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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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