I’m often asked about who is and who isn’t getting into heaven. Like most questions pastors get while shaking hands after services, the question often is about something else.
Sometimes it’s a concern about personal salvation. Other times about someone in particular: a friend, a family member, someone in the news. And sometimes it’s about themselves in a not-very-pretty sort of way.
That is, some people ask because they’re confident about themselves but are curious about the other, the losing side. Who’s in the pit? Jews? Muslims? Mormons? It’s not about me and my relationship with Christ, but about others and their fate. It’s less about theology and more about gossip.
The presiding bishop of my denomination rubbed some the wrong way on this question. She said that Christ is the name given us for our salvation. “But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.”
In other words, God can save whomever God wants to save. Moses and Elijah joined Jesus on the mountaintop, so we’re on pretty safe ground there. Noah, like so many others in the Old Testament, was assured of God’s blessing. But is it up to me? No. I’ve given myself to God’s Son, who gave himself for me. And I trust him to make good decisions on everyone else, too.
Michael Rich, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Jacksonville
Three epochs of righteousness
It has been the same since the fall of humanity; every person since Adam and until the return of Jesus must make the same journey of faith.
If human existence can be condensed into three epochs relative to righteousness, then the third epoch is the time of righteousness through the person and work of Jesus, the Christ. It is characterized by the exchange of humanity’s sinfulness for His righteousness. This is our generation.
The second epoch is characterized by humanity’s work to keep the law, which acted as a tutor to lead us to understand that righteousness is not of the law but is a grace gift from God through Jesus.
The first epoch, from which our question comes, is distinguished by simple, elementary belief in God. In this epoch, when a person believed God, it meant that they placed their whole weight in the promise of God — just as we do when we sit in a chair. We do not show the chair mercy, do we? This epoch is characterized by a person totally believing, as though it were already done, in the promise of God ... and the Bible said of Abraham, “…and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” These men and others are saved because they totally believed God.
The question now becomes, “Will you believe?” (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4; Phil 3:9).
Eric Richardson, 17th Street Missionary Baptist Church, Anniston