Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Where Did the Old Testament Saints Go When They Died?

A good question that I’ve been asked in the past is where did the Old Testament Saints go when they died since Jesus Christ had not come yet.  Hebrews 11 talks about those who walked by faith and trusted God’s promises for a better day when Christ would come.  By their faith, “people of old received their commendation” (Heb. 11:2).  Many names are identified such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah (to name a few).  Scripture says that they “all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).    We are told, “they desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16).  They looked forward to the day that they would dwell with God and they trusted God’s provision for that day.  It was only by their faith in the promises of God that they would see Him again one day.
One example of walking by faith and looking for a better day would be Abraham.  We are told that when God tested Abraham, he acted in obedience by offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice unto the Lord.  Although Isaac was spared, Abraham followed through by trusting in the character and promises of God.  All of those identified in Hebrews 11 are examples of those who placed their faith in God and God commended them for their faith in Him.  Throughout Scripture there is a progressive revelation of the person of Jesus Christ and what He would accomplish.  The closer to His arrival the more God’s people understood about the plan of salvation. 
So what happened to those who walked by faith in God who passed away before Christ came?  It would appear that the Old Testament believers, when they died, went to a place called “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:19-30).  It was a place of comfort and rest prior to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  At that point in time they were united with Jesus Christ in Heaven (Eph. 4:8-10).  The Bible teaches that believers who die today go immediately to heaven and live in the presence of the Lord (Phil. 1:21-24; 2 Cor. 5:1).  Believers today are saved in the same manner as believers of old~~they place their faith and belief in God alone for their salvation, they repent of their sins, and they follow Him.
We can plan on seeing and enjoying common fellowship with the Saints of old some day!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Can I Lose My Salvation?

         The deeper I grow in my knowledge of God, His Word, and the work of Jesus Christ, the more I grow rooted in the doctrine of eternal security.  My eternal security is the result of God keeping me until the day that He calls me home and it is not the result of me striving to maintain my salvation through my good works.  I never earned my salvation and therefore I could never maintain it.  It is God who guarantees the believer’s salvation through the work of Jesus Christ.  We are told in Jude 24 that, "To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy."  God’s power is able to keep the believer from falling away from Him until the day we stand before Him.  In another sense, the belief in the doctrine of eternal security is the belief that God keeps His promises towards us.
         Believers are told in Ephesians 4:30 that they are “sealed for the day of redemption” by the Holy Spirit.  Many of us have memorized John 3:16 which states that God gives the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.  If our eternal life could be taken away then it was never eternal and it was never free.  It could then be defined as merit-based salvation.  Christians who have genuinely repented of their sins and have turned to God for the salvation of their souls can rest in the fact that God will keep them secure to the very end as He said He would.
         One of the greatest verses in Scripture that believers can take comfort is found in Romans 8:38-39.  It states, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Our eternal security is based upon the work of Christ on the cross of Calvary.  His blood was never meant to be temporary but it provided cleansing for past, present, and future sins (Eph. 1:3-14).  Our eternal security was promised by God the Father, provided by the work of Jesus Christ, and is secured by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit until Christ returns.  So, if someone asks if we can lose our salvation, the answer should be emphatically NO—not according to Scripture.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Does God Change His Mind?

There are times in Scripture when it appears that God is changing His mind.  In fact, we may even pray for God to change His mind about a given situation but is this possible if He has already made up His mind?  When someone changes his/her mind, it is often because they have learned new information about a matter that was not previously known or because the circumstances have changed and require a different attitude or approach.  However, if we truly believe that God is omniscient (that He knows all things), then He cannot learn something new that He did not already know.  So, when the Bible speaks of God changing His mind, it should be understood that the circumstance or situation has changed and not God.
How then do we explain verses that seem to say that God does change His mind?  Genesis 6:6 says, “The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.”  We also read in Exodus 32:14, “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.”  These verses speak of the Lord “repenting” or “relenting” of something and seem to contradict the doctrine of God’s immutability (This is the doctrine that God does not change in His quality of being).  In fact, in the book of Jonah that we are currently studying on Sunday mornings, we see Jonah walking the streets of Nineveh cautioning the Assyrians that if they do not repent then God was going to destroy them.  Praise God they repented because we are told that God relented and had compassion on them and he did not bring the destruction that was told to them (Jonah 3).
The immutability of God (His quality of not changing) is clearly taught all throughout Scripture (Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17).  The immutability of God is directly related to God’s omniscience.  The fact that God changes His treatment of us in response to our choices has nothing to do with God's character changing.  It is a matter of people working within the framework of God’s principles and God’s character.   If someone repents, God consistently forgives in accordance to His Word and His character; if someone refuses to repent, God consistently judges according to His Word and His character.   Therefore, God is unchanging in His nature, His plan, and His being.   God told the Assyrians living in Nineveh, “I’m going to judge you unless you repent”.  This may appear that God changed His mind; however, in reality, God was simply staying true to His Word and character (repent and I’ll forgive; continue in wickedness and I’ll destroy).
Consider this, at one time we were enemies of God because of our sinfulness and we deserved hell as our just payment.  When we repented and put our faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, God viewed us differently in that we were no longer His enemies but His children (John 1:12).  What changed?  We did.  It would be contrary to God’s Word and His character to punish us after we have repented.  Did our change of heart change God’s mind?  Our salvation actually points to the fact that God does not change but that He works according to His will and His Word.  In summary, our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He always works within His righteous character and He holds us accountable to the parameters set forth in His Word.