2 Thessalonians: 1:7-8 (Steadfastness when persecuted, Christian suffering, Part 2; Available Light, Part 1)

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2 Thess 1:7a

(2 Thess. 1:5-8 ESV)  5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering — 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

God’s response to Christian persecution

Verse 6 declares that “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you.” That is, God will exact vengeance against those who persecute you. Their decision to persecute marks them as people who will be punished by God.

Verse 7 continues the thought: “and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” Paul promises relief from our afflictions — but the relief is only assured when Jesus returns. Even Paul will have to wait on Jesus.

2 Thess 1:7b-8

(2 Thess. 1:7b-8 ESV) when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels  8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 

Paul’s OT allusions

This is a challenging passage. The image of Jesus coming back “with his mighty angels” is taken from several OT passages. I think Paul likely had this one especially in mind —

(Zech. 14:5b ESV) Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 

We should also consider —

(Jer. 10:25 ESV)  25 Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not, and on the peoples that call not on your name, for they have devoured Jacob; they have devoured him and consumed him, and have laid waste his habitation. 

— which is likely the passage from which Paul gets the idea of “nations that know you not.”

Paul likely also has in mind —

(Ps. 79:6 ESV)  6 Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name!

Available Light

Now, to me, the BIG question in this passage is what God is going to do with people who’ve never heard of Jesus and so don’t have faith in Jesus. The “Available Light” theory, held by some of my very favorite people, argues that only those who’ve heard the gospel and rejected it will be damned; those who’ve never heard the gospel will be saved if they are good people. (There are differing opinions as to how God decides whom to save for those who’ve never heard the gospel.)  I find little support for this view in scripture and much that argues against it — but when so many whose opinions I respect disagree with me, I try to study the question that much harder.

Although Paul writes in Greek, he is a Jewish rabbi steeped in the OT, and so he tends to think and write with a Hebrew style. And in Hebrew, it’s very common to emphasize a concept by stating it twice in two different but similar ways. To get the idea, the two parallel phrases must be read together and not as two different things.

If Paul language is a Hebraic parallel, the two concepts should be considered to overlap rather than being two distinct categories. “Those who don’t obey the gospel” does not mean “those who know God but have no faith.” Rather, “those who don’t obey the gospel” is a subset of “those who do not know God.” Even if the gospel has been preached to you, if you don’t believe it, you don’t know God. God can only be known through the eyes of faith.

Those who don’t know God are damned, Paul says. If so, then the Available Light theory is contradicted. We might try to rescue the theory by saying that Paul is only speaking of those to whom the gospel has been preached, but Paul chooses his words carefully, and he is speaking of all who do not know God.

We do better to find the meaning of these words in their OT roots rather than defining them for the convenience of our theology. So here goes —

Obey the gospel

In Church of Christ teaching, “obey the gospel” is assumed to mean “be baptized the correct way for the correct reason.” But baptism is nowhere in the context of 2 Thess 1. There’s no way a First Century readers would have found “baptized” in “obey the gospel” upon reading this passage.

On the other hand, faith in/faithfulness to Jesus is very much a part of the discussion. See 1:3, 4, and 11. All use the word translated “faith” (pistis), and more importantly, in v. 7, Paul is building on the question of how persecution impacts our faith. So he’s talking about faith. Therefore, we obey the gospel when we believe in Jesus.

Any doubt should be resolved by looking at —

(Rom. 10:15-17 ESV) 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”  17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

In Romans, Paul has not mentioned baptism since chapter 6, and the subject has changed dramatically by the time we get to chapter 10. Paul is discussing missionary work, and he wishes that the Jews had been more open to the gospel. They’d been preached to, but they had not obeyed that which was preached.

Now, in context, what does “obey” refer to? Well, plainly Paul is wrestling with the Jews’ lack of faith in Jesus. To obey the gospel is to believe the word of Christ when preached. It’s about faith.

Yes, Israel had heard the message. It had been proclaimed, but not all the Israelites accepted the good news (v. 16). There is a word play in the original Greek on accepted (which is a derivative of the word for “hearing”): Jews heard the gospel (ēkousan, v. 14), but they did not obey it (hypēkousan, v. 16). Paul quotes a passage from the fourth servant song of Isaiah (53:1), attesting that the message had been delivered but not believed: “Lord, who has believed our message?” For Jews hearing was the indispensable prerequisite of religion, because learning depends on hearing. Paul agrees that faith comes from hearing the message (v. 17).

James R. Edwards, Romans, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 257.

The only argument for “obey the gospel” to mean “be baptized” is to argue that baptism is a command and so requires obedience. But context still rules. 2 Thess is just not about baptism, but it is very much about faith in Jesus. We can’t impose meanings just to win a debate with a Baptist.

(And, no, I do not agree with Baptist baptismal teaching. Those who wish to argue against Baptist teachings need to argue with someone who disagrees with them — that is, with someone not me. Saying that X doesn’t speak to baptism hardly means that I believe that nothing speaks to baptism. We need to call Bible things by Bible names, and “obey the gospel” does not mean “submit to baptism.” But there are many other verses that actually speak to baptism. And they should be enough for us.)

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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37 Responses to 2 Thessalonians: 1:7-8 (Steadfastness when persecuted, Christian suffering, Part 2; Available Light, Part 1)

  1. Price Futrell says:

    It seems to me (but what do I know) that in context Paul is speaking about being persecuted by somebody.. Those somebody’s are persecuting them for a reason. The reason presumably is because they are Christians. It isn’t like the persecutors know nothing of God.. They are persecuting those who believe in Him. Perhaps Paul is speaking of those who refuse altogether to know (learn of, experience, check out, inquire into) God. I don’t think this particular passage could be used to argue for or against Available Light any more than it argues for properly conducted baptism…

  2. Gary says:

    Jay, I know that you and I disagree about this but it seems clear to me from Roman’s 2:6 that God will judge all accountable people according to their works. Since good works naturally result from a genuine faith in Jesus Christ there is no contradiction between Roman’s 2:6 and salvation by grace through faith in Christ. They are two sides of the same coin.

    What then about those whose lives are characterized by good works but who do not come to faith in Christ in this world? If Roman’s 2:14 is any guide they too will be saved. If the Law of Moses could be written on the hearts of polytheistic Gentiles who strove for justice during their lives in this world then the Gospel of Christ can today be proleptically written on the hearts of those in our world who strive for justice and good works but who do not yet know Jesus. Since Christ is pictured in Matthew 25 as being present at the Judgement they will have opportunity to come to know Jesus then. Nothing in Scripture would preclude such an opportunity.

  3. Dwight says:

    I find it hard to argue with Jesus own statement, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me”. This means that although you might be good and do good, you don’t know God until you know Jesus. Arguably even Cornelius, who was a gentile and was good and worshipped the God of the Hebrews, still needed Jesus to be saved.
    Rom.2:14 sounds good until you see the context of vs.12 “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law.” And the fact is that all men have sinned and will sin.
    God wasn’t excusing anyone, but rather showing the Jews that the Gentiles could be and have been just as holy as those that had the law, thus to judge them because they are Gentiles is folly.

  4. Alabama John says:

    I try to keep in mind that Jesus is God too.
    Jesus was active in the OT and who knows just how much active in so many humans wherever they were on this earth. Humans as far back as we can trace, worshiped God in some manner, ever how crude it seems to us today. All interestingly looked up above to God as His Spirit was placed in all of them just as it is in us.
    Jesus didn’t just go to work, guiding and saving people when He came to earth.
    We call God our Father and pray to Him accordingly. Lets stop and think of Him as one with His children from the beginning and not as a mad, vengeful, God sending practically all humans that have ever been and continue to be born to punishment and hell.
    If all was written, the world couldn’t hold all the books.

  5. Gary says:

    Dwight, what about the context of Romans 2:10 where we are told that God gives glory, honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile? God will judge every accountable person according to their deeds (2:6). If those who do not yet know Christ are excluded from salvation how can these statements in Romans 2 be true? I agree entirely that no one comes to the Father except through Christ but that foundational truth does not negate Romans 2. God is not a respecter of persons. If that is indeed true it cannot be that the good works of some commend them to God but not the good works of others. The journey to salvation in Christ may begin for some with faith and for others with good works but the destination is the same.

  6. dwight says:

    Gary, “God will judge every accountable person according to their deeds (2:6) within the context of knowing God in the flesh….Jesus. On the flip side God will judge those who do not do good and do not do good when they know to do it. If good is the litmus for salvation, then even the atheist will be in heaven.
    Rom.2:10-11 “but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”
    Gary, you left out vs.11, which means that God will not be partial to one group or another and will judge both by what they do, then in vs.17-24 Paul flips it and tells the Jews they are no more righteous and just as guilty as the Gentiles if they break the law.
    The truth though is no matter what we do we can not work our way into heaven.
    And yet the hinge of salvation and getting to God is knowing and accepting Christ as the Son of God and savior, which was the point of Acts 2. This is the context of everything.
    Again even Cornelius, Acts 10 “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” and yet this wasn’t clearly enough.
    Now might God show mercy on those who do not know God as he showed mercy on those who came before Jesus, probably, but probably isn’t surety.

  7. Gary says:

    Dwight, of course salvation is by grace through faith and not because of works. But the heart that loves righteousness and does justice is the same heart that will ultimately know Christ. Cornelius is a good example. His prayers and alms, a form of good works, ascended as a memorial for him before God. His journey to Christ began with his devotion to God as he understood him (but without faith in Christ) and with his good works and ended with his faith in and baptism into Christ. Cornelius was the beneficiary of God’s special intervention but Cornelius is actually a type or example of how God will deal with all such people. This is made clear in Acts 10:34-35 where Peter states that God is not a respecter of persons and that everyone who fears God and does what is right is accepted by God. It’s not that anyone will be saved by their good works but rather that those who spend their lives doing good works have hearts that will finally trust in Christ for salvation.

  8. Larry Cheek says:

    Gary,
    It is obvious that you must believe that The Book of Romans was written to all mankind, ie. (the lost). But to counter that concept, I present Paul’s own words concerning whom he was addressing.
    Rom 1:7-8 ESV To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (8) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
    Called to be saints, and those who’s faith is proclaimed to all the world is not an identity of worldly humanity which have not “obeyed the Gospel”. There is nothing of The Book of Romans which communicates to the lost about a direction to salvation. The complete book is written to Christians. To attempt to make any part of it applicable to humanity outside of Christ is a misuse of scriptures.

  9. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    Some of the same message to Gary applies just as powerfully to the following.
    “In Church of Christ teaching, “obey the gospel” is assumed to mean “be baptized the correct way for the correct reason.” But baptism is nowhere in the context of 2 Thess 1. There’s no way a First Century readers would have found “baptized” in “obey the gospel” upon reading this passage.”
    These Christians who were reading the message written to them by their Brother, Paul would never assumed he was suggesting that their baptisms which he had discussed in chapter 6 were unnecessary, that they could have obeyed the message that was delivered to them by just believing and having faith. The Eleven were instructed by Jesus the following, and Paul did not preach another Gospel.
    Mar 16:15-16 ESV And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (16) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
    Act 2:41 ESV So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
    Act 8:12-13 ESV But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (13) Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.
    The Gospel, The Good News both included a message of Baptism. Baptism into Christ was not part of the instructions needed by those who had already been baptized into Christ. I still have not found anyone who has been able to show me scriptures proclaiming men who were saved after the Book of Acts through a method which did not involve baptism.

  10. Gary says:

    Larry, I understand of course that Romans was written to the church at Rome. But Paul does discuss at several points in the letter those who do not yet know Christ, both Gentiles and Jews. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Gary,

    I threw together a little something on Rom 2 that should appear in a couple of days. I tried to explain my interpretation in just one post, rather than the usual 5.

  12. Alabama John says:

    Sometimes it is good to forget the bible and quoting of verses and just get on your knees in a quiet place, look upward and simply talk to God, just you and God.
    Many times revelations will come of the love he has for us all, after all we all are His creation and He has put His spirit inside us all.
    In many cases this is what the under educated have done throughout time and God personally answered and blessed that person for simply seeking Him out.
    We many times seek answers from writings instead of that unparalleled goodness found in just you and God.
    God is much better, kinder, forgiving, than we imagine, and we sell Him short so much of the time.

  13. Larry Cheek says:

    Gary,
    In discussing them the text is not modifying any of the actions to which the Roman Christians had obeyed to become Christians. In fact Paul’s discussion in Chapter 6 is given so even they could better understand the fullness of actions that were being performed as they had submitted to baptism. If the information was pertinent to them would it not also be pertinent to us?

  14. Dwight says:

    As Larry has noted Romans was written to Christians, so any allusion to them doing good works would fall into their Christian prime directives, as it is what Christians do. While Cornelius worship of God was heard by God, this worship/hearing placed Cornelius in a prime spot for receiving salvation and did not make him saved as they still needed to hear of Christ and then enter into Christ. Interestingly enough Jesus argued that even while the Jews knew the father, if they did not know Him and accept Him they weren’t really accepting God, since he was God. Could there be exceptions, maybe, but they are exceptions that only God knows and makes.

  15. Gary says:

    Dwight, the belief that the conversion of Cornelius was sui generis, unique or one of a kind, is another treasured Church of Christ special pleading that should have been retired along with the condemnation of instrumental music in congregational worship. The text tells us exactly the opposite in Acts 10:34-35. Peter states two foundational truths there that must be taken into account in any informed discussion of the salvation of humankind.

    First, God is not a respecter of persons. In other words whatever God does for one person in terms of his or her salvation God will do for all. Thus Cornelius is a type or example for us for how God will deal with all people. Cornelius had no advantage over anyone else. God’s special intervention for Cornelius only affected the timing of his coming to know Jesus.

    Second God accepts all who fear him, according to their understanding of him, and who do what is right. Cornelius is again our example in Scripture of this truth. The humility of the heart of Cornelius and the compassion of Cornelius for the poor had already ascended as a memorial for him before God. It is unimaginable to think of God rejecting anyone who is described in Scripture in that way. So Cornelius was safe or saved even before he heard the Gospel of Christ. The efficacy of Christ’s redemption is not limited by linear time. Rather it is universal bringing the reconciliation of all things to God.

    This does not mean that anyone will be saved apart from Christ. When Cornelius believed in and was baptized into Christ his salvation was confirmed. When we combine the Gospel of Christ with the account of the conversion of Cornelius the inescapable conclusion is that Christ’s gift of himself on the cross is redemptive for all who fear God and do what is right. In another place in Acts we are told that God had many people in a certain city even before the Gospel was proclaimed there. Who were those people who were already God’s people? They were those who feared God, according to their understanding of him, and who did what is right. Their salvation will be confirmed when they accept Christ either in this age or at the end of this age.

    This truth is also found in the Old Testament in Micah where we find that everything God requires of humankind can be summed up in three things: to love kindness, to do justice and to walk humbly with God. That is enough for anyone to aspire to. Let us not deny the salvation of those whom God has clearly said that he accepts.

  16. Dwight says:

    Gary, you have lost me.
    I agree Cornelius is not entirely unique and I have never heard it taught that his conversion was, he was in search of God and God responded by sending Peter, but Cornelius was unique in that until then Peter had not converted a Gentile and thought they were unworthy of salvation until God showed him otherwise by supplying them with the ability to speak in tongues. This started the ball rolling in the conversion of the Gentiles.

    You say, “This does not mean that anyone will be saved apart from Christ.” which is true, but then say, “everything God requires of humankind can be summed up in three things: to love kindness, to do justice and to walk humbly with God.”
    So does walk humbly with God include Christ or not? If so, then it goes back to needing Christ as the savior and redeemer as a requirement.

    John 9 “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.”
    John 17 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
    God listens to those who worship and does His will, which would include those who follow Christ. I don’t know of any place where salvation after the day of Pentecost skirts faith and obedience to Christ as the savior and Son of God.
    This was the whole point of Acts 2.

  17. Larry Cheek says:

    Gary,
    I will agree that “First, God is not a respecter of persons.”
    But you are creating a statement that is absolutely not true, you have no basis for this concept. Look at it carefully. ” In other words whatever God does for one person in terms of his or her salvation God will do for all.”
    If that was true then, the same would require God to perform the same action for any man that he performed for Enoch, Elijah. Take them without death occurring. It would require him to perform miracles for all men.

  18. Gary says:

    Larry, whether one goes to be with the Lord at death or without dying (as will be the case for those who are living at Christ’s return) ultimately doesn’t matter. My point is that when it comes to granting salvation what God does for one he will do for all. I still think that is true. Obviously details like timing may vary from one individual to another.

    By the way God has performed miracles for all people in the incarnation and resurrection of Christ.

  19. Gary says:

    Dwight, the details of walking humbly with God will vary in different times and cultures. Yes ultimately all the saved will come to faith in Christ but such faith does not necessarily have to precede their salvation. Salvation is viewed temporally in Scripture from various perspectives. Some passages speak of the saved as having always been saved- even before their birth. For many of these questions we are seeing through a glass darkly as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13. At the end of this age we will understand in full what now we can only understand in part.

  20. dwight says:

    Gary, “but such faith does not necessarily have to precede their salvation. Salvation is viewed temporally in Scripture from various perspectives. Some passages speak of the saved as having always been saved- even before their birth.”
    OK the first part is Calvinism, meaning that God saves who he wants to save no matter what, in that they don’t even have to have faith. I fail to see this in the scriptures. Faith always preceded salvation, even in the OT.
    Who was saved at birth? I do not know this person.
    This means that the paradigm of Jesus as the Savior from which we get “believe and be baptized”, “repent and be baptized”, “saved by grace through faith” are all wrong or at least not meaningful. If God is not a respecter of persons, then how is it that God changes his requirements of being saved from person to person, some before they even know God, some before they know Jesus, some before they have faith in Jesus, etc?
    This comes back to is Jesus the Savior or not?
    If man can be saved without Jesus, then He is not really the savior as put forth in Acts 2 and elsewhere and by Himself.
    If Jesus is the Savior, as Jesus states about himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but through me”, then there is no other avenue for salvation.
    Even our prayers are intercepted by Jesus the mediator to God who flesh was the veil that allows us access to the Holiest of Holies.
    Even Cornelius who was a Gentile had to have Jesus preached and although they had faith in God, they had to know of Jesus and have faith in Him, then be baptized into Jesus. This pattern is repeated over and over again starting at Acts 2.

  21. Larry Cheek says:

    Gary,
    Again you speak words for God that he has not said. “My point is that when it comes to granting salvation what God does for one he will do for all.” If he acted within the context of your statement then all will have to be saved or he could not save any. Because, your statement does not include the qualifiers for salvation that God has demanded from man. In the term all, you are not limiting God’s salvation to those who obey him. All would be mankind who rejects God.

    This statement, I believe is also is out of context of God’s Word. “Some passages speak of the saved as having always been saved- even before their birth.” I have searched all 177 occurrences of (saved) and (birth) in ESV and cannot find the concept that you are presenting. I previously had a Bible program which would find any word with another word within a specified number of verses. The one I use now will not do that, therefore would you validate the portions of scripture which support your statement?

  22. Gary says:

    Larry, in Ephesians 1:4 we find that those who are in Christ were chosen before the foundations of the earth. Biblically God’s people have always been saved, are even now being saved, and will be saved at Christ’s return. The past, present and future perspectives of salvation are all biblical. God is not limited as we are by linear time.

  23. Price Futrell says:

    Gary… actually, Cornelius’ salvation was confirmed (and that of the large group with him) when they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit…

    [Rom 8:9 ESV] 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

    [Eph 1:13 ESV] 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

    [Eph 4:30 ESV] 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

    [2Co 1:22 ESV] 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

  24. Monty says:

    Gary,

    So, anyone who is a Christian has never been lost? I thought Jesus died for transgressors who were by nature children of wrath? Sounds like you are saying Jesus didn’t die for everyone but only the preselected, which of course is Calvinism.

  25. Dwight says:

    Chosen for salvation and being saved are not the same thing, they should be, but Christ died for all mankind and yet not all mankind accepts Jesus.
    “that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”

    Even in Eph.1:13 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
    It makes it clear that one hears, then believe in it, then sealing with HS (which presumably comes after baptism- Acts 2:38 “gift of the HS”)

  26. Gary says:

    Monty, there is a sense in which the saved have always been saved. Revelation 13:8 speaks of the names in the Lamb’s Book of Life having been written there before the creation of the earth. There is also the more common portrayal in Scripture of lost people becoming saved when they place their faith in Christ as well as the perspective of salvation being a future event which we are now awaiting. No one temporal perspective of salvation negates the other two. Putting them all together I believe salvation is a process that began before the creation of the world and that will be consummated at the return of Christ. A separate question is who will finally be among the people of God. Believe me I am far from being a Calvinist.

  27. Gary says:

    Price, you are of course right. I see baptism to also be a confirmation of salvation as God assures us that our sins are forgiven and that we have received the Holy Spirit as a gift.

  28. Gary says:

    Dwight, the way I would put it is that all humankind has not yet placed their faith in Christ. We know that God is not willing for any to perish and that all who have “died” in the sin that Adam introduced into the world will be made alive in Christ. I’m not adamant about it but I am hopeful that all of God’s children in Adam will finally be his children in Christ.

  29. Dwight says:

    OK Gary I am trying to figure this out. Despite Jesus saying about himself. John 14:6 ““I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
    and John 10:9 “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
    and Rom. 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
    and I Thess. 5:9 “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
    and 2 Tim.2:10 “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
    and 2 Tim. 3:15 “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”
    and Titus 2 “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
    and Heb.5:9 “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” man can be saved without Jesus first?
    The whole concept of “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ (messiah) the Lord.” is that Jesus saves. If man is saved or can be saved without coming to the Jesus who came to us, then Jesus is a moot point, especially as a savior.
    And Baptism into Jesus is really a pointless affair as a command.
    And really faith in Jesus is as well.
    In fact Jesus whole foray into this world was really pointless if we can achieve salvation and have achieved salvation without Him.
    And then His death was really, really pointless.

    And then you say, “A separate question is who will finally be among the people of God.” meaning that all are saved until they are lost?
    Which appears to be the opposite of the concept that all are lost until we are saved through Christ, the savior.

    Rev.13:8 “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
    Actually this says the opposite of your assertion “speaks of the names in the Lamb’s Book of Life having been written there before the creation of the earth”
    It appears in Rev.13:8 is in regards to those who worship Satan as not being in the Book of Life. They are not saved.

  30. Price Futrell says:

    Gary. That’s how I see it.. Others see it as a requirement to be saved. I guess God is the one who saves and I seriously doubt if He will condemn to hell those that were baptized thinking they were properly responding to the command to do so even though the implications of it have been misinterpreted.

  31. Gary says:

    Dwight, there are translation differences on Revelation 13:8. I find the option of the names being written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from the foundation of the earth as being more likely correct than Jesus being slain from the foundation of the world. But even if we put Revelation 13:8 to the side we still know that God’s people have been chosen before the foundation of the world from the Ephesians 1 passage I cited earlier.

    No one is saved apart from Jesus but, yes, most certainly people may be safe or saved well before they come to faith in Christ. All of our congregations baptize relatively young children who are already safe in the Lord. I suppose we could say they go from safe to saved.

    More to the point of the present discussion Cornelius is an example of one who was safe in the Lord before he knew the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His prayers and compassion for the Lord had arisen as a memorial for him before God. That’s not a description of someone who is lost. The salvation of Cornelius was confirmed when he trusted in Christ and received the Holy Spirit. Sometimes salvation precedes one’s coming to faith. We try to limit God with linear time but God transcends time and space.

  32. Dwight says:

    Gary, What about all the other verses I put up which argue for the point of salvation as Jesus, the savior.
    Rev.13:8 “Everyone living on earth will worship it except those whose names are written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb slaughtered before the world was founded.” CJB
    Rev.13:8 “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” NIV
    This is Calvinist. If you weren’t written into the Book of Life from the beginning of time by God, then you are lost because you will worship Satan, because God chose you to be saved.
    Or God knows who will be saved, but doesn’t choose who will be saved.
    There is a difference.
    Revelations is not literal, but figurative. Rev.13:1 “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns.”
    but – The work of Jesus was ordained before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20)
    – God chose His redeemed before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)
    – Names are written in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world (Revelation 17:8)
    – The kingdom of heaven was prepared for the redeemed before the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34)
    The irony here is that if they were saved from the beginning of time, then there was no one to redeem. Redemption only happens when people are lost, not when they are saved.
    The choosing and the writing must exist for those who have bowed to Christ who came to earth according to the plan that existed before the earth was made.
    John 1:16 “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

    Which lead us back to all of the scriptures that place salvation in Jesus and after faith and repentance and baptism in Jesus. Remarkably if your argument is true, then Peter lied to the masses in telling them
    “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
    as they were already saved and had the Holy Spirit, even though this flies in the face of what happened to the Ephesians who received the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands only after they were baptized into Jesus.

    Then there is Cornelius, where the scriptures never say he was saved before they were baptized and the Holy Spirit event was clearly to show that Gentiles could be saved, which was the whole point of Peter saying, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”
    Salvation always precedes faith in Christ, repentance to Christ and baptism in Christ. Even in the case of Cornelius.

  33. Gary says:

    Dwight, if anyone was ever saved before baptism it was Cornelius. Read Acts 10:44-45 and 11:15. Cornelius received the Holy Spirit just as the Apostles had received the Holy Spirit. Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is the essence of salvation. An unsaved person cannot receive the Holy Spirit. Again the conversion of Cornelius is not unique. God is not a respecter of persons. All those who fear God and do what is right are accepted by God. Sooner or later, in this age or at the end of this age, they will come to know Christ. In the meantime they are still accepted by God.

  34. Gary says:

    Dwight, regarding Peter possibly lying to those present on Pentecost in Acts 2 if they were already saved, wouldn’t we then be lying to our young children whom we baptize at ages at which they could not possibly be lost sinners? What’s the difference? All our churches have baptized such safe/saved people.

    Not all conversions are of people who are lost. Cornelius is the prime example. Even the Apostles apparently were added to Christ’s church without being baptized after Jesus’ death and resurrection as no mention is ever made of them receiving Christian baptism.

    That may well have been true of all who had received the baptism of John the Baptist which was called in Scripture a baptism “for the forgiveness of sins.” John’s disciples were undoubtedly saved before the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ on Pentecost. It is not essential to be lost before becoming a disciple of Jesus.

  35. dwight says:

    Gary, I don’t make the rules. Go back and answer why the scriptures, even Jesus himself, makes himself the point of salvation.

    You wrote, “Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is the essence of salvation. An unsaved person cannot receive the Holy Spirit.”
    Can you prove these two points through scripture, because through the verses I provided I can prove otherwise. Cornelius would have to come through Jesus to be saved.

    If what you state is true, then all those people you suppose are saved are not saved unless they speak in tongues like apostles and Cornelius, which probably means me and you, which is Pentecostalism at its best. I doubt even Jay speaks or has spoken in spontaneous tongues.

    It is also interesting that in Acts 2, even though Peter and the apostles had received the Holy Spirit, Peter tells the people that they must “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” thus they were not saved until they were baptized, or by your account maybe not even that, until they received the HS. This is also true of those in Ephesus in Acts 19 who were baptized into John, then were baptized into Jesus, but then Paul had to lay his hands on them to receive the HS, so they weren’t saved until then, even after they were baptized. This creates a paradox.
    Those in Ephesus had to have Paul lay hands on them after they were baptized into Jesus, but were not saved upon their baptism until they had the HS by Paul, but if what is true of Cornelius is true of being saved, then they were saved before their baptism, after all they believed in God and thus had the HS, and yet we read they did not receive it until after they were baptized. Ugggh!.

    So in reality is impossible to tell if we are saved unless we are speaking in tongues…unless there are different types of gifts of the HS, one that accompanies and is the seal of salvation and one that is miraculous in nature, to where one is blessed by either baptism or by the laying on of hands.

    Let’s think about the donkey of Balaam in Numbers 22:28-30 who spoke to Balaam. Are we to argue that because the donkey could speak that it was saved? It was surely inspired and moved.

    From what we read in the scriptures the converted and baptized received the gift of the HS or salvation or the indwelling, but this is not the same as the HS that Paul had to lay his hands on them to receive or even what Cornelius received in HS baptism. In actuality if we follow what it says in Acts 2:38 Cornelius received the gifts of the HS to be able to speak in tongues (before he was saved) and then received the gift as promised by Peter upon being baptized for the remission of his sins. The whole point of the conversion of Cornelius was to argue that Gentiles could be saved, which was why Peter asked, ““Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” and then he followed what was put forth in Acts 2:38 in which they would have “the remission of their sins and receive the gift of the HS”. A different gift of the HS then what they had received before.

  36. Larry Cheek says:

    Gary,
    I believe that you are ascribing an attribute to Paul’s message which is not correct. you are replacing (chose us) with (saved us). Read the text again. If he saved us as you promote then verses 7-10 are out of context. We would have had no need for redemption, the forgiveness of our trespasses or his grace. Notice carefully in verse 4, his choosing was that we should be holy and blameless before him. An attribute that we would have if we accepted and followed Christ. To say the same message in an order which is consistent with the messages in 7-10 would be (that he chose before the the foundation of the world the plan (from verse 10) that those who accepted Christ would receive the blessings stated in verses 7-9.

    Eph 1:3-10 ESV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (8) which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (9) making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (10) as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

  37. Larry Cheek says:

    Gary,
    When the context upon which you based your conclusion is blown away. Can you find another to support your view? If not can you abandon a false conclusion?

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