Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Does It Mean to "Perish" and Why Would a Loving God Allow It

"14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life." 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18
What does it mean to "perish"?
Perish: "To suffer complete ruin or destruction; to die."
What does the Bible mean when it says "those who are perishing"?

It is one of the teachings of Jesus that is the most difficult to swallow - for both people who believe and people who disbelieve.

So, first, before I even begin to say what I believe that means, I need to say some preliminary things to really make it clear WHY I believe it means what it does:
1.) I believe in Absolute Truth/Morals. I don't believe in relativism - that two different people can have two different truths. I do not believe that we each live our own realities. Sure, some realities may be distorted (Schizophrenia, etc.) or altered (on drugs, etc.) but for example, if you see a tree and someone else either says, "No, there is no tree" or "That's not a tree. In my reality that is a frog," the truth of the matter is that the tree is a tree!! Someone might say, "You can know nothing for certain"... Well, are you certain about that?? ;-) If nothing else is certain in life, there is most certainly at the very least ONE absolute truth: Death. When you die you are absolutely dead! 
2.) I believe everything was created and did not come about by chance. Therefore I believe in a Creator, a Supreme Being, an Intelligent Designer, a.k.a. God. (Just ONE! Any more equals division and chaos, so none of them are "supreme" so then who created who?) In order to be a Creator, He needs to have *always* existed and He will never end - which leads to my belief in eternity. (I know God is not bound to human terms like He or She, but I will just use "He".) If there are no Absolute Truths then the Creator above that I said I believe in would not exist, because He IS the absolute truth since He CREATED everything! He is the realest reality there ever is and ever was and ever will be! Also, as a "Supreme Being," this God must be Perfect and Good.... perfectly holy, fair, righteous, etc. ("God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all." 1 John 1:5)
3.) I believe the Bible was inspired by the Spirit of God, who knows all Truth because it is part of God. So, I believe the Bible is the Word of God and is Absolute Truth. The Bible is a collection of 66 books written by 40 different men (inspired by God's Spirit to know what to write) over thousands of years and yet it has ONE consistent message throughout (everything, every single book points to Jesus). Skeptics will say there are contradictions, and at face value it looks like there are - but every single one of them are reconciled when you actually take the time to give an honest evaluation of them. Also, regardless of the fact that these "contradictions" can be reconciled, none of them take away from the actual MESSAGE of each of the books of the Bible. One of the main reasons I came to believe that the Bible was true (back about 10 years now) was the fact that after a lot of research (within the Bible, online, books, etc.), I found that in the Old Testament alone there are approximately 2,000 predictive prophecies. "If the prophet speaks in the LORD's name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the LORD did not give that message" Deuteronomy 18:22. Every one of these prophecies has come true. No other religion in the world has predictive prophecy, let alone having about 2,000 prophecies actually coming true, hundreds of which came to pass hundreds of years after the prophet spoke them. These prophecies deal with details about the fates of entire cities and nations, as well as many other things, including 333 very specific prophecies about the coming Messiah (Greek for "Savior"). Then in the New Testament, we see Jesus fulfilling every single one of these prophecies... i.e., He is the Messiah/Savior. ("Then Jesus began with Moses' Teachings and the Prophets to explain to them what was said about him throughout the Scriptures." Luke 24:27) Another reason why I believe in the Bible is because archaeology has been consistently proving its historicity despite attempts to make the Bible look like a bunch of mythological stories and legends. The Bible is FULL of true, historical data and again, *honest* and *objective* examinations of the archaeological evidence are proving this to be true. (God says in the Bible that if we fail to praise Him and reveal Him to others that even "the stones would cry out" in order that He be revealed.... hello, archaeology!!) Within the Bible, we are told to not have "blind faith", as some would like to say that Christians have. Instead, we are told to examine the evidence and "do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1) 
4.) I believe in the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth. There was most definitely a man named Jesus who lived 2,000+ years ago and there is no credible historian who would risk their reputation by claiming that the man "Jesus" was a myth. That being said, there are many secular (non-biblical) accounts of the existence and life of Jesus, but basically the first four books of the New Testament are the biographies of the life of Jesus - written by men who followed Him or men who were scribes of His disciples. So, either Jesus was who he said he was (recorded in these four books) or he was a liar or a lunatic. In addition to this, there are non-biblical writings that tell the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion. So, we have historical evidence that this man Jesus of Nazareth lived, died, and then lived again (appeared to this followers and many others in body form - not mass hallucination, which is not psychologically possible .).

Now that all of that is said, I can be clear in saying that even if I do not LIKE what the Bible means by "those who are perishing," does not mean that I can just dismiss it as not being TRUTH. If I choose to disbelieve this one thing, then I should just throw out the whole book. Ignore it, laugh at it, suppress it.... it doesn't change the absolute truth of it. It's an uncomfortable belief to share and it is offensive, but Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

On another blog, I liked the way he paraphrased this verse: "I'm the one who opens the door to the Father for you. You may not recognise me, but it's only through me that that door will ever be opened. It's only through me that you will ever find yourself in the presence of God."

Jesus said, "Those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them." John 6:37

But then in another place He says, "But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken." John 12:48

In full disclosure, and in an effort to tell "the whole truth and nothing but the truth", Jesus is saying that for those who reject Him then He will have no choice but to reject them. He cannot save those who do not believe they need saving.

So, why does the Bible say that Jesus is the "Only Way" to live eternally in Heaven and those who reject Him will go to Hell?

In Matthew 25:41, Jesus said, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for Satan and his angels:’”

"Hell" was not originally made for man! It was originally made for Satan and his angels. Satan was originally an angel - spiritual principality - whose pride made him reject his Creator. He convinced other angels to follow him in basically an attempt at a coup. This spiritual war is still going on today, even though Satan knows he will lose in the end - by being thrown into the everlasting fire. But that does not stop him from trying to convince people to disbelieve in 1) their Creator and 2) Jesus. So, the first man and woman - who were originally created as PERFECTLY GOOD beings - made the choice to believe the lies of Satan - God gave us FREE WILL to choose what to believe! - and thus "Original Sin".... Blemishing the perfect. You can never get that blemish out by anything you DO because as the creation you cannot make yourself perfect again. So, ever since, man has been born into this imperfection - a.k.a. sin. God specifically gave Adam & Eve ONE RULE to follow (talk about freedom... just ONE rule) and the penalty for breaking it was death (they would have lived eternally physically and spiritually with God). A holy and just and perfectly good God cannot allow disobedience to go unpunished because then He would be two-faced, which He cannot be if He is God. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

Somewhere else writes about God the Father's holiness in this way: "God, being holy, is separate from humanity spatially – He is in heaven while humans live upon the earth – and separate in His nature and character – He is perfect, humans are imperfect. Holiness is an attribute of God that distinguishes Himself and His creation."

God doesn't take pleasure in the perishing of those who reject Him: ""Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live." (Ezekial 18:23) He says we are ALL wicked because to HIM even one tiny blemish, one tiny white lie, is sin and less than perfection and is "wicked" compared to His holiness and righteousness. (His ways are so above ours because He is the Creator, we are the creation!)

Instead, He would PREFER that we all believe in the One He sent to be our Savior, so that we CAN spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Romans 3:22-28 says, "We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law."