done. Those whose lives are categorized by disobedience and evil works will be judged with eternal punishment. So we know from these themes in Scripture that God chooses to bless the obedient but the disobedient He curses. So then what of faith? If we understand faith to be a disposition of loyalty rather than simply a onetime belief then the false dichotomy of faith vs works seems to melt away. So a person’s faith or faithfulness is made up of works therefore it is not a question of which is it, but rather what is faith in the first place? Click here to see my article for why faith should be understood as a disposition of loyalty.

Click here for Part 2

Mankind’s Rescue

Mankind’s Rescue

Introduction:

My understanding of Mankind’s Rescue comes from an honest and accepting view of all Scriptural themes, especially those regarding salvation. There are many themes that seem to overshadow others in common theologies in our day and I hope in my understanding to allow all themes to work togehter without the need of explaining any away.

 

What is it? Resurrection and eternal life on the New Earth

How will it come? Well it was promised to the fathers long ago and it was eventually fulfilled and made ready by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Now we wait for God to resurrect all mankind, exercise judgment on the wicked, and live out our new life.

A variable; the judgment? Now because of the refusal of some to repent and live in obedience there will be a great judgment at the end. The wicked will be punished for their deeds with eternal punishment while the righteous and repentant will be blessed with entrance into God’s kingdom.

Statement

The First Promise; Death:

One of humanity’s greatest plagues is death. Our family dies, our friends die, we ourselves die–everybody dies. Death is something humanity dreads the most, but there is no escape from it. In the beginning when God created Adam and Eve, He gave them a commandment not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were both eventually persuaded to eat from the tree. As a result both were punished with the promise of death. God’s promise eventually came upon them as it does with all of their descendents. Humanity has been cursed by God with death and apart from His will there is no way of returning to life. Fortunately by His mercy He has promised humanity forgiveness of sin and eternal life through Jesus of Nazareth.

The Other Promise; Resurrection and Eternal Life:

God decided that He would use the Son of Man, Jesus, to accomplish His promise of Eternal Life. God sent Jesus into the world as a human to be martyred by sinners and to be the first person to resurrect to eternal life.  The death that humanity undergoes and endures without end will be taken away. When Jesus returns He will resurrect all who have ever lived and no one will ever have to die again. Following the resurrection all mankind will undergo divine decision and Jesus will determine what people should get for what they have done. The faithful and righteous will be rewarded with living forever with God on the New Earth. They will co rule with Jesus as God had before ordained for the righteous to enjoy. The unfaithful and wicked will be tormented in eternal punishment as they serve as a spectacle of God’s punishment for unfaithfulness. The righteous will never have to worry about death nor will they ever have to worry about any kind of rebellion ever again. All mankind will be rescued from death and the faithful will enjoy the gracious blessings that God gives to those who are faithful to Him.

Explained

Concerning Death as Humanity’s Problem:

In the beginning when God first promised, and then executed death for Adam and Eve as a punishment for their rebellion, He did so in a way that causes their offspring to undergo the same judgment they did. Death has obviously been something that no one can escape and apart from the specific cases of Enoch, Elijah, and those whom Scripture witnesses as having undergone temporary resurrection there has been no escape from death. Now death is the separation of one’s life and control from their body. The authors of Scripture believed that a person’s soul goes to death, which in Hebrew and Greek are called Sheol and Hades respectively. In older English usage death would be understood by the term hell. In death there is a believed to be a separation of the righteous and unrighteous, but it is always understood that no matter the character of a man he still will end up in death.

Concerning God’s Promise of Humanity’s Resurrection:

It is unknown when God first promised mankind the resurrection from the dead. Genesis records a prophecy of a child from Eve squashing the head of death’s progenitor, the Serpent. The Apocalypse of Moses, a text that covers the supposed content of Adam and Eve’s interaction with God, claims God first promised the resurrection to Adam. 1 Enoch, a text believed by Jude and some of the early church to have been written by Enoch himself, claims that God revealed to Enoch the resurrection from the dead. In regard to the Protocanon, or Protestant canon of Scripture, the resurrection of the dead is seemingly understood by David. He writes that God “will not leave my soul in Sheol/Death” and the sons of Korah say the same thing in the 49th psalm. Daniel prophecies of the resurrection of the dead when at that time the righteous and unrighteous will be given what they deserved for what they done in their lives. 1st and 2nd Maccabees give witness of those who would rather be slaughtered in righteousness rather than obey the wickedness of Antiochus. They did this in order that they might attain to the resurrection and reward for the righteous. Jesus witnesses at various times His own involvement in the future resurrection including Him being the one who resurrects the dead. He even argues from the burning bush experience that Moses had that God had always witnessed to the resurrection from the dead. He is witnessed as saying this various times in the Gospel accounts. Paul understands that the resurrection is the hope of the fathers fulfilled in Jesus as he is witnessed various times in the book of Acts as having believed. Throughout Paul’s Epistles he reminds those of the resurrection and rebukes those who didn’t believe it. The Apostle John eventually receives ‘the Revelation” in which he receives a vision as to what the end and resurrection will be like. It’s my understanding that the entirety of Scripture speaks of a future and promised resurrection.

Concerning God’s chosen prerequisite for the Resurrection:

The resurrection of the dead is presented as being possible only first by God’s grace in wanting to give it. Secondly the resurrection from the dead is presented as being fulfilled in Jesus. The first concept is understood by the Apostle’s use of God’s “grace” and “mercy” as they relate to eternal life and the resurrection. The second concept is understood by the Apostle’s usage of the concept of “the promise through Jesus” and Jesus’ own teachings concerning Himself as being the giver of life. Also concerning this second concept it has been revealed that God would not resurrect mankind unless His chosen prerequisite was fulfilled. This prerequisite is the martyrdom and resurrection of Jesus. God decided that the prerequisite for lifting death off humanity would be this. It would be after this that God would decide that He would give mankind resurrection and eternal life. Jesus was given as atonement for mankind and in His resurrection He sits seated beside God ready to resurrect at the time God appoints. The prerequisite can be summed up simply as the faithfulness of Jesus.

Concerning the good things predestined; The Gospel

  • Kingdom
  • King (Son of Man revealed)
  • Co-heirs in the kingdom (Meek inheriting the Earth/ Righteous Vindicated)
  • Forgiveness of Sins (Adamic for all and individual for the repentant)
  • Resurrection
  • Eternal Life

Kingdom: The Kingdom of God is a universal rulership that is run by God through Jesus on Earth. Its citizens are those who have done good deeds, been persecuted, and have been faithful to God.

King: The office of king is the blessing for God’s greatest beloved Jesus. The Son of Man will rule over all at His coming, judge the wicked, and hand the kingdom over to the Father. God has put Jesus in charge and made Him the ruler over all.

Co-heirs and Co-rulership: Jesus allows His brothers and sisters to take part in having authority on the earth in God’s kingdom.

Forgiveness of sins: The first man, Adam, is regarded as the progenitor of human sin and because all humanity descends from him they share in his punishment; death. This sin will be forgiven and the punishment will be lifted.

The great promises that God had given to the fathers are listed above. Now mainly what is emphasized by the authors of Scripture in this list of promises is the resurrection and giving of eternal life. The rest of the promises kind of center around these or stem from these.

To start out all these things are happening on the earth and for a person to experience it they must first be alive. Death is done away with at the time when these promises are fulfilled and the life of that person goes on forever. Now in order for there to be a resurrection there must be someone who revives. As time has gone on and God revealed more and more of what He would do He revealed that the Son of Man would be the one who revives. Jesus came as the Son of Man and taught that God had given Him the power to give life just as the Father gives life from within Himself. Now when the righteous are resurrected they will find themselves within a new kingdom or community. In this community, God and Jesus are king and are the center of both all authority and life. The fellow residents within the kingdom are those who share a like character. That character trait is righteousness and obedience to God. The residents are the brethren who have lived in righteousness from all generations. These residents will enjoy a multiplicity of gifts and blessings which God will give according to His grace. These gifts have yet to be seen or known. One thing that Jesus has revealed is that He will share His ruling of the Earth with His brethren. Humanity awaits the sure mercy and grace of its God and the righteous do so in faithfulness both in word and deed.

Concerning the Judgment

Before these great gifts are given to the faithful there is one other promised event. This event is the final judgment of God. At the final judgment the faithless, rebellious, and persecutors of the faithful from all generations will be punished on account of their deeds. They will be made into an eternal spectacle and undergo eternal punishment according to the promise of God which He is faithful to fulfill. Amen and let it not be interceded against. The righteous will be vindicated as their persecutors along with their symbolic father, Satan are visited by God. The martyrdom of the martyrs and hatred received by the righteous will be rewarded and will be shown to not be for nothing.

Concerning Why Some Receive Blessing and Others Punishment:

The blessings listed above are the things predestined by God before the creation of the world according to His infinite wisdom and knowledge. These things find themselves to each individual according to God’s choosing of course. When God promised death for mankind it was for all, so also is the resurrection for all of humanity. As rebellion and unrepentant lifestyles were committed by people God added mankind to enter the great judgment which was originally planned only for the wicked angels and Satan. From this point on there would no longer be a universal resurrection leading to a universal blessing of the glorious kingdom. Now one group of people will find themselves entering the blessing while the other will be cast away into the judgment. The wicked were on the same trajectory as the righteous, but ended up forfeiting their place by being unfaithful and unrepentant. Take note that everyone has a course. The grace and mercy are on those who are loyal and faithful to God according to their understanding. The forfeit of the blessing and reward of punishment is upon those who are loyal to themselves and to all kinds of evil deeds. God’s faithfulness is to the righteous and in that regard they are His elect to the promises. Individual and unconditional election of a person are not the election of God. His choosing is to those whom He wills and no one is able to obstruct it. He has revealed through His prophets and Apostles throughout time that He chooses the righteous and the unrighteous He bears with and even hardens until the day of their judgment. No one can change God’s mind to whom He chooses and in this sense He chooses whom He wills, but He has revealed that He chooses all who do His will according to their faithfulness. So to conclude this subject the predestined things were originally planned to be for all but because of the unrighteousness of some they forfeited them. Now the righteous and repentant are the sole elect to receive the blessings. 

Concerning Justification:

The authors of Scripture use a term which conveys the idea of God giving His righteousness to people. The term in many English translations is “justification”. The Greek word reflects this English word as it also is one word made up of two. As we look at the English word we see the noun “just” or “Right” and the action “ification”. The way I interpret the word is by understanding that God gives us His right or righteousness in the sense that He gives us the promise. In other words He made a promise long ago and now we see Him being righteous in the fulfilling of the promise to us. In other words it simply means Him keeping His word to us. In context of God’s promise and rescue for mankind I say that the righteousness of God and justification have to do with God’s blessing of promise for the righteous.

Concerning Variables and Other Questions

What do Righteousness and Unrighteousness look like?

The Righteous

Basic

This group of people comprises of those who have always generally obeyed the will of God, those who have repented and remained obedient, or those who have even been martyred for God’s will. These people are the faithful who will receive the reward, grace, and vindication on the day Jesus returns.

Practical
Those who by fidelity to God abstain from actions contrary to God’s will and carry out the actions God commands are those whom God considers righteous. Commands by God throughout time have taken different forms and some people were held to a form that others were not. An example would be the Mosaic Law for Israel. The commands and desires of God which can be known by each individual person are the standard by which God will take into account when considering a person righteous. While all people of healthy mental capabilities can understand the general differences of what is often called today right and wrong, not all can know specific actions. An example of a specific action that others wouldn’t be penalized for not knowing would be showing allegiance to a man named Jesus of Nazareth who lived in the first century A.D. The righteous acts of mankind can be summed up in loving God above all and loving your neighbor as yourself. Those who are considered righteous are those who were faithful in what they knew. God will bless them according to His grace and their good works, which made them faithful. These aren’t perfect people but these are people who do not continue to live in a constant state of disobedience. In others people who don’t continually practice unrighteousness and people who repent.

The wicked:

Basic

 This group of people comprises those whom without repentance in their lives continued a constant life of wickedness and disobedience to God. These people are the unfaithful and will receive the payment of their deeds in the form of eternal punishment.

Practical

Those whom have selfishly lived for themselves and their own desires, which are contrary to God, are those considered unrighteous. They substitute living for God with living for themselves. In other words what can be known about God and His desires are substituted at will for anything that makes the unrighteous person pleased. This person follows God’s directives in nature only when it is convenient and good for his own desires. This person by his rebellious actions symbolically makes himself a son of the Devil and is continuously in the state of Adam when he ate from the tree. These are the unfaithful that live in a continual state of rebellion towards God. Their future is to be judged by God with fire and torment. The greater knowledge a person was given and rejected by their works the greater his judgment will be at the resurrection of humanity. They will be judged by their wicked works, which made them unfaithful.

What about those who have never heard?

The Scriptures are clear that all people will be resurrected and that all will be judged on the basis of their works/ faithfulness to God. Since the standard is a person’s deeds he will not be condemned for never knowing something. A person will be judged on what they did with what they know. Paul in Romans chapter one argues that God’s existence and eternal power are seen in the creation and therefore people are not exempt from not knowing these things. So in general a person can know about God and some of His unspecific grace. If that person will glorify God and give Him thanks and live a life in which he does right with what he knows then that person will not be condemned. In Romans chapter two Paul gives an example of a gentile who doesn’t have the Mosaic Law, but fulfils the Law by his deeds. This person is said to be accepted by God. Peter says that any man that does His will is accepted by Him in the Book of Acts. Therefore I say a man will be judged according to his deeds, but in accordance to what he knows.

Helpful Illustrations

I’d say that the most helpful illustrations for these concepts are the ones given in Scripture. However if I was to give my own pictured illustrations about this topic of mankind’s recue this is what they would be.

The Promise for the Righteous:

Peace –> Problem –> Promise –> Prerequisite accomplished –> Direct fulfillment 

The arrows not only represent the next subsequent step, but also a passing of time. This passing of time could be brief or long.

Creation and communion with Adam and Eve –> Promise of resurrection to the forefathers –> Jesus faithfully comes, dies, and resurrects –>God and Jesus resurrect the dead

Conclusion

To conclude my understanding on this grand topic I leave off with reminding the reader of God’s gracious gift of resurrection. As Jesus was raised so will all mankind at His coming. He will reward each person according to His deeds and the righteous will experience His amazing faithfulness. Take the time to study and reflect upon God’s promise of eternal life and never let the fear of temporary death overcome you.