Are all forgiven?

A Trinitarian-incarnational view of the gospel proclaims that God has reconciled all humanity to himself through the vicarious humanity of Jesus. In Jesus, all are forgiven, accepted and included in God's love and life (see 2Cor 5:14-21).

But how can it be said that God has forgiven those who have not repented - not turned to him in faith? Doesn't the idea of universal reconciliation conflict with Jesus' words in Matthew 25?
31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.'  ...41 Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'"
Here Jesus apparently refers to his return in glory (his "second coming") on that "Great Day" (Acts 2:20, Jude 1:6) when all will be judged. Jesus seems to refer to that time in John 5.
26 "For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out-- those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned."
"Rise to be condemned" in v29 is taken from Daniel 12:2. In the KJV, this phrase is translated, "the resurrection of damnation." Damnation" is "krisis" in Greek, a word that carries the meaning of judgment, decision and evaluation, and that speaks of discernment and the sentencing/separation that flows from it. As noted by Bultmann, the final judgment will be a time when "men divide themselves into those who accept Christ and those who reject him" (quoted in BAGH, p453). This rejection and its consequences is what Jesus points to in John 3:18.

What we learn from these and other scriptures (like Acts 24:15), is that at the time of this judgment, all people will stand before Jesus and see him for who he is - the judge who is the savior of all. This revelation will call forth the ultimate "decision." What decision? Whether or not to trust Jesus to be who he is (both judge and savior) and whether or not to embrace their true identity in him as dearly loved, accepted, included and forgiven children of God. Seeing Jesus, and themselves this way, brings to all a "crisis" of decision. It will be a glad crisis for those who believe (the "sheep"), but a terrible one for those who do not believe (the "goats").

Does God not love these "goats"? Are they not his? Has he not sent his Son to die for them? Has he not through his Son already included them in his triune life? Yes he has. Because of a decision they made or will make? No, because of who Jesus is and what he has done for them. This is the objective truth of all humanity in Christ. However, not all believe and thus experience this truth. Jesus never forces it on anyone - he will not coerce anyone now nor when he returns. Yet, he gives each person meaningful, unimpeded opportunity to "see" him and in seeing to choose. This is his gift of revelation and freedom - both expressions of God's love. However, their choice neither makes them a beloved child of God, or removes them from being one. This status is theirs only by God's gracious action in Jesus on their behalf.

Note, however, that their choice does have bearing on their experience of and thus enjoyment (or rejection) of their true identity. The final/ultimate "place" of this enjoyment is heaven; the final/ultimate "place" of this rejection is hell.

Scripture reassures us that a time is coming when all will "see" Jesus, and in "seeing" will understand (perhaps for the first time) who they are in him. Thus no one will end up in hell by "falling through the cracks" of ignorance. Jesus will see to that. But the question is this: What will they decide about Jesus, now clearly seen? We'll see, but our hope and prayer (joining with Jesus in his prayer for all), is that they will embrace their true life, now "hidden in Christ," but on that Great Day seen with clarity. In the meantime, we are called to tell people who Jesus is and who they are in him, even as we continue to pray, "Come, Lord Jesus."

Comments

  1. Regarding the truth that Jesus is both our judge and savior (or, more helpfully, he is our judge as our savior), a reader reminded me of the lyrics to Michael Card's song, Jubilee (note the words of the second chorus):

    The Lord provided for a time
    For the slaves to be set free
    For the debts to all be cancelled
    So His Chosen ones could see

    His Deep desire was for forgiveness
    He longed to see their liberty
    And His yearning was embodied
    In the Year of Jubilee

    Chorus
    Jubilee, Jubilee
    Jesus is our Jubilee
    Debts forgiven
    Slaves set free
    Jesus is our Jublilee

    At the Lords’s appointed time
    His deep desire became a man
    The heart of all true jubilation
    And with joy we understand
    In His voice we hear a trumpet sound
    That tells us we are free
    He is the incarnation of the year of Jubilee

    Chorus

    To be so completely guilty
    Given over to despair
    To look into your judge’s face
    And see the Savior there.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous4/15/2011

    I agree with what you say here. I just have a problem with the terminology of hell being stated as a place or one winding up IN hell. Both indicate to me a peice of real estate, location, etc.

    I feel hell is a condition self imposed by one's non acceptance and belief of who he/she is in Jesus.

    The pagan concept of "hell" , I feel, must be removed from the church if we are going to see the real love of God.

    Paul Kurts

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for your comment Paul. You'll note that I put the word 'place' (in referring to hell in the ultimate sense) in quotes. I agree that hell is principally a condition. However, we have to consider that one must be in a 'place' to experience a 'condition.' What is the nature of that place? We cannot say specifically, since Scripture uses symbolic language to speak of this matter.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Can people get out of hell?

Does everyone have the Holy Spirit?

Theology and Biblical Studies - What's the Difference?

The missional character of the church

The nature of our union with Christ

How big is hell?

Ministry: sharing in what Jesus is doing

Question on John 3:36

Torrance on the church and its mission

The link between theology and mission