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Sunday, 30 March 2014

An Amazing Prophecy! So Take Courage.

This week has been a week (as usual) of sadness. In the newspaper there was a report about Stiff Back Syndrome, and about this fellow who has developed the disease which, he reckons, will confine him to a wheelchair by the end of the year. This was the same diagnosis given to my beloved wife Alex, by the medical team at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford during Autumn of last year (2013). What I found so disheartening was that permanence was implied in the report that there is no cure. Furthermore, not only could be fatal if the nerve and muscle stiffness affected the heart, but the screw is tightened furthermore by the irritating fact that the ailment is extremely rare, affecting just one out of a million people.
Only last week, I took my wife out of the house, other than to hospital, for the first time after over seven months. But it was nothing like the cheerful strolls we enjoyed so much as a couple, whether through the forest, to town, or to the station as were in former times. Instead, I pushed her along while she sat in a wheelchair I had recently bought for her. What most distressed her was when we passed by young mothers instructing their children to "mind the wheelchair" as if her disability stood her out in the street.

Really, this has affected both of us. Alex only recently looked deep into my eyes one evening when we were in bed, and I asked her,
"What can you see in my eyes?"
"Despair, and fear of the future." was her reply. She was spot on.
As I looked back on over fifteen years, most of this as husband and wife, yes I do recall the memorial times, such as our honeymoon in Rhodes where I picked up an ear infection from the hotel pool not properly chlorinated. Whether that was an omen or not I can't be too sure. But we both recall so many other trips we went on together, either in the UK or abroad. And the amount of walking and cycling, including hiring bicycles in Scotland to ride along the shores of Loch Ness, to see if by chance we might see that mythical creature! And again when we hired bikes at Kos, to ride to the Thermal, a natural hot spring where we bathed in the hot water pooled in at the beach. These and many more happy memories, even day to day life at home. Yet I recall two Christian husbands at different times and different churches who watched their wives deteriorate into wheelchair mobility, then both men ending up as widowers.

It is this I despair at. The thought of seeing my beloved go the same way as those two wives brings utmost dread, and believe me, I'm not exaggerating. This, accompanied by a feeling of intense loneliness, with the possible exception of being with my church friends. But even at my church there is a sense of helplessness where the elders feel a sense of loss with the situation. With my beloved incapacitated, a feeling of loss even at a place where there should be love and friendship flowing freely and my faith strengthened, but instead with a sense of nothing bright to look forward to, the feeling of desperation temps me to ask:
Lord, why us? What have we done to deserve all this sorrow?

This comes from the idea that we have rights, that our lives should be as normal as all the other middle class folk around us. So be it - they own their own homes, have two or even three cars, they go abroad once, often twice a year, and of course, they done well at school and now hold down a profession, with a good income to go with it. Of course, all these things I would have liked. But I don't have any of these things, therefore I have learnt to be content with what I do have - a history of world travel, and a wife who adores me to the full, as well as someone I can love and cherish.

It is while I am in this state of affairs that I can take courage from the prophet Daniel, perhaps one of my favourite Biblical characters other than Jesus Christ. His humbleness was a virtue which is still something, I believe, many Christians have yet to learn. In chapter 9:4-19, he beseeches God for his mercy and for his forgiveness for both himself and for all of Israel, and pleads for the restoration of Jerusalem, the capital where God himself had placed his name. It is quite a prayer, with him acknowledging that he is without strength, both he and his people, and unlike many charismatic churches at present, does not "claim" any rights or blessings, but considers himself fortunate that such a great and holy God who had chosen Abraham, could be so forgiving to someone like himself and to his nation, who were disobedient over many centuries. And so he pleads with God for his mercy on himself, his people Israel, and for the restoration of his beloved city. It was, in actuality, a standing in the shadow of the Cross. I believe that every believer, and yes, every unbeliever as well, should have the experience of standing in the shadow of the Cross. Under the Cross, every form of pride melts away, our social standing becomes insignificant, along with our careers and professions. The Cross also slays our trust in wealth, and of every earthly pleasure, as well as our nationalism. Also, under the Cross, all disputes evaporates, and former enemies stand arm in arm for support. In short, what the Cross of Christ does is slay the old man.

The response for Daniel's prayer of contrition has become, at least to me in particular, the most amazing, if not the most astonishing prophecy ever written, not just in the Bible, but in every literature ever written throughout history. If there was such a dramatic demonstration of God's omniscience and his sovereignty, sure this would be the finest example. Here is the prophecy:

As soon as you began praying, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore consider the message and understand the vision:
Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to appoint the most holy.
Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens' and sixty-two 'sevens' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two 'sevens', the Anointed One will be cut off, (but not for himself) and have nothing.
Daniel 9:24-26a.

Anyone who can add up can see that seventy sevens, also known in the KJV as "seventy weeks" must mean 490 units of time must elapse before finish transgression" -"to put an end to sin" - "to atone for wickedness" and to bring in everlasting righteousness by appointing the most holy. Surely these could not be literal weeks, because the Anointed One (i.e. the Christ) did not come merely ten years later, as this was written around 516 BC, which was the first year of the Mede/Persian Empire. Not only that, but even to this day there is no sign that we are living in "everlasting righteousness" or that "the most holy" has been appointed in Jerusalem. But putting an end to sin in our lives and to atone for wickedness was accomplished by Jesus Christ when he died on the cross.

That the 490 years did not begin in 516 BC, but agreed by all scholars that this period began in 445 BC, the year Nehemiah, the Jewish cup-bearer to Persian King Artaxerxes, was commissioned by the king to return to Jerusalem with his fellow Jews to rebuild the walls of the city (Nehemiah 1). The 490 years, I believe, were for Israel to exist without a king before the return and reign of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, which is still future from this point of time. Various scholars have battled with this, involving present day churches, as the reign of Christ had not occurred since his crucifixion and his resurrection some two thousand years ago. Furthermore, I don't think I ever heard a preach delivered on this matter in the last forty years as a believer.

But this prophecy does not involve present day churches at all. It is to do with Israel and with Jerusalem, the literal city which I had the privilege not only to visit but to actually spend a whole month within its walls in 1994. Having been there, Jerusalem means a great deal to me and therefore all prophecies connected to it. Therefore, I can't help reading such prophecies as seeing the wonderful omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence of Almighty God who is the hope for all our sorrows in life.

With the risk of being so academic, by reading the Scripture, it looks that the figure is divided by three parts:
(7x7)+(62x7)+(1x7) - with (7x7) and (62x7) only mentioned in the above quote.
Since (7x7=49)+(62x7=434)=483 years, it is still seven years short of the total 490 years before righteousness will be established. (The remaining one "week" of seven years still lie in the future from this point in time, but that is a discussion for another day.) But why was there a separation between the 49 years and the remaining 434 years? I think there was a good reason, that it was the year 396 BC that Malachi, the final book of the Old Testament, was completed, hence closing the canon. There was also the possibility that the entire city of Jerusalem was completed by this time as well.

These were Hebrew years referred to here, each being 360 days long. Therefore 483 years is 173,880 days - the number of days between the commission of Nehemiah and the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. I have been curious to put these to the test, so I did some calculations, just to see how close to the historic truth these prophecies could be. So what I did was to calculate:
-445+483=38 AD.

I felt disappointed, until I remembered that the 483 years were Hebrew years of 360 days each. Therefore by calculating 483 years, each with the extra 5.25 days (as in our modern Gregorian calender) - I came up with almost 2,536 days. By dividing that number by 360 (days in the Hebrew year) the result was just over seven years. All I had to do was deduct 7 years from 38 years to come up with AD 31, which was much closer to the date of the crucifixion. But there was a further complication. Ancient Hebrew numeracy did not have the zero, therefore a year is deducted from the total, making the year of his crucifixion as AD 30. This takes in the age of Jesus when he died as again without the zero, if he was born in 4 BC, then he would have been in his 34th year - or over 33 years old.

There were further complications, such as the discrepancy between the lunar and the solar year. As the Jews measured their time in lunar years, the way to fix the discrepancy was to add a second Adar, that is, an extra month, every several years - just as each year we mark off 365 days, with one extra day every four years. But it looks apparent that when the Holy Spirit measures time, he used the 360-day year. This is just a thought, but this sort of thing had made me ponder whether the Jews in Jesus' day had rejected him because he appeared seven years too soon, according to their calculations based on Daniel. But then, it would have been equally creditable had Jesus died at age 40. Whichever the reason, he came, and he was rejected, and crucified.

Therefore it isn't difficult for many scholars to believe that the 173,880 literal days were the exact number between the commissioning of Nehemiah by the king to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, to the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into the same city. If true, then what can I say? All I can do is to stand back and gasp with awe at the revelation, and acknowledge with reverence that God is God and Jesus Christ is Lord. Also, with such accuracy of foreknowledge making Probational Salvation looking a little foolish, how can I, even with a crumb of common sense, not believe in Once Saved Always Saved?

This is why I strongly advocate in reading the Bible. As itself testifies, reading and hearing the Word of God generates faith. It gives me strength and hope during adverse circumstances. And with it comes the knowledge of prophecy. I have heard people say that Biblical prophecy is very controversial, particularly Daniel, and therefore should be avoided. That is a load of tosh! I enjoy reading it, receive revelation from it and from it build faith which will endure the testing of day-to-day life. I'm not a professional by any chance, and certainly not an academic. Yet such testimony is there, in the Bible which you can hold in your hand, open and read. Daniel chapter nine is as easily available to read as John chapter three! God does not discriminate.

The future looks bleak for Alex and myself, but thanks to the easy availability of the Bible, along with encouragement from my friends, brothers and sisters in our church fellowship, hope for the future will endure.


Comments on the above topic are welcome, as they always are. If you have an opinion, a point of view, or something I have overlooked or further light on Daniel chapter nine you can share, then please post. Moderation is in place to keep out spam. Please also note that comments carrying links to other websites or to marketing will not be posted.
God bless.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

On Probation - Love or Fear?

In preparation of this blog I have been reading the contribution of other bloggers, both on this site and on other websites, and I always feel down whenever someone writes articles opposing Once Saved Always Saved. Now I don't write my stuff with the aim of converting - that's something only God can do, but with the aim of edification.
Edification - from the Italian word edificio,  a noun meaning a building, of whatever purpose it serves, whether it serves as a residence, office, factory, church, hospital, or any other purpose, it has first to be constructed. It is this construction of the building which the Bible borrows as a term to build up Christian faith. To build is to bring something to existence which wasn't there before, and usually slowly, brick by brick. The construction can take weeks, months or even years. Then the very opposite of to build is to demolish. To demolish is to wipe out of existence a structure that was there before. And usually, to demolish a building takes much quicker than to build, especially at present, when dynamite can bring a building down in a matter of seconds. That is how my joy in the faith can be so quickly demolished when reading articles denying Once Saved Always Saved as unbiblical, even soul-damning heresy.

This teaching that we can lose our salvation if we sin severely or turn from the faith is normally known as Arminianism, after the 16th Century theologian James Arminius, who read the works of a Roman Catholic Jesuit monk, Luis de Molina, accepted them into his own beliefs, and then later embraced by many non-Catholic churches, particularly Methodists. With me, I now prefer to call this teaching Probational Salvation. Don't attempt to Google this term, it was I who coined it up. It was thought up after comparing it with the experience a candidate usually goes through when applying for a career at a particular company. He is given between one to three months of probation. During this period, the potential employer monitors and analyses his performance. If, after this period expires, the employer is satisfied, the candidate gets to keep his job. Otherwise he faces dismissal.

I recall the first three jobs I applied for, two as early as 1967, when I was still at school. The very first one was the morning paper round. After watching classmates earning a considerable amount of pocket money, I thought - why not? So I was given a week's trial. So each day I got up early in the morning, entered the town's newsagent, and started with the "office bit" - assigning each but a different newspaper to every address which the round would cover. Sure enough, complaints from customers receiving the wrong newspaper began to be fed back to the manager. When I returned to the shop at the end of the Friday round, I was paid 14/- (fourteen shillings) - a full week's pay equivalent to today's £0.70 pence - and given my marching orders.

14/- was a fair pay for the mid sixties. With it, to compensate for my disappointment in failing the week's probation, I took a train to Reading for the day. It was only a short run - 11 miles - but for me it was the other side of the world. And it might well have been. This short trip was the first of my travel career which would take me indeed to the other side of the world - in Sydney Australia, with a host of very interesting places in between. Back to my schooldays, my next part-time job, at a town centre supermarket, also ended in failure before the probation was fulfilled. Then in 1968, immediately after leaving school, my first full time job as an apprentice electrician ended just two weeks into a month probation. Then at last, a post at a furniture factory lasted for a full five years, within that time I was transformed into a man and a believer in Jesus Christ.

The Furniture factory where I worked between 1968 and 1973.

So probation is an experience I'm fully acquainted with, allowing me to see a strong similarity between this and Probational Salvation. For example, during those different weeks of probation, did I really love the boss with a desire to serve wholeheartedly - and in the full knowledge that I will be secure in my job, no matter how many times I screw up? Or did I fear dismissal, so ensuring that all my best efforts were there? Were all my efforts to please the result of my employer taking me off the streets and guaranteeing a permanent post with a good income and promotion a little later on? Or were they an attempt to ensure that I stayed off the streets? These two motives behind my efforts reflected how I felt for my employer. One was love, serving with gratitude, the other was out of fear of dismissal, with no income to follow. The one motive was out of love, with the employer's interest at heart. The other from fear, with his own interests at heart.

And that is what I see in the faith of many who don't believe in Eternal Security. There is even a verse quoted:
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12). This verse was used as the text for the main evening preach at the 1994 Spring Harvest Bible Festival, denouncing Once Saved Always Saved, a sermon which resulted in a near-riot among the audience, and the dismissal of the speaker from the festival. And I read over and over again this verse quoted as proof that one is not eternally secure. Yet in the very next verse, it says:
For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (v.13)
What good purpose was Paul referring to?
The good purpose was that they shone as bright stars in the unbelieving world, as verses 14-18 so clearly demonstrates. Their working out their salvation (note: not for their salvation) was in fear that the glory of Christ would be of non-effect due to the way they lived. The whole letter is about the glory of the risen Christ, and the only hope for the world was to see this glory in their lives. It had nothing to do with Hellfire! This Hellfire threat was added in much later by the Probationists.

Another set of "proof texts" used by Probationists are found in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. I have seen the glint of satisfaction in the eye of those who thought they had won the argument, and even a hint of a smirk. These two chapters were about the risen Lord addressing seven specific churches located in the Galatian area of western Turkey. However, in the first chapter, John, who wrote the book, had recorded a vision he had of the risen Lord. In it, he was holding a Jewish Menorah with seven lighted candles. John was then told that each of these seven candles was the church he was about to address. The general message was unless each of these churches relied on divine life, the light would eventually be extinguished. This was most likely caused by dwindling membership numbers until the group was no more.

But he also reminded each of the seven churches that he who overcomes - shall be rewarded in one way or another, or shall not be hurt by the second death, nor have his name blotted out from the Book of Life. Here are some verses delivered to all seven churches:

He who overcomes, I will give the right to the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Revelation 2:7.
He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. 2:11.
He who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna...and a white stone. 2:17
He who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations...and also the morning star. 2:26,28.
He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot his name out of the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before the Father and his angels. 3:5
Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. 3:12
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 3:21.

Probationists gleefully uses all these verses as bona-fide proof that the threat of loss of salvation constantly hangs over the believer's head, therefore inducing fear. But take another look at the quoted Scriptures above. Nowhere does it say:
But he who fails to overcome will be dismissed from my presence to suffer a lost eternity in Hellfire.

Yet, to them, they do seem at first to indicate a conditional salvation depending on the believer's faithfulness and his ability to overcome what looks to be a temptation into worldliness. The whole theme runs smoothly until it hits a problem right at the end of the narration, at 3:21 where Jesus said that he too overcame and is now sitting on his Father's throne. Now I wonder, supposing Jesus had failed to overcome? Yes, what would have happened to him then?

We as believers have already become overcomers, not by our own efforts, but entirely by Jesus' efforts. In 1 John 5:4-5, he wrote:
For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory which has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it who overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

And this was most likely the same author as the writer of Revelation. And John emphasises that everyone born of God overcomes the world, not just some with a strong willpower. And furthermore, there is even a stronger word than overcome. It is conqueror, to conquer. One who overcomes is one who defeats a problem or adversity in his own life, including his lure into worldliness. But a conqueror takes over an enemy territory and rules over the indigenous population. Yet Paul, in Romans 8:37 wrote that we (as believers) are more than conquerors through him who loved us. In other words, not only are we overcomers, but above conquerors too. Through him who loved us.

With these Scripture verses I get a picture of Jesus laying a path for us to Heaven. But a mountain blocks the way. So what does he do? Climb the mountain? No, it has a sheer cliff all around, making it impossible to climb. So he blasts a tunnel through the mountain. When the tunnel opens out on the other side, all we do is walk through. There is no need for further blasting. The job is already accomplished. So why did the Holy Spirit inspire John to write about overcoming if we as believers are already overcomers, according to his own word?

Could it be that Jesus was addressing each of the seven churches corporately? That is, individual members come and go, as with all churches at present. In a typical church, although the majority of members are true believers, non-believers can find a niche and fit in. History has shown that non-believers could outnumber believers, and that is true particularly within leadership. I read from several sources* that in America, some of the larger Methodist churches acquired liberal leaders, often known as modernists, which enticed the congregation away from the historicity of the Bible - such as denying the truth of the virgin birth, the power of the Atonement, and the physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible itself was seen as a book of fables which contained a moral truth, rather than being the inspired Word of God. Darwinian evolution was taught in place of divine Creation, and there was even one case where it was taught in all seriousness, that Jesus was an illegitimate son of a Roman soldier and prostitute Mary. Then, together with the rise of Roman Catholicism in the fourth Century A.D. we wonder why the risen Lord warns each of the seven churches that only those who overcome (true believers) shall receive the benefits of salvation.

Then I try to look at the Probationist's point of view from a psychological angle. One way I did this was to compare my relationship to God to married life. I think it's important to realise that this is not a chicken-or-egg case. The Bible did not use marriage as an analogy between Jesus Christ and his Church as Bride. Rather, in his omniscience, God the Father had already thought about a bride for his Son from eternity past, and in Creation arranged for a man to be married to his wife as a reflection of this. This could be the reason why laws against adultery applies to us humans while nothing of the kind exist in the animal kingdom.

I love my wife dearly, unconditionally. In the past I have wondered what the outcome would have been if she was caught in her unfaithfulness. But I have decided that I will love her just the same. And this ability is not my own, it is from God, who gives me grace and strength every day. But it is, and will always be, extremely unlikely that she would commit such an act. Why? Because of her love, adoration and devotion to me as her husband. Because of her love to me, nothing outside is of any interest to her. I think this was enforced by her illness, her inability to walk. It gave me the opportunity to lavish my affections which sealed our marriage for life.

And this highlights the major problem which occurs in probational salvation. God is seen as a strict, moral perfectionist who is constantly monitoring the believer's performance, and threatening separation and eternity in a fiery furnace if the believer does not measure up. Now try to imagine how a wife would feel if her husband was to act that way. Personally, I can't see the marriage lasting, and it would not be long before the wife is found in the arms of another man, maybe a smooth-talking colleague in the office. I guess I would feel the same where God is concerned. I would not have any love for the tyrant. Fear, yes - even terror. But certainly not love. And my performance would be self-centred rather than in God's interests, mainly as a means to escape Hell. No, I would not want to serve that kind of god (small 'g') and I would not even be sure if I wanted to be in his presence in his kingdom forever.

And so stories abound with apostasy among church members, the rise in atheism, Darwinism as scientific fact, the rise in adultery and the divorce rate, and the reports of domestic violence. Bullying husbands are often perceived as a reflection of a tyrant in the sky who is constantly monitoring their performance. One story I can relate is about an expletive-exploding builder who was a regular visitor to the sauna. Always a life of the party, I felt intimidated in his presence. One day however, when we were alone together, I asked him what he thought of Jesus Christ. Immediately he exploded into anger with his explanation of his Roman Catholic upbringing. I could understand his anger perfectly as a former Catholic myself. I too can recall an extremely maddening situation of one mortal sin committed resulting in a lost eternity in Hell. A fickle God impossible to please. He was the one case of a vast majority who shuns anything spiritual. A fearful perspective of God does not create crowds of true converts.

Once Saved Always Saved means everything to me. It enables me to keeping trust in God during averse situations, and enables me to thank God for his goodness especially when the chips are down. It has been a great morale-booster when facing various challenges life throws at us. Most important, Once Saved Always Saved has been the bedrock of a strong, happy marriage, no matter what Hell tries to throw at us.

Jesus had already blasted a tunnel through the mountain. So there is no need for me to pick at the rock face.


* Dr. John R. Rice; False Doctrines Answered from the Scriptures, Sword of the Lord Publishers.
Tim LaHaye; The Beginning of the End, Tyndale.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

O.S.A.S - And Hebrews 6:4-6.

One of the best things about blogging on the Internet is that I can express my thoughts on issues closest to my heart and know that someone, somewhere will read and I hope, feel edified. Therefore to share on the love, goodness and mercy of God through Jesus is a wonderful privilege, and blessed be to God for giving me the grace to glorify him here on this site.
And one of my core beliefs is knowing that once I'm saved, I have been regenerated in my spirit, I am going through sanctification of my soul, and one day I will have a glorious, immortal body - very much like the risen Saviour has now. All this gotten through grace, I guess, an acronym in the English language for Gift Received At Christ's Expense. It is the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to my life account; my own righteousness is as filthy rags, like a shrivelled leaf blown away by the wind. There is absolutely no way I can have fellowship with the Lord in Heaven based on my efforts. Without Jesus Christ, I have absolutely no hope. Therefore if he is to save me from the well-deserved separation in Hell, he would have to save me fully and completely, without any works or merit on my side. Therefore, common sense in itself should testify that if God has started a work in me, he will finish it. The very omniscience of God, who foreknew me and predestined me to conform to his Son, ought to guarantee that once saved always saved - a work of God, with whom the Holy Spirit within is himself a guarantee.

The Omniscience of God is what I believe to be the strongest argument for Once Saved Always Saved. It means that God is all-knowing. There is absolutely nothing which can happen that will take God by surprise. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then God already knew this long before you were ever born. Long before conception, God not only had each day of your life numbered, but every single deed carried out, every single word spoken, every thought passing through your head, every other person you met, every friend, every foe, all your family members and your parents - all were written in his book long before even your father and mother were born. If you read the prophetic section of the Old Testament, you will see all this come out.

For example, why not read Isaiah chapter 53, and notice that the futuristic prophecy of God's Servant atoning for Israel's sins was written in the past tense, as if these things had already occurred. Or read the whole book of the prophet Daniel. Read about the terrible visions he had about the empires which were still to arise to dominate the Jews long after the prophet's death. Read in particular chapters 10 and 11, and with the rise of the Greek Empire, four sub-kingdoms were to arise after the premature death of Alexander the Great. Read of the conflict between the Northern and Southern kings, with so much intricate detail, that it reads like a newspaper. When I read this, I stood back in awe, speechless.

What a tremendous display of God's omniscience! And why did God take so much trouble  to foretell the ins and outs of a future empire which arose long after the death of Daniel? Could it be because when the prophet died, Israel was still dominated by the Mede/Persian Empire? And during the Greek Empire which was to follow, had God already known that no part of the Bible would be written during that period? Then on the personal side, knowing God to be omniscient, as well as omnipotent, and his omnipresence is an encouraging thought during times when the chips are down, or when afraid, fearful of the future, or when I wish things were better than they currently are. King David must have realised this too, for he penned Psalm 139.

Yet in light of all this, there are many Christian believers who think that one must hold faithful and remain obedient to God in order to "stay saved" - normally known as Arminians, but sometimes this kind of theology is called Conditional Security. In other words, falling away could well mean the loss of salvation. Now if this was true, then the gift of salvation we now have in Christ as believers, would not be a gift at all. Instead we would all be on lifetime probation. In the world of business and employment, a candidate applying for a post is normally given a probational period set by the employer. It may be for a month, or up to three months. During this period, the boss watches carefully the candidate's performance. If he is satisfied, then the candidate is offered the job and becomes a full time employee. But if not satisfied, the company will give him his marching orders. That is what probation in this context is about. Conditional salvation is very much like that. And they would quote a number of verses in the New Testament to prove their point.

And the verses quoted most often by Arminians is Hebrews 6:4-6, which reads:
It is impossible for those who have been once enlightened, who has tasted the heavenly gift, who has shared in the Holy Spirit, who has tasted of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Then Hebrews 10:26-27, 39 may also be taken into consideration:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God...
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who believe and are saved.

If these verses prove that a believer can lose his salvation due to falling away from the faith, or by committing a serious sin, or leading a not-so-godly life, then indeed, the Arminians were right after all. It would have meant that no Christian alive is eternally saved, and that every believer is on a lifelong probation, not knowing the verdict until after death. Furthermore, God himself is watching every move, every work the believer performs, because the Almighty needs to know whether the believer is worthy enough to enter Heaven, therefore denying God's omniscience. That is, God does not know how the believer will perform, and he can be taken by surprise.

The result of all this is more akin to fear of punishment rather than a selfless love for God. Over the last forty years of being a Christian myself, I have noticed that Arminians tend to be stronger prayer warriors, more zealous in Bible study, more enthusiastic in evangelism and handing out tracts, more dedicated in door-to-door (particularly with Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons, who are both Arminians) and during services, louder in praise and speaking in tongues - as proof that they are Spirit-filled. All these things are good in themselves, of course. But if the fear of likely punishment or the possibility of being shut out of Heaven is in the believer's heart, he would make certain that all these works - and more - are all there. The conclusion to all this, at least on what I can make out, is that Arminianism is more likely to be self centred rather than centred on God's glory and his Kingdom. Yet Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-27 are the most oft-quoted verses to disprove eternal security.

Hebrews 6:4-6 points out five phases a person can go through. These were:
1. Having been enlightened.
2. Tasted the heavenly gift.
3. Shared in the Holy Spirit.
4. Tasted the Word of God.
5. Tasted the powers of the world to come.

I find it interesting to note here that the word tasted appears in three out of the five above statements. There is a difference between tasting and drinking. To drink is to consume entirely, but as for tasting, the first picture that comes to mind when tasting something is wine-tasting. Here a small sample of the wine is sucked into the mouth, swivelled over the tongue, than spat out into a spittoon. This is a very good analogy of a person joining a church without being born again and regenerated in the spirit. Over the years, I have communicated with quite a number of people, mostly working school leavers or college undergrads, who attended church for a while, made friends with the regular members, then disappear. When asked how they feel in the spiritual area, they have shown utter hostility towards anything to do with God and the Bible. And I recall at least one of them actually exhorting me with a Scripture verse back in the 1970s when I was going through a period of doubt. Now, if I was to meet him, he would slam the door to my face, demonstrating his heart hardened into rock.

If the theology of conditional salvation does seem to have a point, it's most likely item #3 - Shared, or made partakers of the Holy Spirit. They would argue that if a person shares in the Holy Spirit, then he must already be converted. I don't think so necessarily. First of all, John 1:9 says that Jesus is the true light that shines into every man born into the world. Secondly, in John 16:8, Jesus says that after his Resurrection, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin and judgement. However, when an unbeliever enters a church, he will feel the greater presence of the Holy Spirit among God's people, as 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 so demonstrates.

It is possible for an unbeliever to be convicted by the Holy Spirit and still remain unconverted. If this were to occur, the unbeliever's heart will harden to such an extent, that it would be impossible to bring such an individual back to the point of repentance, no matter how fervently a believer may persuade him. On the other hand, I had attended baptism services where the candidate had testified that he or she had grown up in a Christian home, then deviated from the faith for many years, before coming back and submitting himself for baptism. During all this time away from the faith, was such a person saved? Yes, I believe he or she was saved, and remained saved throughout all that time. This was evidenced by a heart which never hardened to the point that it became impossible to come to repentance. The same can be said of a devout believer who serves God for many years, then comes across a crisis in life which would turn him away from the faith, whether temporary or more permanent. Has he lost his salvation from that moment on? The very omniscience of God should answer that one. If his salvation was so forfeitable, then through his foreknowledge, God would have called him home while his faith was still strong.

As for the case of Hebrews 10:26-27, I think the same idea is taught, maybe with the addition that the whole of the letter was addressed to the Jews. The very title, which is translated, To the Hebrews, suggest that the letter was addressed to all the Jews, whether believers in Jesus Christ or not. The whole letter is about how the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ made on the cross was better than all the Temple ordinances which foreshadowed the Atonement made by Jesus Christ. If a person rejects the Gospel, and then returns to the Temple ordinances, then it becomes necessary for the Lord to be crucified all over again. This is what the verse 26 is talking about, which the King James Version brings out more accurately:
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins.

The one "sin" sometimes referring as the unpardonable sin, is rejecting the Gospel after hearing it, and returning to Temple ordinances. With the sacrifice of Jesus already accomplished, the one who rejects the Gospel not only sins against the Holy Spirit, but will be accountable for all his sins, as they cannot be forgiven unless the Lord Jesus goes to the cross all over again. A good example of this kind of attitude is found in Acts 3, where Peter and John heals a lame beggar, then uses this miracle to demonstrate the Atonement and Resurrection made by Jesus. The members of the Sanhedrin who witnessed the miracle had rejected the Gospel, demonstrated by their imprisonment of the apostles.

Finally, I have included verse 39, as this is still in the context of 10:26. It talks about shrinking back and are destroyed rather than believing and are saved. When reading this, I get a picture of a strong tower, like in Proverbs 18:10, which reads:
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

Ancient cities in the Middle East were normally walled and had a tower which served as both watch tower and refuge for the citizens of the city. When the city was threatened by an enemy army, its citizens ran into the tower for protection. I can imagine someone running into this tower and is safe. But another person runs to the tower but stops short of it, and walks away. As a result his life remains in danger. This is a good analogy of someone who was brought by the Holy Spirit to the point of repentance, but turns away just short of it. His heart would begin to harden, and it would then be impossible for him to return to that same point of repentance.

Oh, the foolishness of some.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Hellfire Goodbye!

This is a continuation of my last blog, O.S.A.S. Quench Your Hellfire! Here, I wish to demonstrate how reading only a few Bible verses and then reading Hellfire into these verses can have a negative impact on a believer's faith and his relationship with God. OSAS is an acronym for Once Saved Always Saved, and its origin, believe it or not, was from a negative perspective, dreamt up by an itinerant preacher who constantly denies the truth of this statement, insisting that a believer can lose his salvation and end up in Hell after death if he was to fall away from his faith or commit a serious sin.  Therefore, before I go any further, let me define two words which may be jargon to anyone who is un-churched.
Arminianism - From James Arminius, 16th Century Dutch Theologian. Denies the reality of OSAS, instead insist that a believer in Christ can still end up in Hell after death if he falls from his faith, commit a serious sin, or to live an ungodly life. Arminianism is an offshoot of Roman Catholicism whose Catechism includes the forfeiture of divine grace should a Catholic commit a mortal sin. Salvation is more of human choice rather than God's sovereignty.
Well known advocates alive at present: Dan Corner (USA), David Pawson (UK).
Calvinism - From John Calvin, 16th Century French Theologian. Accepts the reality of OSAS due to the foreknowledge and predestination of God, and of his Sovereignty. Also known as Eternal Security of the believer, Calvinism emphasises the rebirth of the spirit in the believer, therefore making him a new creation in Christ and as such, cannot lose his salvation. Moderate Calvinism, the position held by the majority of those who accepts Eternal Security, also accepts that every person is commanded by God to come to repentance, indicating human choice.
Well known advocates alive at present: R.T. Kendal (USA), Terry Virgo (UK).

James Arminius 

As a moderate Calvinist myself, that is one who accepts Once Saved Always Saved as Biblical, I have seen shortcomings with this idea, as I have seen shortcomings with the Arminian group. The reality lies in the situation if a Christian falls into serious sin, or falls away from the faith. The Arminian will use such a case as proof that a believer is not at present eternally saved, and unless he comes to repentance, he would have forfeited his salvation and is in danger of eternal doom. However, if the believer's faith fails, and ends up as a permanent doubter or unbeliever, or even hostile to the faith, he has passed the point of no return, and is unable to repent. The only remedy with this kind of Sotorology (study of salvation) is for the believer to die physically shortly after conversion, while his faith is still alive and strong.  This Arminian way of thinking totally denies the Omniscience of God, as well as his Omnipotence and his Sovereignty.
I have personally known two separate church pastors who had both lost their role in church leadership after each of them having committed adultery at different times and places. Interesting enough, one pastor was a Calvinist, the other an Arminian. However, both parties believe that their salvation were kept by their confession and repentance from their sin. But supposing both of them carried on with their sinful lives? The Arminian would insist that they were both saved in the past, but now they are lost again and Hell awaits them both. But the Calvinist, who accepts Eternal Security, would insist that those two were never saved in the first place. That means they would have both ended up in Hell if they died even before committing the sin or falling away.
And here is what I see is the dreadful shortfall of those who believe in once saved always saved. According to them, a person can be committed to Jesus Christ for thirty years, then something horrible happens, and he falls away. According to one author:* the Calvinist would insist that he was never saved in the first place. But suppose he came back to the faith, and starts serving God again. Oh, he was saved after all. Then he falls away again. Ah! He wasn't saved after all. But he returns to the faith a while later. Oh, so he was saved all the time. So on and off, on and off. What is meant to be expected for a saved person, of course, is a life of constant godliness. And this is why I think this whole idea is totally ludicrous. Could it be possible for a person to be truly committed to Jesus Christ, publicly confessing him as Lord and enthusiastically celebrating his Resurrection every Easter Sunday - only to be proved that throughout all that time, by an unfortunate incident later in life, that he was still in his sins?

Let us consider this Scripture:
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth you confess and are saved...For everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved.
Romans 10:9-10,13.

Now either this Scripture is true or it isn't. If true, does this imply eternity? Or is there some small print to be found elsewhere?  A couple of Old Testament verses can be applied here. In Isaiah 64:6, it says that all our righteousness are as filthy rags, and like a shrivelled leaf blown in the wind, we are all swept away, and no one calls on God's name. Jeremiah 17:9 confirms this, by declaring that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Therefore can the Arminian, and for that matter, also the Roman Catholic Church, really put forth a convincing argument that once saved, we have to hold out faithful to keep our salvation and to refrain from sinning? If we were so helpless before believing, to the point that every good deed we have accomplished still stank before God, then are any of our efforts better after believing? How valuable are our works in order to stay saved, if they were worthless before believing?

But both Arminians and Calvinists alike find small print in the New Testament by adding the threat of Hellfire to all believers, when the writer had no intention of doing this. A classic example is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which reads:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Christians in general, whether they believe in Once Saved Always Saved or not, always read Hellfire into these verses without properly considering what Paul was saying here. Calvinists would say that anyone who profess to be a believer and practices those things is proof that he was never saved - even if he might have been a devoted believer for a number of years earlier in his life. Arminians would say that anyone who falls back into this way of life after believing loses his salvation he had before, and is lost again - unless he repents. This is almost parallel with the Roman Catholic Catechism.

This seems to be the wretched consequence of chapter and verse! Originally intended for rapid searching and quoting of specific texts, Paul's intended thoughts are often lost. The New International Version, from where all these verses were taken, also adds in subtitles, breaking up the chapter entirely and forming separate subjects of discussion. Therefore what the writer is trying to say gets lost under a mountain of theological debate.

So what is Paul saying here? He was showing his shock and disgust over believing Christians taking their disputes to a Court of unbelievers. In verse 2 and 3, Paul assures with a promise that they - the Corinthian saints - will judge the world, and they will judge angels. (A promise of Eternal Security?) So this must apply to us also. If we are to judge angels, what on earth are we doing, bringing a dispute to Court, to be decided by an unbelieving magistrate? Paul then shows us that these judges, to whom the disputing saints were allowing to decide for them, were themselves guilty of many sins, one in particular was abandoning their wives to bed with prostitutes, along with other ungodly acts. But prostitution, apparently was the magistrate's chief sin.

So in this context, I have stripped the chapter of verse references, and I have condensed it to make clear Paul's thoughts. Here is the result:

What? You who are believers in Jesus Christ Resurrected are taking a dispute to Court? Are you letting an unbelieving magistrate decide your case? This is crazy! You are going to judge the world, and angels too - and you take a dispute to Court. Really, how pathetic you really are! Don't you know that these magistrates are guilty of many sins themselves, so how could they possibly decide on your case? Don't you know that those unbelieving judges who practice sexual immorality will not inherit the kingdom of God? Neither will those who steal, are greedy, slander, swindle, drink to excess, engage in homosexual acts, and so on. These magistrates do all those things, but you have been washed by the blood of Jesus and made holy by the Spirit of God.

Gosh, by letting them set an example over you, you even do the things they have been doing, such as prostitution. Don't you understand that if you, who have the Spirit of God dwelling in you, lie with a prostitute, you become one flesh with her? Yet you look up to these judges so much that you are following their ways. So I say to all you saints: Flee from fornication! For whoever sin in other areas sin outside the body. But if you fornicate, you sin against your own body. Consider this: Would your life be honouring to Christ before other men if you were to cringe in pain as a result of your actions? How dishonouring to God is it, if the temple of the holy Spirit is cringing in pain due to a sexually transmitted infection?

In this paraphrase, I tried to stay as close to the original Scripture as I possibly could. But I can see the real meaning of Scripture becoming clear. Paul was not threatening Hell fire to the saints. So the average Christian should not read Hellfire into verses which does not imply it.

There are other Scriptures which Christians can read Hellfire into them. Such as 2 Timothy 2:11-13, which reads:
Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot deny himself.

It looks to me that Arminian believers love to quote these verses as proof that we can lose our salvation if we disown him, or fail to endure. They tend to be quieter concerning verse 13, where it says that if we are faithless, he still remains faithful. But isn't faithlessness unbelief, the bottom cause of not enduring or even disowning? By reading Hellfire into these verses, they do imply loss of salvation to the disloyal believer.

But taking in the whole letter, what was Paul's main instruction to Timothy? It was a pastoral letter written personally to Timothy, and it was instructions for good church leadership. For a leader to sin was more serious than one in the congregation, because the behaviour and actions of the leader had consequence for the whole church in the sight of the watching world. Jesus Christ is either honoured or dishonoured by how the church is led. No Hellfire threat implied here, if the pastor denies or disowns Christ, not so much by speech as unfaithfulness to his wife and family, then he would be defrocked as a leader. I have seen this happen myself, on two occasions, and for the same sin - adultery.

I guess there is a good example of this in the Old Testament. It is about King Saul, the first monarch of Israel appointed by God through the anointing of Samuel. What I have found very disturbing was that King Saul had been placed in Hell as a result of disobeying God, not only by Arminians but by Calvinists as well. And for the same reasons - the one says that he was never saved in the first place, the other that he was saved for a while but he then had lost his salvation.

King Saul disobeyed God on just two occasions. The first was while he was waiting for Samuel to turn up and offer a sacrifice to God. But Samuel tarried, probably on purpose to test Saul's patience. But his patience ran out, and perhaps under the bidding of his troops, offered up the sacrifice himself. The second instruction was for him to wipe out the entire nation of the Amalekites - men, women, children, and all their livestock. But after slaying every human, he kept some of the best livestock alive for sacrifice. God then told Samuel:
But Samuel said to Saul...You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel. And the LORD was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.
1 Samuel 15:26,35.

The Scripture says that God was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel, and not as a man. God knew Saul. He will not be told, "I never knew you, depart from me, you worker of iniquity" (Matthew 7:23) - because God spoke to Saul through Samuel, set him up as King, and for at least the first years of his reign, had a heart to serve God. This could be implied that the cattle he had spared were for sacrifice, and not to make himself rich. He even pleaded Samuel to worship God with him after his sentence (rejection as king) was passed. Saul failed as a leader, but he was still saved by grace through faith alone.

Yet Arminian public speakers such as Dan Corner has placed King Saul in Hell. Also King Solomon was sentenced to Hell by Corner, and as for King David, he escaped Hell by a whisker, according to this determined Arminian. And Calvinist author Norman Robertson had also placed King Saul in Hell, much to my disappointment. This is the consequence of reading Hellfire into Scripture where there was no implication on such a thing. I have discovered throughout forty years of Christian experience that reading Hellfire into Scripture had always brought me low. I have never felt edified, nor wanting to praise and thank God for his love and goodness. Instead, by reading Hellfire where it was far from the original writer's mind had brought fear, and placed me under the Law.

I would wish to exhort everyone to read their Bibles without allowing anyone to colour their thinking.

To be continued...
*R.T. Kendal: Once Saved Always Saved.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

O.S.A.S. - Quench Your Hellfire!

From time to time at Ascot Life Church we have an open meeting. That means, instead of the weekly preach, anyone in the congregation can go to the front and give a testimony, a reading of Scripture, an exhortation or anything that would edify the rest of the Body of Christ. So was the case of relating why I believe in Once Saved Always Saved, or OSAS for short, along with how this belief had been a bastion of spiritual strength particularly during the weeks my wife was confined to a hospital bed. As the testimony metamorphosed into an exhortation for everyone to read their Bibles freely, I was aware of the discerning looks I received from those in our church who were taught not to believe in OSAS, or eternal security of the believer, but instead to remain faithful or else lose one's salvation. One of them actually opened his Bible in preparation to read out a text "proving" the invalidity of OSAS, but his opportunity was denied, after returning to my seat, by someone else butting in with an exhortation totally unrelated to my testimony.
During the talk, I gave the chief reason behind my standing with eternal security - the Omniscience of God. This means that God is all-knowing, which would include knowledge of the future - and with such accuracy that he can foretell the future with astonishing precision. Therefore I concluded that for a saved person to lose his salvation through ebbing faith or committing a serious sin is a denial of God's Omniscience. In short, he does not know what will happen next.
The Case of Abraham
In Genesis 15:7 this verse appears:
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
This at first looks like an off-the-cuff statement, something thrown in at the conclusion of a revelation God had shown him. The revelation was that from his loins the whole of the land he was dwelling in will be inherited by his descendants. Abram, or still to be renamed Abraham, believed what God had told him, and he was credited with a righteousness which came from heaven. In other words, God's righteousness was credited to his account, without any work done by the man to earn or merit this righteousness. As God saw him, Abram was as righteous as Jesus Christ himself, and saw not the man's natural self, but in Abram, God saw him as he would see Jesus Christ.

Paul the apostle took this very verse in Genesis and made it a big issue in explaining about justification by faith. Paul wrote of it in two of his letters, one to Rome and the other to the churches in Galatia, western Turkey. Another term for justification by faith is Judicial Acquittal. It means that the believer has been acquitted from all of his sin - past, present, and future, and he is seen as equally righteous as Jesus himself was, because prior to his death on the cross, Jesus lived a sinless life and therefore fully qualified to atone for the sins of the whole world. Therefore it must follow that for the believer who has been acquitted, he cannot be charged with his sins ever again, because Jesus himself had never sinned. Then as if an endorsement to this line of thinking, Revelation 13:8 says that the Lamb, Jesus Christ, was slain from the foundation of the world. Or as God sees it outside of the human time frame, Jesus was slain from eternity past. Therefore the slaughter of a beast to clothe Adam and Eve immediately after the Fall was a symbol of what was to come in human history, that the shedding of blood from an innocent substitute was required for redemption to take effect. Although the death of the innocent substitute did take place in human history, believed by some scholars to have been during AD 32, in God's perspective, Jesus was slain from the beginning of time. This could be the reason behind Paul's rather peculiar statement in writing that all believers are already seated in Heaven, even if they are still alive on earth, or even before birth - Ephesians 2:5-6.

Contradiction in Scripture?

As I stood at the front and spoke at the open meeting, I was aware of at least two individuals who were taught not to believe in eternal security of the believer. One looked bored, the other was leafing through his Bible in preparation to answer. They are the ones who believe that every Christian must hold out faithful or risk being thrown into Hell after death. These believers are often known as Arminians, after James Arminius, a 16th Century Dutch theologian who read the works of a Roman Catholic monk Louis di Molina, an active Jesuit, and from whom he built his own theological structure about God's grace. Methodist founder John Wesley was a devout Arminian, along with modern day itinerant preacher David Pawson, who is well known among churches here in the UK, including the guy at Ascot who was preparing his Bible quote.

David Pawson preaching against Eternal Security of the Believer.

So here I will quote several pairs of Scripture, set A and set B. Set A seem to endorse eternal security, while set B seem to deny eternal security. By reading them as I quote them, the contradiction becomes apparent:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away...And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me but raise them up on the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:27, 39, 40, 44.

My sheep listens to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one. John 10:28-30.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, and thrown into the fire and burned. John 15:5-6.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39.

Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider the kindness and the sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. Romans 11:20-22.

-being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but how much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13.

-and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead. Philippians 3:11.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14.

But now he has reconciled by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation - if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. Colossians 1:22-23.

These are just a few pairs of Scriptures which looks as if group B contradict group A, if the idea of hell fire was read into all the group B verses. Arminian Christians always read into these and many more Scripture verses the threat of hell if one does not hold faithful. In explaining verses such as John 10:26-30, or Romans 8:38-39, these believers agree that no force of any kind, either in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, can wrench the believer out of the Son's hand/Father's hand against the person's will. But they insist that any believer can simply walk away on his own decision and perish forever. What I have found faulty with this sort of reasoning was that if a person walks away freely, out of his own choice, he must be going in some direction, to something or somewhere more attractive. If that was the case, the Devil and his forces would have an easy day. Furthermore, if this sort of thing can happen, it proves that (a) the Devil is stronger than God, and (b) God was unaware or unprepared for such a thing happening, and (c) God was caught out by surprise, without any foreknowledge that the gift he gave to his Son as a reward for his death was unsatisfactory.

By not reading Hell and damnation into Scripture where it's not called for, I believe, would clear up many of these apparent contradictions. In both John 15:5-6, and Romans 11:20-22, the subject in hand were about fruit trees. John dealt with the grapevine while Paul used the olive tree, but they look to me that the meaning is the same. Who benefits from the fruit? Isn't man who benefits? Trees bear fruit for man to eat and provide nutrition, although oil from olives can be used for other purposes as well. Trees of every kind are found here on earth. When a branch is severed, usually by a gale or a hurricane, it lies on the ground, and without a source of fresh sap, it slowly wilts. Men may indeed collect those branches and dispose of them, or they may lie on the ground for ages. But if burnt, it is quickly consumed into ashes, not suffering any eternal torment, for it is already lifeless. In other words, a believer not abiding in Christ may die a premature death in order for an assembly to be purified before unbelievers. Further clues of "severance" by physical death can be found elsewhere, such as in Acts 5:1-11. Here, a story is given of a believing couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who sold a piece of property for a certain price, then donated part of their money to the apostles, claiming that was the price they had initially received for the field. They paid with their lives for their deceit. They were seeking a honour they did not deserve. But after their deaths, did they go to Hell? Or to Heaven? It depends whether they believed in the first place, and according to the context, they were believers.

Ananias and Sapphira were believers who lied to the Holy Spirit. Therefore they were struck dead in order to preserve the reputation of the church before unbelievers, or else it would become a source of mockery, and would die before many more could be saved. I suppose these two were branches that did not abide in Christ, but they were still vine or olive branches, cast off from the tree and destroyed, as if burned. But they still went to Heaven afterwards, because God has promised eternal life to all who would believe in Jesus Christ, and no one can snatch them out of God's hand, not even the Devil who was behind Ananias' conspiracy.

The same could be said of believers who abused the Holy Communion, found in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. They were eating and drinking in the name of the Lord without recognising the holiness in the sacrament, and some have "fallen asleep" - that is, died prematurely, so not to be condemned with the rest of the world. This was a strong indication that these sinning believers were called home to be with the Lord.

Other Scriptures in the B group, such as Philippians 2:12-13 and Colossians 1:22-23 has nothing to do with Hell fire either. As with Ananias and Sapphira, along with the believers in Corinth, Paul exhorted them not to depart, fall, or ebb away from the faith. Another reason for this was not to become flavourless salt before other people. The name of Jesus Christ was in danger of suffering disrepute, and therefore believers worked out their salvation with fear and trembling, so that this disrepute did not occur among them, so not to be mocked and rejected by unbelieving men. It was all to do with earthly affairs, not eternal torment in Hell.

What I'm trying to get across here is: Don't read Hellfire into every "problem passage" you might come across when regarding eternal security. To read Hell into these Scriptures causes them to contradict each other as already shown, stirs fears and doubts, and have no edifying benefits. Instead, accept that you are once saved always saved, because God said so, and any verses that seem to say otherwise needs to be interpreted to bring out its full sense without causing controversy.

Other Scriptures, such as Hebrews chapters 6 and 10 would make this blog too long, and will be discussed in the near future.