We finished up our January sermon series, Razing Hell, this weekend, talking about the Second Coming. It’s been a great series from my end. I’ve gotten a ton of emails from folks at church and from around the world via Tamed Cynic.org. It’s reaffirmed for me that people, Christian or not, really do want to think theologically in a way that’s honest, respectful and practical to how they think about their everyday lives.
Case in point:
This weekend Dennis Perry did a masterful job of framing the Second Coming of a promise made by God. God’s made the promise to come again and set things right. Faith isn’t just believing ideas or signing on the dotted line. It’s believing God will keep that promise and orienting our lives, relationships and actions in the world accordingly. That’s a more biblical, I think, and certainly a more relevant way of thinking about the Second Coming than Hal Lindsay getting caught up in trying to read the ‘signs of the times.’
The series is over. We’ve talked about Heaven and Hell and Judgment and the Parousia. And already I’m getting a steady trickle of emails asking me the bottom line question:
Will everyone be saved? Or will some not be?
I’m flattered people think it’s a question I’m in a position to answer since presumably it’s a question only God can answer. My sermon on Hell (Hell is for Real) indicates that ‘No, not all will be saved…because we can freely choose to reject God.’
But admittedly that skirts the issue a bit. How do we think about the issue from God’s end? If no one chooses to reject God, then will everyone be saved?
Here’s my final answer.
It’s a question fraught with tension and anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar (or not a very smart theologian). After all, inherent in the question is the tension between God’s gracious omnipotence and God’s merciful refusal to coerce love from his creatures.
Right- if God were willing to coerce the relationship he wanted with us, then the story of scripture could’ve been a hell of a lot shorter. What God wants though is authentic love and relationship and that can’t be forced. Can it be forced after this life ends?
But there’s the tension- logically if God desires love and relationship from us- salvation- then God will get what God wants. To say there is one of us God can’t save makes that person more powerful than God. If God desires loving relationship and God is all-powerful, then God could turn even the most resistant heart towards him.
Which is it?
We’ll have to wait and see.
Not having an answer for everyone else doesn’t change what God wants from you.
It doesn’t change how God made you: to love and desire him and his Kingdom.
Put it another way, Karl Barth’s (one of my Theo-Jedi Masters) way of putting it.
Scripture clearly tells us God came for everyone (John 3).
Scripture clearly tells us God died for all.
Scripture does not tell us that all will be saved.
We can’t say more than what scripture says.
But we can pray for it.