Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Back to school - more Sullivan questions

A couple more interesting questions from our friends at Sullivan Upper...
"Will you get into heaven if you become a Christian on your death bed having lived a very bad life?" OK, there's something at the end of the question that concerns me - the questioner says this person has lived a very bad life, as if that might make their chances at qualifying for salvation a bit lower.  This implies to me that we haven't really understood that salvation is a gift of grace - it is not merited, it cannot be because if we received from God what we deserved then we would be lost (Romans 6 v 23).  The Bible tells us God so loved the world, and that anyone who trusts in Christ for salvation will never perish (John 3 v 16).  If we say that there is someone so bad that they can't be saved then we are saying one of two things, either God's love and grace isn't big enough to extend to him, or the sacrificial death of Christ isn't valuable enough to pay for his sins.  Just think that through - there's a wicked man lying on his death bed - you may not want that man to be saved, but God does; you may not be able to forgive him, but God is.  God wants that man to live forever in holiness and purity (which is what all in heaven will do).  So the question then is, do you think there is a sin so big that the death of Christ cannot cover?  Or do you think there is a sinner so bad that the blood of Christ cannot cleanse?  God is willing to forgive because of His love; He is righteously able to forgive because of Christ's death and resurrection, and He will forgive those who turn to the Lord in true repentance.
Paul called himself the chief of sinners - he hated the Name of Jesus, and persecuted all who followed Him.  Yet the Lord was willing and able to save him, and Paul says that the Lord is holding him up as an example to everyone else, saying, "If there's salvation for him then there's salvation for you!" (1Timothy 1 v 15-16).  The robber crucified alongside Christ serves as another example of the grace and power of Christ to save (Luke 23 v 39-43).  It has been said, there is one example of a "death bed" conversion in Scripture, so none need despair, but there is only one, so none dare presume.  The Bible doesn't record this incident so you'll say, "Oh great, I'll have opportunity in the future!"  The Bible records it so you will say, "Oh great, I have opportunity now!"
You see, people have this idea that the person who gets to heaven that route has the best of both worlds - live life for yourself and then get heaven at the end, but there are a couple of huge mistakes here.  First, the person who gets saved isn't cackling and rubbing his hands saying, "I got away with all those sins!"  No, they are mourning those sins as they recognise how awful they are - the more sins a person has, the more regrets he'll have after conversion while he remains on earth.  Second, he'll realise he wasted his life - he missed out on what life is all about - living in fellowship with God and in devotion to God.  In heaven there are rewards given based on service carried out on earth (just to emphasise - getting to heaven isn't a reward for service - it is a gift, but those who take the gift will have rewards granted for what they do for the Lord while they live here) - the person with little or no Christian service will have little or no reward.  Their cup of joy will be full, but it will just be a very small cup!
I'll say one more thing on this - it's a huge risk to take - the day of opportunity could end at any moment.  Little wonder the Bible says, "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2Corinthians 6 v 2).  You ask any Christian if they have any regrets about salvation, and the only regret any Christian will have is that they didn't come to Christ sooner, that they wasted so many years.

"On Judgment Day will people get a second chance to ask for forgiveness and get into heaven?" This question moves us that one vital step beyond the last question, from one side of death to the other.  Sadly the answer to the question is no.  Scripture firmly slams the door on any post-death offer.  You can look at passages such as Luke 13 v 24-29; 16 v 19-31 & 2Thessalonians 2 v 10-12 (the 2Thessalonians passage teaches that those who refused the Gospel prior to the Lord coming to take the Christians to heaven will have missed their opportunity for salvation - they will still be on earth but will have no hope of being saved).  These passages show us that there is a day of opportunity, and if the opportunity isn't grasped it will be gone.
But you may want to know why God closes the door of opportunity?  Speculative answers could be given (I'll try one, God requires that people turn to Christ in recognition of the awfulness of their sin, not merely because they recognise the awfulness of hell), but the bottom line is, God closes the door because He is God - He will not eternally be kept waiting until people are ready to turn to Him.  He was under no obligation to provide salvation at all, and is certainly not obligated to give people multiple opportunities.  The verse quoted in the previous answer is worth quoting again, "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."

I'll continue to chip away at the other questions - the pile is slowly reducing.

Again - if you find the answers confusing or have an objection, let me know - mailto:greatnews4all@googlemail.com