Question 3: Would a loving God send people to Hell?

In this video my good mate Josiah talks about the firm but fair judgement that God expresses through Jesus Christ.

 

This is a really sensitive topic that haunts today’s churches. How can we communicate both the ‘love’ of God and the ‘justice’ that He brings? An answer to this question can be seen in a 20 minute Bible talk presented at Creek Road Church in Australia and the vod-cast can be seen here.

The Intermediate State: Where do Christians go when they die?

2.What happens to the individual person between death and the return of Christ, in the case of Christian believers?

This exam response will briefly discuss what happens to a Christian believer after they die for the period of time between their death and the return of Jesus Christ. It is beneficial to understand that in the beginning humans where created by God made up from a spirit and body which were tightly joined together. (Gen 2:7) Death was not in God’s plan for the perfect creation, and is directly a result of sin. (Gen 2:17; Rom 5:12) The death of a Christian believer results in a separation of the body and soul.[1] (Ecc 12:7 & Luk 23:43). This time of separation is commonly referred to as the ‘intermediate state’.

From our earthly experience we can deduce that the body is destroyed after death. The question that remains is what happens to the human spirit. For the Christian believer, the bible’s emphasis of the state of the soul after death is always positive. There is no hint of suffering, evil, sin or persecution. (Rev 6:10 and 7:15ff).

While the scriptures don’t spell out in detail what the intermediate state will encompass, the focus is on the fact that Christian believers are going to be with Christ. The key term is ‘with the Lord’. (i.e. Phi 1:23)

Paul’s writings are often positive about the intermediate state and there is also a sense of incompleteness. The vibe is that there is still something incomplete. Despite this incompleteness the soul is undoubtedly in heaven, with God. (2Cor 5:1-10).

The bible doesn’t lead the Christian believer to expect a gap between earth and heaven. This would exclude the idea of purgatory of which the Roman Catholics petition.

The bible teaches that Christian believers are not conscience in the intermediate state, but does suggest that those who have died or ‘gone to sleep’ are in heaven with Christ. Christians are taught that Christ will bring them with Him when he returns for final judgement. (1Thes4:14).  This raises the question of what ‘joys’ the Christians will experience. J.N. Darby fervently advocates immediate joy for the Christian after death.[2] Darby is often criticised for his dispensational views, although this is the case he helpfully differentiates between the intermediate and eternal states of the Christian after death. He argues that the bible never talks about spirits or souls being glorified. He shows that the human soul is not fully glorified after death, but that glorification is saved for the final judgment and reuniting of body and spirit. Darby suggests that there is an immediate joy for the Christian after death.[3] Others would interpret ‘gone to sleep’ as a death with a lack of conscience and therefore no human emotion.

To what end the human emotions are experienced is open for interpretation however we can conclude that after death, the Christian believer’s spirit is in heaven, with the Lord, waiting for Christ’s return and the final judgement where he and his body will be reunited and glorified for eternity. (Heb 12:23, . 2CO 5:1, Phil 1:23; Acts 3:21, Eph 4:10, John 5:21-30).


[1] M. Driscoll & G. Breshears, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, (Crossway, 2010) pp.409-410

[2] J.N. Darby, The State of the Soul After Death, (T. Weston Publishers, 1910)

[3]J.N. Darby, The State of the Soul After Death, , (T. Weston Publishers, 1910)

Salvation: Catholic vs. Protestant

1. Outline the key differences between the classical Protestant understanding of “salvation” and the official Roman Catholic understanding. (i.e. the official position of the Vatican, rather than informal-level popular Roman Catholicism).

 This response will quickly discuss the viewpoints of the Roman Catholic Church and the classical Protestant understanding of salvation. For the purposes of this response salvation will be referred to in terms God reuniting his people to himself through the forgiveness of sins and the giving of righteousness. This is achieved through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This essay will discuss the view points on the human portion of responsibility in salvation.

 The official Roman Catholic understanding is that the initial responsibility of salvation is God’s. He’s grace empowers man to respond to that grace. A man can respond and add to or detract from the work that God has done, not only for himself, but for his family and community thereafter.

 The traditional reformed view commences the same as the Roman Catholic, in that salvation is a choice of God, not of man (Eph 2:5; 2Thess. 2:13; Tit 2:11). God chose before creation, with no regard to man’s actions or thoughts, who would and wouldn’t be saved. The reformed view differs as salvation is never regarded as a human right or achievement, (Rom 3:20; Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:5)[1] rather it was fully achieved by Jesus by shedding his blood on the cross (Mk 14:24; Rom 5:9).

 Roman Catholicism believe that the response to God’s grace is displayed in Holy Sacraments. The sacraments are a sign of God’s grace. When faithfully celebrating the sacraments award the grace that they signify.[2]

 The Roman Catholic Church states that baptism is an essential part of salvation. Through baptism the grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us.[3] We should follow the example of our lord as he voluntarily submitted himself to baptism, which was intended for sinners in order to “fulfil all righteousness.”[4]

 Although the initial responsibility of salvation is God’s, when receiving the sacraments the outcome of the sacraments (God’s grace) will depend on the nature and character of the recipient.[5] Further, the Roman Catholic church says that if one lives a sacramental life, it is the sacraments that unite the recipient in a divine union with Jesus as their Saviour. Therefore the Roman Catholic church insists that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.[6]

This view of sacramental response stands in contrast to the Reformed view, even where human responsibility is stressed in the response to salvation, the emphasis always falls back to the saving works of Jesus Christ. No amount of praying, baptising, repenting or performing charitable deeds will increase the effectiveness of God’s grace upon one’s soul. Unlike the Roman Catholic view baptism is not a means of salvation, but it is a sign pointing to the covenant grace of Jesus Christ.[7]

Although The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the pathway to eternal life is supernatural and depends entirely of God’s gratuitous initiative[8] it clearly shows that justification establishes the mutual work of God’s grace and man’s actions. (1993). It says that grace is bound with the participation in the life of God (1997).

The most pivotal point in the salvation process for the reformed Christian is undoubtedly justification. The reformed view of salvation revolves heavily around God pardoning our sins and granting us an undeserved righteousness. The reformed view emphatically states that God does all the work in the salvation process from beginning to end. There is no contribution or mutual work involved. We are made right with God by His grace and it is the power is God’s mercy, not our works that fuels the process. (Titus 3:5-7)

The Roman Catholic idea of mutual salvation is highlighted by the fact that men are taught they can earn extra favour, (or lack thereof, that needs to be worked off by others), by either good or bad actions, not only for themselves, but also for their community. This is called ‘merit’.[9] According to the Catholic church the graces needed for sanctification can be merited for ourselves and for others. We can merit extra grace and love for the attainment of eternal life.[10]

 For the reformed believer God does all the work in salvation in enabling men to have faith,[11] and men are required to respond with repentance. Repentance is the changing of attitude towards God’s will with a behavioural change that follows.[12] Any good action that a Christian performs for themselves or their community is deemed to be in response to the saving work already completed in their lives by Jesus Christ. The reformed view is that a Christian’s good works point other people to Jesus Christ, rather than earning extra merit for themselves or for others.

Another contrasting point between the two views is ‘why Christians are saved?’ For the Roman Catholic church the outcome of salvation is heaven. The catechism describes heaven as ‘the ultimate end and fulfilment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.’[13]  This is essentially saying that we should expect heaven to be a glorious magnification of the things we like on Earth. Christians after death are perfectly purified and live forever with Christ. They become like God and live eternally.[14] They reign with Christ forever and ever and their job is to fulfil God’s will in relation to other men and to all creation.[15]

 As for the traditional reformed view the Westminster Shorter Catechism makes it clear that our purpose, on earth and in heaven, is to glorify God and enjoy Him. This is adequately proven with scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 10:31, Psalm 73:24-26 and John 17:22,24. The two views on why Christians are saved share the fact that salvation is eternal, and our job is to serve God. However the Roman Catholic view is man-centric and the reformed view is God-centric.

 To surmise, the official Roman Catholic view of salvation is that through Jesus, God has done the initial work that is required to be saved unto eternal life, however this must be followed up by a response of sacraments and merit. The Catholic view becomes Jesus, plus works. Whereas the traditional reformed view shows that it is God’s predetermined grace that enables man to have faith. This faith is displayed to the world by obedience to God’s will with the intention of displaying his glory, both here, and when we die in heaven. The reformed view equates to a Jesus only salvation.


[1] M.J. Harris, Salvation, p.764

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church – Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Citta del Vaticano 1993 (as found online: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM) (para. 1127) Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1605; DS 1606.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1987)

[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1224)

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1128)

[6] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1129)

[7] Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) XXVIII.1

[8] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1998)

[9] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.2006)

[10] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.2010)

[11] Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) XIV.1

[12] M.J. Harris, Salvation, p.764

[13] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1024)

[14] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1023)

[15] Catechism of the Catholic Church (para.1029)

How well do you know the Gospel Message of Christ?

There are DIY guides to access the afterlife, 10 ways to perfection, 7 gospel truths, 2 ways to live, 1 way not to live and a really painful headache at the end of all that reading. Sigh. Why is the most influential and life changing story of mankind so simple yet so hard to understand? Wouldn’t it be easier if God wrote it down somewhere? Lucky for us, he did. Read more How well do you know the Gospel Message of Christ?