God's Goals: Clearly and
The goals Jesus had should be clear, but for most of Christian history the average Christian has been willing to settle for much less of a return on investment than Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles expected.
In fact, it has gotten to the point that anyone who quotes the major promises of the Bible is often accused of being a Universalist -- the "unorthodox" breed of Christians that were kicked out of fellowship centuries ago.
We're not Universalists but we want everyone who claims to be a Christian to stand with us in support of ALL that the Bible says.
The Stated Goals
"If I am lifted up (on a cross), I will draw all men unto me."
Jesus states 2 expectations of his death that simply have not been fulfilled as stated, yet. Verse 30, Satan would be not only defeated, but thrust out of power. Verse 32, all men would be drawn to Jesus. Both of these things will be accomplished when the full promised 1000-year reign of Messiah begins, as described in Rev. 20:1-4
|Jesus "came to seek and to save that which was lost."||Matt. 18:11, Luke 19:10||
Certainly the first 10 verses of Matthew 18 demonstrate that individual choices have an impact on one's eternal destiny. Christians can respectfully disagree about what Jesus meant when he spoke about "Gehenna" (translated "hell-fire" in some translations.) We will discuss these issues in depth on future pages. But all Christians should be able to agree on this: we cannot rule out free will when we interpret God's stated goals of desiring only the best for the human race. Some people will indeed receive the grace of God in vain. (2 Cor. 6:1) Still, we hold that this passage, and the parable of the lost sheep, do not teach that God will settle for a salvation that only reaches 1% of the world, which Luther and many others since have resigned themselves to. It states, instead, that even if 99% were safely under the control of the Good shepherd, he would not rest on that high percentage, but leave them to find only one lost lamb.
What is the lesson here? That God is relentless in terms of His desire to pursue and recover ALL of the lost. That God really does purpose that all men shall be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of the Truth. (1Timothy 2:4) What's the answer to the riddle? All WILL be saved from hereditary Adamic curses and defects; All WILL have a full opportunity for life, a free gift that makes them justified in Christ (Rom. 5:18ff). But NOT all will choose life, that they may live. (Ezekiel 18). "Whosoever Will" -- whoever wants to, can and will take of the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:1-5, 14-17) Those who prefer death, lies, etc. will be permitted so to choose -- and bear the consequences -- Rev. 20:14
|"My flesh I give for the life of the world."||John 6:29-51||Jesus had just fed 5000 people, but instead of encouraging them with a message about eternal security or the importance of tithing the church, He began to trample on their sensibilities as Jews by a take-it or leave-it saying about His role in salvation:"You must eat my flesh and drink my blood." It was a hard saying then, and it remains so today. The only way to eternal life is through a full acceptance of God's appointed Messiah. There is only one door to walk through to gain life -- the door of God's anointed Son. But notice what it does not say. It does not say that this door is only open to those who hear the message now, in this life. Read the passage carefully, and you will not find such a limitation given. And that is because it is the Father 's plan to "hide himself" (Isa. 45:15) for most of human history; to call a relative few to heaven by preaching a scandalous and foolish-sounding, cross-carrying Jesus to a dark world, (1 Corinthians 1:23-25); and then to bring salvation to every forgotten corner of the human race by proclaiming an inclusive, all-welcoming Messiah to a redeemed and enlightened world. (Isaiah 45:11-25) The life of the world is the Father's goal, and the inability of most of the crowd to hear and respond to the Gospel is not held against the masses of men. In due time, every knee shall bow, and all the seed of Israel shall be justified.|
|"The earth shall be full of the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea."||Isaiah 11:9, Jeremiah 31:33-34||In these explicit and unambiguous promises, the entire world, including the "remnants of the outcasts of Israel", will be forgiven of their sins, and will enjoy a world-wide society of peace and joy. No hurting or destroying will occur in the entire world-wide "holy mountain" or kingdom of God. No dark corners of ignorance will survive. Preaching about God will be totally unnecessary, because EVERYONE WILL KNOW. That remains the goal of God and His Son.|
|"The eyes of the blind shall be opened, the dumb sing, the lame leap...the wayfaring men, though fools, will not err..."||Isaiah 35||Once the realization begins to dawn upon our consciousness that Isaiah and Jeremiah were not poetic crackpots, but heaven-sent journalists-in-advance, sending us news-wires of life as it will one day be upon God's green earth, scales begin to fall off our eyes. Suddenly we see that the healing Jesus did was just a foretaste. The plan of God is to spread that miraculous power world-wide, to the heart and soul and body of every human being who has ever lived. -- All the "ransomed of the Lord" shall indeed return, and come to Zion -- the kingdom of God that will come down to earth.|
|"I will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There shall be no more death, sorrow, crying, pain."||Revelation 21:1-4||
Here's the great capstone, the great goal of the entire Bible. Notice carefully where the faithful Church of Christ is: they are not the ones whose tears are wiped away. They are pictured in these verses as the Bride, the Lamb's wife, and they are part of the government which descends from Heaven to bring blessings to all the earth. Now think about what would have to happen to bring about "no more death", and sorrow to completely end. Would this mean that some magic drug would be given to stop people from dying? Would that be enough to fulfill this promise? No, because sorrow ends here, too. Death will be swallowed up in victory through the only way possible -- a resurrection of "ALL in the graves". (John 5:28)
|Jesus shall be "a ransom for all..."||1 Timothy 2:6||Great truths are simple. Think of the famous "4 spiritual laws" tract. What's the first law? God loves you and has a plan for your life. Law 2? Man is sinful and separated from God. Law 3? Jesus Christ is God's only provision for man's sin. That's what this verse says. There is only one mediator between God and man -- the man Christ Jesus. Law 4 is true, too: We must individually accept Christ to be able to participate in God's redemption. But here's where we depart from that tract. We disagree with the unspoken assumption it contains: that if we don't accept Christ now, we will remain "separated from God" -- in hell, in other words -- for ever. Is that idea contained in this text? No, 1 Timothy 2:6 states that Christ will be testified in DUE TIME. There are 2 seasons appointed for the testimony of Jesus. One now, for those whom God calls, or draws to Him as the Bride of Christ; and a Second time -- to all the residue of men. See Isaiah 11:11, and Acts 15:13-18.|
|"The ransomed of the Lord shall return...They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."||Isaiah 35:10||How many of earth's billions were "ransomed" by the Christ on the Cross? "ALL", is Paul's answer in the verse above. Here, we can apply the same definition to Isaiah's prophecy. The same ones who were purchased by Jesus' sacrifice will be able to return, and obtain joy and gladness. Notice how the language of this text is echoed in the Revelation 21 text quoted above. God's goals are clear, and we can all base our lives and hopes upon them.|
|All who are in the graves will come forth...the unjust to a resurrection (new life) through or by judgments.||John 5:19-30||
Jesus speaks very plainly about his role and his goals in John 5. He states that the great works which he does are the Father's works -- raising the dead, and making them alive. He states that the Father has turned over all judgment -- that is, the power to examine and decide a man's fate -- to the Son. And he states that those who receive Christ in this life escape the process of judgement, but pass into what is elsewhere called a grace relationship, the walk with God which the New Testament describes in great detail. Those who are on this path, all authentic and victorious Christians, can look forward to a resurrection, when it comes, that is immediate and instantaneous -- from the sleep of death to eternal life. This is what Jesus calls the "resurrection of life." (Revelation 20:1-4 calls it the "first resurrection") But then Jesus speaks of a second resurrection, through or by "judgment" -- same Greek word that is used in verses 22, 24, 27, and 30. Reader, allow the Bible to carefully cleanse your mental picture of what this word "judgment" really means. Resurrection, full restanding to life, by a process called "judgment."
Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:41 that the men of Nineveh -- a very sinful nation, will arise in "the Judgment." And so will the generation of Jews who refused to accept Christ. And so will the Queen of Sheba (vs. 42) In Matthew 11:24, Jesus stated that Sodom, the very picture of depraved sinners, will find it "tolerable" in the day of judgement. Here, Jesus echoes the promise of the prophet Ezekiel, who in 16:45-63, tells us that Israel, and Sodom, and Samaria -- all of whom have no claim to righteousness of their own -- will nevertheless be restored to their homes in the promised land, and will be established in a covenant of peace with God. This is the true hope and beauty of the "day of judgment".
This is what the "unjust" of Acts 24:15 have to look forward to: a resurrection, or bringing back to full perfect life, which occurs gradually, in the midst of little evaluations, corrections, repentances, and obediences. All who are in the graves will indeed come forth. Those who did the good -- were justified by faith in Christ -- awake to immediate eternal life in heaven. But everyone else will experience the power and transformation of Christ's loving and gentle judgment. And so we read in Isaiah 26:9 that, when God's judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. And we read in Acts 17:31 that God has appointed a day -- actually, a 1000-year day, as 2 Peter 3:8 makes clear -- in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained. And we read in Psalm 96:11-13 that the whole earth will rejoice and be glad in that judgment day. For as we read in 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus will reign till He has trampled all enemies under his feet, including the last enemy of all -- death. And as Jesus described his rulership of earth in Revelation 2:27, Christ will "shepherd the nations" "with a staff of iron". Righteousness and judgment will prevail -- bad will consistently be punished, and good will consistently be rewarded. And in that atmosphere of fairness and equity and love informed by Justice, the world will, as promised, learn the lessons of righteousnes that God has promised to teach them.
Yes, all who are in the graves will indeed come forth. And the judgment the masses come forth to is not some nightmarish notion of the "gospel tracts" with a faceless God reminding the poor human race of its failures; no, it is a firm but loving and joyful judgment process that is "for" the unclean; a process that transforms the unclean into the clean as they walk the "highway of holiness". It will be a way without stumbling stones, too, and without "lions" like Satan to intimidate and deceive -- a way of life, and to life, so plain and simple that even the "fools" will not make mistakes in it. (Isaiah 35:8)
|All will serve God "with one consent."||Zephaniah 3:8,9||Here's one that'll give you goose-bumps. The symbolic language of scripture makes it sound like God will torch the earth -- until we read the rest of the sentence: "Then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may ALL call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent." Clearly, the fiery destruction of the earth here, as in 2 Peter 3, is a code symbol for the destruction of the "cosmos" (or "matrix" in modern Hollywood lingo) of rebellious human society. That order of things will be burned up, but the earth and the people on it will remain. Yes, there will be some dead bodies at first, but those will be resurrected, too. "The earth will cast out the dead." - Isaiah 26:19|
|There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both the just and unjust||Acts 24:15||When Paul was defending himself before the governor, Felix, he was being accused by the Pharisees of speaking rebellious and hurtful teachings. To defend himself against claims of sedition, he pointed out how he agreed with the Pharisees: like them, he believed in a resurrection of all the dead of the world -- both the just and the unjust. Since then, the Christian church has forgotten their agreement with Jewish tradition -- a Messiah who will rule over a redeemed world from Jerusalem. Christians for most of the last 2000 years have been essentially preaching that only the just will be truly resurrected; the rest will simply rise to hear their sins recited, then go back into the underworld they learned about from Greek mythology. Notice carefully what Paul is saying. It is the full essence of the Gospel of Christ.|
|"A feast of fat things for all people" -- "Death shall be swallowed up in victory"||Isaiah 25:6-8||There is no fine print in this contract from God. Unequivocally, without shadow of doubt or double meaning, God promises something for "all people". A feast of fat things -- God is going to "slay the fatted calf" for the entire world of mankind. And in case we take it too poetically, he becomes even more explicit: death, the great enemy of all people, will be completely swallowed up in victory.|
|Times of Restitution of all things...||Acts 3:19-21||
Peter waxed bold on in his preaching to the Jews in the days following Pentecost. He promised that Jesus would fulfill Moses' prediction of a prophet like Moses -- a deliverer, a prophet so strong that it would be impossible to disobey his voice ... a deliverer so great that he could fulfill all the words of all God's holy prophets since the world began. Was Peter overstating the case? People who have not "heard" -- obeyed -- Jesus since A.D. 33 have NOT been destroyed from among the people. The times of restitution of all things -- a restoration and rebuilding of all that was lost in Adam -- has NOT taken place yet.
Indeed, Peter was right, though. Heaven has retained Jesus until the Times of Restitution is due to begin. The purpose of Christ's return is to deliver on the Promise of The Passion -- to restore all things. And "all things" includes all the dead who have ever lived. It means all the hopes and promises that Adam and Eve enjoyed before sin entered the earth. Keep praying the Lord's prayer, because it will yet be fulfilled. God's will is going to be completely done in earth, everywhere, and for everyone.
That's all we're about ... helping Christians believe all that the Bible has said that is encouraging to non-Christians and Jews, and also be more focused on the most important mission of the Church today -- the gathering of the last cohort of those whom God wants to call to heaven -- and the equipping of these Christian brethren with the character they will need to be useful to God in the future work of service to the resurrected world. We as Christians are being trained as co-mediators -- co-priests and co-Kings with Christ. (Revelation 1:6, 5:10) That's the great hope of all Christian faith -- not a futile and unrealistic effort to snatch a lucky few from God's judgment. The process that we as God's family experience now -- the patient involvement by God in our transformation of mind and heart -- is quite similar , though more gentle, to the kinds of judgments which the world of mankind will experience in the future. Judgment has indeed begun in the house of God, and that's why all victorious Christians change from selfish sinners into selfless saints. (1 Peter 4:17, Revelation 19:8)
Have we overlooked the stated character of God -- that his mercy abides forever, and that his anger is just for a moment? Have we gotten confused about our Father's agenda -- first the upward call in Christ, then the blessing of all the families of the earth? All authentic Christians are being prepared as fair and patient judges of the rest of the human race when the time comes for Christ and his Church to reign over the earth. (1 Corinthians 6:2, Ephesians 1:10) We would like to help new Christians get started on the right foot, and see this hopeful beauty and power in the Bible.
The time has come for believers, everywhere, to adopt the same goals that God has clearly stated in the Word.... in simplicity and beauty.