One of the main things I began to analyze when all the "dark" questions started parading in my mind some months ago...was about "Salvation" (going to heaven to be with God, as opposed to not) and how it works in relation to different people in different times/circumstances. Ill apologize right here if this blog seems to be all over the place, I have a lot to say about it...and it may even be a two or three part thing depending on how much I write. This is a lot to chew even for me:
The first big question mark came when I began to think about those in the Old Testament, who had loved and followed God but wasn't (at least not in the sense we do today) operating on the hope the Jesus died for their sins. Yet to say that all those people(and I have yet to hear anyone say this) went to Hell for all eternity merely because they couldn't "say a prayer of salvation to Jesus" persay, seems a little harsh and probably untrue.
Amoung the theories Ive heard in response, are "They were rescued from Hell and taken to Heaven when Jesus was in hell", "No one is in Heaven yet, but they knew the spirit of Jesus without actually knowing it", and the more common "They were saved by believing in the promise of a coming messiah". The later being what I had pretty much believed for many years. And I certainly see the possibility of any of those ideas. Yet at the same time, see little support of scripture for any of those assumptions.
The big problem being...that none of those really seem to cut it for me...I couldn't help but think "There's more to it than just that...its not that simple". Because if it is that simple...than those of the Jewish faith shoudlnt be turned away on Judgement day...because they too trusted in that coming of a messiah...they were just blinded from it being Jesus. If it is that simple, than all the new testament jazz about inviting the Holy spirit into your heart obviously isn't required for salvation, as much as it is "trying to follow God" which sounds a lot more like a religion of works, and not grace.
Then I began to think to something a little more relevant to our time...
Do people really go to Hell for all eternity that never knew about not only Jesus and his sacrifice, but not even God as hes portrayed in the Bible? In response to this, I often hear things like "Well in Romans 1:20 it says they have 'no excuse', God revealed Himself to them in nature so He is not responsible" . Wait a minute..."have no excuse"? What excuse does a tribe secluded from society in the middle of South America NOT have? What excuse does someone who's been raised in another religion their whole life, NEVER hearing about Jesus not have? And why does the said "excuse" have to be in regards to their salvation? What if it just meant evil in general?
And I began to ask the bigger question "Can people really be punished FOREVER for something that was never made clear to them?" and "is God so cruel that he would create the majority of humanity KNOWING they would 'choose' to be away from Him FOREVER"? Forever is an awfully long time...
Most Christians would say "Well God has to be just", but here are the problems with that:
A.God is not an earthly judge...he is perfect, he is "Love"...thus He knows the circumstances and confusions that bind us.
B.We are not born with an instruction manual straight from the hands of God...we have an "inspired" book, a book which not everyone ends up reading.
C. With that said, there are many other books that claim to contain "truth", and other than the feeling in your heart/observable evidence...its all a judgment call.
D. Choosing between absolute "truth" and absolute "lies" is not as simple as choosing between and apple or an orange...God didn't give us that ability, so obviously he left it up to interpretation...up to a subtle learning process called "life".
I think those of us that are Christians feel like we have been thrust upon a spotless pedestal of reason by which we can see the world and God clearer than anyone else. But I don't believe this is the case at all. Regardless of whether we have, by the grace of God, "grasped truth" to the fullest of human understanding in this life...not everyone has. And more often than not its not because they just "are evil sinful people who don't want to obey God". Its because they are blinded from God and the truth...it is because all these things in this life can easily distract us from God and his true purpose for us, without us really ever knowing that purpose to begin with.
Everyone is trying to seek truth and "completeness" just as equally. I truly believe that. Not everyone is out running the streets "sinning away their life" because they hate God. Its because they are in a state that they don't feel they understand what God is, or are deluded into thinking its something else than it actually is. Were designed to be filled emotionally and physically...and yet many people don't figure out why that they still come up dry after obtaining all this life has to offer, even religiously. Even those presented with Christ...even those who have BEEN true Christians sometimes come up at the end of their rope feeling lost, confused and unfulfilled. Sometimes even those that are closet to God, are torn away by Satan and his lies.
But does any of that ETERNALLY void a person to be with their creator, their completeness...simply because they weren't able to fully grasp what God created them for in this life? I would say no....and as the days go by, that "no" gets a little bit stronger.
And verse wise, I feel like this is what God has shown me in support of this...
23 By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.
24 They will say of me, 'In the LORD alone
are righteousness and strength.' "
ALL who have raged against him
will come to him and be put to shame.
25 But in the LORD all the descendants of Israel
will be found righteous and will exult."
Now the typical Christian would say "oh this just means everyone will give God glory in the end but it'll be too late if they didn't accept Jesus before... they're gone forever because its too late". And maybe they're right. Or maybe that's just looking at it through the typical lens they got from church...maybe that's not the way God wants us to view it. Which brings me to the next verse
9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."these people are admitting(in the prophecy in isaiah 45) to God and are bowing their knees(obviously in worship, and reverence)...even if Hell or punishment awaits (or has already happened) does that mean they are forever cast away? These people that have "raged against him" are turning to him in that final time...and therefore I believed that even they who did not accept him now...in this life...will come to him then and ultimately be reconciled to His love, even if temporary time in Hell is a prequel or sequel as a punishment.
"1 John 2:2
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."
If Jesus really died for us all...do you really think he'd just settle for a handful of people out of the billions that the Father created? Or is God really like the father in the story of the prodigal son...and even when his son strayed from him...rejoiced and forgave him when he finally came back to his father? I believe He is. I believe that tapestry that God is making can look like a mangled mess on the one side, the side we see in this life sometimes...but on the other side its becoming a beautiful, complete picture of His love and willingness to thread us all unto himself through the blood of Christ...no matter how long that takes to finish.
In the next part I'm going to go through some of the verses that seem to (or may actually) contradict this view and also some more thoughts in depth, in the meantime...feel free to comment with your thoughts. Id love to hear from you even if you don't agree at all =)