Source: 90 Minutes in Heaven, authored by Don Piper with Cecil Murphy (1996). Excerpts from Chapter 2 and Chapter 3.
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When I died, I didn’t flow through a long, dark tunnel. I had no sense of fading away or of coming back. I never felt my body being transported into the light. I heard no voices calling to me or anything else. Simultaneous with my last recollection of seeing the bridge and the rain, a light enveloped me, with a brilliance beyond earthly comprehension or description. Only that. In my next moment of awareness, I was standing in heaven.
Joy pulsated through me as I looked around, and at that moment I became aware of a large crowd of people. They stood in front of a brilliant, ornate gate. I have no idea how far away they were; such things as distance didn’t matter. As the crowd rushed toward me, I didn’t see Jesus, but I did see people I had known. As they surged toward me, I knew instantly that all of them had died during my lifetime. Their presence seemed absolutely natural.
After being hugged by my grandfather, I don’t remember who was second or third. The crowd surrounded me. Some hugged me and a few kissed my cheek, while others pumped my hand. Never had I felt more loved.
As I try to explain this, my words seem weak and hardly adequate, because I have to use earthly terms to refer to unimaginable joy, excitement, warmth, and total happiness. Everyone continually embraced me, touched me, spoke to me, laughed, and praised God. This seemed to go on for a long time, but I didn’t tire of it.
Everything I experienced was like a first-class buffet for the senses. I had never felt such powerful embraces or feasted my eyes on such beauty. Heaven’s light and texture defy earthly eyes or explanation. Warm, radiant light engulfed me. As I looked around, I could hardly grasp the vivid, dazzling colors. Every hue and tone surpassed anything I had ever seen. With all the heightened awareness of my senses, I felt as if I had never seen, heard, or felt anything so real before. I don’t recall that I tasted anything, yet I knew that if I had, that too would have been more glorious than anything I had eaten or drunk on earth. The best way I can explain it is to say that I felt as if I were in another dimension. Never, even in my happiest moments, had I ever felt so fully alive. I stood speechless in front of the crowd of loved ones, still trying to take in everything. Over and over I heard how overjoyed they were to see me and how excited they were to have me among them. I’m not sure if they actually said the words or not, but I knew they had been waiting and expecting me, yet I also knew that in heaven there is no sense of time passing. I gazed at all the faces again as I realized that they all had contributed to my becoming a Christian or had encouraged me in my growth as a believer. Each one had affected me positively. Each had spiritually impacted me in some way and helped make me a better disciple. I knew—again one of those things I knew without being aware of how I had absorbed that information—that because of their influence I was able to be present with them in heaven.
I wasn’t conscious of anything I’d left behind and felt no regrets about leaving family or possessions. It was as if God had removed anything negative or worrisome from my consciousness, and I could only rejoice at being together with these wonderful people.
As I stared ahead, everything seemed to grow taller—like a gentle hill that kept going upward and never stopped. I had expected to see some darkness behind the gate, but as far ahead as I could see, there was absolutely nothing but intense, radiant light. By contrast, the powerful light I had encountered when I met my friends and loved ones paled into darkness as the radiance and iridescence in front of me increased. It was as if each step I took intensified the glowing luminosity. I didn’t know how it could get more dazzling, but it did. It would be like cracking open the door of a dark room and walking into the brightness of a noonday sun. As the door swings open, the full rays of the sun burst forth, and we’re momentarily blinded.
The light engulfed me, and I had the sense that I was being ushered into the presence of God. Although our earthly eyes must gradually adjust to light or darkness, my heavenly eyes saw with absolute ease. In heaven, each of our senses is immeasurably heightened to take it all in. And what a sensory celebration! A holy awe came over me as I stepped forward. I had no idea what lay ahead, but I sensed that with each step I took, it would grow more wondrous. Then I heard the music.
As strange as it may seem, I could clearly distinguish each song. It sounded as if each hymn of praise was meant for me to hear as I moved inside the gates.
I did not see God. Although I knew God was there, I never saw any kind of image or luminous glow to indicate his divine presence. I’ve heard people talk about going inside and coming back out the gate. That didn’t happen to me. I saw only a bright iridescence. I peered through the gate, yearning to see what lay beyond. It wasn’t an anxious yearning, but a peaceful openness to experience all the grace and joy of heaven.
I paused just outside the gate, and I could see inside. It was like a city with paved streets. To my amazement, they had been constructed of literal gold. If you imagine a street paved with gold bricks, that’s as close as I can come to describing what lay inside the gate. Everything I saw was bright—the brightest colors my eyes had ever beheld—so powerful that no earthly human could take in this brilliance.
I paused—I’m not sure why—just outside the gate. I was thrilled at the prospect and wanted to go inside. I knew everything would be even more thrilling than what I had experienced so far. At that very moment I was about to realize the yearning of every human heart. I was in heaven and ready to go in through the pearlescent gate.
Then, just as suddenly as I had arrived at the gates of heaven, I left them.
Social media often provides an opportunity for Christians of different denominations to share their views and describe their own walk with Christ. This discussion was originally written in response to a YouTube video, “Musical Aramaic rendition of the Our Father that moved the pope in Georgia” https://youtu.be/locW-9S00VU . It starts with BM (Reformed) showing gratitude for being part of the Christian tradition. EP, of the Orthodox faith, questions BM over this participation.
BM (Reformed): I am a Presbyterian and am blessed to listen to and participate in the living, ancient faith of Christianity. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Through your precious blood I plead to you. Amen.
EP (Orthodox) Not as a presbyterian you aren’t. There is but one Body and although it is greviously wounded in schism, you are not part of that Body. I’m Orthodox, you worship a different god from us.
BM: The reformation only sought to make believers live faithfully like the first Christians, without unsubstantiated traditions. We believe in the triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We worship the same God, albeit in different ways. Let Jesus decide at the end of days whether you are correct.
EP: Since you accept and know the consequence of your choice, I leave you to it. I would implore you to reconsider your position in love, but it may do no good. I would encourage you to look into your understanding of the Trinity to find it in the early church. Particularly the idea of the Father punishing the Son at the cross.
BM: Thank you for your sentiments – I hold the orthodox faith in high regard. My neighbour is Greek orthodox and he bemoans that where we live the nearest orthodox church is more than 100 miles away. I would be more concerned with the direction of the Roman Catholic Church. Traditional Catholics I know comment that the smoke of Satan is now in the Roman church and that an anti-pope is on the seat of Peter. Not to be a hypocrite, Protestantism, in general, is plunging into an abyss with liberal theology and woke ideology. Your thoughts?
EP: All the church is mired in corruption. The Orthodox Church too. The church is a living organism, the body of Christ made up of men. Both God and man at the same time. It is therefore incorruptible and [undefeatable]. I’m not an Orthodox who has a problem with the Latins as they hold to a basic teaching that I can still say is sound. In that schism I am humble that we sin against the Body of Christ by remaining in schism. Although I may see error, I understand that I have a beam in my eye.
Do you believe the Father punished the Son at the cross for our transgressions?
Happy New Year!
BM: The Lamb of God was indeed sacrificed as an atonement for the sins of the faithful. Like an innocent man who asks the judge to take on the punishment of a convicted criminal in a court of law, Jesus paid the wages of sin on our behalf. As sinners we are unworthy and unable to save ourselves, but only through the redemption of Christ are we forgiven.
EP: That’s interesting, if different. Why do you think the Church which is the body of Christ can be corrupted by corrupt men?
BM: The church is not a building or a list of decrees. It is the community of believers. The corruption within the church demonstrates that the corrupt are not really within the church because if they truly believed they would not be corrupt. Though we are all sinners, the faithful believe and trust in the Lord for their salvation. The corrupt are nominal and neither believe nor trust in the Lord. Some say that they serve another master…. I suspect that the atheists and Luciferians have done much to ruin Christianity in general, yet the faithful will never turn from the Lord. The church will never fall in spite of the machinations of the evil and the corrupt.
EP: Matthew 13. The church is where the true doctrines are taught. There are good and bad men there in. The keys are given to apostles there is no gospel or doctrine other than the one they preached which is handed down in the Church. Romans 16:17-18
BM: Matthew 12:50 (LEB): For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Reformed churches have continued to use apostolic confessions for teaching and doctrine. Confessions are not intended to be innovations but faithful expositions of biblical and apostolic faith, consequently most Reformed churches are also creedal, subscribing to the Apostles creed and the Nicene Creed and, less commonly, the Athanasian. Apostolicity in the Reformed tradition is not invested in the office of bishop but in the confessions of the church.
EP: Yes indeed, but I’ve often heard people argue that one cannot do the will of the Father. Don’t you say you are saved by faith alone?
I don’t dispute you have good intentions. But ask your self this. Do you think that any apostles taught faith alone?
And that too is secondary to your perception of God who is a judge who demands justice punishing the innocent.
This is not our faith, certainly not doctrines of the apostles.
BM: Faith alone: Justified Solely by Faith in Christ. Basil of Caesarea: Let one who boasts boast in the Lord, that Christ has been made by God for us righteousness, wisdom, justification, redemption. This is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is justified solely by faith in Christ. And Paul boasts that he despises his own righteousness, seeking that righteousness that is on account of Christ, which is the righteousness of God by faith. Sermon on Humility 22.
However, I also agree that you do not have faith if your works do not show your faith. Faith without works is dead. Even Luther, in his later years, acknowledged that he did not treat the epistles of James with the respect that they deserved.
James 2:18–20 (NKJV): 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
The case for original sin is apostolic, note the words of St Paul: Romans 5:12–15 (NKJV): 12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
BM: *My thoughts – Though the idea that newly born and infants are without sin and innocent is disputed by the doctrine of original sin – it is a certainty that they are born into a fallen, sinful world and suffer the effects of sin. Is this just? Our knowledge concerning the will of God is incomplete and His ways are hidden to our understanding. What do the Church Fathers say to this?
EP: Honestly I’m not sure I’d understand Basil as affirming faith alone. What he’s saying is that his justification is in Christ alone as opposed to his own righteousness, when he says “when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness”.
But that justification is like the justification of the unforgiving servant. You are justified by Christ only when the justifying grace transforms you into Christ and you do the Father’s will.
So in a sense justification is a free gift but it must be treasured and maintained or it is lost to us.
If it is by faith alone, we can never lose that justification because it remains Christ’s righteousness, but the gift once given is credited to us truly and we can and do squander it, until it is renewed in the sacrament of the confession.
In short we obviously accept justification by faith working through love, but never faith alone.
BM: Agreed, if we are justified in Christ, any works will be an expression of our redemption and lead to further sanctification. To say that we have salvation, yet live like a demon, is to deny both the truth and the Holy Spirit. We cannot perform any works of grace without faith – faith and works complement each other. Thanks for a decent, clarifying conversation.
EP: Well the way we see it is like this and I suppose the Catholics understand it the same way.
Justification and sanctification are both works of God our response to God’s justifying and sanctifying work is faith and works. So we would say that without that response Gods work is not applied to us.
BM: The reformed tradition agrees with this [following] account of justification through the doctrine of irresistible grace:
Since grace is by definition undeserved by any person, Irresistible Grace teaches that when the Spirit of God is sent to change a person’s heart (John 3:3ff), that person cannot resist the change. This is when the Spirit of God applies the work of Christ to the soul. This does not mean that the person is unwilling to be changed because the Spirit of God is “fighting against them”, rather the Spirit changes the heart of stone to beat as a heart of flesh. The change opens the eyes of the spiritually blind to the work of Christ. It is that which the Spirit of God does on his own, previous to any act of man. The Spirit of God will accomplish what He is sent out to do and will not be frustrated in His work of changing the sinner’s heart.
Justification, through the works of Christ, lead and attest to the fruits of sanctification. However, I think Roman Catholics may tend to subordinate justification to sanctification. They may believe that we are justified to the degree that we are sanctified. This justifying grace enables us to cooperate with the Spirit in living a sanctified life—a process often called deification or divinization. The reformed church, however, believes that justification and sanctification are complementary, the work of the Holy Spirit and not subordinate to another.. . .
EP: There isn’t in this a difference between the Catholic and the Orthodox position.
There are a couple of differences of understanding that need clarification, you see justification in merely an instant as a judge declaring a criminal just.
We see justification as a parent declaring an orphan to be a child and then justifying or making righteous the child by turning him truly from child of man to child of God. We see no difference between justification and sanctification since those who are justified are sanctified.
Think of God as the sun, His light and gravity draws us the planets close to Him. As we draw nearer we are more sanctified (receive light) and feel gravity (become justified) and are drawn ever closer. Elect are those who will eventually become one with the light.
In the same way as we respond in faith and works to Gods justifying energy we receive ever more justification and sanctification. The light of the Sun never changes but our hearts change as the old man of flesh is burnt away in the light and the new man lives gloriously.
See your view ultimately of John 3:3 seems to deny the role of the theandric [of or relating to the divine and human or their union or joint operation one and the same Christ, working both the divine and the human actions by one theandric operation] organism of the church as the body of Christ. You must be born again into the Body to receive TRUE doctrines that Paul left us in Romans 16:17-18.
In a sense when you affirm a monergistic Trinity [monergism is the view within Christian theology which holds that God works through the Holy Spirit to bring about the salvation of an individual through spiritual regeneration, regardless of the individual’s cooperation] it is not the Trinity revealed in the bible according to the doctrines given to us by the apostles that works together with men to save us. Indeed we all participate in the process of each other’s salvation united in Him.
For you the journey ends in a sense at your “born again moment” you had an epiphany like Peter has in Matthew 16. Sure that’s important it is a revelation. But it’s not the end of Peter’s journey, nor is it the start. The journey is in the body, the Church where these Truths are revealed. And the issue is, your “distinctives” from my perspective take you out of the body, a Body that is made up of fallen men, in schism, deeply wounded but where the simple truth of unity in Christ is upheld for all men who submit to being in the body. We may Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox yell heretic at each other, but all of us know, there is but one body and we must work ceaselessly to heal the grievous wounds endangering the lives of so many because of our stiff necks.
And why do I say that? Well I have much common ground with the latins and the orientals and we ourselves are far from perfect.
As for divinization lol, yes we believe theosis is the gospel. [Theosis, or deification, is a transformative process whose aim is likeness to or union with God.]
God is the creator, the source of life, to have “eternal life” we must be united to this source. When we are conformed to His image, we are united to the most Holy Trinity.
Our baptism unites us to Christ (Romans 6). The liturgy unites us to Christ (Passover and John 6) confession and repentance unite us to Christ (John 3) united in the theandric organism of the Church. Even the schismed Church retains these truths, but not outside it. [Editor’s note: In orthodox churches, salvation depends on the use of rites and works of the individual. To ignore such works is to deny salvation].
I will only ask you this, does your understanding of the church, agree with Christs description of the kingdom in Matthew 13.
BM: Your description of justification and sanctification is glorious and I do believe that sanctification of the believer occurs as they grow closer to the Lord. However, the reformed view of justification is not one of degrees of being saved – it is all or it is nothing. The Christian remains saved through the imputed righteousness and grace of God – which is perfectly given to the believer. Once justified, the Christian cannot fall. John 10:27–30 (NKJV): 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”
The image of adoption also rings true in the reformed church – we are initially separate from Christ and slaves to sin until we are justified and adopted into His family: Galatians 4:4–7 (NKJV): 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Now in regard to Matthew 13 and Romans 16:17-18: Romans 16:17–18 (NKJV): 17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
Truly, I do believe in the truth of the parables of Matthew 13, and historically, the Catholic church, not the orthodox, has been accused of distorting doctrine and introducing foreign practices to that of the early church. With the practice of selling indulgences to “buy” salvation, the Catholic church displayed genuine greed and sought to “serve their belly by using smooth words”. As far as the reformers were concerned, the Catholic church were the crows preying on the seeds (hearers) that were sown.
As far as the reformed church is today, I am disappointed by the mega churches, Olsteen’s, Kenneth Copeland’s and even the recent scandal surrounding Ravi Zacharias!!! And the fragmentation of some churches into cults like the Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses are very concerning. There seems to be a fair share of lust, greed and corruption within Protestantism that is sickening. Ideally, a reunification of the church would be great! However, I hold grave concerns for Catholics as they seem to be deceived by some parts of their church. How far does the corruption extend? Only the Lord knows. Some in the Roman and Protestant churches are like Simon Magus, selling their lies in a holy office to decieve the simple.
EP: That’s an interesting perspective to have.
I tend to not focus on the behaviour of individuals in a particular congregation. I have issues with the Latins, but the issues are of a theological nature, and focus mostly on the nature of God. I don’t believe their soteriology [doctrine of salvation] is different from mine. I also tend to be careful about being critical of them because they are our brethren and one day in God’s good time they will join us again.
Selling indulgences is an abomination. The practice of indulgences is not by itself problematic for me, selling them is. Our Theology whilst expressed differently isn’t so at odds with their theology as perhaps yours is. We affirm the real presence, we affirm a post mortem cleansing process, we pray to the saints and hold the Most Blessed Theotokos [the designation of the Virgin Mary as mother of God] in the highest esteem within the Kingdom, as is her right. We venerate icons, so many many things they do, we do too, just differently. Even indulgences are not a problem for us. But I understand that for you these may be totally unacceptable. The issue is on those markers, we are much closer to them, than either of us is to you.
I suppose you believe the sheep will never lose their justification because it’s a legal declaration.
Yes, we see justification as both a declaration in the sense that we are adopted or given a new legal status under Christ, but we also see justification as God’s plan for us, as individuals, in the works that he has prepared for us in our lives to bring us into unity with the most Holy Trinity.
Everything we do, as believers is around the Church which is really a totally different concept for us, because in the Church we are truly united to Christ.
What if a person perseveres sin, not putting aside their man of flesh?
I suppose then the legal declaration cannot be undone in your mind.
Is there any sin that can unbind the legal declaration of justification in your mind?
For us, a person can even if they are adopted into the family, they can walk away from God. That is not to say we do not have a concept of the elect. The elect however are people who are within the gravitational field of the Sun, who having lost the man of flesh to the righteous fire of God, will persevere to the end.
That’s why 2 Peter 1:10 says make certain your election and calling, we are asked to do those works, the works burn up the old man, they are the works prepared by God that bring us into unity with Him, His plan for each of our lives, the purpose of our existence, and the burning up of the old man, allows the new man to shine forth gloriously.
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 for His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 Through these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in knowledge, self-control, and in self-control, perseverance, and in perseverance, godliness, 7 and in godliness, brotherly kindness, and in brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these are yours and are increasing, they do not make you useless nor unproductive in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For the one who lacks these is blind short-sighted, having forgotten purification from his former sins.10 Therefore, brothers , be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choice of you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
When the old man is put aside completely by the Grace of God, the new man desires nothing but unity with the most Holy Trinity. We are not burning up the old man, God is doing the burning, we are just following the path God laid out, and He says just walk the path and I will destroy the old man of flesh, you will not even desire sin.
And of course to be united to the giver of life, is to have eternal life.
I guess my question is how do you see unity with the most holy Trinity if a person perseveres in sin? You believe they are declared righteous but truly are not, yet to my mind they cannot be united to the most Holy Trinity in that manner. Do you see why I am confused?
BM: I will need to unpack your questions in a few parts: Christians who are saved are always saved or persevere to the end in God’s grace.
John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
The nominal Christians who fail and leave the church were never part of the church and never saved. They paid lip service to the faith and never loved Christ or His works.
1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
Augustine declared that perseverance, like sovereign election and regeneration, is a gift of God given specifically to the elect. He says, “Who could be ordained to eternal life save by the gift of perseverance?” He also comments, “From Him, therefore, is given also perseverance in good even to the end.” And he says elsewhere, “These gifts, therefore, of God … are given to the elect who are called according to God’s purpose, among which gifts is both the beginning of belief and perseverance in the faith to the termination of this life.” Augustine saw that perseverance in the faith comes from God, a gift bestowed on the elect.
The sin that will not be forgiven is the unforgivable sin: Matthew 12:31–32 (NKJV): 31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 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.
In the very strictest meaning of the term, it means “unable to be forgiven.” But, technically speaking, God has the ability to forgive any sin if He so desires. So, when we call it the “unforgivable sin,” we mean by that that it is a sin that will in fact not be forgiven by God, not because God can’t do it but God won’t do it. That’s the warning that Jesus makes to those who are charging Him with doing His miracles by the power of Satan. He warns them that there is a sin that God will not forgive either in this world or in the world to come.
Regarding sanctification, note that there are two types of sanctification: definitive and progressive.
Definitive Sanctification (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11): In Romans 6 we see that we are (a) freed from the power of sin (Rom 6:2, 7); (b) enabled to live in newness of life under the reign of grace (Rom 6:4, 14); (c) unified with Christ in his resurrection (Rom 6:5); (d) made new creatures (Rom 6:6-8). While this sanctification coincides with our regeneration it does not leave us sinless in this world, as we are still being conformed to the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29 ). There is a struggle between the flesh and the Spirit that is the reality for the Christian (see Rom. 7).
Progressive Sanctification (Psa. 19:12 ; Jas. 3:2): According to Paul, sin is dealt with over time by putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13 ). Progressive sanctification is also seen in Colossians 3:1, 3 where there is affirmation that definitive sanctification has occurred (“you have been raised with Christ” and “now hidden with Christ in God”). But in Colossians 3:5, Paul advises that we must still consider sin to be dead to us (cf. Rom. 6:11 ; Col. 3:9-10; 2 Cor. 7:1). So we ARE sanctified and ARE BEING sanctified.
1 John 1:8–10 (NKJV): 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
We have all sinned and dishonored God (Rom. 3:23 ). Not Peter, not Paul, not John, not any one of the disciples was sinless. Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil 3:12 ). When a saved person sins, he does not give up, but he repents and continues on in faith as he understands that it is God who working in him “to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13 ). The elect press on as the Spirit continues to press on in them (Phil. 1:6; 3:20 -21).
The Canons of Dort give further explanation.
First Head, Article 12: The Assurance of Election Assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God’s Word – such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.
Fifth Head, Article 9: The Assurance of This Preservation
Concerning this preservation of those chosen to salvation and concerning the perseverance of true believers in faith, believers themselves can and do become assured in accordance with the measure of their faith, by which they firmly believe that they are and always will remain true and living members of the church, and that they have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 1:13 ESV
EP: Right I see. So you see justification as a legal declaration by God.
And then the elect persevere unto the end by Gods grace.
We would see the gift of perseverance as being specifically the gift of the man of flesh being burnt away. The man of flesh is opposed to God and the man of spirit tends to the Spirit. We persevere because the man of flesh no longer opposes Gods will. So inevitably the person will persevere.
How do you understand the gift? What has God changed in the believer?
What roll if any, does sanctification play in a man’s salvation?
Also is there a post mortem cleansing?
I suppose in a sense for you a post mortem cleansing isn’t necessary since you are justified by legal declaration.
Logically to me that would make sanctification an unnecessary process in your view since you have limited justification to a legal declaration.
Do you see salvation as merely a destination “going to heaven”? Rather than actual unity with the Divine in some respect?
BM: Good response! Personally, I do believe that the world has to thank the Catholic and Orthodox Saints and mystics for setting practical benchmarks and examples of holiness. To turn away from worldliness and strive to be holy – to be more like Christ – is to more certain of belonging within God’s family. There does need to be a greater focus on practical holiness and sanctification in the world and I applaud priests and preachers who lead by example. The only danger with the perseverance of the saints doctrine is that sinners may refuse to turn away from sin and smugly believe that they are saved regardless of what they do once they accept Christ. If one does not want to be like Christ, how can one ever be allowed into His family?
What has changed is the heart of the believer – while the old man dies, the newly born emerges. The heart of stone is replaced with a heart of flesh with the law of God written on their heart. With the change within heart, the eyes see with faith and old sinful habits start to die since they do not lead to the Heavenly Father. If one does not strive to sanctify oneself, then one must question one’s salvation. The sinful pig who does not want to change remains a pig of uncleanliness.
2 Peter 2:19–22 (NKJV): While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 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. 22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
As far as post mortem cleansing goes, true believers will be saved and allowed entry to Heaven, albeit the saints and holy people shall be rewarded and crowned with glory by the Heavenly Father. As for myself, I am making progress when I think back to my youth. Everyday though, I still cast myself into the hands of my Lord in surrender in the knowledge that I still fall short of His Will. I also appreciate the mystical union that holy people of faith have attained in this world and more than likely in Heaven. Perhaps the less holy will not be as close to the City of God.
Do you have a concept of spiritual growth of a Christian?
You acknowledge a battle between the man of flesh and the man of spirit.
Since you say that God causes a true believer to persevere and I assume you take that to mean the true believers man of flesh is weakening over time.
I can’t see how you can see sanctification any differently than justification in your paradigm. They are both acts of God completely.
Since a single grave sin is a sign God never saved you and that you were in self delusion.
The flip side is to be so comfortable in your sin because you truly believe you are saved by your faith that you take your faith as licence to continue in that sin.
To me there isn’t, as far as I can tell a path to salvation in the system.
The implication of this is even deeper because it provides no comfort of possible redemption to the believer since it is God who has abandoned them if they are overly judgemental of themselves (I believe this was Martin Luther’s problem) or they are complacent about their sin ( if they do not examine themselves).
And quite simply election is really God destroying the man of flesh because he who is elect perseveres unto the end. This is real ontological change in the person. I do not believe your conception of election involves God doing something in the believer, but rather a legal declaration.
I am if anything even more confused by how a person can believe in perseverance. And please forgive me when I say it reminds me of the story of the garden.
“You will surely not die”
3 Now the serpent(A) was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?(B)”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,(C) 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”(D)
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.(E) 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,(F) knowing good and evil.”
I hope you are not offended, I really believe your views have serious flaws. Please understand I say this in love.
Read Romans 2:13 13 (for (M)not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified
This is not to say that we are under the law, but rather we are under Christ and He will judge us as faithful disciples, judging the secrets of a mans heart as the apostle says.
We must take it all to Christ because He will judge the believer according to His laws (Matthew 25)
Also we should not believe that we should know that we have infallible knowledge of our salvation. Rather we hope and work out our salvation as God works in us.
I realize that what I am saying is synergistic. I understand that you cannot believe it because it is not the nature of God to work in that manner. That Is the reason why I do believe we do not worship the same God, or at least one of us is fundamentally flawed about what God has revealed about Himself, for me this is the crux of the issue, it isnt soteriology, but really triadology or who God is that is different between you and I, in the strictest sense only one of us is a christian.
Justification and sanctification are the same process and if you wish to stay in your church at least preach that they are the same thing because I do believe if you analyze your own belief you will realize even if you believe in God doing all the work, they don’t need to be separated and separating them is the original sin in the garden.
BM: I too share similar thoughts towards your statements regarding your beliefs, as I believe that doctrinal errors exist in other Christian churches, particularly those who still follow Pelagius, (semi-pelagian or otherwise) or Arminianism. Please note that both Arminius and Pelagius were condemned as heretics and yet the Orthodox and Catholic maintain similar views. Never forget this scripture:
Mark 9:38–41 (NKJV): Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
You or I may be mistaken in doctrine, but if we do His Will, we surely belong to Him and therefore are Christians in His Name.
What assurance of salvation do you have if you believe that your hope will be lost with any or every error, and that any hope that you have may be imagined? If you sin and believed that you are no longer saved, you deny the eternal decrees of God, which denies His Word.
When God promises us everlasting life, that means that our life is not left in doubt, but will last forever, by the power of God.
John 3:16 “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.”
John 6:47 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.”
John 17:2 “… as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.”
Hebrews 9:12, 15 “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”
I John 5:11-13 “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
Hope is inseparably connected with true faith. It is God’s guarantee that what we have believed will be fulfilled by God. “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, then we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Rom. 8:24 -25).
EP: God bless! Thank you for your charitable conversation.
BM: God bless you also and may the glory be to God.
Jude 24–25 (NKJV): 24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, 25 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.
Here at The Babylon Bee we understand how tricky it can be to pick up your Bible and read it, so that’s why we put together this list to help you out. We’ve scoured the internet and asked the greatest theologians of our day to provide you with only the latest and greatest tips and tricks.
Here are the definitive 7 best tips for reading your Bible:
At any point this week take a seat, open up your Bible, and read it. – Wow! This is big if true. It can’t be that easy, can it?
With your Bible in hand, try opening it and reading the words inside. – We really like this one, and it’s proven to work every time.
Consider grabbing your Bible and turning past the front cover and table of contents, and start reading literally any page you’d like. – Do this and you’ll be well on your way to reading your Bible this week.
Click the app on your phone that says Bible and read the words that appear on your screen. – OK, that was weird. It’s like I can read my Bible anywhere now.
Look at and comprehend the meaning of the printed matter in front of you by mentally interpreting the characters or symbols of which the Bible is composed. – Whoa! This almost sounds like the definition of reading. You’re doing it!
If any of these get a little too complicated, just fall back to the basics and read your Bible. – This one is a true life saver.
Point your eyeballs at an open Bible and see what it says. – We haven’t tested this one out yet, so try it out and let us know what happens!
Well, we hope this cleared everything up and helped you get through all the necessary steps to read your Bible. It can be really challenging and confusing out there, so always remember these helpful pointers!