Frequent Questions

This section contains the questions I have most frequently been asked on these topics, and my usual answers to these.

As you read, please remember that some questions may not have precise answers. There are so many things we creatures do not know about our Creator and how he operates, even though we often have many clues in the Scriptures.

However, if you have some better answers than I have presented here, please offer them through the last item, Do You Have a Question to Ask or a Better Answer to Offer?, at the bottom of this page. I will really appreciate being able to add to my understanding through your input.

You can also ask a question of your own by selecting the same item and I will offer my answer by email. If your question gets asked frequently enough, your question and my answer will be added to this page.

Is the Bible Important? How Thick is Your Bible? Why Re-translate 'eternal'? Best Bible Version? Calvinism or Arminianism? Is God Rational? Do Christians Really Die? What About John 3 : 36? Do All Roads Lead to Heaven? Is Faith Needed for Salvation? Can We Lose Our Salvation? Sheep and Goats? How Are Unbelievers Saved? Why Evangelise? Last Days? Is Author a Universalist? Do You Have a Question?

How Important is the Bible?

The Bible is an incredible book.
Indeed it is a collection of many books which include historical records of events, stories, poems, conversations and correspondence between prominent people of God over hundreds of years.

Some people call the Bible the Word of God, others maintain that it contains the Word of God, and many claim to experience Jesus Christ, the Word of God, speaks to them as they read it and meditate upon it.
Whichever of these you lean to, the bottom line is ... the Bible is a God-inspired Book through which God speaks to its readers of all generations.

The Bible is the most extensive source of information about God, his character, his plans and the ways he uses to achieve them.
In particular, it tells us who we are, why we are here, what our future will be and reveals God's plan for saving mankind and our planet.

Regardless of any of the challenges I might mention in the sections below, the Bible contains the greatest story ever told and is a "must read" for anyone searching for meaning and purpose in their life.
It is the foundational book for the Christian faith.

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How Thick Is Your Bible ?

Over the years, I've spent many hours trying to build a belief system and a worldview that is consistent with the teachings of the Bible.
The Bible is the standard, so whenever I discover a conflict between my thinking and the Bible, I question my thinking.
For me, the Bible teaches truth, so any discrepancy is on my side and needs to be remedied.

I am currently worshipping in a church where most people don't seem to hold the Scriptures in as high a regard as I am used to.
Even though readings from all parts of the Bible are listed in our lectionary for each week of the year, the Gospels are the books given the most attention.
And recently I attended a small home group that even pruned the Gospel of John from that list as well, leaving them with a very thin volume comprising just the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

These lovely people, whose fellowship, hearts and Christ-like ministry I am enjoying and applauding, have their reasons for relegating the other books of the Bible to "our ancient sacred texts".
I won't go into those reasons here, but I will mention the reason for the home group eliminating the Gospel of John.

This Gospel quotes Jesus saying that He is the way, the truth and the life, and that no-one can come to the Father except through Him.
Considering that many in this group believe that all will get to God no matter what route they take or what religion they belong to, John's Gospel is considered to be restrictive, exclusive, and in conflict with their universal belief.
So, the offending Gospel has to go.

Being a Christian Universalist and having a high regard for Scripture, I don't see the conflict.
Jesus IS the way. Absolutely true, as John proclaims.
God reconciled the world to Himself through Christ and is no longer counting anyone's sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5 : 19)
So no-one could possibly come to the Father without Jesus having done that.
Jesus is the only way we get to the Father.
And absolutely everyone will get there because Jesus has dealt with the sins of the whole world (1 John 2 : 2) and will eventually draw everyone to himself (John 12 : 32).

So no matter who you are, where you live, or what religion or political party or football team you follow, Jesus has determined your eternal future.
No need to throw out John - or Paul, or anyone else for that matter.
We can keep the whole Bible and still guarantee everyone will get to God eventually.

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Why Do You Keep Re-translating 'eternal'?

As mentioned in the Preface of "The Really Good News About God", God's eventual reconciliation of all was the standard doctrine of the church for the first 4 or 5 centuries of its existence.

St.Augustine, who lived towards the end of this era, was not a Greek scholar, misunderstood the Greek of the New Testament, and inserted the concept of eternal torment into the Western Church. (I think he was also responsible for the idea of Purgatory as well.)

His influence was so great, together with his intolerance of any who opposed him, that his ideas became official doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and subsequently of the Protestant Churches spawned by Luther's Reformation in the 16th century.

Jerome's Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible that dominated the Scriptural scene for about 1000 years, was also influenced by eternal-hell-and-torment theologians, and subsequently it influenced other Bible translations, like the King James Bible and its modern derivatives.

Thus all of our modern, popular Bibles, have inherited the same mindset - eternal punishment concepts have been read into the translation process rather than it producing accurate translations that help us form sound doctrines out of them.
(This is why I use a literal translation for my personal Bible Study. Translations like Young's Literal Translation, Concordant Literal Version, and Rotherham's Emphasized Bible. But see below for some really good recent news on this score - A new New Testament Translation.)

It is quite possible, that if our first English Bibles had been translated directly from the Greek, rather than from the Latin, we, English-speaking people, might never have heard of eternal hell and torment.

Let me illustrate this possibility by looking at some basic grammar in both the Greek and English languages.

Nouns and their Adjectives.

Some nouns have an adjectival form that is used as a descriptor or expresses a quality of another noun.
For example, the noun 'day' has an adjectival form 'daily'.
It may be used like this: "The takings of a business during the day (noun) are described as the daily (adjective) takings."

In English, many time-related nouns have their single-word adjectival forms, although some do not. In these cases we may have to use the possessive form of the noun or even resort to using an adjectival phrase to express such an idea.
Let's consider a few.

NounAdjective Alternative Adjectival Phrase
minuteminute'sa minute's silence
= silence during/for a minute
hourhourlyhourly weather report
= weather report for the hour
daydailydaily takings
= takings during/for the day
weekweeklyweekly wage
= wage for the week
monthmonthlymonthly rainfall
= rainfall during/for the month
yearyearlyyearly average
= average for the year
decadedecade'sthe decade's earthquakes
= earthquakes during the decade
centurycentury'scentury's event
= event of the century
ageage'sage's punishment
= punishment belonging to/during the age
eoneonianeonian life
= life during the eon

The Bible talks frequently about 'ages' or 'eons', in both noun and adjectival forms, but we would hardly think so because of poor translations of the underlying Greek words into English in most of our Bibles.

Because 'age' and 'eon' are very similar translations of 'aion', and because 'eon' has a simpler English adjectival form than 'age', I will use the term 'eon' to describe the long, undefined segments of time mentioned in the New Testament.
This choice is also useful because the adjectival form of 'aion' in the Greek is 'aionion' which looks very similar to 'eonian' and will be easier to remember.

Important Note: This website will never use 'eternal' as the translation of 'aionion' - as most of our popular translations of the New Testament do approximately 40 times - because it is plain wrong and causes us to misunderstand God's plan for the ages to come, and beyond.

There is also another article under the Believers link titled "Correct Grammar Reveals the Truth" which describes how correct translation shows the distinction between the church who are saved during the ages and the eventual reconciliation of all.

A new New Testament Translation

Readers of my book "The Really Good News About God" and long-time readers of my BLOG at and this website will be familiar with my frequent criticisms of the poor translation of some key words in our most popular English Bibles, especially their New Testaments.

In my writings (and in my preaching) I usually offer a Biblical text or two to illustrate the point I am making to demonstrate the Biblical backing for the view being addressed.
If I quote from a popular version like NIV or GNB, I often have to adjust the quotation using a literal translation so that it better reflects what the Biblical writer is trying to say. Sometimes I actually quote the text from a literal translation like Young's or Rotherham's or the Concordant Version even though they use older King James style English and their expression is not usually free-flowing, quite wooden in fact.

However, last week (February 2019) I was introduced to a brand new literal translation of the New Testament that was published just over 12 months ago. It is "The New Testament - A Translation" by David Bentley Hart.

Here's what I reported on my BLOG.

My copy arrived in the post two days ago and I haven't been able to put it down since. I haven't read it all the way through yet, but I have read sizable chunks of it and especially chunks that include chapters containing the poor translations I have to keep adjusting.
And I am delighted!
If I can quote from this translation in my writings (I am inquiring about any copyright restrictions at the moment) I will never have to make those adjustments again because the translation is already literal and the English style and expression is very acceptable for written works.

David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox scholar of religion and a fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. He set out to translate the New Testament etsi doctrina non daretur (as if doctrine is not given), and has produced a brilliant (IMO) 500-page translation that contains copious footnotes explaining the reasoning behind many of his translation decisions.

Some people will criticise a translation by one person rather than by a committee, just because it is a single person.
But I find a literal translation by an eminent scholar is more likely to be true to the original manuscripts and thus avoid doctrinal biases than by a committee formed from a particular doctrinal persuasion on the one hand or by a committee representing many different doctrinal positions whose work needs to be smoothed over to keep all committee members on board.

Here is my signature Bible text from this new translation:

For we labor and struggle to this end, because we have hoped in a living God who is the savior of all human beings, especially those who have faith.[1 Timothy 4 : 10 DBH]

If there are no copyright problems, you will see this translation used most (maybe all) of the time from now on.

Bonus Supplement

I have now (April 2019) read most of "The New Testament - A Translation" by David Bentley Hart and it has become my goto translation for study and bed-time reading.

I must say though that Hart's vocabulary far outstrips mine and he uses English words that I have not previously met - both in his translation and in his footnotes, introduction and postscript. So I always keep a dictionary close by whenever I read whatever he writes.

The author's lengthy INTRODUCTION was most enlightening as it explained his approach to the translation process he adopted and the challenges he faced in translating the Greek writing styles of a wide range of original authors from 2000 years ago.
Here are some snippets ...

Hart attempted to "write a translation of scripture not shaped by later theological and doctrinal history".
"My principal aim is to help awaken readers to mysteries and uncertainties and surprises in the New Testament documents that often lie wholly hidden from view between the layers of received hermeneutical and theological tradition."
"Where the Greek of the original is maladroit, broken, or impenetrable (as it is with some consistency in Paul's letters), so is the English of my translation; where an author has written bad Greek (such as one finds throughout the book of Revelation), I have written bad English. Even then, I have not captured all the idiosyncrasies of the text."

The INTRODUCTION also contained some of Hart's personal experience while on the translation journey.
Here is an example ...

"I know that writing this translation caused me to absorb certain conclusions about the world of the early church at a deeper level than I could have anticipated. Most of them I already knew, admittedly, if often as little more than shadows glimpsed through a veil of conventional habits of thought - for instance, how stark the dualism really is, in Paul's letters and elsewhere in the New Testament, between "flesh" and spirit", or how greatly formulations that seem to imply universal salvation outnumber those very few that appear (and rather nebulously) to threaten an ultimate damnation for the wicked."

All of Hart's INTRODUCTION (and his even lengthier POSTSCRIPT) are informative and worthy of frequent perusal, and are a bonus supplement to the publication.

And of course, to me, his discovery of God's plan of universal reconciliation/salvation just through his non-theological, unbiased translation of the Greek Scriptures was a highlight, and confirmation of the necessity of accurate translations to correctly understand God's plan for His creation, and almost worth the price of the book alone.

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Which is the best English Bible version?

Simple answer: it depends on what you want to use it for.

If you are reading history, poetry or illustrative stories like parables then use a free-flowing translation or a paraphrase.
There are many of these available as most Bibles in our bookstores are of this type.

Popular "easy-read" versions include translations like
New International Version (NIV),
Contemporary English Version (CEV),
Good News Translation (GNT), and
The New Living Bible (NLB);

and paraphrases like
The New Testament in Modern English (PHILLIPS),
The Living Bible (TLB), and
The Message (TM).

A common difficulty with these non-literal translations of the New Testament is they usually translate the Greek words that end up as "eternity" or "eternal" or "hell" in the English text quite wrongly, which helps to conceal God's ultimate purpose for His creation.
You can read more on this issue by searching other sections of this website or posts on the BLOG at

So, if you are wanting to form Bible-based opinions about God, His character, His purposes and His plans to achieve them, you will need to search out a more literal translation which does not insert the translator's theology (personal views) into the text.

Literal translations include
Young's Literal Translation (YLT),
Concordant Literal Version (CLV), and
David Bentley Hart's New Testament: A Translation (DBH).

I don't mind if a literal translation provides personal views as comments below the text or in a sidebar beside the text provided that the text itself remains free of such inclusions.
I also don't mind if the text includes a word or two that is not in the original in order to help the readability of the resulting English provided the extra words are designated in some way to show they are additional to the literal text.
Using italics or a different text font are common ways of doing this.

There are also other popular Bibles which claim to be "easy-read" or literal translations or both easy reading and literal.

Bibles like
King James Version (KJV),
New King James Version (NKJV),
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV),
English Standard Version (ESV),
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and
New American Standard Version (NASV).

My research suggests that none of them are literal consistently and only some people might find them to be easy reading.

A warning: I have found some Bibles to be downright deceitful in two subtle ways.

Firstly, Bibles which might claim to be accurate translations and promise to place additional words in italics to show they are not words in the original Greek text sometimes insert extra words which accommodate their personal views without placing them in italics.

Here's an example from The Passion Translation (TPT).

When the non-Jewish people in the crowd heard these words, they were thrilled and they honored the word of the Lord. All who believed that they were destined to experience eternal life received the message.
(Acts 13 : 48 TPT without the italics it promised to include for additional words)

Now compare it with Young's Literal Translation.

And the nations hearing were glad, and were glorifying the word of the Lord, and did believe -- as many as were appointed to life age-during;
(Acts 13 : 48 YLT)

God's appointment in YLT has been replaced by man's choice in TPT by using additional words without the promised warning.
(By the way, notice the incorrect translation that produced "eternal".)

Secondly, some Bibles might have the words correctly translated, but change the order to accommodate the translator's theology.

Here's The Passion Translation (TPT) again.

Even as all who are in Adam die, so also all who are in Christ will be made alive.
(1 Corinthians 15 : 22 TPT)

Compare with Young's Literal Translation.

for even as in Adam all die, so also in the Christ all shall be made alive,
(1 Corinthians 15 : 22 YLT)

Once again the TPT has added words without designating them as being added and, together with changing the order of the remaining correctly translated words, has totally changed the structure and therefore the meaning of the verse to accommodate their doctrine that only Christians will be made alive.

The TPT translation has now made this verse conflict with so many other verses, for example:

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
(1 Corinthians 15 : 25 - 26 NIV)
This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head.
(Ephesians 1 : 10 GNT)


For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
(Colossians 1 : 19 - 20 NIV)

As an interesting aside: The Amplified Bible (1954 -1987) has been updated for its 2015 edition. The original translated 1 Cor 15:22 with the incorrect word order but corrected it in 2015. Thankfully, the TPT has been almost deserted in Bibleland with its incorrect word order these days.

So which is the best Bible version for you?
I suggest you start out with an easy-read translation or paraphrase for engaging with the story-line, but then use a literal translation to check the accuracy of what you have read and to filter out the theology of the translator(s) if you are building a Biblical point of view on a particular subject or issue.

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Which is Better - Calvinism or Arminianism?

I have sometimes been asked to choose between Calvinism and Armianism, on the assumption that Christian Universalism is not a legitimate option.
Very briefly, the God of the Calvinists has the ability to save all mankind, but doesn't choose to, whereas the God of the Arminians wants to save all mankind, but does not have the power or ability to.

The real God, the God of the Bible, has the will, power and ability to save all mankind, and sent Jesus to be the Saviour of the world to make sure that happens. In the introduction to "The Really Good News About God", I briefly describe Calvinism and Arminianism and show the short-comings of each.

There are some people who tell me these are the only two positions that can be held, so, Barry, which one do you hold?
Well, if you put it like that I would have to say I'm a Calvinist, but not a Calvinist of the common variety.
I believe God has the will and strength to save those he has chosen to save (the elect) ... but I broaden the number of the elect to everyone (on the basis of solid Biblical evidence you will find in the book and on this website).

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Is God Rational?

In a recent Bible study discussion on God and the possibility that He might, or might not, be involved in our personal lives, it was suggested that we must be rational when formulating our ideas about God and the ways He operates.

This really grabbed my attention as many readers will know how God has been involved in our lives over several decades in ways that are impossible to describe as rational.
The ways in which God has shifted us around the country, the miracles we have been privileged to see in our various adventures and ministries, and the way He has brought us through several family challenges, all point to a God who intervenes in lives in ways that refuse to be restricted by mankind's sense of rationality.

But let me generalise beyond my personal experience, so we can all address this question together.

God's grace is nowhere near rational.
Is it rational, can we really comprehend, that the Creator of this universe extends grace and mercy in such awesome measure as He has and does towards such a wayward and rebellious humanity?

Christ's resurrection is not rational - nor will ours be.
Is it rational that God's forgiveness is given to all without any performance or sacrifice on our behalf, but solely as a result of Christ's death and resurrection?

Christ's teaching is often not rational either.
For example, He tells us to .....

For me, God is way beyond rational.
To create this enormous universe out of nothing is way beyond rational itself, let alone His dealings with it and those He created to populate and manage it.

"Rational" belongs to our limited, but logical, way of thinking - not to God's.
We can't confine the creator God to the same size box his creation lives in.

Let's continue to look for the irrational, the supernatural, from the God who loves, forgives and sustains us without limit.

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Do Christians Really Die?

Many authors suggest that when people leave this planet (physically die) they remain asleep until a resurrection sometime in the future.
The "goodies" get resurrected to be given Life, and the "baddies" get resurrected to be given death. (Some resurrection that would be !)

But I find that view inconsistent with the view taught by Jesus and His followers, who say that Jesus came to give us Life right now.
Do we get that Life and then have it taken from us for the time between when we physically die and some future resurrection?
That doesn't seem very logical to me.

I appreciate that several Bible verses can be quoted to support the idea that when our physical bodies cease working and we depart this planet we are dead, real dead, or at least sound asleep, but they are all Old Testament verses, statements made by poets (and others) expressing their understanding at that point.
Here are a couple......

Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
  Who praises you from the grave? [Psalm 6 :5 NIV]

For the living know that they will die,
  but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
  and even their name is forgotten.
Their love, their hate
  and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
  in anything that happens under the sun.
[Ecclesiastes 9 : 5 - 6 NIV]

Indeed, without further revelation from Jesus, we would not be in a position to say anything much different.
The physical evidence screams similar conclusions at us too.

But look at the new information Jesus reveals ...

“I am the resurrection and the life.
The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;
and whoever lives by believing in me will never die."
[John 11 : 25 - 26 NIV]

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life." [John 5 : 24 NIV]

Will never die .... has crossed over (past tense) from death to life.

John affirms Jesus' words with ...

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
[1 John 5 : 13 NIV]

Jesus goes even further than promising Life for His followers ...

"But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’
He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” [Luke 20 : 37 - 38 NIV]

I appreciate that the theology of many hymns sometimes doesn't follow Scripture too well, but I like the Christmas Carol "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," which has this verse .....

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Not too much about death there!
Anyway, what do you think happens to us when we leave this planet?
Would love to hear your thoughts.

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What About John 3 : 36 ?

Several years ago, I posted "Jottings from John" on my blog, which included several verses that described God's inclusive and universal plan to save all his creation through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.

In this article, we will discuss John 3 : 36, a verse usually promoted to disprove this plan.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them. [NIV]

As usual, I need to challenge the translation of the Greek "aionian" into the English "eternal" and replace "eternal life" by "life in the ages".
I will also add "this" to help link the second reference to this life later in the verse. So my adjusted NIV translation becomes ...

Whoever believes in the Son has life in the ages, but whoever rejects the Son will not see this life, for God's wrath remains on them. [BV]

which is not far from the Young's Literal Translation ...

He who is believing in the Son, has life age-during; and he who is not believing the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God does remain upon him. [YLT]

So we see that this verse is not referring to the eventual outcome of God's plan, with many of his creation lost forever, but to the kingdom stage where only those chosen to believe in the ages (during the realm of time) will be experiencing life, while the others not seeing life until the consummation of the ages.

And this conclusion is consistent with what John said earlier in Chapter 3 (verse 17) ...

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. [NIV]

I am much more comfortable believing our God of love and mercy will fully achieve his purpose for the world than believing many of his creation will overturn his plans for them through their current unbelief.

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Do All Roads Lead to Heaven?

I usually describe the position I promote as Christian Universalism (CU) or Universal Restoration (UR).
But sometimes I am careless in casual conversations by agreeing/conceding that I'm a universalist (without the "Christian" or "Restoration" bit).

I am finally learning to be more careful with the terms I use.
By using or allowing the wrong ones, I leave myself open to criticisms that are not applicable to the correct position that I believe the Scriptures teach.

I do not believe in universalism, as the word is generally used.
Universalism most often describes the position that all will be saved, regardless of the work of Jesus or of a person's relationship to Jesus - in other words, all roads lead to heaven.

This is not what the Bible teaches.
Jesus said,

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." [John 14: 6 NIV]

Equally, I do not believe in inclusivism, as the word is generally used.
Inclusivism usually describes the position that all are saved now as the result of the death and resurrection of Jesus - and all have the Holy Spirit indwelling them right now.

This is not what the Bible teaches either.
Jesus said,

"No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." [Matthew 11: 27 NIV]

I definitely believe that all are forgiven now through what Jesus has done, and will come to know the Father eventually - all will be included eventually, but not yet.
Clearly, I need to be using the word "eventually" constantly to keep distinguishing CU or UR from inclusivism in my conversations, preaching and writing.


God genuinely and unconditionally loves us,
Jesus has dealt with our sin,
God has completely forgiven us, holds nothing against us, and
has opened the door for us to enjoy life in union with him forever,

but most of us have not walked through that door ... yet.

Another random thought.
By definition, inclusivism is the opposite of what is true - exclusivism.
Access to eternity in fellowship with God (and each other) is exclusively available through a relationship with Jesus.
And this is still to come for most.

No, all roads do not lead to heaven - a relationship with Jesus is the only way.
For those who are not believers by the time they leave the planet, knowledge, faith, repentance and worship will come some time later, more than likely at the Great White Throne.

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Is Faith Needed for Salvation?

Well, it depends on which salvation and whose faith we are referring to?

Let's sort out the salvation question first.
As you know, one of our theme texts is 1 Timothy 4 : 10, which sits under the search box beside every post on our BLOG.

We have placed our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all, and especially of those who believe. {GNB]

So all humanity will be saved eventually, but there is something special in store for believers.

Previous posts have explored the universality of the world's eventual salvation using texts such as ...

God made known to us the secret of his will according to his good pleasure, which he himself had previously decided, to be put into effect when the times reach their completion - to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. [Ephesians 1 : 9 - 10 BV]

After everything is under the power of God's Son, he will put himself under the power of God, who put everything under his Son's power. Then God will mean everything to everyone. [1 Corinthians 15 : 28 CEV]

However, not everyone will need to wait for the ages to be completed to receive their salvation. The "especiallies" are those who have become believers - have believed that Jesus died for the sins of the world - during their lifetime on earth, and will enjoy their salvation and inclusion in the Body of Christ during the remaining ages, which includes the Millennium and the New Heavens and Earth.

So there are two salvations - one for believers during the ages and continuing beyond them, and one for the remainder of humanity at the completion of the ages - another illustration of the first fruits and the main harvest Hebrew agricultural terminology.

What about the faith question?
Long time readers of our BLOG will know that many of our popular English translations of the Bible have translation errors which have been used to mislead people regarding several aspects of God's plan for us.

The ownership of the faith needed for both the salvation of the main harvest and the first fruits is another victim of these errors.
Because of the age-old tradition in many Church circles that we are saved by making a decision for Christ or by inviting Jesus into our hearts or by some other initiative taken by us, most modern translators have read such a position into the texts.

In those translations, the Greek "faith OF Jesus" is translated as "faith IN Jesus". It was the faith or faithfulness of Jesus, Jesus Christ's faith in his Father's purpose for him, that took him to the cross to secure our salvation.

(Use the Salvation link for a fuller discussion of the faithfulness of Jesus.)

We had (then) and still have (now) absolutely no input into it. Jesus did it all! With no assistance from us everyone will eventually be reconciled to God without lifting a finger. Yes, Jesus was successful in dying on the cross for the sins of the world.

However, to be in the Body of Christ, to be among the first fruits, to have life during the ages, we need to believe in the finished work of Christ for mankind and to be available as a co-worker with Christ in His kingdom work.
We need to have faith in the finished work of Jesus.

And that faith is also a gift from God for those He has selected for that role during the ages.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God [Ephesians 2 : 8 NIV]

Consequently, to be among the first fruits, to be in the Body of Christ, to be saved during the realm of time (the ages), to have age-ian life, we need to have received the faith to believe in the faithfulness of Jesus in dying for our sins.

So, is faith needed for salvation?
For the eventual salvation of the world, the faith of Jesus was needed.
For the prior salvation of those chosen to be in the Body of Christ, the faith to believe in the finished work of Jesus will be given.

(And when the last of these have been born, and heard the gospel, and been given the faith to believe it, the Body of Christ will be complete and this current age will be completed.)

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Can We Lose Our Salvation?

Let's repeat our nutshell description of salvation from the Salvation section.

Salvation is a journey of restoration that starts with re-gaining life and is completed when we return to being God's true image bearers, as was Jesus.

So salvation is a journey with a beginning and an end.
The beginning of the journey is being restored or resurrected to life.
This life is God's life, eternal life, which God breathes into us, his Holy Spirit.
And that comes from knowing God, having God and Jesus revealed to us, and indwelling us.

Jesus said ...

"Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." [John 17:3 NIV]

and ...

"No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." [Matthew 11: 27 NIV]

In my opinion, once we know God, we can't "un-know" him.
We might disappoint him, or fail him, or even disown him (as did Peter during Jesus' lifetime on earth), but we can't subsequently say we don't know him.
Therefore we cannot lose eternal life, we cannot lose the beginning of the salvation journey once it has been given to us.

The end of the journey is Christ-likeness, being restored to the image of God.
So if this is the end, there is no time or opportunity remaining after this in which to lose anything.
Therefore we cannot lose Christ-likeness, we cannot lose the end of the journey after we have finally arrived there, as there is no "after".

So what about the (major) part of the journey - the bit between the beginning and end?
Can we lose that? Ummmmmm ...
That's a weird question, isn't it?

At times, we can lose our way, get side-tracked, take routes that are long and winding and dangerous; we can give up for a while, take extended siestas, etc. etc.
But eventually, we will respond to the nudging and corrections of the Holy Spirit within us, repent and get back on track again.

What makes me so sure?
Firstly, there are so many characters in the Bible whose lives demonstrate that this happens.
Take David for example.
The prophet Samuel told Saul that he was to be replaced as King of Israel by a man after God's own heart, referring to David.
And yet it was subsequent to his appointment as king that David committed adultery and arranged a cowardly murder before repenting and getting his life back on track and becoming a key person in Israel's history and in the earthly ancestry of Jesus Christ.

And, secondly, the Apostle Paul guarantees we will get to the end.
Hear him to the believers in Philippi ...

"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
[Philippians 1:6 NIV]

and to his apprentice Timothy ...

"That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe." [1 Timothy 4:10 NIV]

If God is to be the Saviour of all people, surely that includes those who start that journey while on earth, regardless of what might happen during the rest of their lifetimes here.

So, can we lose our salvation?
We can't lose the beginning, we can't lose the end, and God guarantees the journey in between.
And to top it off, God is going to be the Saviour of all.
So no-one can lose their salvation, including those who haven't begun the journey yet.

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Doesn't the Sheep and Goats Parable in Matthew 25 contradict your Christian Reconciliation view?

Matthew 25 : 31 - 46 describes the Judgement of the Nations, which, I admit, most commentators or theologians believe to be a description of the final judgement of mankind at the end of time to decide who will be saved or enter the kingdom.

I suspect this is not a correct interpretation for the following reasons ...

I am therefore persuaded that this judgement was a temporal one on the tribes or nations of Israel in AD70, and Jews being law-keepers, would be judged in it on how well they had kept the law and offered charity to those who lived in the land with them (the ethnic brothers of Christ).

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How Do Unbelievers Get Saved?

I have to admit, before we commence, that there are not too many clues in the Scriptures about HOW God does most things, including the saving of unbelievers, whether they are on this planet, or have left it.
In many cases we know WHAT he does/did, but not HOW he does/did it.

For example ...
We know that God implanted Jesus into the womb of the virgin Mary, but no clues are given about how he did it?
We know that Jesus turned water into wine, but no clues are given about how he did it?
We know that Jesus raised the widow's son in Nain from the dead, but no clues are given about how he did it?
You and I received faith in God and Jesus' sacrifice for our sins, but I, for one, cannot explain how we got that faith?

We, as the creatures, will never understand how he, the Creator, does such things, unless he tells us, or we make guesses from clues sprinkled through the Scriptures.

So let's start with the WHAT, about the fate of those who leave the planet as unbelievers, which is well documented in the Scriptures.
Colossians 1 : 19 - 20 : God will reconcile all things, in heaven and on earth, to himself. The same sacrifice of Jesus that got you and me reconciled to God will reconcile the rest of his creation.
2 Corinthians 5 : 19 : God is no longer counting our sins against us - any of us.
1 John 2 : 2 : Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world.
1 Timothy 4 : 10 : God will save all people, not just believers.
Romans 11 : 32 : God will have mercy on us all.
Ephesians 1 : 10 : The end result will be the unity of all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

HOW God will save unbelievers beyond their time on this planet is just as difficult to explain as the HOW he saves those who become believers while still here (people like us).
We are made aware of our sin, God's provision for dealing with it, and his being reconciled to us.
God gives us the faith to believe these truths, as Jesus draws us to himself.
We respond by confessing our faith in Jesus and his completed work for us.
We are reconciled to (at peace with) God, and express our appreciation and devotion.
This happens in a multitude of ways and circumstances and places - it's all God's doing and timing.

I think that those who leave this planet as unbelievers will be reconciled to God through a similar series of "steps" that unbelievers experience in their lifetime here - awareness, faith, drawing, confession, reconciliation, appreciation and devotion.

Here are my guesses ...
Because God is already reconciled to these unbelievers when they show up before him, they will discover that God holds nothing against them and does not need to be feared (because of the completed work of Jesus in dealing with their sin).
Believing these truths will be easy in the presence of Jesus; they will be drawn to him, confessing their conviction that he is their Lord and their God.
Of course, this will happen far too late for them to experience governing with Christ and the early believers in the kingdom age, but it will carry them reconciled to God and the rest of creation into eternity.

So what clues have I based these guesses on?
One way or the other God's plan (the WHAT above) must be fulfilled. (Psalm 135 : 6 ; Isaiah 46 : 9 - 11)
Jesus came into the world to save it, not judge it, and he is the same yesterday and today and into the ages. (John 12 : 47 ; Hebrews 13 : 8)
God is already reconciled to all of us and holds nothing against us. [2 Cor 5 : 19]
The experience of Thomas. John 20 : 24 - 29
Jesus' "lost" parables, especially of the prodigal son and how his loving and merciful father dealt with him. (Luke 15)

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Why Evangelise?

I am often asked, "If everyone is going to be reconciled to God eventually, why bother with evangelism?"
This is a really good question within the context of God's sovereignty.

God is the Designer, Creator and Ruler of the universe. As such, He made and makes all the decisions involved in its creation, maintenance and affairs.
Unless He chooses to delegate some decisions to us, he makes all the choices.

Here are some examples of God's choices.
God chose to create the heavens and the earth.
God chose to commence the human race with a man, Adam, made in his image, and a woman, Eve, made from that man.
God chose Noah, the ark-builder, to save 8 people from the global flood.
God chose Abraham to become the father of a new spiritual race.
God chose Jacob to be the father of God's special nation, called Israel.
God chose Joseph to save Israel from starvation.
God chose Moses to free Israel from Egypt.
God chose David to be the greatest of the kings of Israel.
God chose Solomon to build a most elaborately adorned temple in Jerusalem.
God chose Jesus to be the Saviour of the world and Jesus chose to draw all people to himself.

Those last choices involving Jesus were to guarantee that God's ultimate choice that all creation would spend eternity in unity and harmony with Himself would be achieved. (Ephesians 1 : 7 ff)

However, some of His creation are chosen earlier than others, and for a special purpose.
These early-chosen are given belief (faith) and are called believers, disciples, first fruits or the Body Of Christ.

And what do they believe?
According to St Paul, they believe the good news "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." [1 Corinthians 15 : 3 - 4 NIV]

And what is their special purpose?
The task of the Body of Christ is to announce this good news - the gospel - that God has reconciled the world to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5 : 18 - 19).

And what happens when they do?
Many people will hear this good news and those who have been chosen to join the Body of Christ, to become an early-believer, will be given belief (faith) and will join in this ministry (Acts 13 : 48}.
This process will continue until all those who have been chosen to be early believers have heard the gospel and been given faith.
At that point, the body of Christ will be complete and the events due to be unfolded at the end of this age will commence - the salvation of Israel (Romans 11 : 25 ff) and the commencement of the millennium kingdom (Revelation 20 : 1 ff), for example.

So what is the purpose of evangelism, of announcing the gospel?
It is to complete the Body of Christ, those chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1 : 3 ff) to show the incomparable riches of God's grace in the heavenly realms in the coming ages. (Ephesians 2 : 6 - 7)

We are blessed to have been chosen early, but we also have a major responsibility - to proclaim the gospel so that God can give faith to the not-yet members of the Body of Christ. (Romans 10 : 17). We usually call this evangelism.

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Are We In the Last Days?

This topic is not directly relevant to the exploration of God's extravagant grace that is the major focus of my book, blog and website. However, I am asked this question often so I will answer it briefly here anyway.

So my answer? - Maybe, no, and I don't think so.

If the question is referring to the last days of the church age, then my answer is "maybe"; if it's referring to the last days of the world, then my answer is "no".
And if the question is referring to the last days mentioned frequently in the Bible, then my answer is "I don't think so".

The Last Days of the Church Age

I'm not sure we can find many clues from the Scriptures regarding the last days of the church age, the age in which we currently live.
During this age, God has put national Israel to one side whilst he gathers the Body of Christ (the Church) from all nations (including Israel).
God has these members already chosen and gives them faith when they hear the gospel so they become believers and the first fruits of the full harvest which is to be completed at the end of the ages.

So the church age will end when the final member of the Body of Christ has been added, and God turns his attention again to national Israel.
And only God knows when that will be because only he knows whom he has predestined to be in the Body of Christ.

So are we in the last days of the church age? ... Maybe ... but who knows but God alone?

The Last Days of the World

From my comments above it is clear than there is still an age or time to come when God deals with, and saves, national Israel. (Romans 11 : 25 - 27)
So are we in the last days of the world? ... No ... there is still much more to come.

The Last Days Mentioned in the Bible

There are many references to the last days in the Scriptures: but they don't appear to be referring to our church age or to the end of the world.
Let's take a look at some of them and see if we can determine to whom they might refer.

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter is explaining why the disciples are behaving in such a strange way:

These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!
No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.'
[Acts 2 : 15 - 17 NIV, occurred in the 30's AD]

Peter was aware that this gathering was taking place "in the last days".
He was implying that "we are in the last days right now".

Paul was equally aware of the days they were in.
In summing up some warnings from Israel's history, he said:

Now these things happened to those people as an example, but are written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come.
[1 Corinthians 10 : 11 LEB, written in the 50's AD]

The writer to the Hebrews also described Jesus' visit as being at the end of the ages.

For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf, 
and not in order that he can offer himself many times, as the high priest enters into the sanctuary year by year with blood not his own, 
since it would have been necessary for him to suffer many times from the foundation of the world, but now he has appeared once at the end of the ages for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself. 
[Hebrews 9 : 24 - 26 LEB, written in the 60's AD]

John was even more precise when he wrote:

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.
This is how we know it is the last hour.
[1 John 2 : 18 NIV, written in the 60's AD]

The time in which the New Testament writers (and the early Church) lived was variously described as the end of the ages, the last days and even the last hour.

So, the question becomes: the end of what ages, the last days of what, the last hour of what?
I believe they were in the last days of the Old Covenant era - the ages that culminated in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem.

So are we in the last days referred to in the Bible? I don't think so - they have long gone.

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Is the Author a Universalist?

I am sometimes asked if I am a universalist. I don't like this word because it has so many different meanings.
Saying "yes" might mean I am agreeing to a meaning that is in the mind of the questioner, with which I might not agree.
So I try not to give a straight "yes" or "no" answer without sounding evasive.
Instead I say something like:

I believe God is the Saviour of the world (1 Timothy 4 : 10)
Jesus, who died for the sins of the world (1 John 2 : 2)
meaning that
God is no longer holding our sins against us (2 Corinthians 5 : 19)

Jesus will return when it is time to restore everything (Acts 3 : 21)
drawing everyone to himself (John 12 : 32),
destroying his enemies (1 Corinthians 15 : 25),
including death (1 Corinthians 15 : 26),
so that only life will remain (1 Corinthians 15 : 22).

Every one will eventually honour King Jesus (Philippians 2 : 9 - 11)
who will then hand his kingdom over to God (1 Corinthians 15 : 24)

God having brought unity to everything in heaven and earth (Ephesians 1 : 9 - 10),
thus having established a new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3 : 13),
becomes everything to everyone (1 Corinthians 15 : 28).

So, am I a universalist?

Only if being a universalist means I believe the Bible teaches the universal reconciliation of all through Jesus. (Colossians 1 : 19 - 20)

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