vendredi 25 octobre 2013

The Eternal Fate Of Old Testament Saints

Through a facebook conversation with Mr. J., a series of questions were asked and they were essentially related to the person of Abraham. But when we think well about it, it is clear that this particular question was not only aiming Abraham, but rather all the Saints of the Old Testament. In order to make it brief and relevant to the reader, i will be quoting the reaction of Mr. J. and my comment will follow below it. I will split it in two sections.

Section I. Were Saints of the old covenant saved?

Question: "Was abraham saved?" here i mean eternal salvation from hell"I) Do you remember the Story of Father Abraham, the evil rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16? Jesus gave the story as an information that Lazarus was not in a place of torment (he was in a place that was opposite to hell) unlike the evil rich man (who was in a hell-lie-place). And that place of bliss where Lazarus was, it was a place where Abraham also was. Matter of fact, the Bible even call that paradise-like-place the 'Bosom of Abraham' in verse 22. Another interesting aspect of that story told by Jesus, to reach 'Abraham's bosom', you need to be escorted by Angels.

"And it happened that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich one also died and was buried." Luke 16:22 MKJV

"And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." - Luke 16:23 - MKJV

II) Do you remember that when Jesus wanted to speak about the Resurrection of the righteous dead, He spoke positively of Abraham by informing his listeners that God is not ashamed to call himself the God of Abraham? If Abraham eternity was at that point unsafe or non eligible to eternal bliss, would we really think that he would call himself the God of Abraham?
" But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Mat 22:31-32 MKJV
Question: "Abraham didn't believe in Christ as his savior to the best of my knowledge" [how can he be saved?]

When i first read this comment of yours, one particular verse leaped in my head. I hesitated to use it in my former comments, but i sense it would be important that i make a short comment on this too. I recommend you read these 3 passages: 2 Peter 1:19-21, Hebrews 11:13-40 and 1 Peter 1:11-12.

Below i will only quote one of the two for the sake of the place. Those who came before Christ, even though they didn't see Christ, they nevertheless knew about Christ and in a positive way. How do we know that? Simply because they prophesied about the coming of the Messiah. And more importantly, they prophesied by the guidance and inspiration of the Spirit of Christ himself. We are in no position to judge them, for we do not know the kind of relationship they had with the Spirit of Christ. And Abraham being a prophet of the Old Covenant certainly had his encounter with the Spirit of Christ judging by 2 passages i shared. And the one of Hebrew clearly recognize them as believers who are going to the "heavenly City" in verse 16 of Hebrews 11.

Now, let's look at one of the passages:
"The Spirit of Christ was in those prophets. And the Spirit was telling about the sufferings that would happen to Christ and about the glory that would come after those sufferings. The prophets tried to learn about what the Spirit was showing them--when it would happen and what the world would be like at that time. It was made clear to them that their service was not for themselves. They were serving you when they told about the things you have now heard. You heard them from those who told you the Good News with the help of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even the angels would like very much to know more about these things you were told." 1 Peter 1:11-12 ERV 
Section II. How could people from the Old Covenant be saved before the death of Christ?

Your questions are crystal clear and the concerns are valid. So let me answer both questions on the order of appearance. It is not easy to explain with my weak words, but i will do my best by the grace of God to explain it as I have come to understand it over my years of Christian service.

I/ The Time Factor of Christ sacrifice:

a. "It takes effect on us when we believe because we believe what truly happened!!;"

Allow me to make an adjustment on your concept of belief here. We do not only believe in something that HAS HAPPENED in order for a belief to be valid. People also believe in things that WILL HAPPEN. Simple 
example, we believe in the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead, even though these event are future events. You can see more on that from the texts i already shared yesterday - particularly Hebrews 11:13-16 on how the ancient folks believed and had faith about the future events.

b. " How can Christ's death take effect on those who believe in it prior to it's occurrence?"

There is two way that i know to answer this. I'll present the first one here, and the other one on point c. 

Do you remember the Jesus stories that happened in Capernaum?

Example 1: Healing

"And when the evening was come, they brought to him [Jesus] many possessed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were ill; so that that should be fulfilled which was spoken through Esaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities and bore our diseases." Matthew 8:16 -17

Isn't it strange that Matthew is quoting Isaiah 53:4 which speaks of the suffering of the Messiah on the cross while Jesus was still ministering healing before the cross? Peter actually interpret the Isaiah 53:4 text as fulfilled by Jesus on the cross in 1 Peter 2:24.
"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree*, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." 1Peter 2:24    And many bible students interpret it like Peter did. So if Jesus flesh wounds (stripes) happened on the cross (on the tree), and it is only when those stripes were marked on him that He bore our infirmities and diseases, how come Matthew 8:17 says that people where being healed at Capernaum because Jesus bore their infirmity and this was said before the cross? And the healing was still experienced by people nevertheless. This is quite perplexing hein?
N.B: The tree* is another way the Bible refers to the Cross. See Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29 and Galatians 3:13

Example 2: Forgiveness

" But Jesus, seeing their faith, says to the paralytic, Child, thy sins are forgiven thee ... Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, Thy sins are forgiven thee ; or to say, Arise, and take up thy couch and walk?
" Mar 2:5, 9.

Isn't it quite a surprise that Jesus was able to grant forgiveness of sins as a Son of Man, even before that the Son of Man had shed his blood? After all, are we not told this about how forgiveness works in Hebrews 9:22, 
"In fact, under the Law almost everything is cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of the blood there is no forgiveness."
Jesus blood was not yet shed when he forgave that crippled man at Capernaum, but He still granted him forgiveness to the great shock of the scribes.

c. " I mean How can the Blood which is not poured out yet cleanse the sin effect of those who believe in such a sacrifice before the sacrifice is actually slain?"

This is a good question. But our bedazzlement about the reality of this phenomenon
does not change anything to the fact that it had happened (see point b.). 

Hebrews give us a possible explanation on how that could have been possible. How does the death of a man 2000 years ago affect me 2000 years later (i.e today)? or how does it affect other patriarchs a 1000 years to 3000 years before the fact? 

The author of Hebrew says that it is because Jesus sacrifices was not bound by time. Its effect was not a temporal effect. It had an eternal effect. Eternity seems to include all times (past, present and future). I am tempted to even say that Eternity is 'atemporal' but that would be difficult to justify. So let me just use the word 'time inclusive'. Jesus made his sacrifice through the eternal Spirit: or the time inclusive Spirit. The word for 'eternal' in this text is 'aionios' which means perpetual. 

Here is how the eSword Strong Hebrew and Greek dictionary puts it: aionios - perpetual, (also used of past time, past and future as well).

"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Hebrews 9:14. 

Jesus' blood shed 2000 years ago has effect on people of all time. We know how it works on us who came after the fact of the sacrifice (1John1:9) but we are not privy on how God applied it to people of generation before the fact. However we know that God made sure that the effect would impact people beyond the time in which Jesus was offering that sacrifices, hence the sacrifice was made through the eternal Spirit - the 'aionios' Spirit.

I also need to emphasize on a very needed nuance here. You said those "who believe in such a sacrifice before the sacrifice is actually slain?" However, in biblical Soteriology you would be partly right by saying that the sacrifice was not yet slain. Why? because in biblical soteriology, the lamb could also be regarded as already slain before the foundation of the world (cfr also 1 Peter1:19-20). Tricky hein?!

"All those living on earth will worship it, everyone whose name is not written in the Book of Life belonging to the lamb that was slaughtered from the foundation of the world." Revelation 13:8 ISV. 

However the most important thing here is how a sacrifice 2000 years ago impact us all at different space-time frame? The answer even though mysterious is biblilcally sound - it is because Jesus offered himself through an ETERNAL SPIRIT. That is why people could be forgiven before the blood shedding of the cross nd people could be healed before the stripes became actualized on his body.

Because God's will is that all man may be saved, he could have ordered perpetual sacrifices of his son since the foundation of the world. But God being God, has preferred to make it once while affecting all, and by doing it once He has made it available to people of all time since the creation of the World. He did that by making his son be sacrificed once for all through an eternal Spirit so that this process would not have to be repeated since the creation of the world up to Calvary (Galatians 4:4) or today. By doing it through the ETERNAL Spirit, Jesus has made his sacrificial benefits of eternal value for all. He obtained for humanity what the author of Hebrew called the "Eternal Redemption". His redemption was for all times. His blood did not need to be shed each year or in each generation in order to obtain for them too a redemption.

Let me end with another remarks from the author of Hebrews:

"Then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the creation of the world. But now, at the end of the ages, he has appeared once for all to remove sin by his sacrifice." Hebrews 9:26. 

He did it once and obtained a collective redemption for all people of all time (Eternal).

"nor by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered once for all into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Hebrews 9:12

II/ " Why couldn't we be saved the way they were saved coz it wouldn't put Christ in such much trouble for our salvation"

They were not saved differently than we were saved. We are all saved through Jesus. The difference is that we did not all encounter him the same way. We have encountered and experience Christ in different way through out the human history timeline. But his sacrifice included them, it had eternal value for it was offered through an 'ETERNAL SPIRIT' confer point II/ c. above.

As it is written, God's judgement standard is always His son Jesus. How he will proceed in doing it, that remains a mystery. But the standard for us all is still Jesus regardless of time in history.

"because he has set a day when He is going to judge the world with justice through a man whom He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead." Act 17:31 

So Jesus needed to die in order that his sacrifice benefit may reached those of the past and those of the future. As you remarked, it wasn't easy and it was painful, but it had to be done since people were already using "in credit" the benefit of his sacrifice if i can put it this way. Someone had to pay for all the forgiveness offered freely before and all the healing made before the time - and Jesus was that someone. There was no going back. He had to die for us all in order that the opportunity to have life and life in abundance be given to all of us (John 3:16).
The Bible through the mouth of our Lord and Savior Jesus was unambiguous about the Eternal Fate of Abraham, and for all the other saints of old for that matter. 
"And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven." Matthew 8:11

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