When God opened up this Glory Road ministry for us on the web, I had no idea how to proceed, how He would lead, or what would transpire out of it. We have followed the Holy Spirit's guidance, and the results have been gratifying, amusing, and quite often surprising. One the most interesting aspects has been reader responses. Sometimes they praise; sometimes they bless the Lord for us; and occasionally, they complain bitterly about what we've written and make quite vigorous attempts to amend our theology. When we began, the Lord told me that I was not to worry about where the readers come from. "You write it" He told me, "And I'll send the readers." For that reason, when we get an e-mail from someone with a question or concern, I always turn it over to Him as to what the response should be. Sometimes, I get nothing from the Lord and then I know I'm not even to answer. Recently, we had a letter from a man, whom I'll call Tomas (not his real name) which bears sharing with others because of the content and the answers the Lord gave me for him, for me, and perhaps for others as well.
I think the best thing to do here is to include the questions Tomas poses, and my answers to him. For sure, he's not the only one who has thought these things. He wrote,
"I took a look at your essay 'Saved By His Life,' (Link at end) and was interested in the question you pose at the beginning, 'Why did Christ have to die if all are saved anyway?' Without wishing to seem harsh, you spend an enormous amount of time NOT addressing that issue. After having read the essay several times, I still don't see how you answer that question. Surely that question can be answered in 25 words or less. You are evading a direct answer by piling on concept after concept. The answer to 1 + 1 is 2. Simple and direct. What letter comes after B? The answer is C, simple and direct. What is the capitol city of Canada? The answer is Ottawa.
"You state that the significance of Christ's death lies in the different layers of understanding a Bible reader brings to the table. That does not answer the question, it simply pre-empts the reader's understanding in simple and direct terms. If you cannot answer in one simple paragraph, then I doubt that you know the answer to your own question. You really do not know 'why Christ had to die if everyone is saved.' You are beating around the bush and fooling people.
"If you have the answer, e-mail me at most one short paragraph (and never minding citing other people or writings)."
I answered that letter this way:
Thanks for writing, I think. I always try to be clear in my meaning, but obviously I wasn't clear enough for you. So, per your request to answer the question, "Why did Christ have to die?" in one paragraph, here it is:
The reason Christ had to die was because God is "not willing for ANY to perish, but that all shall come to repentance." (II Pet. 3:9). Thus we know that it is His expressed will, that all be saved. Since Paul said that He works "ALL THINGS after the counsel of His own will," (Eph. 1:11) I think it's safe to say that He knows how to get His will accomplished, and consequently, all will be saved! To say otherwise is to suggest that God isn't powerful enough to cause His will to be done. And by the way, if you're looking for a scripture that promises salvation for everyone, how about Romans 11:26, for starters, where Paul writes, "And so all Israel shall be saved." Even Lot's wife? (Gen. 19:26). Even Nadab and Abihu? (Num. 3:4). Even Hophni and Phinehas? (I Sam. 2:22-25; 4:17). And what about Judas? (Matt. 27:3-8). Nevertheless, it was God, Paul said, who subjected the creation to vanity, (Rom. 8:20) and in fact, he goes farther than that, and says, "For God has consigned ALL MEN to disobedience, that He may HAVE MERCY UPON ALL!" (Romans 11:32). Since God subjected the creation and everything in it to vanity and bondage, He is the only one who can deliver us from that, which is why John the Beloved wrote, "For God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God sent the son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (Jn. 3:16-17). Jesus said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL MEN unto me." (Jn. 12:32). Was Jesus lying here? Fantasizing? Optimistically hoping? Or telling the truth? He said of himself that He was the truth, the way and the life, (Jn. 14:6) and the Apostle John said of him, "That (Jesus) was the true Light, which lighteth EVERY MAN that cometh into the world." (Jn. 1:9). This is why Jesus had to die, my friend. His blood paid the price for our release from sin. (Rom. 3:23-25; 5:10; Heb. 9:22; 10:4; I Jn. 2:2). On the cross, He said, "It is finished." (Jn. 19:30). That tells us that He accomplished what He set out to do. And while His sacrificial death bought our freedom from sin, it did much more than that. Paul puts the whole thing in capsule form in Romans 5:10: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." Man could not save himself from the dreadful bondage he found himself in, (Eph. 2:1: 12-19; Col. 2:13-14) and thus, God, who had subjected him to this in order to show His eternal glory to man, sent His only begotten Son to die for us. That's why Jesus had to die.
Actually, I said all of this and much more in the essay you referred to. The fact that you missed it makes me wonder if you are just so upset about the fact that God is going to save everyone that you were feeling a bit outraged or even a little cranky. Whatever the case, I'm certainly not trying to sell you something or amend your theology in any way. Do not believe anything I say, or anything anyone else says for that matter. Take it to the Holy Spirit, who alone will "lead you unto all truth." (Jn. 16:13). With Him as your guide, you have no need for man to teach you, for He will teach you all things. (I Jn. 2:27).
In His love and peace,
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
The Glory Road
The next day, we received another letter from him:
"Thanks for answering the WRONG question. I did not ask whether God was going to save all men; I asked why did Jesus have to die if all men are saved. You still have not answered that question. No doubt having traditional Christians sniping at you; makes you overly-sensitive on that issue. How do you know what beliefs I have? Did I mention anything in my first letter about all men being saved; I didn't. You read that into my query.
"But back to the original question. Are you saying that if Jesus had not died, men would not be saved? Are you saying that for any man (and for all men) to be saved, Jesus had to die? So a man goes to heaven, never having heard about Christ, and somehow Jesus' death makes that possible? Somehow, the death of Christ, makes it possible for any and all men to enter into heaven. Just exactly what does this death do? Explain the mechanics of it. All you have done is state the fact that this death was required in order to open heaven up for men. But making this statement and citing Scripture to back it up DOES NOT explain WHY this HAD to happen. When a weather forecaster states that rain will fall, he is not explaining WHY rain falls and how the weather pattern accumulated in that particular area.
"All you have done is repeated Old Testament verses that say death was required, and that Christ fulfilled it. But why is a death required? What is the relationship between Jesus' death and the mechanics of a man waking in heaven? I don't see how either you or Gary Amirault or Preston Eby or Gary Sigler answer the question, 'Why did Jesus have to die?' You talk about the effects and consequences of his death, i.e. that it applies to all men. But you don't address its cause and the mechanics of how it enables a man to enter heaven (even if and when that person may not have known anything at all about Christ's death). Billions of people in Africa and Asia will die without knowing about Christ at all. But when they get translated to heaven, how will Christ's death matter at all in this process? Up to the moment of their expiration on earth, they will not have any sense of Jesus' death. So their transition to heaven will be independent of Christ's death.
"Do you think you know what the relationship is (both cause and effect) between Christ's death and any man going to heaven?"
Lenny thought about his reply and said, "Just ask him where he's going with all this." So, I did:
Tomas, we both read your e-mail, and Lenny wanted me to say this to you: it appears that you have answered your own question and are trying to see if we can guess your answer. Please just share with us how you perceive it. It will be simpler that way. We look forward to hearing from you."
Lenny and Jan
His next letter was more explicit. It reads: "The question you have in your essay is 'If all men are saved, why did Christ have to die?' Sincerely, I'm not playing games with you to see whether you have an answer that would match mine (that is to say if I even had one). I realize that it is a question that, as you say at the beginning of your essay, OTHER people pose. It is not necessarily YOUR question. However you undertook to answer it and I felt that the answer skirted around the issue.
"I am familiar with traditional, orthodox Christian beliefs with respect to Christ's death and its impact. I'm also familiar with how others outside conservative Christian circles view Christ's death.
"Without reiterating each group's theory, most concepts, broadly speaking, come down to this (and I'm simplifying this):
"(1) Salvation is possible because Christ's death SOMEHOW opened the doors for this. Or at least there is a relationship between salvation and Christ's sacrifice.
"(2) Conservative Christianity says that a person has to accept this sacrifice BEFORE death in order to enter heaven.
"Traditional Formula: CHRIST'S SACRIFICE + PERSONAL ACCEPTANCE (before death) = HEAVEN (after death).
"(3) Others, such as the Universalist, object. Billions of people (across many continents and through vast periods of time) will never have gotten the chance to make this choice. So they posit the fact that since God's will is perfect, there will be another opportunity (after death for those who would not have gotten a chance in this lifetime.)
"Universalist Formula: CHRIST'S SACRIFICE + PERSONAL ACCEPTANCE (before OR immediately after death) = HEAVEN (after death).
"The traditional approach says that Christ's sacrifice washes the sinner so that he/she can emerge through death clean before God in heaven. This has to be done before the person enters heaven, otherwise she/he enters heaven unclean (and that would just sink up the whole joint).
"(Now I'm not saying either approach is right or wrong; I'm trying to see in the simplest terms possible what either model of thinking means.)
"To the traditionalist, Christ's sacrifice is the cleansing mechanism through which a person passes so that he can emerge spotless in God's eyes (since God cannot: abide sinful men). This is why orthodox Christianity requires a 'before' death apprehension, appropriation, and experience of Christ's death. Otherwise, the stain of sin accompanies a person into heaven. NOTICE I do not say that I buy this logic since I don't understand HOW Christ's death accomplishes this 'cleansing' phenomenon. The traditionalist simply asserts that 'through' Christ's death, this personal cleansing occurs, and quotes what he considers the appropriate scriptures to support this 'the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin,' etc.).
"Coming back to the question, 'Why did Christ have to die if all men are saved,' I would look closely at the phrase 'have to' in the above question. What does Christ's death have to do with an aborigine in Australia, living in the bush land, who never hears the gospel? He dies in the desert (face in the sand) and then goes to heaven. What does it matter that someone named Jesus of Nazareth came to earth 2,000 years ago? The aborigine has made it to heaven with no acknowledgment of Christ's sacrifice. Most Universalists say that this aborigine will come to acknowledge Christ's sacrifice one way or another, but why? So that he can stay in heaven after he's already made it over there? Is Christ's sacrifice something he has to invoke one way or another to stay in heaven? Is he in some type of limbo until he makes the right acknowledgment?
"Why did Christ have to die? The problem of this question is compounded by the fact that in the gospel, Jesus after his resurrection meets some disciples on the way to Emmaus and then He expounds to them why the Messiah had to die. This 'had to' is an interesting phrase, and when it is used as a requirement (to whom?) it generates all sorts of interpretations why Christ 'had to' die, especially when people drag in the Old Testament to show this 'requirement' ('had to') business.
"I hope my questions (and the way I go through my thinking process) will help you understand my query better. Give it another shot."
I asked the Lord what I should say to him. Here is my reply:
Thanks for your last e-mail in which you clarify what you really want to know out of the question, "Why did Christ have to die?" I knew that what your heart desires is probably beyond my own ability to answer to your satisfaction, and so I asked the Holy Spirit to show me how God sees this. I woke up this morning with the Spirit talking to me. He gave me something which satisfies my heart. If it does not satisfy yours, I would encourage you to take your question to Him, for He alone can guide us into all truth. And sometimes, you know, truth is progressive, because as Jesus said, "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth." (Jn. 16:12-13. NIV). In other words, this answer makes my heart sing, but it may not satisfy you today. God has written His new covenant upon our hearts, (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 810) "precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little." (Is .28:10, 13). The answer that you need to satisfy every question you may have is always between you and the Lord.
And as a matter of fact, I'll refer you to Him for the first part of your question. You observe that even though the traditionalist position is that "Christ's sacrifice is the cleansing mechanism through which a person passes so that he can emerge spotless in God's eyes (since God cannot abide sinful men)," nevertheless, you state that you don't understand the mechanics of HOW Christ's death accomplishes this "cleansing" phenomenon. God didn't speak to me about the nuts and bolts of exactly how this is accomplished, but since I already gave you a myriad of Scriptures that say this is true, which you either believe or don't, I won't repeat them here. This, by the way, is why Abraham's faith was "reckoned" to him for righteousness, (Rom. 4:3) and also why, "the just shall live by faith." (Rom. 1:17; 5:1; II Cor. 5:7; Gal. 2:20; 3:11). If you don't have this faith, ask God to give it to you. Faith is a gift of God, Paul declares, "not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2:8-10). Since imparting faith to another is God's job, not mine, I'll leave you to the Holy Spirit's tender mercies. You are in good hands with Him.
Having said that, I'll move on the next part of your concern, which is, "What does Christ's death have to do with an aborigine in Australia, living in the bush land, who never hears the gospel? He dies in the desert (face in the sand) and then goes to heaven. What does it matter that someone named Jesus of Nazareth came to earth 2,000 years ago? The aborigine has made it to heaven with no acknowledgment of Christ's sacrifice. Most Universalists say that this aborigine will come to acknowledge Christ's sacrifice one way or another, but why? So that he can stay in heaven after he's already made it over there? Is Christ's sacrifice something he has to invoke one way or another to stay in heaven? Is he in some type of limbo until he makes the right acknowledgment?" The answer to this question is very simple, though from a human standpoint can seem very disquieting. Why? Because as Solomon observed, "He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Eccl. 3:11). That's the crux of the matter. God knew from before the beginning of time what He had in mind, and He knows how it will all turn out, but we don't. So, bound by time and space, all we can see is what is right in front of our faces. We can read about what happened yesterday. We can worry about what's coming tomorrow, but with our natural eyes, we can only see what's in front of us right now, today. To borrow an example from one of Preston Eby's recent speeches, when we're sitting in our little lawn chair on the sidewalk in front of the local hardware store, all we can see of the town parade passing by is the float which is immediately in front of us. However, should we be able to take our lawn chair to the top of the town's tallest building, and sit there on the roof of the 4 story bank, we could see the whole parade at once, including the band and the grand Marshall up at the front, and the elephant bringing up the rear. I thought this a great analogy of how God sees things from beginning to end. Until we can see things the way He does, to whatever degree that's possible now, we won't get the whole picture. Isaiah wrote, "I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please." (Isa. 46:10). God sees it all, and until he gives us the grace and illumination to see life as He sees it, quite often, nothing in this life makes sense to us.
The answer to the question, "Why did Christ have to die?" is based entirely upon the sovereignty of God in all things, and the fact that He is the prime cause of all things. For example, the cross was always in the heart of God. Jesus was the Lamb slain from before the foundations of the world. (Rev. 13:8). Why did this have to be? Because Paul says there are only two men in the Universe. "So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being;' the last Adam, (Christ) a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven." (I Cor. 15:45-47). This is what the Spirit was saying to me when I woke up this morning. He was talking to me about these two men, Adam and Christ. What does this mean to us, I asked? To the best of my poor ability to clothe the eternal in human words, it means this: God always planned to share Himself with His creation. There have been millions of words written about this by many people. In 1997, I wrote a journal entitled, "The Ring, The Robe, and the Crown." (Link at the end.) This work is a stylized, version of God's plan of the ages. You can find it on our Glory Road website. I have always loved the book, God's Trombones, by James Weldon Johnson, a black writer. The beginning of it goes something like this: "It was darker than a hundred midnights, down in the cypress swamp. And the Lord sat down and said, 'I'm lonely, I'll make me a man.' And the Lord God scooped up handfuls of clay and made him a man." It's been a long time since I read it, but it's written after the fashion of the Negro spiritual, and it is a beautiful parable of God's plan to share Himself with His creation.
Of course, none of us can really ascribe a motivation for God's actions, but since the Scriptures describe Him as Father (Abba) and Mother (El Shaddai, the many breasted one) (End Note A) and since on a human level, we long to have children with whom to share ourselves, perhaps that's one motivation. God does not need a reason for anything He does, nor does He need to justify Himself to us. Yet the scriptures are full of God's "reasoning" with man. Suffice it to say that, in fulfillment of His plan, He reached deep within Himself and from out of His eternal depths, brought forth Jesus, the "only begotten of the Father," (Jn. 3:16; I Jn. 4:9) the first fruits of many brethren. (I Cor. 15:20; James 1:18).
The first man, Paul says of Adam, was of the earth, earthy. (I Cor. 15:47). He was made a living soul; "the last Adam, Christ, was made a quickening spirit." (Vs. 48). It was by this first man, Adam, that death came into the world, but thankfully, that's not the end of the story. "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam, all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (Vs. 21-22). So, you see, whether the aborigine in Australia, or the native American in Arizona, or the Chinese peasant living in rural China ever heard of Christ or not, nevertheless, their bodies and their lives bear the stamp of death, the imprint of corruption, because they are born into bondage to decay. Paul says something amazing in Romans 8:20, and that is that it was God who caused the creation (that's everyone and everything that ever lived) to be in the wretched state it is in today. Imagine that! God is the prime cause of it all! Every great religion in the world has some reason for the state we're in and what we should do about it: Eastern religions imply that we sort of "fell asleep" and forgot who we are, but through life, religious practices, and even reincarnation, we attain self realization and thereby discover the blessed state we left. Fundamentalist Christians and the Muslims say the problem is that we disobeyed God's laws and have to do something to repent of that, because this whole mess that humanity finds itself in is our own fault and somebody has to pay, and pay big. Traditional Christians affirm that Jesus came to pay the price, but by their behavior, they apparently think His sacrifice was not sufficient, for if we don't constantly repent of our sins and obey the rules and regs, they say, we will still burn in hell forever and ever. The New Age folks claim that we really are gods after all and only need to activate this "god program" by meditation, visualization, knowledge, etc., to succeed in our lives. All of this religious self-effort puts man on the throne, makes him responsible not only for the mess he's in, but how to get out of it. But Paul said, NO! God is the one who caused it all. He alone sits on the throne. He alone is the answer to the world's problems. He alone will reveal that answer to each man, for He, in the form of Christ "was the true LIGHT, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." (Jn. 1:9). As part of His plan, He subjected the creation to vanity. This is why, the Apostle asserts, that "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed." (Rom. 8:19). The reason this is so, he explains, is because "..the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, (God) in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Rom. 8:19-23).
Now, to get back to God's eternal plan for those two men, Adam and Christ, it is clear that all men who ever lived on the planet have been affected by these two, whether they know their names or not. The effects of Adam's choice to live by the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil have bound all creation over to death. My grandfather is reported to have said, "A man begins to die the day he is born." That's very true in the natural realm. And until God opens the eyes of our spirits to see Him as He is, so that we grasp His eternal purpose, which is nothing less than to share His glory with us, mud creatures all, then we tend to think that this life is all there is. Yet we all know, that man has been seeking absolution from his sins and deliverance from the bondage of his life for as long as human beings have been walking upon the earth. Every culture has it's share of creation myths, and gods whose wrath needs to be appeased, because somehow, man instinctively knows that he, puny creature that he is, simply cannot be all there is. So, as the prophets put it, man has worshipped the works of his own hands (Deut. 27:15; Is. 2:8; 17:8; Micah 5:13; Hag. 2:17; Rev. 9:20), fashioning out of silver and gold, bronze, wood and stone, those idols whom he worships, because he looks at his own pitiful, inadequate self and reasons, "There just has to be something more than this."
And because we were created in the image of likeness of our creator-God, we said to ourselves, "I'm lonely. I'll make me a god to worship. He will save me from myself." Providentially, idols of brass, gold and clay can't do the job for us, and billions of people who have lived on the planet have died without knowing the one true God. Yet, when Jesus was lifted up on the cross, He promised that He would draw ALL MEN unto Himself, and that is why He had to die, to bring atonement, [at-one-ment between man and God] i.e. to reconcile the creation to its creator. Note that Paul asserts that WE are reconciled to God, not the other way round as most fundamentalists teach. Paul said that it was God, in Christ on that cross, "reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation, and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation." (II Cor. 5: 18).
This is why I rejoice that you asked the question, "Why did Christ have to die?" for I love to give the answer. He died so that we, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), and who were "separate from Christ, excluded from the citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world," (Eph. 2:12) might live. How is that possible? Through the blood, Tomas, through the blood! "But Now," Paul explains, "in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ." (Eph. 2:12-13). It is for this reason, that Christ's blood was spilled. And therefore, as a result of His sacrifice, when the aborigine, or the native American, or the Chinese peasant, or any man who has not known the Christ of God, dies and passes into the arms of God; when He feels the eternal, unconditional love of the Father; when God, who is a consuming fire, (Heb. 12:29) burns off the dross, the hay, wood and stubble; (I Cor. 3:13-15) his eyes are opened; and he too, will fall on his face before the Lord God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, master of the universe, author of life and liberty, and he too will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:10). At that moment, when he knows as he is known, when he sees Him like He is, he will be like Him. (I Jn. 3:2). Then, he will see, understand, appreciate and glorify the Father as he beholds the plan of God, worked out in creation, written in the cosmos, and sculpted in flesh and blood. At that moment of illumination, where all darkness has fled away, and the glory of the Lord has filled his heaven and earth, this new child of God, will know first hand, up close and personal, that all glory goes to Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
He will worship the majesty of the one who "... has (present perfect tense, meaning it is still going on right now) rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything (and in everyone) he might have the supremacy." (Col. 1:13-18).
Let's return one more time to those two men, Adam and Christ, about whom Paul asserts, "And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven." (I Cor. 15:49). It is through Christ's death on the cross that the "mud creature," can rise up out of the miry clay and the slime pits of his life and walk into the portals of glory holding the hand of Christ. This is God's promise, that we all shall bear the likeness of the man from heaven. Glory to God in the highest, and peace upon earth toward men. And when the kingdoms of our world, our flesh, and our carnality shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, He shall reign for ever and ever. (Rev. 11:15). And that, my friend Tomas, is why Christ had to become flesh and dwell among us and that is why He had to die.
He wrote back, but didn't say anything about what I had shared with him. So, I wrote to him again and told him of my intention to post this dialogue we'd had on the website, and ended by saying that I believed he would end up blessing many with his question.
His answer was short and curt:
"You write, 'I expect that God will use your question to be a blessing to a number of people.' How is that since you did not provide an adequate answer at any time? I just didn't bother going any further since I felt you were floundering. I don't think that either you or Preston Eby or Gary Amirault (or any in the circle of Universalism) can answer that question. All of you are at a dead end, a cul-de-sac with respect to that question. Don't kid yourself, you don't have it but I don't intend to pursue the matter any further because the theological framework within which you operate; its presuppositions or underpinnings, will [not] allow you to see both question and answer clearly."
We will now leave this reader to the tender mercies of the Holy Spirit, who leads all men to truth, not as quickly as we'd like perhaps, but ultimately they will get there, for the Hebrew writer declares that God "is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." (Heb. 11:6). And, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jer. 29:13). This dialogue with him blessed me, no matter how he saw it, and also brought several additional thoughts in focus for me. Every time I hear an evangelical pastor rage on about the blackness of sin, the horrors of hell, and the need to run to the Lord for salvation, I wonder to myself several things. One: if we only go to God to avoid hell when we die, can that act really be equated with love? Or is it just fear, and our "obedience," mere paying of our fire insurance premium? Two: can these preachers not think of any reason to come to Jesus other than being saved from hell after death? What about deliverance from the hell most people experience in this life? It makes me wonder if their Christian experience is so humdrum, so finite, so full of duty and so lacking in glory that the only thing they can hang on to is that they won't go to hell when they die? Is it a case of reasoning, "This life may be hard, but hell is worse." I don't know, but it grieves my heart to hear some of the statements made. The preacher Sunday said something like this, "If you're running to the Lord because you're afraid of hell, well that's all right." But is it? And what's next? After sitting in the pew for 20, 30, sometimes 50 years, can it be that the best news one can hope to hear that he won't go to hell when he dies? I feel sure, that people sitting in the pews week after week, month after month, year after year, would rather hear about the glory of God, the mercies of the Lord, and the beauty of His plan for the ages. Here's a novel idea. Why don't we invite the sinner to enter the marvelous kingdom of God which is everywhere around us and partake of the laden bounty set forth by the King? Why don't we tell him that when Jesus sits on the throne of his life, he never has to fear the devil again. He never has to worry and fret and fear life's consequences, for God is the only one with whom he has to do. Perhaps best of all, he does not have to endlessly battle sin anymore, "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should NO LONGER BE SLAVES TO SIN!" (ROM. 6:6-7). Sin was dealt with FOREVER on the cross, and the one who died to save us from it, now lives His life through us and overcomes it in us. (Gal. 2:20).
Ah, dear ones, Christ died so that we could be saved through His life, so that we don't have to just hang on by our fingernails to our morals and our pitiful, often futile attempts to be Christians, but rather that we can depend on Him to live His life through us in the victory and power of almighty God! The Hebrew writer asserts, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God." (Heb. 9:14). What my heart longs to see is the day when we truly speak peace to the heathen, when we quit trying to scare him into the fold with hell fire, but instead, invite him to come in and join us in the marriage feast of the Lamb; when we tell him that now, right now in this life, because of the blood of the Lamb, shed for us, we can freely enter into the presence of the Father in the holy of holies. "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Heb. 10:19 -22). The heathen have battle scars on their consciences dating back to Adam and Eve. What they need, it seems to me, is not a formula to avoid hell when they die, but the knowledge that they have access to the life of Christ in their lives today! If we preach peace rather than fear to the heathen; (Zech. 9:10) if we introduce them to the one who can heal their wounds and diseases, (Deut. 32:39) forgive their sins, (Jer. 33:8; Heb. 8:12; I Jn. 1:9) cast out their demons, (I Jn. 2:24; 3:8) deliver them from their addictions, (Rom. 8:1) swallow up their darkness with light, (I Jn. 1:8) and love them unconditionally, (I Jn. 4:10) they will flock to our assemblies in such numbers that our buildings will not hold them. Lenny and I were watching a football game the other day in which there were 80,000 people in the stadium. It came to both of us at the same time how wonderful it would be to see that many people in one place praising God, rather than the latest NFL hero. It will happen in God's time, for as the Prophet Isaiah exalted, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined." (Is. 9:2). He also blessed us with this good news, "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it." (Isa. 40:5). Lord haste the day.
End Note A: El Shaddai, translated Almighty or Almighty God from a Hebrew word meaning all sufficiency, breast (all bountiful being).
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59 Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Why Did Christ Die? by A.P. Adams
"Saved By His Life," (1997)
"The Ring, The Robe and The Crown," (1997)
"Why did Christ have to die," by Harry Fox
"Jubilee" by J. Preston Eby
The Glory Road
We'd enjoy hearing from you!
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Last edited on 03/31/09.