Free will vs. election, pre/mid/post tribulation, eternal physical punishment vs. annihilation, Jesus is the only way vs. universalism, tats vs. no tats, instruments vs. no instruments, tongues vs. no tongues, miracles vs. no miracles, etc. etc. etc.
There have been and are many debates, controversies, arguments and downright fights out there over the subjects listed above and many more. What is right? Who is right? And what is my responsibility before God in all this confusion and fog?
This blog is not going to answer any of those questions, but rather offer a perspective to consider as it relates specifically to a couple of the more weighty ones. I’m not so sure my or your eternal position will be determined by whether either of us speaks in tongues, believes in miracles, plays instruments or has a tattoo. And, although perhaps more weighty, I not sure if my belief in when the rapture happens (if there even is one) will have any bearing on when it actually takes place. I will even go so far as to say that when I get to the pearly gates and find out the it was free will instead of election that got me there, or the other way around, I’m not going to argue at that point which one should have been right.
There are a couple of the “vs.” above that are perhaps more important relating to eternity than the others. Very popular movements in mainstream Christianity today are the rejection of an eternal physical punishment in hell and a significant nod towards universalism being embraced because of our abundantly merciful God.
I have my views and opinions on both of these subjects which I will only give in brief. On the idea of eternal physical punishment in hell I will only say that the same Greek word for eternal is used for both the eternal punishment the goats are sent to and the eternal life the sheep are promised. In faith believing I am one of the sheep, I am definitely interested in the kind of eternal life that is actually forever. On the subject of Jesus is the only way or maybe not so much, simply put, I have chosen to follow Jesus as the only way and I try to do it the best I can.
Now, ultimately, God is going to do what He wants to do. If that means sending sinners to the isle of perpetual tickling, totally annihilates them or gives them a pathway to redemption, who am I to say anything against that. I may not like the idea that I worked in the fields most of the day and someone who comes after dark and after the work is completed still gets the same reward, but then I am not the land owner and I still got what was promised to me.
The bottom line for me is that He is the Owner, Master, Potter, Creator, King of the universe, He is EVERYTHING and I recognize all those attributes and no matter what His plan or what He ultimately decides to do – I’m all in with my devotion to Him no matter what the outcome. Why? Because of all those titles I listed at the beginning of this paragraph. He gets to call ALL the shots no matter what, when or how. He can change His mind even if I have long understood that He doesn’t change. HE IS. And because of that, I will chose and promote scriptures most “conservative” points of obedience, devotion and commitment for the simple reason of “what if?”. In other words, what if there is an eternal physical punishment in a lake of fire, what if Jesus really is the only way and what if He really is as holy, merciful and intolerant of sin as described in scripture. Since it is eternity we are talking about, which is a really, really long time, I am not taking chances and I’m going to encourage others not to take the ultimate risk of being wrong when there is so much at stake.
PS – inspired by a comment by my daughter Jayme – If our desire is to be understanding and compassionate, is it really compassionate to promote a certain philosophy which ignores the possibility, no matter how small, of an eternal consequence?