As we head down the road in examining the idea of ultimate redemption, I want to talk about why it’s tough for us to acknowledge that we are in fact wearing interpretive lenses as we approach the Bible and why we’re nervous, even fearful, about looking at things in a new way.
However, before we get into that, I want to say another quick word to those of you who want to get past this tedious set-up and get straight into discussing questions about ultimate redemption. (After reading two paragraphs of my writing on the subject, one reader stopped and asked when I was going to address objections to ultimate redemption. I wanted to say, “You’ve only read two paragraphs!”)
Here is my word to you: We will get there! While you’re slaving through this foundation of the discussion, itching to get to the meat of it, be assured that soon we will consider the Scriptures and the many FAQs regarding ultimate redemption. Hopefully we will address not only the FAQs, but will also look at other questions you may have so we can wrestle through some relevant issues I may have not yet considered. We will get to all that. For now, however, it’s important we address these issues of self-awareness so we can be in a position to give informed attention to the concerns that are to come.
So why are we nervous, even fearful about trying on new interpretive lenses or looking at things in a new way? I want to suggest two reasons.
The first is this:
We are not trusting in Jesus; we are trusting in ourselves.
Our faith is not in Jesus; our faith is in the correctness of our belief. We have been taught to trust that Jesus saves, except if your theology is wrong. Then Jesus doesn’t save. Ultimately, the reason we are fearful about looking at things in a new way is because we are scared of believing the wrong thing and going to hell as a result. There are certain things we can’t discuss without worrying that we’re going to end up on the wrong side of the issue, which means our belief won’t be correct enough, Jesus won’t save us, and we’ll end up in hell.
This is how we have been taught to think.
The clear and relevant example of this is seen in the phrase, “salvation issue,” two words I have heard more than once over the past number of months. Most people used them to say my belief in ultimate redemption was not a salvation issue. That is, they didn’t think my belief meant I was not saved, or that I was going to hell. Be that as it may, the fact that the phrase “salvation issue” even exists speaks to our fear that we may not be believing things correctly enough. We are trusting in ourselves.
The second reason for our fear has to do with our view of salvation. In the evangelical church, when we hear the word “saved” or “salvation,” we immediately think of our eternal destiny. In our minds, salvation relates almost exclusively to whether or not any particular person will end up in heaven or hell. When we ask the question, “Is Suzy saved?” what we mean is, “If Suzy died today, would she go to heaven or hell?” This is where our minds go.
So, when we talk about a “salvation issue,” in our minds we are talking about whether a stance on a particular issue affects anyone’s eternal destiny. Although the Scriptures address salvation more broadly, our minds hear the word “salvation” and instinctively think of eternal destiny. This makes us nervous to discuss anything that might be a “salvation issue” because to do so might result in us wavering in the correctness of our belief and therefore risking the possibility of ending up in hell for all eternity.
That seems unfortunate.
I think Jesus would encourage us that we don’t need to be afraid. I think Jesus would say we should discuss freely, knowing that He too wrestled through times of doubt and uncertainty. In fact, if there’s anything we should be worried about, if there’s anything Jesus warned people against, it was being too confident in the correctness of their belief, or too certain in their standing before God. Jesus asked people to think about things in a new way: “You have heard that it was said . . . but I tell you . . .” He required people to let go of things they had known their whole lives, things they were holding onto “for the sake of their tradition.” Our hope is not in holding certain beliefs correctly; it is in Jesus – in who He is and what He has done for us.
So let me encourage you that you don’t need to be afraid to try on a new pair of interpretive lenses. Let’s discuss and see what we find. Maybe you’ll convince me that I have it wrong; that God will not ultimately save everyone. But maybe we’ll figure out that Jesus saves, even when we get it wrong. Or maybe we’ll discover that Jesus will keep pursuing those who have it wrong until they get it right. In any case, it doesn’t depend on you and me; it depends on Him.
And that is really good news, really.
Next time we are going to discuss the most common FAQ regarding ultimate redemption.
For now, check out a video, subscribe to my email list, and send me a note!