Another careful reader asked...
READER>> [You propose that a proper understanding of the gospel includes special strategy and interpretation. For example, you say that "eternal" is not always eternal. You say that Jesus calls unbelievers "not His sheep," but they really are elect, lost sheep. You say that even though the Bible says God hated Esau, that he really loved him. You say that wisdom gives one answer to the fool and another answer to the wise. Really? What is the end of re-interpreting the Bible to defend your own unbiblical views? - jlm]
ME>> This is perhaps the most important question that could be asked of my thesis. It is my singular goal to be thoroughly Biblical. To adopt a view apart from the Scripture offers no real hope. There would be absolutely no point to it. Suppose you or I received a court summons in the mail. We could try to imagine the letter to be an invitation to Disney World. However, our interpretation would make no difference when the police arrived to escort us to the judge. Likewise, hiding behind silly interpretations will not protect the remaining self-righteousness that will be stripped away when final judgment is made based solely on the righteousness of Christ. We might like to imagine Heaven to be a giant Disney World in the sky that everyone is invited to attend with free will faith as their ticket.
However, this fictional understanding of salvation misses the whole point of grace. Heaven is the destiny of all those predestined for salvation, and these righteous are invited to live by faith. Heaven is not an eternal Disney World vacation, but an eternity of worshiping Christ. If all someone has is fire insurance they definitely will not find comfort adoring Jesus for an eternity. Sure everyone hopes for a happy afterlife, but only the believing are eager to worship Christ our savior. So really what matters is not our imagination, but the truth. Thus any special or unusual interpretation about salvation is only justified if it is also justified by Scripture itself.
Does wisdom give one answer to the fool and another answer to the wise?
Yes, according to Scripture in Proverbs 26:4-5, wisdom answers the same question differently for the wise man and the fool. For example, John 1:11 begins hopefully, making it clear that all mankind belongs to Christ. However, when foolish unbelief is evident Jesus tells the unbelieving that they are "not His sheep" in John 10:26. Gently I ask on what basis do you have confidence that you are elect? Think carefully before you say you met the condition of faith therefore you must be elect, because Christian faith must be founded on Biblical facts. What Biblical fact do you have to confirm that you are elect, while even one other human being is not? Your answer may expose that in fact you do not have Christian faith.
Does God love Esau even though Romans 9:13 says he hated Esau?
Many verses say that God loved the world. John 3:16 is a well-known verse that you are no doubt familiar with. Arminians understand these verses to mean every individual within mankind is loved by God, though sadly they also think that salvation is only secured through God's love PLUS man's faith. Calvinists, however, properly understand that salvation is through God's loving grace alone, simply received by faith. Yet they are also convinced that God does not love all mankind because they think not all are saved. Since his saving love can never fail they conclude that those not saved are specifically not loved by God, such as Esau whom God hated. They interpret "all" to mean, not every individual, but instead every "category" of human.
Now, I have never heard a Calvinist evangelize by saying, "God might love you OR you might be one of those hated by God." That would be pure silliness. Yet it is a proper application of their understanding. So what is a better understanding? Scripture itself states in Romans 11:28 that the unbelieving are "ENEMIES as far as the gospel is concerned, but LOVED as far as election is concerned." This Scripture answers your question precisely. In fact the answer to your question is part of the whole concluding argument of the book of Romans! Your question is an excellent one, given complete attention in Paul's Magnum Opus.
So again the Scripture defines the boundary for our interpretations. Again gently I ask if you believe that God does hate the many and love the few, then on what basis do you conclude that you are loved? Maybe like Esau you are hated for rejecting the gospel, but still loved on account of election. Or do you believe that he loves all, but eventually hates the people who reject him? Certainly you do not believe that God could love anyone that he damns for all eternity! How could he love them when it is within his power to save them? Yet, the elect, though deserving damnation, are shown grace, God's unmerited determination to love and forgive those who hated him! Friend, God is fishing for men and you may have just swallowed the fish hook of His grace! From personal experience I suggest you give up the fight.
Are the unbelievers Jesus calls "not His sheep" really elect?
I grew up in a congregation that avoided the subject of predestination because it was a fearful doctrine. I have since grown to love this doctrine. Anyone who understands the doctrine of predestination also understands that God's determined love has already been decided for the elect not only before they have believed, but also before we were born, and even before the world was made. The Scriptures remind us in many places that God loved us BEFORE we loved him.
However, that does not mean I was a Christian before I was born again. My heart was not regenerate. I did not have the Holy Spirit. I did not have faith. I was not yet given the right to become a child of God, even though I was elect. (Infant baptizing Christians make a grave mistake in receiving Christ on behalf of their children.) The Scriptural defense for this understanding is all over the New Testament and very clearly spelled out in Hosea 2:23.
Now God's knowledge of me and heart towards me was constant through the whole period of my unbelief. Yes, I was an object of wrath for my part because of my rebellious nature and hatred of God. But God did not eternally hate me, nor any unbelieving elect, ever, though his wrath remains on the unbelieving. However, my knowledge of God and my heart toward him radically changed when I received his forgiveness from the cross. Through repentance and faith I obtained salvation from my sin nature and from punishment in Hell for my unbelief. In time I also grew to understand the salvation of the elect from the Lake of Fire. Now you may think instead that your free will choice of faith adds your name to the elect. Friend, unfortunately that is not saving faith, but is instead works salvation.
How can "eternal" not always mean eternal?
I had come to the conclusion that "forever" and "eternal" in the New Testament must not always mean "forever" and "eternal" because the context of grace demanded salvation satisfaction even for the unbelieving. And so I concluded that the Holy Spirit used the word "forever" and "eternal" to describe the long, but finite time of punishment in Hades for the unbelieving. I also concluded that if Abraham's faith could reasonably trust that God could "call things that are not, as though they were," then I certainly was not unreasonable to conclude that God could save people from "eternal" punishment in Hell. Furthermore, it is also evident and believed by all orthodox Christians that Jesus abolished the "eternal" Old Covenant in his flesh. So I concluded that "eternal" does not always mean "forever" when God is in the picture.
The Lord has, however, recently corrected my understanding. My logic was sound, but incomplete. Please forgive me for that. I had already shown that the Hebrew word "olam" does not always mean eternal, but instead it means the duration of the subject in view. Every Hebrew lexicon denotes this fact. Yet without much homework I concluded that the same must be true of the Greek word translated "eternal" in the New Testament, the Greek word "aion." I had planned to do further homework to prove this for myself.
However, recently the Lord has blessed me through a reunion with John Wesley Hanson's classic 1875 work titled, The Greek Word Aion-Aionios translated Everlasting-Eternal in the Holy Bible Shown to Denote Limited Duration. I was first introduced to this work in college by a good friend, but sadly my memory is largely untrustworthy and I forgot about the critical points made in this book. None-the-less, this classic work is available for free from the U.S. Library of Congress website and also from my own website. This 88 page book is a must read for anyone who agrees or disagrees with my conclusions. There is little point to my adding further to this definitive work. Study this volume for yourself and your faith and understanding of the Bible will be challenged in radically positive ways, if you are willing to let go of all your self-righteousness.
Dr. Heleen Keizer has also written a dissertation proving the same titled, Life, Time, Entirety - A Study of Aion in Greek Literature and Philosophy, the Septuagint and Philo. You can read her 315 page dissertation online or an abstract of her conclusions from my website. You might think it is incredulous to claim that "aion" is mistranslated in many Bibles. Unless you are competent in ancient Greek you may not even know how to verify this for yourself. The NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek in English is an invaluable resource on my shelf. Young's Literal Translation is also a valuable resource.
Will you not at least concede the point that, if the grace of God has forgiven a rebel like you, then his forgiveness could also extend just as easily to unbelieving mankind since Christ is their Federal head and savior also? The application of grace is in fact in his power alone. The good news is that the death of Christ demands the salvation of mankind, as well as the punishment of the unbelieving who reject his grace! However, the punishment of the unbelieving is not eternal, but governed by God's loving grace.
Certainly you must agree that your faith does not add to the work of Christ which is freely given to both you and all mankind. Do you agree? Perhaps the problem is not that I lack a Biblical defense for these radical views, but I respectfully ask if you are lacking a radical Biblical faith.