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  1. #1
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    Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Please keep discussions in this thread within the realm of Christianity and teachings of the Bible.

    Christians are generally taught that salvation comes through belief in Jesus Christ as personal savior, and that the only way to enter Heaven is through that belief. I think this comes mainly from reading John 14:6, in which Jesus says “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I believe that interpretation, and the widespread belief among Christians that all others will go to Hell is badly flawed.

    Here is a story of sheep and goats on Judgement Day:

    The Sheep and the Goats

    Matthew 25

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    Christians familiar with this verse might assume that the sheep are Christians and the goats are unbelievers, but is there any support for that view? The passages describe works, not beliefs. Those who did good works in the service of others are saved, and those who did not receive punishment.

    The Judgment of the Dead
    Revelation 20

    11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.


    In the above description of Judgment Day from the Book of Revelation, the focus is again on works, not beliefs. The dead, all of them, are judged according to what their actions during their lives, not their beliefs.

    So how does that square with the words of Jesus declaring "No one comes to the Father except through me"? Perfectly, because Jesus is the King on the Throne rendering judgement. But He is not judging based on whether each individual believed in Him, but rather by the actions of each person while living out their earthly life.


    It is because salvation is not guaranteed to those who claim to be Christians, that the following can be found in the Book of James:

    Faith Without Works Is Dead

    14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

    18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without [a]your works, and I will show you my faith by [b]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 [c]dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made [d]perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was [e]accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

    25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

    26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.


    And in Matthew 7, we find Jesus saying

    I Never Knew You

    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’


    So while it is expected that Christians will do good works because of their faith, if they do not, then their faith does not save them. And at the same time, those who do not believe in Jesus as their savior will also be judged by their works, and may indeed see the Kingdom of Heaven.
    "If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth." - Ronald Reagan

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  3. #2
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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    I think this is an area where there is some balance in the scriptures. I mean, we saved by faith apart from works. Works however, are the natural side effect of true faith. This is because we ultimately do what we believe.

    Mark 16:16
    "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

    Romans 10:9
    that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
    This "faith" is in something very specific, and that is faith in Jesus Christ. Faith that He is the son of God. Faith that he died and was raised to life. Faith that He prepares a place for us.

    Acts 4:12
    Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

    Because faith is central to any teaching on salvation. We are judged on our works, but that is not judgment to salvation. (1 corn 3:12-15). Good works are rewarded, but the reward is not salvation. Only faith leads to salvation.
    To serve man.

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Do you guys feel like these teachings account for certain specifics?

    For example:

    ~There are people who will live their whole lives never hearing of Jesus and the message of salvation - They are unable to commit themselves to Jesus.
    ~There are people who HAVE heard of Jesus, but cannot commit to Jesus because they simply find the claims unpersuasive - They, too, are unable to commit.

    Suppose a gay man in a gay relationship actually does more good works than the common Christian. They've heard of Jesus and Salvation, but have not seen/experienced evidence that rises to the power of inducing belief; they cannot believe these things. Would they stand a chance of getting into Heaven?

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    One issue I see with salvation from works is the difficulty of interpreting scripture to determine which and what kind of works earn salvation, and which do not. The very fact that the whole sola fide or not sola fide debate even exists illustrates just how difficult that interpretation is. It's why we'll always have some people doing works which they believe, based on their interpretation of the text, make them deserving of salvation, but which others see as not really good at all. So how is anyone supposed to know which is which with any useful or reasonable degree of certainty?

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by futureboy View Post
    So how is anyone supposed to know which is which with any useful or reasonable degree of certainty?
    There is a Bible passage that comes to mind (and probably many more that haven't) which may offer some general guidance.

    On the issue of which days of the week should be considered holy, Romans 14 verse 5 says:
    "One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind." That was written in a section explaining that Christians should not rebuke each other, but I think it is the "fully convinced in their own mind" that is relevant here. If a Christian believes doing a certain action is a good work, then he or she should do it. Of course, those works should be guided by what Jesus teaches about how to treat other people, including "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself". And I think this implies that those trying to do what they believe are good works won't be found at fault if the works aren't the best possible choices or if the efforts end up with poor results.
    "If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth." - Ronald Reagan

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    Do you guys feel like these teachings account for certain specifics?
    I think, that there are two general truths that are communicated, that specifics are not able to really be relevant to.

    1) That everyone is lost, and in need of salvation.
    2) That Jesus is the only solution to that problem.

    From there we are talking about application.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus
    For example:

    ~There are people who will live their whole lives never hearing of Jesus and the message of salvation - They are unable to commit themselves to Jesus.
    ~There are people who HAVE heard of Jesus, but cannot commit to Jesus because they simply find the claims unpersuasive - They, too, are unable to commit.
    So, the question is first, do either of those effect the underlying truths? I think the bible addresses each.
    To the first, of people who haven't heard, it says this.

    Romans 10:13-15
    13for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14How then can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”…

    To the second, I think the premise is rejected. It assumes there is some lacking in the evidence as the cause of non committal. This is rejected and instead it is said.
    Romans 1:19-21
    19For what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts.…


    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus
    Suppose a gay man in a gay relationship actually does more good works than the common Christian. They've heard of Jesus and Salvation, but have not seen/experienced evidence that rises to the power of inducing belief; they cannot believe these things. Would they stand a chance of getting into Heaven?
    The answer from the above is "no".
    1Corn 9
    9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who submit to or perform homosexual acts, ....


    So, it does not depend on if one has heard or not to determine if one is guilty. The clearest teaching is that all are guilty of sin. The only hope a person has, is not with not being convinced after hearing, but in having never heard at all.

    Romans 12-14
    12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death was passed on to all men, because all sinned. 13For sin was in the world before the Law was given; but sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who did not sin in the way that Adam transgressed. He is a pattern of the One to come.…

    The problem is, that even if someone in some situation can appeal to complete ignorance of SOME laws. It would be the most extreme of examples to find one who has not knowingly transgressed some law. In just a short conversation you can have everyone admit to lying, stealing and sexual immorality. Knowing that they have broken the moral law. So i don't see appeals to ignorance as a very solid foundation for any kind of argument for innocence and thus entry to heaven.
    To serve man.

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  11. #7
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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by MindTrap028 View Post
    The answer from the above is "no".
    Alright, so here we have something of an impasse. On the one hand, we have a person who lives a good life, does good deeds, and whose works (for the sake of argument) is morally superior to, say, the "average" Christian (let's not quibble over "average"). In this case, the quality of the person's works wasn't sufficient to get them into Heaven, even though the vast majority of his works were morally superior to that of the average Christian, effectively nullifying much of the implied deference in the opening post.

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    Do you guys feel like these teachings account for certain specifics?

    For example:

    ~There are people who will live their whole lives never hearing of Jesus and the message of salvation - They are unable to commit themselves to Jesus.
    ~There are people who HAVE heard of Jesus, but cannot commit to Jesus because they simply find the claims unpersuasive - They, too, are unable to commit.
    If my interpretation of the passages is correct, then yes it would apply to them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    Suppose a gay man in a gay relationship actually does more good works than the common Christian. They've heard of Jesus and Salvation, but have not seen/experienced evidence that rises to the power of inducing belief; they cannot believe these things. Would they stand a chance of getting into Heaven?
    I believe so, yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    Alright, so here we have something of an impasse.
    I see that MT posted a "No". His response to my op isn't quite clear to me, but I believe he is in disagreement with my interpretations, so his "No" in variance with the op is consistent with his first post.
    Last edited by evensaul; March 1st, 2019 at 09:50 AM.
    "If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth." - Ronald Reagan

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  14. #9
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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by MindTrap028 View Post
    The answer from the above is "no".
    Quote Originally Posted by evensaul View Post
    I believe so, yes.

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    MT, thank you for your response. I freely admit that I might be wrong in my interpretations, but would like to ask some questions. Feel free to ask me some also.

    Quote Originally Posted by MindTrap028 View Post
    I mean, we saved by faith apart from works. Works however, are the natural side effect of true faith. This is because we ultimately do what we believe.
    If we are saved by faith apart from works, how do you interpret "Faith without works is dead"?

    How could faith be dead without works, if it provides salvation apart from works?

    Why does the sheep and goats parable describe salvation depending on works, if salvation is through faith alone?

    Quote Originally Posted by MindTrap028 View Post
    Mark 16:16
    "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
    Condemned prior to Judgment Day, yes. But I think Jesus can and will grant pardons to those who did not believe and yet lived their lives in line with His teachings without that belief. Wouldn't that be the right and just action to take?

    Seems to me it is probably harder to live a lifetime treating people well without believing there is someone watching who might dispense some ultimate reward.
    Last edited by evensaul; March 1st, 2019 at 10:27 AM.
    "If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth." - Ronald Reagan

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by evensaul View Post
    I think this implies that those trying to do what they believe are good works won't be found at fault if the works aren't the best possible choices or if the efforts end up with poor results.
    This sounds as if you're saying that the actual good or bad value of the action is based on whether the person truly believes it's what they should do according to scripture or the teachings of Jesus, and not based on an objective moral standard. Is that what you're saying?

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by futureboy View Post
    This sounds as if you're saying that the actual good or bad value of the action is based on whether the person truly believes it's what they should do according to scripture or the teachings of Jesus, and not based on an objective moral standard. Is that what you're saying?
    A problem with saying yes to that question seems to be that morality is subjective, and good/bad value can change with the tweaking of just a few situational details. I'd be willing to try to answer more specific questions if you have some to offer.
    "If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth." - Ronald Reagan

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by evensaul View Post
    A problem with saying yes to that question seems to be that morality is subjective, and good/bad value can change with the tweaking of just a few situational details. I'd be willing to try to answer more specific questions if you have some to offer.
    Well, you don't necessarily need to say yes or no - you could provide some clarification to try and make sure you don't end up saying that morality is subjective and we could go from there. There aren't really any more specific questions which could be asked at this point. The first question was how to know whether an action is good or bad, and your answer so far seems to be that it depends on each person's interpretation of what they should do according to scripture/Jesus. But you have a problem with confirming whether that's what you're saying because it sounds like subjective morality. So if that's not what you're saying then the first question remains unanswered and we're left at not having any way of knowing whether an action is good or bad.

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    I think a problem here is that my thread and comments to you are more about good/bad value intentions, not a value assigned to the results. If Bob firmly believes that some action is a good work x, then he shouldn't refrain from doing it because Joe disagrees and is doing y, which Bob doesn't think is a good work. If you're looking for some way to determine whether x is actually better than y, then I have no guidance to offer.
    "If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth." - Ronald Reagan

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by evensaul View Post
    I think a problem here is that my thread and comments to you are more about good/bad value intentions, not a value assigned to the results. If Bob firmly believes that some action is a good work x, then he shouldn't refrain from doing it because Joe disagrees and is doing y, which Bob doesn't think is a good work. If you're looking for some way to determine whether x is actually better than y, then I have no guidance to offer.
    I don't see how the distinction you're trying to make is relevant or even valid. I'm merely pointing out the issue which your OP fails to answer. From your summing-up of the OP:

    So while it is expected that Christians will do good works because of their faith, if they do not, then their faith does not save them. And at the same time, those who do not believe in Jesus as their savior will also be judged by their works, and may indeed see the Kingdom of Heaven.

    You refer to "good works" as the determining criteria for salvation, but don't offer any definition of what "good works" means. It has nothing to do with values assigned to intentions or results. So the question remains: How is anyone supposed to know whether an action (works) is good or bad? Your initial attempt at an answer is essentially subjective morality - whatever one truly believes is right, according to their interpretation of scripture, is good.
    Now you're saying that you don't have a way of determining which works earn salvation and which do not. So the "good works" of your OP remains without a definition. I really don't know where you go from there.

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by futureboy View Post
    Your initial attempt at an answer is essentially subjective morality - whatever one truly believes is right, according to their interpretation of scripture, is good. I really don't know where you go from there.
    In terms of my op, I don't see a need to go anywhere from there. If you do, then I'm not seeing a way to get you there.
    "If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth." - Ronald Reagan

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by evensaul View Post
    In terms of my op, I don't see a need to go anywhere from there.
    You don't see a need to provide clear definitions for essential components of your premises?

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    The definitions of necessary components seem clear enough. I really don't understand what is lacking for the op to make sense as it is. Providing an answer to "which and what kind of works" might earn salvation is outside the scope of the op, and is not required for the op to stand as written. But if you want a better understanding of which and what kind of works are important, I'd say another reading of the parable describing the separation of sheep from goats is a good place to start. What kind of works worthy of reward are described?
    "If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth." - Ronald Reagan

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by evensaul View Post
    The definitions of necessary components seem clear enough. I really don't understand what is lacking for the op to make sense as it is.
    It's lacking a clear definition of "good works" which would allow one to determine whether work X qualifies as a "good work". Lacking that, all your OP is saying is that there are some works which earn salvation, but we don't know what those are in order to know whether any works earn salvation. It makes the entire concept of being able to earn salvation through works meaningless.

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    Re: Christianity and the Salvation of Unbelievers

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    Alright, so here we have something of an impasse. On the one hand, we have a person who lives a good life, does good deeds, and whose works (for the sake of argument) is morally superior to, say, the "average" Christian (let's not quibble over "average"). In this case, the quality of the person's works wasn't sufficient to get them into Heaven, even though the vast majority of his works were morally superior to that of the average Christian, effectively nullifying much of the implied deference in the opening post.
    Yea, I think the OP gets it wrong, so I'm not arguing in support of it.
    The cental teaching of the entire bible, is that one can't be "good enough". It's depicted through our concept of the law.
    In this I am granting all of your assumptions. That the person was morally superior to the averag christian, in regards to good works.
    The problem is that your asking the wrong question. One goes to hell because they are guilty at all, not because they are more guilty than another.
    So the person in your example transgressed the law in only 1 point, and the average christian transgresses in 99. Biblically they are both still guilty, and need a savior.

    That is a central concept of old and new testement.


    -----
    Quote Originally Posted by evensaul View Post
    MT, thank you for your response. I freely admit that I might be wrong in my interpretations, but would like to ask some questions. Feel free to ask me some also.
    Thanks, and no problem. I won't claim to have it all exactly right.. but I try.


    Quote Originally Posted by evensaul
    If we are saved by faith apart from works, how do you interpret "Faith without works is dead"?
    It's like he said, show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith through my works.
    We ultimatly do what we believe, and so that is the measure we are held to.

    So while the theif on the Cross was justified, with only a proclomation of faith, Job had to live his faith out and have his faith produce fruit.
    The focus for him was actually inaction. IE not cursing God.

    Some things cause salvation, other things are products of salvation. In regards to works, they are products of salvation.


    Quote Originally Posted by evensaul
    How could faith be dead without works, if it provides salvation apart from works?
    This you should see as an active agent thing.
    One who simply says "I believe" and then lives life as though he does not, that kind of faith can not save it produced no fruit.. it isn't real.
    Real faith is going to have effects in our decission making and our lives. That doesn't make the works the active agent in salvation, it simply makes it the outward proof or fruit of salvation.


    Quote Originally Posted by evensaul
    Why does the sheep and goats parable describe salvation depending on works, if salvation is through faith alone?
    I would say that it doesn't clearly teach that. Especially not as clearly as faith is made distinct from works.

    Romans 3:28
    27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of works? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.


    Quote Originally Posted by evensaul
    Condemned prior to Judgment Day, yes. But I think Jesus can and will grant pardons to those who did not believe and yet lived their lives in line with His teachings without that belief. Wouldn't that be the right and just action to take?

    Seems to me it is probably harder to live a lifetime treating people well without believing there is someone watching who might dispense some ultimate reward.
    There is no condemnation appart from judgment.
    On the final judgment day, the day of the second death spoken of in revelations, all of Hades is thrown into the pit of fire. I don't read anywhere where anyone gets taken out.
    So, I don't follow the distinction you are making about condmenation appart from judgment day and the above is a bit of a guess at what you mean so I appologize if I miss the mark.
    My question would be for you to expand on this.

    Jesus Granting pardons...
    The bottom line, is that we have taught that the law applies to all people. Iehter through exposure to the written and expressed law of God. AKA the Jews and OT, or through the law that is written on mens hearts.
    But what we learn from the Bible is that no one is made righteous through the law. The purpose of the law is to reveal our need of a savior.


    Galations 3:
    10All who rely on works of the law are under a curse. For it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”c 11And it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”d 12The law, however, is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”


    you may be struggling to balance that out with things like this...

    Romans 2
    12All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the law who will be declared righteous.

    The point is, that the law is not passed away, everyone is subject to the law, but only Christ fulfills the law.
    The standard of the law, is that one has to be 100percent and all the time in line with the law. No one can do that, and thus no one is saved through works of the law. That is not to say that following the law is not actual righteousness. It's just that transgression of the law is our problem, and following the law in other parts is not salvific in nature.
    To serve man.

 

 
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