Perhaps the most often asked religious question I have heard is, "How is the Church of God different from Protestant faiths?"
Other than the fact the Continuing Church of God (CCOG) is not Protestant, the most obvious proof of that is from our history.
While most Protestants trace their history through the Catholic Church until at least 1000 A.D. (Baptists tend not to) with many beginning with Martin Luther in the 16th century, and most still through the time of the reformation led by Martin Luther, the Continuing Church of God traces its history from the first Pentecost after the crucifixion of Jesus through early leaders such as Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Melito, and Polycrates (more information can be found in the articles Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome and The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 as well as the History of Early Christianity page). While there are many beliefs within the Protestant world (which makes having all encompassing statements almost impossible), this paper will most often refer to the predominant historical beliefs within Protestantism (mainly by its leaders/theologians) on the subjects it addresses.
Historical differences cause major problems for many Protestant groups. They tend to realize that the Church of Rome has not been faithful to the Bible, lost that faithfulness many centuries before the Protestant Reformation, and thus if they think about it and study history, they should realize that they do not have a proper historical foundation for their beliefs. They tend to fail to realize that there were two major groups of professors of Christ in the second and third centuries and that they went with the Greco-Roman group as opposed to the faithful Church of God group (for more on the two groups, please check out the article Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries?).
While history is the most obvious difference, probably the three biggest theological differences relate to teachings concerning the Bible, law, and salvation (see also What is the Gospel?), especially the time of restoration (apokatastasis). (Note: When this article uses the term 'Church of God', it does not includes those groups who also use that name which teach against the ten commandments, are non-Sabbatarian, are 'Pentecostal', and/or are trinitarian. Some of the beliefs mentioned in this article are also not held by groups that do not believe in the observance of the Feasts mentioned in Leviticus 23.)
Contrary to what some seem to feel, the message of the Continuing Church of God is one of hope for all humankind.
The message of the Bible includes the hope of the resurrection and the promises God made (Acts 26:6-8). It is the gospel, the GOOD NEWS, that God will intervene in world affairs and establish His kingdom on the Earth (Mark 1:14; Acts 20:25; Revelation 11:15):
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:3-5).
The Protestants (in general), as well as Baptists, and the Continuing Church of God accept this plain teaching.
While Protestants (in general) and the Continuing Church of God claim to belive the teachings of the Bible as the source of doctrine, Protestantism and the teachings of Baptists are strewn with non-biblical traditions that many unknowingly presume must be biblical as some many professing Christians have the same non-biblical traditions.
(Two articles of related interest of related interest may include What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation? and Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings.)
The Bible shows who will, and who will not, be there:
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie (Revelation 22:14-15).
But many contrary to scripture, certain Protestants/Baptists seem to have a differing view.
In its Ten Commandments article, Wikipedia reported:
Modern Evangelicalism, under the influence of dispensationalism, commonly denies that the commandments have any abiding validity as a requirement binding upon Christians (Ten Commandments. Wikipedia, viewed 7/30/08).
And sadly, this is a fairly common view as the following quotes may help demonstrate:
The 10 commandments are Abolished
Today Christians keep the Law of Christ which is superior! 1 Cor 9:21; Gal 6:2 (http://www.bible.ca/7-10-commandments.htm viewed 7/31/08).
The Ten Commandments Were Abolished
Saturday, 5. July 2008, 22:51:09
Introduction The ten commandments are no longer lawful: they are not binding on the Christian. Christian scripture says the ten commandments were abolished Ephesians 2:15; a bible believing person is no longer bound to follow them; in fact (http://my.opera.com/richardinbellingham/blog/the-ten-commandments-were-abolished viewed 7/30/08).
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS ARE NOT FOR CHRISTIANS (Richard Bethel. http://www.bethelministries.com/ten_commandments.htm viewed 7/30/08).
The Ten Commandments: Christ Nailed to the Cross (The Ten Commandments: Christ Nailed to the Cross. By William A Worley. Published by the Author?, 1959).
Prof. M.D. Canright, an ordained Baptist preacher says:..."The Ten Commandments and the whole Jewish law are abolished, and the Sabbath is not binding upon Christians...we are not under the Ten Commandments, but under Christ" (Religious Delusions: A Psychic Study By J. V. Coombs Published by Kessinger Publishing, 2003, pp. 34-35).
One of the Ten Commandments was not carried over into the Law of Christ...
Not all of the Ten Commandments were carried over into the law of Christ (Jeffrey W. Hamilton, preacher. La Vista Church of Christ. http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVanswers/2004-11-23.htm viewed 7/30/08).
The Ten Commandments were given to the Jews; and when Christ came and died they were all nailed to the cross (The marked Bible By Charles Lindsay Taylor. Published by Pacific Press, 1922. Original from the University of California. Digitized Nov 30, 2007, p. 53).
The keeping of the Sabbath as commanded on the tables of stone was nailed to the cross...The Sabbath of the ten commandments had its mission (The Gospel Day: Or, the Light of Christianity By Charles Ebert Orr Published by Gospel Trumpet, 1904 Original from the New York Public Library Digitized Jul 18, 2006, pp. 336-337).
A couple of years back I heard a Protestant "scholar" named Dr. Kenny Rhodes falsely claim that “God never gave the ten commandments to the Gentiles” and that not all of the ten commandments are reiterated in the New Testament (the Bible disagrees, please see the article Are the Ten Commandment Still in Effect?). He also inaccurately claimed that the ten commandments did not carry over in the New Testament (the Bible disagrees, please see What Did Jesus Teach About the Ten Commandments?). For one of his proofs, he correctly said that if we keep the ten commandments that we would have to keep the Sabbath command as well. I do, of course keep the Sabbath commandment. So, I am not sure how that is proof that one does NOT need to keep the commandments—Jesus, Paul, James, and John (and perhaps others) wrote that we are to keep those commandments (see also, Are the Ten Commandment Still in Effect?).
Yet, the fact is that Gentile Christians did believe that they were to keep the ten commandments (for proof, see The Ten Commandments and the Early Church). It should be understood that it was only the disciples of Simon Magus (warned against in Acts 8) and those that tended to follow the heretic Marcion in the second century that did not teach adherence to the ten commandments (for more details, please see the article The Ten Commandments and the Early Church).
Certain Protestants and others who believe that Christians felt that the ten commandments were somehow done away, simply are proven wrong by the fact that faithful Christians as well as most others who professed Christ in the second century did not teach that. Instead, nearly all understood from the Bible and the teachings and the the practices of the apostles that the ten commandments were to be kept by Christians.
Since the Church of Jesus was always to endure, how could it have gone for centuries teaching that Christians were supposed to keep the ten commandments to the teaching that seemed not to appear in many quarters until the seventeenth century or later that the ten commandments were done away?
This is totally illogical and should serve as a wake-up call to those who are misinterpreting scripture as well as ignoring the facts of history.
Although a view held by many Protestant ministers is that the ten commandments were done away, that now one only needs to believe on Jesus Christ, and that the only commandment now is love one another (another common Protestant view is that nine of the ten commandments are in effect, but one, the Sabbath, has been changed), Protestant leaders tend to feel that since God showed His love for us by sending His Son to die for our sins (John 3:16), that this sacrifice allows Christians to love one another without the need to keep the ten commandments. This view seems to ignore the plain scriptures which show that Jesus kept and taught the ten commandments, Paul kept the ten commandments, as did the other New Testament writers.
Many Protestants misunderstand the following:
38 Then Peter said to 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. (Acts 2:38)
Many Protestants seem to feel that admission of being a sinner is all that is necesary for repentance. And while that is an important point to realize, repentance means to CHANGE direction. To stop violating the law of God--the law of love. Notice the definition of sin according to the Bible:
4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4, KJV)
Thus many Protestants do not understand what repentance actually is, thus they may not be converted as the hope they are.
Those who do not advocate observing the ten commandments also seem to overlook a couple of other interesting scriptures in the Book of Revelation:
17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17)
12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (Revelation 14:12).
Both of these scriptures show that the saints during the end-time believe in Jesus AND keep the commandments of God (though many Protestants feel that the ten commandments were only for the Jews to keep, this ignores the fact that the ten commandments were all in effect before Mount Sinai and that the Bible calls New Testament believers 'Jews' more often than it calls them Christians).
All who claim Christ may wish to consider what the following means:
118 You reject all those who stray from Your statutes,
For their deceit is falsehood (Psalm 119:118).
It is of importance to note that not all called "Protestant leaders" have espoused the anti-law view.
For example, look at what both Martin Luther and William Tyndale specifically wrote,
The fruits of this sin are afterwards the evil deeds which are forbidden in the Ten Commandments...we hold that the Law was given by God, first, to restrain sin by threats and the dread of punishment, and by the promise and offer of grace and benefit (Luther Martin. The Smallclad Papers. 1537. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau Published in: _Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church_. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), pp. 453-529).
...the law and the gospel may never be separate...Here may ye perceive that two manners of people are sore deceived. First, they which justify themselves by outward deeds...Those are also deceived which...having no respect to the law of God...say, God is merciful, and Christ died for us; supposing that such dreaming and imagination is that faith which is so greatly commended in holy scripture. Nay, that is not faith, but rather a foolish blind opinion...They that have this right faith, consent to the law, that it is righteous and good...The right christian man consenteth to the law that it is righteous, and justifieth God in the law; for he affirmeth that God is righteous and just, which is the author of the law." (Tyndale W. Doctrinal Treatises and Introduction to Different Portions of The Holy Scriptures, by 1536. Edited by The Parker Society. The University Press, Cambridge, 1848, pp. 11-13).
Most Protestants today do not tie the gospel in with the law.
Interestingly, Tyndale also wrote,
...neither move to heart or hand without his commandment; it is right that we have a needful holy days to come together, and learn his will, both the law which he will have us rule by, and also the promises of mercy which he will have us trust unto...keep the commandments (ibid, pp.24-25,81) and "Simon Magus believed...but had no right faith...For he repented not, consenting unto the law of God" (ibid, p.124).
It also should be noted that the Protestant leader John Wesley also taught that the law should be kept (Fanning S. Mystics of the Christian Tradition. Routeldge, New York. 2001, reprinted 2006, p. 187), though he (like Tyndale) misunderstood about the Sabbath.
The Bible makes it clear that the law of God and the commandments of God are truth and righteous, and are tied to salvation, but that the wicked are far from God's law. Notice a few more verses from Psalm 119:
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Your word.
126 It is time for You to act, O LORD, For they have regarded Your law as void. 127 Therefore I love Your commandments More than gold, yes, than fine gold!
142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth.
144 The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting; Give me understanding, and I shall live.
150 They draw near who follow after wickedness; They are far from Your law.
151 You are near, O LORD, And all Your commandments are truth.
152 Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, For they do not seek Your statutes.
160 The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.
163 I hate and abhor lying, But I love Your law.
165 Great peace have those who love Your law
166 LORD, I hope for Your salvation, And I do Your commandments.
172 My tongue shall speak of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness.
While the basic view of the genuine Church of God is that the commandments show love, the basic Protestant view (Tyndale not withstanding) seems to be that the law contained in the ten commandments is done away and that they (most Protestant leaders) show love apart from the law. In the view of the genuine Church of God, the cause of many of the problems people now experience is because they have rejected God's governance over their lives, including keeping His laws. The main Protestant view seems to be that most of the problems people have are because they live on the Earth, and that for some reason other than obeying God's commandments, paradise--which they normally define as being in heaven--will be better than Earth.
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty (James 2:8-12).
James, of course, was talking about several of the ten commandments.
James also wrote, "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 17).
In the view of Martin Luther, the primarily acknowledged founder of Protestantism, the book of James was an epistle of straw (more information can be found in the article Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther: What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?). Yet, this position of Martin Luther seems to directly contradict II Timothy 3:16-17,
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Apostle Paul quoted the following about the new covenant,
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness" (Hebrews 8:10-12).
Furthermore he taught,
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?...For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord...What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, 'You shall not covet'...Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good (Romans 6:14-15,23;7:7,12).
(This article will not take the time to discuss all of the writings of Paul that the Apostle Peter wrote are improperly twisted, II Peter 3:15-16, but here is a link to the article Paul and the Ten Commandments which shows that Paul taught that all ten commandments are to be kept.)
Perhaps I should add here that the idea that one needed to keep the commandments was clear to most of those who professed Christ in the second century. Even though he held some heretical views, around 180 A.D. Irenaeus (who most Protestant theologians believe was a true early Christian) wrote:
Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King...may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book 1, Chapter 10, Verse 1. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Preparing man for this life, the Lord Himself did speak in His own person to all alike the words of the Decalogue; and therefore, in like manner, do they remain permanently with us, receiving by means of His advent in the flesh, extension and increase, but not abrogation (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Chapter 16, Verse 4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
The term Decalogue refers to the ten commandments as remaining permanently and that they have not been abrogated.
Furthermore, Irenaeus in the following passage, shows that in the second century, the idea that God would resurrect people and provide an opportunity for salvation was clearly known:
Then, too, Isaiah himself has plainly declared that there shall be joy of this nature at the resurrection of the just, when he says: "The dead shall rise again; those, too, who are in the tombs shall arise, and those who are in the earth shall rejoice. For the dew from Thee is health to them." And this again Ezekiel also says: "Behold, I will open your tombs, and will bring you forth out of your graves; when I will draw my people from the sepulchres, and I will put breath in you, and ye shall live; and I will place you on your own land, and ye shall know that I am the LORD." And again the same speaks thus: "These things saith the LORD, I will gather Israel from all nations whither they have been driven, and I shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the sons of the nations: and they shall dwell in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell in it in peace; and they shall build houses, and plant vineyards, and dwell in hope, when I shall cause judgment to fall among all who have dishonoured them, among those who encircle them round about; and they shall know that I am the LORD their God, and the God of their fathers." Now I have shown a short time ago that the church is the seed of Abraham; and for this reason, that we may know that He who in the New Testament "raises up from the stones children unto Abraham," is He who will gather, according to the Old Testament, those that shall be saved from all the nations, Jeremiah says: "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, who led the children of Israel from the north, and from every region whither they had been driven; He will restore them to their own land which He gave to their fathers" (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 34, Verse 1. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna, and was a disciple of the Apostle John, the last of the original apostles as well as the last of the writers of the New Testament to die. What did he and other second century Christian leaders teach about the ten commandments?
Notice what Polycarp, around 120 A.D., wrote:
But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, falsewitness; "not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing," or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter II. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).
"But the love of money is the root of all evils." Knowing, therefore, that "as we brought nothing into the world, so we can carry nothing out," let us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness; and let us teach, first of all, ourselves to walk in the commandments of the Lord. Next, [teach] your wives [to walk] in the faith given to them, and in love and purity tenderly loving their own husbands in all truth, and loving all [others] equally in all chastity; and to train up their children in the knowledge and fear of God. Teach the widows to be discreet as respects the faith of the Lord, praying continually for all, being far from all slandering, evil-speaking, false-witnessing, love of money, and every kind of evil (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter IV. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).
Knowing, then, that "God is not mocked," we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory ...For it is well that they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since "every lust warreth against the spirit; " and "neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God," nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter V. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).
I exhort you, therefore, that ye abstain from covetousness, and that ye be chaste and truthful. "Abstain from every form of evil." For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others ? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen. But who of us are ignorant of the judgment of the Lord ? (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter XI. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).
In the above, Polycarp referred to at least six commandments (numbers 1,3,5,7,9,10). And probably nine (2,6,8), since stealing (and he wrote against the "love of money" which leads to stealing) and murder (plus Polycarp said not to repay "blow for blow") do not reflect love and idolatry is a form of "false-witnessing".
Furthermore, since in Polycarp's area, when reporting his martyrdom, the Smyrnaeans referred to Friday as the "day of preparation" and mentioned "the great Sabbath", it is obvious that the fourth commandment about the Sabbath was also kept (additional information is included in the articles (The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad and Another Look at the Didache, Ignatius, and the Sabbath).
Theophilus was a leader of the church in Antioch in the latter part of the second century. The Orthodox Church considers him to have been a successor to the Apostle Peter, while Protestant scholars normally concede that he was a true Christian.
Theophilus, around 180 A.D., wrote:
And on the sixth day God finished His works which He made, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because in it He rested from all His works which God began to create...Moreover, [they spoke] concerning the seventh day, which all men acknowledge; but the most know not that what among the Hebrews is called the "Sabbath," is translated into Greek the "Seventh" (ebdomas), a name which is adopted by every nation, although they know not the reason of the appellation...God having thus completed the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and all that are in them, on the sixth day, rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapters XI, XII, XIX. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Now we also confess that God exists, but that He is one, the creator, and maker, and fashioner of this universe; and we know that all things are arranged by His providence, but by Him alone. And we have learned a holy law; but we have as lawgiver Him who is really God, who teaches us to act righteously, and to be pious, and to do good. And concerning piety He says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I am the LORD thy God." And of doing good He said: "Honour thy father and thy mother; that it may be well with thee, and that thy days may be long in the land which I the LORD God give thee." Again, concerning righteousness: "Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, nor his land, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his beast of burden, nor any of his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbour's...Of this divine law, then, Moses, who also was God's servant, was made the minister both to all the world, and chiefly to the Hebrews...Of this great and wonderful law, which tends to all righteousness, the ten heads are such as we have already rehearsed (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book III, Chapter IX. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Thus, it is clear that Polycarp, Theophilus, and others endorsed all ten of the commandments in the second century. More information is available in the article The Ten Commandments and the Early Church.
Because of the genuine Church of God teaching on the subject of the ten commandments and other biblical matters, this shows that it has not compromised regarding subjects such as condoning abortion, homosexuality, female ministry, military service, the Sabbath, or many other subjects that have negatively affected nearly all of the Protestant churches (nearly all, for example, do condone military service for Christians).
The Protestant view correctly teaches that there is salvation in no other than Jesus (Acts 4:10-12), as "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (vs.12).
But what happens to the billions who have not even heard the name of Christ? And what happens to those born before Christ's earthly ministry? Recall that after Adam sinned, humankind was blocked from the tree of life as God had it guarded so that humans would not be able to access it on their own (Genesis 3:22-24).
Even the basic Protestant view is that unless one professes belief in Jesus prior to the first death, then salvation will be unavailable. It is perhaps because of the difference between this view and that of the Church of God, that Protestants tend to label those in the genuine Church of God as cult supporters. The bulk of the remainder of this article will attempt to demonstrate the biblical error of this Protestant view.
The genuine Church of God teaches that God is only calling a relatively few during this age with the Day of Pentecost (also called the Day of Firstfruits, Numbers 28:26) partially explaining this:
Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (James 1:18).
It was not God’s purpose that His true Church grow into a great, powerful organization in this age that would “Christianize” the world. God's true Church was to remain a “little flock” (Luke 12:32) as a “witness” (Matthew 24:14) until the time of “the restoration of all things” (Acts 3:17-21) as God will save most of humankind--both physical and spiritual Israel (Romans 2:28-29; 11:26-32).
The Continuing Church of God teaches that God will ultimately give every individual an opportunity for salvation--and that nearly every individual will accept that opportunity. It seems that, the vast majority of human beings will ultimately be in God's Family.
Many Protestants seem to feel that whosoever will may come (predestination will be dealt with later).
Jesus and the genuine Church of God teach, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44).
And that will be few at this time:
For many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14).
Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:14).
Matthew 19:23-26 shows that humans on their own cannot enter the kingdom of God:
Notice that the disciples were greatly astonished at the difficulty of salvation. If, as most Protestants seem to teach, that salvation is automatic with a simple proclamation (like "Jesus is Lord"), then this would not be particulary difficult for even the wealthy to state. But it is more than that (cf. Matthew 7:21)--real repentance is needed (Acts 2:38).
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Protestants tend to feel, correctly, that God uses ministers to preach (Romans 10:14).
Yet the Bible shows that the message is not always clear. And it appears that God intended that many would not understand now. Notice:
But the word of the LORD was to them, "Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little," That they might go and fall backward, and be broken And snared and caught (Isaiah 28:13).
Notice that God said that the word was written so that many would be snared and caught--not that most would initially understand it. Since God wants all saved (1 Timothy 2:2-3), why would He have His word written that way unless He had a plan to ultimately call everyone?
In Isaiah 6:9-11 God teaches,
"Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed." Then I said, "Lord, how long?" And He answered: "Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, The houses are without a man, The land is utterly desolate".
In other words, the bulk of the people are not to understand until after a time of utter desolation.
Furthermore, the Bible reveals that God has prohibited idolaters to have proper understanding:
And the rest of it he makes into a god, His carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, Prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!" They do not know nor understand; For He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, And their hearts, so that they cannot understand (Isaiah 44:17-18).
They have no knowledge, Who carry the wood of their carved image, And pray to a god that cannot save (Isaiah 45:20).
Thus, is God going to permanently condemn those who worship idols for what He has not let them understand?
Protestant theology tends to say yes.
Those in the genuine Church of God say no.
Unless the idolater has committed the unpardonable sin (which is unlikely, see What is the Unpardonable Sin?) they will be judged as other uncalled people are. Jesus taught that an opportunity for forgiveness will occur happen "in the age to come" (Matthew 12:32). And the New Testament is very clear that :
"all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke 3:6).
Salvation will be offered to all who ever lived, a few in this age, and everyone else in the age to come (Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30). Yet although they often claim "sola Scriptura" Protestant scholars have tended to reason around these clear passages. Notice one such example (bolding in the version cited):
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. The writer makes plain at the outset of Jesus' ministry that He had a universal message. (from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press).
But of course, Luke 3:6 does not state only that the message is universal, it teaches that all flesh SHALL see the salvation of God.
Hence, the billions throughout history in Asia and Africa (and elsewhere) are not condemned to suffer forever for following practices they really do not understand. (Three articles of related interest may include Asia in Prophecy, Africa: Its Biblical Past and Prophesied Future, and Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).
It is recognized that many "Protestant" doctrines are more based upon tradition than scripture. One Protestant scholar went so far as to indicate that "sola scriptura" leads to the acceptance of "ancient heresies":
Although classical theology is certainly not without its problems, historically it is almost always the case that the appeal to the Bible alone...leads to the reemergence of ancient heresies...The Reformation began with the slogan "To the sources!" and sought to deal a fatal blow to the place of church tradition in shaping life and faith...Despite their efforts not to be influenced by the authority of tradition, each of the major Reformation churches found itself borrowing from the past and building up a traditionalism of its own...when the Anabaptists and other radicals discovered Scripture to be teaching things the Lutherans found detestable, Lutherans learned the usefulness of tradition..(Brown HOJ., Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988,pp. 335,350-351).
But if the "heresies" are in the Bible, then is it not the Protestant and other non-biblical views that are truly heretical?
Some called "Anabaptists" were apparently part of the true Church of God (please see the article The Sardis Church Era).
One of the reasons that the early Protestant leaders such as Martin Luther and John Calvin misunderstand salvation is that they denounced those who taught the millennium.
Luther and Melanchthon, Zwingli and Bullinger, and Calvin and Beza repudiated the millenarian doctrine (Cogley, Richard W. The fall of the Ottoman Empire and the restoration of Israel in the "Judeo-centric" strand of Puritan millenarianism. Church History. June 1, 2003. http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-3064883/The-fall-of-the-Ottoman.html viewed 12/24/07).
Notice this condemnation by certain followers of Martin Luther:
Article XVII: Of Christ's Return to Judgment...They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed. (The Confession of Faith: Which Was Submitted to His Imperial Majesty Charles V. At the Diet of Augsburg in the Year 1530. by Philip Melanchthon, 1497-1560. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau. Published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 95.)
The truth is that the Protestant world in general plays lip service to "the Bible alone" but sadly has traditions that contradict it.
More information on the millennium can be found in the article Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism?
The Apostle Paul wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else. Look how he makes it clear that God did not call all of Israel and that God has allowed people to be blinded until it is time, but that eventually "all Israel will be saved":
What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: "God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day." And David says: "Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, And bow down their back always." I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, If by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, Do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins" (Romans 11:7-27).
Notice that many were blinded. God did not allow them to see in this age. And these include those that have long been dead. Are they doomed to eternal torment by a loving God because He allowed them to be blinded now?
Jesus explained, "If you were blind, you would have no sin" (John 9:41).
Furthermore, notice Luke 23:33-34:
...they crucified Him...Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
Since Jesus felt those who physically saw Him, heard Him, and had Him crucified should be forgiven, certainly Jesus does not think that those who do not understand about Him now should be condemned.
Does your church understand this? Do they understand that those that crucified Christ rejected Him as their Lord and Savour, yet Jesus wanted them to be forgiven? What would be the point of them being forgiven if they are destined to spend eternity frying in eternal torment as they clearly rejected Jesus?
Well, there would be no point.
It should also be noted that when Paul uses the term "all Israel", he seems to be referring to "spiritual Israel" (as opposed to physical Israel). For earlier in Romans he wrote, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God" (Romans 2:28-29).
Peter also taught:
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, 'The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 'And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.' Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities." Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead (Acts 3:19-4:2).
Notice that Peter was teaching that Jesus will be in heaven until "the times of restoration of all things" and that all the families of the earth would be blessed, and that this has to do with the resurrection from the dead.
Also, related proof exists in the Old Testament as the Psalms seem to be related to what Paul wrote in Roman. Note that the following prophecies really have not been totally fulfilled yet:
Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD brings back the captivity of His people, Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad (Psalm 14:7).
Notice also that God promises to:
"pour out My Spirit on all flesh" (Joel 2:28)
And read the following passages in Isaiah:
"For a mere moment I have forsaken you, But with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you," Says the LORD, your Redeemer (Isaiah 54:7-8).
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths" (Isaiah 2:2-3).
Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, And nations who do not know you shall run to you (Isaiah 55:5).
Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him (Isaiah 30:18).
Notice that Isaiah 54:7-8 shows that God has forsaken some temporarily but that He will have mercy. Isaiah 2:2-3 specifically shows that all nations and many people will come to learn God's ways. Notice that Isaiah 55:5 shows that nations who did not know God will come to God! And Isaiah 30:18 shows God will wait and have mercy--because He is a God of justice!
Notice that the concept that God does not allow some to understand is repeated in the New Testament:
Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight (Luke 10:21).
Does anyone honestly feel that the general Protestant position that the majority who have ever lived (including those that are now living) are doomed to suffer forever? Certainly the God of love and justice did not come up with a plan that would fail for most of humankind.
Now when will they be saved? They will be saved and have their sins forgiven after the return of Christ. Notice, Romans 11:26-27,
And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins". Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
How do we know that this does not occur until after Christ returns again?
Because all Israel has not yet been saved! For Christ will come again out of Zion and "He will turn away ungodliness". Furthermore, notice that Paul is teaching that those to be saved include those who are now enemies concerning the gospel. And that even those among the enemies will be saved. How can that happen without a resurrection when these enemies will have a proper opportunity for conversion?
There are various misunderstandings that Protestants tend to have about the Gospel.
Since God wants all men to be saved, and part of the purpose of preaching the Gospel is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), is saving everyone now God's intent?
Notice what Jesus taught,
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
The Gospel is NOW to be preached AS A WITNESS!
Jesus even taught that those of old will rise up,
The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here (Matthew 12:41-42).
Jesus is telling the Pharisees and others that they should have at least understood what those in Nineveh understood or even the Queen of Sheba, for they currently received a greater witness. And He was telling them that they will be a further witness!
The Old Testament shows that Jesus was intended to be a witness, "Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people" (Isaiah 55:4).
John the Baptist was a witness, "John bore witness of Him" (John 1:15). Though Jesus also taught, "But I have a greater witness than John's; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish--the very works that I do--bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me" (John 5:36).
"I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice" (John 18:37). "Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth" (Revelation 1:5).
The disciples were to bear witness, "And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning (John 15:27).
Paul was told, "For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard" (Acts 22:15) and "But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you" (Acts 26:16).
Peter was a witness, "The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed" (1 Peter 5:1).
John and the other disciples were witnesses for, "the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us" (1 John 1:2) and "we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true" (3 John 12).
The Bible does also call Christian martyrs witnesses, "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God" (Revelation 20:4). The word translated as witness here is marturia (mar-too-ree'-ah), and it is from that word that the word martyr is derived.
Clearly the Bible teaches that the word of the gospel was and is to go out as a witness. And this witness will play a role in the ultimate conversion of those not called or incorrigibly wicked in this age. For more on the Gospel, please also see What is the Gospel?
Protestants often teach that Jesus used to parables to make the meaning of what He taught clearer, yet the New Testament shows the opposite is so,
And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.' "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; For assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it" (Matthew 13:10-17).
Thus, Christ is making it clear that even many of those who hear His name and His preaching have not been given the ability to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, hence they cannot be intentionally with full knowledge be rejecting Christ.
Furthermore, even those who hear can have their understanding taken away,
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; Yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful (Matthew 13:19-22).
So now we see the dilemma that Protestant teachings on salvation face. Jesus is clearly teaching that only few would be saved in this age. Since Jesus taught the message is not intentionally made clear, only those been called now can understand, and even those who understand can get their understanding taken away by a wicked one (or temptations) or can be not chosen (by God), what happens to those who do not understand? Or what happens to those who have never even heard of Jesus? The official position of many Protestant churches is that those individuals will burn forever. Which means that most of humanity throughout its history is doomed to be punished forever.
Is that fair?
Notice what the Apostle John wrote:
God is love (I John 4:8).
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16-17).
So is a God of love who sent His Son to die for a relative few or the world?
Protestants, who often quote John 3:16, tend to teach that the world could be saved but that the vast majority who ever lived will suffer in torment forever. Is that the type of plan of salvation that a God who is all-knowing and is love would come up with? Does the Bible support the idea that everyone can be saved now? If not, is that fair?
Since God is all knowing and all powerful (please see article How is God Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient?) and is love (1 John 4:8,16), would God have predestined most who ever lived to eternal torment?
Certainly God is wise enough to have a plan that actually works.
Romans 9:14-15 states,
"What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion."
We know that God chose part of Israel in the Old Testament, and few, if any, others. How is that love?
Many Protestants believe in some form of predestination (such as forms of Calvinism, see John Calvin, Calvinism, TULIP, and What is Predestination?). And the Bible does teach predestination, but not the way that most Protestants tend to understand it. Notice what Paul wrote about it:
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called (Rom 8:29-30).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 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. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:3-12).
The Bible clearly teaches that some were predestined to be called in this age before the foundation of the world. Yet, Protestants who believe in predestination seem to believe that God has predestined most to fail--this particular Protestant view is an incorrect understanding of how a God of love intended predestination!
If the predominant Protestant interpretation is correct, then God is going to punish everyone else who never had any opportunity to live God's way of life. There was no internet, etc. in those days, and no possible way the average person living in China, Japan, remote Pacific islands, India, etc. could possibly have learned anything about the true God of Israel; yes God says that they have no excuse concerning knowledge of His existence (Romans 1:20) and that all should repent (Acts 17:31), but not all hear (Romans 10:14) or are chosen (Matthew 22:14). The same scripture that commands all everywhere to repent also states, "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked" (Acts 17:31). The Protestant view seems to be that those whose ignorance that God has overlooked are permanently lost--if so, why would God have overlooked their ignorance?
Even in Israel, most were not called. But even though dead, they still had hope. One of the scriptures that is commonly read on in the Church of God on Last Great Day of the Feast (John 7:37) is Ezekiel 37:11-14,
Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!' "Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it," says the LORD.'
That prophecy in Ezekiel has not yet come to pass. These people have not yet been resurrected!
Furthermore, notice what vss. 23-25 declare,
They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them... My servant David shall be their prince forever.
Ezekiel 37:1-25 clearly show that God is going to resurrect people who feel that their hope is lost. But Jesus came to save the lost (Matthew 18:11) and He is going to cleanse them from their sins so that they can dwell with God forever. Many of these people have even been idolaters they are not saints as, "For this you know, that no...idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Ephesians 5:5). However, forgiven idolaters can inherit the kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)! Without a future resurrection to judgment, which allows for this hope, then these passages in Ezekiel are untrue (or must be interpreted quite differently than from what I think it clearly says).
Do Protestant churches publicly teach that David will become king of Israel forever and that those without hope will be resurrected and cleansed from sin? Do Protestant teachings say that those who were once idolaters will be resurrected, essentially forgiven, and be given an opportunity to observe God's laws and statutes, statutes that most officially teach are done away?
No, according to the all the Protestant commentaries I have read, they simply do not want to believe what the Bible is plainly teaching.
Do the Protestant teachings on salvation square with the concept of Sola Scriptura?
If not, are they relying on The Bible or traditions of men?
Notice that Isaiah taught that those currently considered forsaken will be offered salvation:
For Zion's sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns. The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the LORD will name. You shall also be a crown of glory In the hand of the LORD, And a royal diadem In the hand of your God. You shall no longer be termed Forsaken (Isaiah 62:1-4).
Indeed the LORD has proclaimed To the end of the world:"Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.'" And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; And you shall be called Sought Out (Isaiah 62:11-12).
It needs to be clearly understood that the above is not simply referring to Jesus and the Gentiles who have been called in this age, as the end of the world has not yet occurred. The message is for those now considered to be forsaken--those who do not know (and especially those who could not know) God's plan of salvation--and they shall be sought out for salvation!
Someone with a Protestant background who realized that the Protestant concepts of salvation had problems, sent me an email that asked:
If “it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27), how does a person who isn’t already saved make it to that 8th day after they have died? I have wondered a long time how it is not “fair” for babies to get a free pass into heaven without making a deliberate choice to serve God, so I do believe that they, as well as certain others, will get that chance, but how to get around Hebrews 9:27?
My response was:
What happens to babies when they die was one of the first items that interested me in the Church of God. And is a doctrine that I have not seen explained in the Hebrew roots movements. Anyway, being appointed once to die does not limit death to only once. The Bible is clear that there is a "second death" that non-believers risk (Revelation 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8). So, there really is no need to "get around" Hebrews 9:27--just consider it in the context of other scriptures. People "make it" to that "8th day" time by being part of the second resurrection (cf. Revelation 20:4-14) (email 8/21/12).
Notice what the Bible teaches:
27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Revelation 20:11-14)
Humans are basically appointed to die physically, but face the second death if they commit the unpardonable sin (see What is the Unpardonable Sin?). Yet, some of erroneously concluded that because all have sinned (Romans 3:23) that they will be eternally condemned for that sin.
One thing that many do not realize about that time of judgment is that God will not only judge, He will plead His case:
13 The LORD stands up to plead, And stands to judge the people (Isaiah 3:13).
31 A noise will come to the ends of the earth--For the LORD has a controversy with the nations; He will plead His case with all flesh (Jeremiah 25:31).
33 "As I live," says the Lord GOD, "surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. 34 I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. 35 And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. 36 Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you," says the Lord GOD. 37 I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; 38 I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel 20:33-38).
And those not called in this age, those who never really had an opportunity for salvation, will be called then into a covenant with God. Those who refuse by rebelling will not become part of spiritual Israel (cf. Romans 2:29). During this time of judgment, God will plead with people, who by then should realize that they have sinned and need salvation through Jesus Christ--the only name under heaven whereby men can be saved (Acts 4:10-12).
God will be able to contrast His ways with the ways of humankind. When those resurrected see how humans started out with a very good and beautiful Earth, then messed up and nearly completely destroyed it (Revelation 11:18) in their 6,000 years, they will realize that it was not wise for humankind to distance itself from the true God. He will apparently point out Satan’s role in deceiving humankind (Revelation 12:9) as well as show how insignificant Satan really is (Isaiah 14:12-16). He will apparently point out the dangers of individual sin and lust (James 1:14-15) and point out how well humanity did during the millennium.
God will likely point out that He had to intervene to stop the destruction of all flesh (Matthew 24:22). He will have implemented His kingdom for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4-5). God may also to point out how well humans did during this millennium (Isaiah 35:1-10; 51:3). And He will apparently explain that to all that since each individual is unique and can give love in a unique way, that He has a special purpose of each individually (John 14:2-3) to complete God’s plan (cf.1 Corinthians 12:12-27), an eternity so great that is now beyond their comprehension (1 Corinthians 2:9).
God will have every one give an account of themselves (Romans 14:12; Matthew 12:36). God will apparently also point out to each individual, how they sinned (Romans 2;15-16; Hebrews 13:4). Because “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4, KJV), God will likely explain to them that they all deserve death, but that redemption/eternal life is available through Christ (Romans 3:21-24; 6:23).
The blinded and those who were idolaters will tend to heed and forgiven:
8 Bring out the blind people who have eyes, And the deaf who have ears. 9 Let all the nations be gathered together, And let the people be assembled. Who among them can declare this, And show us former things? Let them bring out their witnesses, that they may be justified; Or let them hear and say, "It is truth."…25 "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins. 26 Put Me in remembrance; Let us contend together; State your case, that you may be acquitted. (Isaiah 43:8-9, 25-26)
17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, His carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, Prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!" 18 They do not know nor understand; For He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, And their hearts, so that they cannot understand...22 I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:17-18, 22)
God will offer life to those who change:
30 "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways," says the Lord God. "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord God. "Therefore turn and live!" (Ezekiel 18:30-32)
Most resurrected humans (Hebrews 9:27-28), since there is no partially with God (Romans 2:10-11), when they see how badly they botched up their lives and the planet, will apparently realize that it is God’s way of life that worked best and they will accept His generous offer of salvation (Ezekiel 11:16-20; 36:24-38).
The Apostle Paul explained that some are intentionally not called now so that God could have mercy on all, but that this is hard for many to understand:
30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! (Romans 11:30-33)
So, notice that God INTENTIONALLY is allowing some to be disobedient now, so that they will get mercy later and that those called now (the firstfruits) will have mercy now. And God has done this so that He might have mercy on all–this apparently could not have happened any better way. And the only way for God to have mercy on ALL is for salvation to be offered to all in a manner they can properly comprehend. Those who reject intentionally God's mercy, will be destroyed in the lake of fire, the second death (Revelation 20:14) to put them of of their misery (cf. Revelation 21:4).
Those who are called and chosen now in this age were predestined to serve and to assist those who will be called later. We in the true Church of God believe that the way of God is the way of give, while the way of the world is the way of get (cf. 1 John 2:16). “Now the purpose of the commandment is love” (1 Timothy 1:5). All of God's commandments are righteousness (Psalm 119:173) and show love (Matthew 22:37-40). Those who truly love Christ will strive to keep God's commandments now (John 14:15) and support His planned harvest (John 9:37-38).
As most who profess Christ know, the Apostle Paul taught:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Since we are saved by grace, is God's grace so limited that He will only save a minority of humans who ever lived? If God is all-knowing, does He have a plan that will fail to fully grant His grace to most humans?
The Protestants teach that relatively few humans will ever experience God's grace.
Yet it is the true God, that those in the true Church of God worship, who is truly the God of grace. The true God, who is love, will grant His grace to almost everyone! God's plan will work:
The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying,"Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand (Isaiah 14:24).
Does God have a purpose, a plan, that will grant grace to most or few? Does anyone doubt that God has had thoughts about granting His grace to everyone?
A God of love has a purpose to share His grace with more than a minority of humans.
Since the Bible teaches that there is a time before children can "know to refuse the evil and choose the good" (Isaiah 7:16) and that there is only one name under heaven by which salvation is available (Acts 4:12), how can young children be judged and condemned for their works?
Most Protestants teach that one is either saved or likely permanently lost (however many seem to put babies, mentally challenged people, and very young children in the category that they are saved without first accepting Jesus Christ--an unbiblical concept). The general Protestant belief (babies notwithstanding) suggests that all the 'unsaved' are in the same situation. This does not seem to square with what Jesus taught in Matthew 11:23-24,
And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.
(Jesus taught the same basic thing regarding Chorazim being contrasted with Tyre, and Sidon, Luke 10:13). Now God destroyed Sodom for its wicked works (Genesis 18:20;19:24)--wicked works, that according to Paul's writings make it impossible for them to inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21). If what most Protestants believe is correct, then all in Sodom will be destroyed and will be no better off than those in Capernaum--which is a clear contradiction of what Jesus wrote.
Furthermore, Jesus did not let those in Capernaum know all that He did (though He did do miracles there, Luke 4:23), Matthew 8:4-5,
And Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum..."
Also, He spoke to them in unclear language, like parables (John 6:41-59). So, we see that many wanted to see, but were not allowed to. Why?
The following scriptures show that only some are now called:
1 Peter 2:9-10, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light".
Ephesians 1:4-6, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will".
Thus only some are predestined to be chosen now.
But God wants all saved! 1 Timothy 2:2-3,
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Part of the reason that some are called now and some will be witnesses now and in the future is to have the opportunity to help save those not chosen today.
And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books (Revelation 20:12).
The basic Protestant view is that those in not in the 'first resurrection' (Revelation 20:5), will be judged and condemned when they are brought back to life. While this is partially true, it ignores that Jesus taught it would be more tolerable for some than others at this time (Matthew 11:23-24; Luke 10:13). Even though these people will have no excuse (Romans 1:20), God will be merciful. The Churches of God generally believe that only those who have intentionally disregarded what they knew and sin willfully (Hebrews 10:26-27) will be cast in the lake of fire (Hebrews 10:27; Revelation 20:14).
Unlike the Roman, Orthodox, and Protestant churches, those in the genuine Church of Godteach that babies will be resurrected, live a physical life, and will be offered salvation. Salvation in the kingdom of God will be offered to all, but has not been offered to all in this age (for more information please see the article Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the True Doctrine of Apocatastasis).
Those uncalled now (including babies, toddlers, nearly all idolaters and others) will be given a real opportunity for salvation. This period of time is believed to be around 100 years. Isaiah 65:20 states,
No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
Those who still are sinners after this period will also undergo the punishment of being cast in the lake of fire--but note that those who are infants have 100 years to fulfill their days. (Roman Catholics have had various ideas about infants, for details please What is Limbo? Is There Such a Place as Limbo? What Happens to Babies When They Die?).
And although he may not have understood it correctly, Irenaeus (circa 180 A.D.) mentioned that the Gentiles will be called as well as in this hundred year time:
Daniel also says this very thing: "And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of those under the heaven, is given to the saints of the Most High God, whose kingdom is everlasting, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him." And lest the promise named should be understood as referring to this time, it was declared to the prophet: "And come thou, and stand in thy lot at the consummation of the days."
Now, that the promises were not announced to the prophets and the fathers alone, but to the Churches united to these from the nations, whom also the Spirit terms "the islands" (both because they are established in the midst of turbulence, suffer the storm of blasphemies, exist as a harbour of safety to those in peril, and are the refuge of those who love the height [of heaven], and strive to avoid Bythus, that is, the depth of error), Jeremiah thus declares: "Hear the word of the LORD, ye nations, and declare it to the isles afar off; say ye, that the LORD will scatter Israel, He will gather him, and keep him, as one feeding his flock of sheep...
And yet again does he say the same thing: "Behold, I make Jerusalem a rejoicing, and my people [a joy]; for the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. Also there shall not be there any immature [one], nor an old man who does not fulfil his time: for the youth shall be of a hundred years; and the sinner shall die a hundred years old, yet shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them themselves; and shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them themselves, and shall drink wine. And they shall not build, and others inhabit; neither shall they prepare the vineyard, and others eat. For as the days of the tree of life shall be the days of the people in thee; for the works of their hands shall endure" (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 34, Verses 2-3,4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Interestingly, when the Catholic Inquisitor Bishop Bernard Guidonis was disposing of heretics in the 1300s, he noted that some believed the following:
Again, they say that after Antichrist's death these spiritual individuals will convert the entire world to the faith of Christ; and the whole world will be so good and benign that there will be no malice or sin in people of that period, except perhaps for venial sins in a few of them; and all things will be common as far as use is concerned; and there will be no one who offends anyone else or encourages another to sin. For there will be the greatest love among them, and there will be one flock and one pastor. According to some of them this period and condition will last for one hundred years. Then, as love fails, malice will creep back in and slowly increase until Christ is, as it were, compelled to come in universal judgment because of it. (BERNARD GUI: INQUISITOR'S MANUAL, Chapter 5. Translated by David Burr, History Department, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. http://phi.kenyon.edu/Projects/Margin/inquisit.htm 04/09/07).
Even Martin Luther admitted that some in the 16th century believed it:
Apocatastasis... Luther, writing on Aug. 18, 1522, to Hans von Rechenberg, who had asked him if there was any salvation for those out of Christ at death, states that a belief in the ultimate salvation of all men, and even of the devil and his angels, was held among the sect of Free Spirits in the Netherlands, one of whom was then in Wittenberg. They based it on Ps. lxxvii. 9, 10 and on I Tim. ii. 4. He then proceeds to refute it. Again Luther warns against this belief when writing to the Christians in Antwerp in 1525 (cf. de Wette's ed. of Luther's letters, ii. 453 and iii. 62). The doctrine was held among the Anabaptists...another Anabaptist leader, Jacob Kautz (Cucius), in 1527 at Worms put as the fifth of seven articles he propounded for debate: “All that was lost in the first Adam is and will be found more richly restored in the Second Adam, Christ; yea, in Christ shall all men be quickened and blessed forever” (Zwingli, Opera, viii. 77; cf. S. M. Jackson, Selections from Zwingli, p. 148). ( Schaff, Philip. New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. I: Aachen - Basilians, p. 211)
Thus, the idea that the Church of God long has taught that God would offer salvation to all is documented, not only in the pages of the Bible, but through some of the writings of its enemies. And, by using the Bible alone, there is no possible way that Martin Luther could refute it. The fact is that There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.
The Book of Daniel mentions the following prophetic event:
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever. But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase" (Daniel 12:2-4).
The above passage shows that death is like sleep. It also refers to a resurrection to everlasting life and resurrection to shame and to everlasting contempt. Notice that those who are wise will shine and still, after they shall awake, turn many to righteousness. Since they cannot turn those who are raised to everlasting contempt to life, who are they turning to life? Undoubtedly, those that Ezekiel and Irenaeus referred to.
From the beginning of the New Testament Church, the Churches of God have generally believed that God reveals all (or parts) of His plan of salvation during His annual worship calendar.
Notice what Melito of Sardis wrote in the second century:
Now comes the mystery of the passover, even as it stands written in the law...The people, therefore, became the model for the church, and the law a parabolic sketch. But the gospel became the explanation of the law and its fulfillment, while the church became the storehouse of truth...What is the passover? Indeed its name is derived from that event–"to celebrate the passover" (to paschein) is derived from "to suffer" (tou pathein)...This is the one who smote lawlessness and deprived injustice of its offspring, as Moses deprived Egypt. This is the one who delivered us from slavery into freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life, from tyranny into an eternal kingdom, and who made us a new priesthood, and a special people forever. This one is the passover of our salvation. (Melito of Sardis. On the Passover, Verses 11, 40, 68 & 69. Translation from Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary, Vol.4,1;May 1989).
While most Protestants understand that Christ was the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) and that on the Day of Pentecost mentioned in the beginning of the Book of Acts was when the New Testament Church began and the Holy Spirit was given, they fail to grasp the historical significance of these feast for Christians (such as how the fact that the few now called are called firstfruits). Because of this and because they have normally rejected God's Holy Days for others with much less biblical support (for further information, please read the articles Do You Practice Mithraism? and Is There "An Annual Worship Calendar" In the Bible?), they simply do not have a proper understanding of God's plan of salvation.
Herbert Armstrong taught,
Now in like manner, when God gave His Church seven annual Sabbaths, God, in His wisdom, had a great purpose. These days, too, were given to keep God's children in the true memory and worship of God by keeping us constantly in the understanding of God's great plan of redemption. For these annual days picture the different epochs in the plan of spiritual creation mark the dispensations, and picture their meaning… The New Testament Church continued, year after year, to keep this annual Sabbath, Pentecost, as we shall show. And God gave this festival to His people in order to reveal, and to keep them continually informed, that the present dispensation is only the first, preliminary "harvest of souls." As already explained, God's purpose in giving His Church His annual holy days was to keep His children constantly in true understanding of God's great plan. To accomplish this, God took the yearly material harvest seasons in ancient Israel as the picture of the spiritual harvest of souls. In the Holy Land there are two annual harvests. First, is the spring grain harvest. Second, comes the fall harvest. God intended His holy days to picture to His Church repeatedly year by year the fact that only those He Himself calls during this age can become His begotten children now! And we are merely the firstfruits of the great spiritual harvest!… This eighth day, which immediately follows the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, pictures the completion of the plan of redemption. It is just prior to the new heaven and the new earth. All parents and children, young and old will be resurrected. Notice that the "book of life" typifying salvation is opened (Revelation 20:12). Revelation presents the final view of the "judgment day" as the present material heaven and earth are perishing and the faithful are receiving their eternal reward at the throne of Christ. The wicked those who disobey are seen perishing in the lake of fire! What a marvelous plan! All will have an equal opportunity (Armstrong HW. Pagan Holidays--or God’s Holy Days—Which?, booklet).
Instead of keeping biblical holy days and the seventh-day Sabbath, most Protestants keep Christmas and Sunday, which were highly important pagan observances for the sun-god Mithras (see also Do You Practice Mithraism?).
The Bible clearly shows that everyone will have a chance--one real chance. Those who truly already had their opportunity will be destroyed without this later opportunity (Hebrews 2:3;6:4-5). The only ones who truly had their opportunity in this life and discarded it, have blasphemed the Holy Spirit, the one thing Jesus said would not be forgiven.
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:31-32, see also Hebrews 6:4-6).
Notice that Jesus said that speaking against Him would be forgiven in the age to come--hence hearing the name of Christ and not responding to it IS NOT AN UNPARDONABLE SIN. But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (see What is the Unpardonable Sin?) will not be forgiven.
What would constitute blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
Hebrew 10:26-27 teaches,
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
So one way would be to become a true Christian and reject that way. Peter noted,
For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them (2 Peter 2:21).
Another way would be truly knowing better, but not acting on it as Jesus noted,
Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, 'We see.' Therefore your sin remains" (John 9:41).
Note that any sin that remains is NOT sin that is forgiven. And the only sin that is not forgiven is "blasphemy against the Spirit".
Only those who have truly blasphemed the Holy Spirit have had their chance (see also What is the Unpardonable Sin?).
And that helps explain why there are very few real Christians on the earth--since God is love and wants none to permanently remain lost, He is only calling a relatively few now, so that even fewer would blaspheme the Holy Spirit and not receive eternal salvation. This is a biblical concept that greatly sets apart the bulk of the Protestant world from the genuine Church of God.
The Bible is clear that some are called now, and others to be called later--in the age to come (for more scriptures that specifically use that term, please see Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis). This is the hope of not just physical Israel, but also those who will be called later and to be part of spiritual Israel (Romans 9:6-8). While there may be more than one way to interpret various scriptures, I believe that what genuine Church of God teaches on this subject is consistent with the Bible.
Since God is love and intentionally has not called or chosen everyone in this age, then it is clear that He does have a plan for all:
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? (Acts 26:6-8).
Or why should it be incredible that God truly has a plan for salvation? There are probably around 350,000,000 nominal Protestants currently alive; and perhaps 10% of those are devout. If one takes the primary Protestant view to its logical conclusion, then over 6,000,000,000 people currently alive are doomed to burn forever, as well as countless billions throughout history. This Protestant view seems to lead to the conclusion that God will show His love by saving a relatively few Protestants while tormenting the greatest majority of humankind forever. Surely, any thinking Protestant can see the gross error in the traditional Protestant view.
But I have not ever seen any logical explanation from Protestant scholars on what Jesus meant on these matters, especially related to the expression in the age to come (Matthew 12:32). The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, for example, ignores the expression (see The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database, Matthew 12:31-32. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press), while Matthew Henry's Commentary states:
[2.] What the sentence is that is passed upon it; It shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. As in the then present state of the Jewish church, there was no sacrifice of expiation for the soul that sinned presumptuously; so neither under the dispensation of gospel grace, which is often in scripture called the world to come, shall there be any pardon to such as tread underfoot the blood of the covenant, and do despite to the Spirit of grace: there is no cure for a sin so directly against the remedy. It was a rule in our old law, No sanctuary for sacrilege. Or, It shall be forgiven neither now, in the sinner's own conscience, nor in the great day, when the pardon shall be published. Or, this is a sin that exposes the sinner both to temporal and eternal punishment, both to present wrath and the wrath to come (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database, Matthew 12:22-37. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.).
The above commentary seems to basically ignore what Jesus was saying. Somewhat like it would rather discuss other portions of the verse.
Catholic scholars, however, believe this expression, which they translate into English as "the World to come" refers to a future time, such as Purgatory:
32. Nor in the World to come.] St. Augustine and other Holy Doctors gather hereupon, that some sins may be remitted in the next life, and consequently prove Purgatory thereby. De Civit. Dei li. 21. c. 18. D. Gregor, Dial. li. 4. c. 19 (Annotations on Matthew 12 in the Rheims New Testament of 1582).
Although we in the Churches of God would disagree with the Roman Catholic concept of Purgatory (and have so disagreed throughout history, please see the article The Pergamos Church Era), this does show that there are biblical scholars who recognize that Jesus was clearly referring to a time in the future where sins can be forgiven. The Eastern Orthodox Church seems to have a similar view.
At the time of Martin Luther, there were people called Anabaptists. Some were Sabbatarian (kept the seventh-day Sabbath, please see the article The Sardis Church Era). But they also believed that God would had a plan of apokatastasis the belief that salvation would be available universally.
Yet, the followers of Martin Luther, at a fairly early date, condemned the Anabaptists because they did not support infant baptism, taught that there would be an end to punishments, and that Jesus would rule with His people on the earth:
Article IX: Of Baptism. Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God's grace. They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children...
Article XVII: Of Christ's Return to Judgment ... They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils. They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed. (The Confession of Faith: Which Was Submitted to His Imperial Majesty Charles V. At the Diet of Augsburg in the Year 1530. by Philip Melanchthon, 1497-1560. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau. Published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, pp. 37-95.)
While there may be some misunderstanding of their doctrines, nearly all the above doctrines are biblical, yet they were condemned by the early Lutherans.
Furthermore, Anabaptists were also denounced by other 16th century Protestant leaders such as Jacob Würben of Biel because they stated that they got certain doctrines from the Book of Revelation (Guggisberg HR. Jabob Würben of Biel: A thoughtful admonisher against Ludwig Hätzer and the Anabaptists. Mennonite Quarterly Review, VOl. XLVI, July 1972, pp. 239-255).
The teachings of the Book of Revelation were NOT popular with the early Protestant Reformers and were often condemned by them (for Martin Luther's view of the Apocalypse, please see the article Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?).
More recent Protestant writings show a bias against salvation of the masses:
...most will be lost and not find salvation from sin (Price B. Romans Bible Commentary - Living By Faith Published by Brad Price, 2005, p. 96).
...most will not be saved (God's Plan of Salvation. Manassas Church of Christ, ©Manassas Church of Christ 1997-2003. http://manassaschurch.org/StudySer_Plan.htm viewed 06/11/09).
The Bible says that most believe in God, but most will not be saved. (Andres GS. . Do you have an Opposition to being saved? Up Dated Wednesday, March 18, 2009. G. Steven Andres Copyright - 1999 to 2009. http://andresusa.com/03-salvation/how-to-be-saved/do-you-have-an-objection.htm viewed 06/11/09).
Even some two thousand years after the Great Commission, more people in the world have not heard the gospel than have heard it. The secret things do belong to God, but Christians and non-Christians alike cannot help wondering about the justice as well as the compassion of a God who assigns to eternal torment people who, for reasons beyond their control, never heard about fellowship with him through Jesus Christ....(Warren V. What the Bible Says about Salvation 1982, pp. 104-105, as cited in Estabrook J and Thompson B. Will Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel Be Lost? Apologetics Press :: Reason & Revelation, June 2001 - 21:41-46. http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/469 viewed 05/24/12).
The Bible, of course, does NOT teach that most will not be saved--there is NO scripture that states that. The Bible teaches that only a few are now called, but others will have their opportunity later (see Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis). The "Protestant god" that condemns most (cf. John 3:17), does not have mercy (cf. Psalm 59:17), does not offer salvation to all flesh (Luke 3:6), and is not the loving God of salvation (Psalm 68:20), is not the God of the Bible that we in genuine Church of God serve.
Let's look at another improper Protestant claim and consider what the Bible really says:
...the majority of those on earth will travel the wide road to destruction...The average person in the world is lost in sin and does not know it...
Why Will Most Be Lost?...Jesus said that if you die in your sins, you will be separated from Him forever, John 8:21 (Danklefsen B. If the Lord Returned Right Now Would you Be With Him for Eternity? Eternal Life series 1, 1977)
As often happens with improper exegesis (explanation of scriptures) verses cited often do not say what the author implies. John 8:21 says, "I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come." It does not say "separated from Him forever" or LOST IN YOUR SINS FOREVER! Because there is a resurrection, dying in ones' sins does not mean that there is no possible future hope (e.g. Ezekiel 37:11-14).
Many who profess Christ do not believe the WHOLE Bible. Notice a verse, again, quoted earlier in this paper, James 2:13 which teaches:
13...Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Furthermore, does Paul teach that the human race is eternally condemned through no fault of their own (as various Protestant writers have indicated), and only some will ultimately be saved, in his epistle to the Romans?
Of course not! Without quoting it in full here, please check out Romans 9:25-28 and 11:7-27. Protestantism simply does not truly rely on and actually believe the entire Bible, which is part of why we in the true Church of God are not Protestant (and, of course, our existence preceded theirs).
Another part of Protestantism, Calvinism, essentially seems to condemn at least 98% of people who ever lived to eternal torment while admitting that those so condemned really had no real choice in the matter. Calvin taught:
That the vast majority of mankind will be lost (Farrar FW. MERCY AND JUDGMENT. LAST WORDS ON CHRISTIAN ESCHATOLOGY WITH REFERENCE TO DR. PUSEY'S "WHAT IS OF FAITH? 2nd ecition, 1882. R. CLAY. SONS, AND TAYWR, BREAD STREET HILL, E.C., p. 58).
Thus, clearly Calvinistic Protestantism indicates that a God of love wants to permanently punish and torment His creation. It makes no sense that an all-wise and loving God would do that (see also John Calvin, Calvinism, TULIP, and What is Predestination?). Do they not know that the Great Shepherd plans to look for those who are lost (Ezekiel 34:11-16)?
Furthermore, if one takes those general views in Protestantism to their logical conclusion, the implication would be that God will mainly save people from the West, such as historically Europe and North America. But notice what happened when Jesus was asked about salvation:
23 Then one said to Him, "Lord, are there few who are saved?" And He said to them, 24 Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from,' 26 then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.' 27 But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.' 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. 29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last." (Luke 13:23-30)
There are several points concerning the above.
The first is that apparently people in this age who think that they are Christians (including being Christian leaders) will not be saved unless they truly change and really know the Jesus of the Bible.
The second is that it appears that Jesus is indicating that there will not be an overwhelming majority who are saved who are from the West. The west has no preeminence over those of the east (Asia), north (Russia, Scandinavia, and Inuit areas), or the south (Africa and islands). Yet, Protestantism really implies that people in those areas will almost have relatively no one saved.
The third point is that many from non-Western lands, many who now are not part of the so-called "Christian" nations will be first, which suggests that many will have preeminence over Westerners in the Kingdom of God. Protestants need to understand that this truly is what the Bible is teaching.
Unlike Calvinistically-minded ones, we in the genuine Church of God believe:
20 Our God is the God of salvation (Psalm 68:20).
Does it not make sense that "the God of salvation" actually has a plan of salvation that includes it being offered to all and accepted by most?
Perhaps, however, it should be mentioned that amongst 21st century Protestants, there are many among the Presbyterians (see Presbyterians Open to the Idea That God’s Plan is Not Closed) and others that do realize that God must have a plan for all, and not just those who currently profess Christ.
A historical item that, perhaps I should add here, may give Protestants reason to reconsider their views. And this involves Marcion's, Irenaeus', Origen's and even the Roman Catholic Church's positions on this matter.
Marcion was a famous heretic in the second century. Notice this information about him:
The first great heretic broke drastically with the faith of the early church...Marcion expected the majority of mankind to be lost...he denied the validity of the Old Testament and its Law...As the first great heretic, Marcion developed and perfected his heterodox system before orthodoxy had fully defined itself...Orthodox Lutheranism sometimes elevates the contrast between Law and Gospel to a degree reminiscent of Marcion (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 65,455).
In other words, Marcion was essentially the first real anti-law Protestant. The above writing comes from the Harvard scholar Harold Brown. Notice that Dr. Brown points out that Marcion was a "great heretic", that Maricon expected that most humans would be permanently lost, and that Marcion's teachings on the Law are similar to those of Orthodox Lutherans. I would take it a step further and state that in these subjects, Marcion was not different from general Protestantism (except that Protestantism usually talks well of the Law, but generally does not expect people to actually follow it) and that general Protestantism does clearly teach that most of humankind will be lost forever.
Also notice the following:
Reinhold Seerig (1859-1935)...considered himself very much a Lutheran...Seerig makes Marcion his model:
Marcion consciously sought to reform...he is the first in the chain of Reformers, the last and greatest of which was Luther. His appearance attests to us...that legalistic Christianity had grown stronger in the church...
Seerig believed in the eighty years between Paul and Marcion Christianity had so deteriorated into legalism that a radical dualistic, anti-Jewish heresy such as Marcion's represented a necessary reformation...Marcion sought to undo what he felt was a pernicious legalism by teaching a radical dichotomy of Law and Grace (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 65-66).
In other words, some Protestant scholars admit that those practicing "legalistic Christianity" in the second century were so substantial that a heretic reformer was needed! And that this reforming had anti-Jewish and anti-law sentiments.
Many early writers condemned Marcion for his lawless doctrines and other non-biblical teachings. An article of related interest (which mainly consists of quotes about Marcion) would be Marcion: The First Protestant?
Irenaeus was an early writer in support of the church in Rome. Although he did not hold all proper teachings (please see article on Irenaeus), he did correctly retain some of the actual church's teachings (which was not based in Rome). Around 180 he wrote:
Now Adam had been conquered, all life having been taken away from him: wherefore, when the foe was conquered in his turn, Adam received new life; and the last enemy, death, is destroyed, which at the first had taken possession of man. Therefore, when man has been liberated, "what is written shall come to pass, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death sting?" This could not be said with justice, if that man, over whom death did first obtain dominion, were not set free. For his salvation is death's destruction. When therefore the Lord vivifies man, that is, Adam, death is at the same time destroyed. All therefore speak falsely who disallow his (Adam's) salvation, shutting themselves out from life for ever, in that they do not believe that the sheep which had perished has been found. For if it has not been found, the whole human race is still held in a state of perdition...let them wrangle about Adam, as if some great gain were to accrue to them if he be not saved; when they profit nothing more [by that], even as the serpent also did not profit when persuading man [to sin], except to this effect, that he proved him a transgressor, obtaining man as the first-fruits of his own apostasy. But he did not know God's power. Thus also do those who disallow Adam's salvation gain nothing, except this, that they render themselves heretics and apostates from the truth, and show themselves patrons of the serpent and of death (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book III, Chapter 23, Verses 7-8. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Hence, Irenaeus is saying that Adam and others were not clearly condemned because of their physical life, but only that heretics taught that Adam could no longer have salvation. Others also knew this.
Most Protestant scholars hold that Origen was one of the greatest of the early theological writers (he lived from around 185-232 A.D.). Specifically, the noted Protestant historian K.S. Latourette wrote that Origen "was, indeed, one of the greatest Christian minds". And while I cannot agree with that, it is of interest to note that Latourette observed:
Origen taught that ultimately all the spirits who have fallen away from God will be restored to full harmony with Him. This can come about only with their cooperation, for they have freedom to accept or reject the redemption wrought in Christ. Before full restoration they will suffer punishment, but that punishment is intended to be educative, to purge them from the imperfections brought by their sin. After the end of the present age and its world another age will come, so Origen believed, in which have been born again will continue to grow and the unrepentant will be given further opportunity for repentance (Latourette K.S. A History of Christianity, Volume 1, Beginnings to 1500. Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1975, p.151).
Origen was close, in that not all will repent, for there will also be those raised to "everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2, KJV), meaning that they will not receive salvation--but we in Continuing Church of God consider them to be a small minority. But Origen was correct that this will only come about by the cooperation of those currently unsaved.
Here are some quotes directly from Origen:
...the good Father has not entirely deserted those who have fallen away from Him (Origen. Commentary on the Gospel of John (Book I). Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 9. Edited by Allan Menzies, D.D. American Edition, 1896 and 1897. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
It is to be borne in mind, however, that certain beings who fell away from that one beginning of which we have spoken, have sunk to such a depth of unworthiness and wickedness as to be deemed altogether undeserving of that training and instruction by which the human race, while in the flesh, are trained and instructed with the assistance of the heavenly powers; and continue, on the contrary, in a state of enmity and opposition to those who are receiving this instruction and teaching. And hence it is that the whole of this mortal life is full of struggles and trials, caused by the opposition and enmity of those who fell from a better condition without at all looking back, and who are called the devil and his angels, and the other orders of evil, which the apostle classed among the opposing powers. But whether any of these orders who act under the government of the devil, and obey his wicked commands, will in a future world be converted to righteousness because of their possessing the faculty of freedom of will, or whether persistent and inveterate wickedness may be changed by the power of habit into nature, is a result which you yourself, reader, may approve of, if neither in these present worlds which are seen and temporal, nor in those which are unseen and are eternal, that portion is to differ wholly from the final unity and fitness of things (Origen. De Principiis, Book I, Chapter 6, verse 3).
...and thus, through the numerous and uncounted orders of progressive beings who are being reconciled to God from a state of enmity, the last enemy is finally reached, who is called death, so that he also may be destroyed, and no longer be an enemy. When, therefore, all rational souls shall have been restored to a condition of this kind, then the nature of this body of ours will undergo a change into the glory of a spiritual body. For as we see it not to be the case with rational natures, that some of them have lived in a condition of degradation owing to their sins, while others have been called to a state of happiness on account of their merits; but as we see those same souls who had formerly been sinful, assisted, after their conversion and reconciliation to God, to a state of happiness (Origen. De Principiis, Book III, Chapter 6, verse 6).
While we in Continuing Church of God would not word it quite that way, these quotes do show that the idea that God has a plan that will give the unrepentant an opportunity after this present age is not a new concept.
Jerome said that Origen taught a view:
...that which asserts that in the restitution of the world each thing will become what it was originally created;...that the souls of men will become such as they were originally formed; that is, by the reforming process will become not angels but that which God originally made them, so that the just and the sinners will be on an equality (Jerome. Apology Against Rufinus: Addressed to Pammachius and Marcella from Bethlehem, A.D. 402., Book I, Chapter 27).
In the fourth century, the Roman Catholic Bishop Ambrose of Milan taught:
Isaiah also, proclaiming the resurrection to the people, says that he is the announcer of the Lord’s message, for we read thus: “For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken, and they shall say in that day.” And what the mouth of the Lord declared that the people should say is set forth later on, where it is written: “Because of Thy fear, O Lord, we have been with child and have brought forth the Spirit of Thy Salvation, which Thou hast poured forth upon the earth. They that inhabit the earth shall fall, they shall rise that are in the graves. For the dew which is from Thee is health for them but the land of the wicked shall perish. Go, O my people, and enter into thy chambers; hide thyself for a little until the Lord’s wrath pass by.” How well did he by the chambers point out the tombs of the dead, in which for a brief space we are hidden, that we may be better able to pass to the judgment of God, which shall try us with the indignation due for our wickednesses. He, then, is alive who is hidden and at rest, as though withdrawing himself from our midst and retiring, lest the misery of this world should entangle him with closer snares, for whom the heavenly oracles affirm by the voices of the prophets that the joy of the resurrection is reserved, and the soundness of their freed bodies procured by the divine deed. And dew is well used as a sign, since by it all vital seeds of the earth are raised to growth. What wonder is it, then, if the dust and ashes also of our failing body grow vigorous by the richness of the heavenly dew, and by the reception of this vital moistening the shapes of our limbs are refashioned and connected again with each other? And the holy prophet Ezekiel teaches and describes with a full exposition how vigour is restored to the dry bones, the senses return, motion is added, and the sinews coming back, the joints of the human body grow strong; how the bones which were very dry are clothed with restored flesh, and the course of the veins and the flow of the blood is covered by the veil of the skin drawn over them. As we read, the reviving multitude of human bodies seems to spring up under the very words of the prophet, and one can see on the widespread plain the new seed shoot forth...
(Ambrose of Milan. Book II. On the Belief in the Resurrection, verses 67-69).
Ambrose also wrote:
71. But let us now hear the prophet himself, who speaks thus: “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and the Lord led me forth in the Spirit, and placed me in the midst of the plain, and it was full of men’s bones; and He led me through them round about, and, lo, there were very many bones on the face of the plain, and they were very dry. And He said unto me: Son of man, can these bones live? And I said: Lord, Thou knowest; and He said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and thou shalt say unto them: O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord to these bones: Behold I bring upon you the Spirit of life, and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and will stretch skin over you, and will put My Spirit into you, and ye shall live, and know that I am the Lord. And I prophesied as He commanded me. And it came to pass when I was prophesying all these things, lo, there was a great earthquake.”
72. Note how the prophet shows that there was hearing and movement in the bones before the Spirit of life was poured upon them. For, above, both the dry bones are bidden to hear, as if they had the sense of hearing, and that upon this each of them came to its own joint is pointed out by the words of the prophet, for we read as follows: “And the bones came together, each one to its joint. And I beheld, and, lo, sinews and flesh were forming upon them, and skin came upon them from above, and there was no Spirit in them.”
73. Great is the lovingkindness of the Lord, that the prophet is taken as a witness of the future resurrection, that we, too might see it with his eyes. For all could not be taken as witnesses, but in that one all we are witnesses, for neither does lying come upon a holy man, nor error upon so great a prophet.
74. Nor ought it to appear at all improbable, that at the command of God the bones were fitted again to their joints, since we have numberless instances in which nature has obeyed the commands of heaven; as the earth was bidden to bring forth the green herb, and did bring it forth; as the rock at the touch of the rod gave forth water for the thirsting people; and the hard stone poured forth streams by the mercy of God for those parched with heat. What else did the rod changed into a serpent signify, than that at the will of God living things can be produced from those that are without life? Do you think it more incredible that bones should come together when bidden, than that streams should be turned back or the sea flee? For thus does the prophet testify: “The sea saw it and fled, Jordan was driven back.” Nor can there be any doubt about this fact, which was proved by the rescue of one and the destruction of the other of two peoples, that the waves of the sea stood restrained, and at the same time surrounded one people, and poured back upon the other for their death, that they might overwhelm the one, but preserve the other. And what do we find in the Gospel itself? Did not the Lord Himself prove there that the sea grew calm at a word, the clouds were driven away, the blasts of the winds yielded, and that on the quieted shores the dumb elements obeyed God?
75. But let us go on with the other points, that we may observe how by the Spirit of life the dead are quickened, they that lie in the graves arise, and the tombs are opened: “And He said unto me: Prophesy, son of man, and say to the Spirit, Come from the four winds of heaven, O Spirit, and breathe upon these dead, that they may live. And I prophesied as He commanded me, and the Spirit of life entered into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceeding great company. And the Lord spake unto me, saying: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. For they say, Our bones are become dry, our hope is lost, we shall perish. Therefore, prophesy and say: Thus saith the Lord: Behold I will open your graves, and will bring you up out of your graves into the land of Israel, and ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall open your graves, and bring forth My people out of the graves, and shall put My Spirit in you, and place you in your own land, and ye shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will perform it, saith the Lord.”
76. We notice here how the operations of the Spirit of life are again resumed; we know after what manner the dead are raised from the opening tombs. And is it in truth a matter of wonder that the sepulchres of the dead are unclosed at the bidding of the Lord, when the whole earth from its utmost limits is shaken by one thunderclap, the sea overflows its bounds, and again checks the course of its waves? And finally, he who has believed that the dead shall rise again “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump (for the trumpet shall sound),”“shall be caught up amongst the first in the clouds to meet Christ in the air;”he who has not believed shall be left, and subject himself to the sentence by his own unbelief.
83. And why should we wonder that the soul is restored at the word of God, that flesh returns to the bones, when we remember the dead raised by the touch of the prophet’s body?
91. Now the first-fruits are undoubtedly of the same nature and kind as the remaining fruits, the first of which are offered to God as a petition for a richer increase, as a holy thank-offering for all gifts, and as a kind of libation of that nature which has been restored. Christ, then, is the firstfruits of them that rest. But is this of His own who are at rest, who, as it were, freed from death, are holden by a kind of sweet slumber, or of all those who are dead? “As in Christ all die, so too in Christ shall all be made alive.” So, then, as the firstfruits of death were in Adam, so also the firstfruits of the resurrection are in Christ...
92. All men rise again, but let no one lose heart, and let not the just grieve at the common lot of rising again, since he awaits the chief fruit of his virtue. All indeed shall rise again, but, as says the Apostle, “each in his own order.” The fruit of the Divine Mercy is common to all, but the order of merit differs. The day gives light to all, the sun warms all, the rain fertilises the possessions of all with genial showers...
101. We see, then, that heaven is open to virtue, and that this is the privilege not only of a few: “For many shall come from the east and from the west, and the north and the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God,”giving expression to the enjoyment of perpetual rest since the motions of their souls are stilled.
102. We have seen, then, how grave an offence it is not to believe the resurrection; for if we rise not again, then Christ died in vain, then Christ rose not again. For if He rose not for us, He certainly rose not at all, for He had no need to rise for Himself. The universe rose again in Him, the heaven rose again in Him, the earth rose again in Him, for there shall be a new heaven and a new earth.
110. If, then, any one desires to see this Image of God, he must love God, that he may be loved by God; and be no longer a servant but a friend, because he has kept the commandments of God, that he may enter into the cloud where God is.
114. and what is lost be restored, for all these things are accomplished as soon as they are determined by the Divine Will...for with God to will is to do; nor need we enquire into the force required for the resurrection, but seek its fruit for ourselves.
115. But those mysteries pertain not to individuals only, but to the whole human race.
117. For it is no small light wherewith Christ encompasses His world: since "His going forth is from the height of heaven, and His progress to the height thereof, nor is there any who can hide himself from His heat."154 For with His Goodness He enlightens all, and wills not to reject but to amend the foolish, and desires not to exclude the hard-hearted from the Church, but to soften them. And so the Church in the Song of Songs and Christ in the Gospel invites them, saying: "Come unto Me, all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you; take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart."
(Ambrose of Milan. Book II. On the Belief in the Resurrection, verses 71-76,83,91,92,101,102,110,114,115,117).
Thus some version of the idea that it is those who keep the commandments will see God and that God will ultimately call all humankind, apocatastasis, was taught at least as late as the fourth century within Roman Catholic circles--also There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis--and Ambrose in verse 101 was specifically referring to Psalm 107 (which Jesus alluded to in Matthew 8:11).
When theologians use the term apocatastasis they are normally referring to the doctrine that at some time God will offer salvation to everyone, such as after the second resurrection.
The Catholic Encyclopedia observes:
Certain Scriptural texts, e.g., I Cor. xv, 25-28, seem to extend to all rational beings the benefit of the Redemption, and Origen allows himself to be led also by the philosophical principle which he enunciates several times, without ever proving it, that the end is always like the beginning..The universal restoration (apokatastasis) follows necessarily from these principles (Prat F. Transcribed by Anthony A. Killeen. Origen and Origenism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Apocatastasis (Gr., apokatastasis; Lat. restitutio in pristinum statum, restoration to the original condition).
A name given in the history of theology to the doctrine which teaches that a time will come when all free creatures will share in the grace of salvation; in a special way, the devils and lost souls.
This doctrine was explicitly taught by St. Gregory of Nyssa, and in more than one passage. It first occurs in his "De animâ et resurrectione" (P.G., XLVI, cols. 100, 101)...A time, then, will come, when all evil shall cease to be since it has no existence of its own apart from the free will, in which it inheres; when every free will shall be turned to God, shall be in God, and evil shall have no more wherein to exist. Thus, St. Gregory of Nyssa continues, shall the word of St. Paul be fulfilled: Deus erit omnia in omnibus (1 Corinthians 15:28), which means that evil shall, ultimately, have an end, since, if God be all in all, there is no longer any place for evil...
The doctrine of the apokatastasis is not, indeed, peculiar to St. Gregory of Nyssa, but is taken from Origen, who seems at times reluctant to decide concerning the question of the eternity of punishment...Origen teaches the apokatastasis, the final restoration of all intelligent creatures to friendship with God...It was through Origen that the Platonist doctrine of the apokatastasis passed to St. Gregory of Nyssa, and simultaneously to St. Jerome, at least during the time that St. Jerome was an Origenist...
From the moment, however, that anti-Origenism prevailed, the doctrine of the apokatastasis was definitely abandoned...It was destined, nevertheless, to be revived in the works of ecclesiastical writers...The doctrine of apokatastasis viewed as a belief in a universal salvation is found among the Anabaptists...(Batiffel, Pierre. Transcribed by Elizabeth T. Knuth. Apocatastasis. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Of course, we in the Continuing Church of God DO NOT believe that God's true plan of salvation has anything to do with Plato. We also only believe that the offer of salvation is universal, not that every single one who ever lived will accept it.
The Catholic scholar F.A. Sullivan observed:
Controversy arose during the third century about some of Origen's opinions...a synod of Constantinople in 543 condemned nine propositions attributed to him, notably concerning...the final restoration of all...As a result, most of his works in the original Greek were destroyed...While the Church later rejected some of his opinions, there can be no doubt about Origen's intentions to remain faithful to the apostolic tradition (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church. Newman Press. New York, 2001, p. 187).
Hence, it is clear that the Roman Catholic Church condemned doctrines that many felt were faithful to the original apostolic tradition, the practices of the first and century Christian Church. Instead, like the Protestant churches, the Roman Catholic Church apparently believes that most will not be saved.
Yet the Bible and some early writers taught that God has a plan whereby nearly all human beings will be saved.
It probably should be noted that Roman Catholic theology, however, allows that salvation can be possible outside of knowing Christ (in violation of Acts 4:12), but at least it teaches that God can somehow save others. Notice the official position of the Catholic Church on this:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience — those too may achieve eternal salvation (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimi Potest + Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Image Books by Doubleday, NY 2003, p. 244).
While the Roman Church believes that this salvation happens in this age, the Church of God (like some of the past supporters of the Roman Church) teaches that this opportunity will not come until after the second resurrection.
The Eastern Orthodox hold a position that is much closer to that of the Continuing Church of God than the Roman Catholic or Protestant churches on the fate of the unsaved.
What exactly is the condition of souls in the period between death and the Resurrection of the Body at the Last Day? Here Orthodox teaching is not entirely clear...The majority would be inclined to say that the faithful departed do not suffer at all. Another school holds that perhaps they suffer, but if so, their suffering is of a purificatory but not an expiratory character. Yet a third group would prefer to leave the whole question entirely open: let us avoid detailed formulation about the life after death...There is no terrorism in the Orthodox doctrine of God...several of the Fathers have none the less believed that in the end all will be reconciled to God. It is heretical to say that all must be saved, for this is to deny free will; but it is a legitimate hope that all may be saved. Until the Last Day come, we must not despair of anyone's salvation, but must long and pray for the reconciliation of all without exception (Ware T. The Orthodox Church. Penguin Books, London, 1997, pp. 255,262).
Part of this may be because of the high regard they have for Origen, as well as Gregory of Nyssa. The Greek Orthodox priest George Mastrantonis has noted that Origen was "the first great theologian in Alexandria" (Mastrantonis G. Fasting from Iniquities and Foods. Greek Orthodox Diocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/special/lent/articles/lent_fasting_from_iniquities.asp 12/01/05).
The other has to do with another Orthodox leader called "Maximos the Confessor". Notice the following from an Orthodox article on the fate of the unsaved:
The theory of apokatastasis has unofficially cost Gregory of Nyssa for many centuries recognition as a theologian of the rank of Basil, Gregory of Nazianzos and John Chrysostom, and was one of the reasons Origen was anathematized. Yet in some ways it can also be found in the theology of Maximos the Confessor, a Father of the Church who has often been considered the measure of orthodoxy in doctrinal matters and the summit of Orthodox theology. The ideas of Maximos can be connected to the concept of apokatastasis in three different ways. First, he has written some passages that pertain explicitly on the apokatastasis. Second, some issues examined in his writings can be connected with the apokatastasis, and this association has been drawn by certain scholars, but Maximos refuses to discuss them in detail, in the apophatic expression he borrowed from pseudo-Dionysios, "honoring the truth by silence". Third, Maximos' entire theological system of cosmic salvation and his views on what exactly is restored in the kind of apokatastasis recognized by the Church, can give us a good insight to his views on the possibility of a final restoration of all...
This kind of restoration presents an interesting point for us: to what extent did Maximos share Gregory's (and Origen's) view of final restoration of all as an eschatological certainty?
First, Maximos seems to compare the restoration of the soul to the resurrection of the body: that would mean that this kind of restoration applies to all and not only to the ones who have progressed sufficiently in the course of virtue. It is an ontological restoration then, something like a consequence of the resurrection of the body. Second, restoration of the souls seems to suggest the annihilation of evil, because the effects of sin are healed. This will be achieved by the expulsion of evil from the souls in the continuation of the ages. Finally, all restored souls will come to know God and see that he is anaitios tês hamartias, not responsible for the existence of sin, which is the same as saying they will know the true nature of good and evil. The "perverted" powers of the soul will then cast off the memories and the effect of evil, and in a way similar to the thought of Gregory of Nyssa, this involves punishment and purification. Maximos leaves the issue there: His restoration account goes as far as to state that every soul will have knowledge of "good things" (agatha – probably the energies of God), but not necessarily participation in them. (Andreopoulos A. Eschatology and final restoration (apokatastasis) in Origen, Gregory of Nyssa and Maximos the Confessor. Theandros, An Online Journal of Orthodox Christian Theology and Philosophy. Volume 1, 3, 2004).
Thus it appears that some within the Orthodox Church held positions close to the Church of God on the idea that salvation will be eventually offered to all, but not accepted by all. And even today, the Orthodox Church seems to believe in some version of restoration, which has sometimes been termed apocatastasis (see also Acts 3:21, which uses the Greek word apokatastasis).
Protestant history is uneven and contradictory. Since Jesus taught that true church would always continue (cf. Matthew 16:18), it would seem that only those who are still faithful to the practices and beliefs of the earliest Christians would be part of that Church.
Many beliefs and practices associated with modern Protestantism were either 1) not views of the original Christians, 2) not the views of the Reformation Protestants, and/or 3) were adopted from non-biblical sources (like "tradition" from places like Mithraism).
If you are Protestant, and cannot yet accept the view of the genuine Church of God that most will be saved, I certainly can understand your reluctance to accept what you may at first consider to be such a radical view.
But it is both a biblical and historical view. It is also a very logical view. Do you feel that God has a plan that is intended to save nearly all that ever lived or condemn most that ever lived?
I would suggest that you pray, fast, and meditate about it.
We in the Continuing Church of God believe:
20 Our God is the God of salvation (Psalms 68:20).
The God we serve in the Continuing Church of God is just, and truly is a God of love. A God who has a plan of salvation which will spread His grace over nearly all who ever lived--not just a select few as most (though not all) Protestant theology has historically suggested.
(Some of you may even wish to read the article The Bible and Tradition which explains how the two should work, and how they should not, as well as the article Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible? which shows what Martin Luther really thought of the Bible--as his views partially explain why Protestantism is so different from the Church of God).
Since the professed Protestant position is Sola Scriptura, I thought that the following article which is essentially a list of scriptures and comments may be helpful for those who wish to receive their doctrine from the Bible, Universal Salvation? There are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the True Doctrine of Apocatastasis. Also consider studying the article John Calvin, Calvinism, TULIP, and What is Predestination?
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Thiel, B. Ph.D. Hope of Salvation: How the Church of God Differs from Traditional Protestantism. www.cogwriter.com (c) 2002/2004/2005/2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/ 2012 /2013 0419 edition