theology

Eternal Judgment: 4 – Atonement Is Not Universally Applied


Suggested Pre-Reading: Eternal Judgment: 3


Upon hearing that righteousness before God is granted apart from the law, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, one might be inclined to think that everyone will therefore be counted as righteous on the Day of Judgment. After all, if salvation is not the result of human effort, but an effect of Jesus’ atoning death, what would prevent all humans from being saved? Indeed, this is a fair question to ask. To answer it, we must go to Scripture. As we do so, we see unequivocally that only some people get saved; only some are counted as righteous before God.

If this sounds shocking, that a loving God only grants righteousness to some people, consider the only other options in regards to salvation and righteousness:

  • God saves none
  • God saves all

If either of these options were true, there would be no need for the Bible and the teachings of God. If the point of Scripture is to teach the way of salvation, then such a teaching is pointless if God does not save. Conversely, if God has determined to save everyone, then there is no need to know the way of salvation taught in Scripture, for salvation will be granted no matter what one believes.

So the idea that the Bible teaches only some will be saved stands up under logical scrutiny. Furthermore, the New Testament is replete with references to righteousness being granted to those who have heard about the sacrifice of Christ and believed the message they were told.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe…(Romans 3: 21 – 22)

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4: 5)

…with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform…for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4: 20 – 25 segments)

…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; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10: 9 – 10)

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10: 14 – 17)

These passages make it clear that it is not simply the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that saves. The sacrifice of Christ must be coupled with the faith of an individual, in order to be efficacious in regards to righteousness. We see in the Old Testament this idea of coupling faith with a God-ordained sacrifice. The prophet Isaiah rebuked the people of Israel for faithlessly participating in God-ordained temple sacrifices.

Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah. “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me…” (Isaiah 1: 10 – 13)

The people did not have faith in God. Yet they brought before God sacrifices in accordance with the law. Because they lacked faith, the sacrifices they brought were not received by God. Likewise, if someone does not believe in Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of Christ is of no value to them, although the fact remains He did indeed die for them, just as the bulls and goats did indeed die on behalf of faithless Israel in the days of Isaiah.

We see another precedent in the Passover. Although the invitation to slaughter the Passover lamb and smear the blood was given to all, only those who actually believed God, and killed the lamb and smeared the blood, were passed over by the destroying angel. Similarly, the invitation to believe in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is extended to all people through the preaching of the gospel. Yet only those who believe the preached message will be declared righteous on Judgment Day. Spiritually speaking, the atoning work of Jesus Christ must be applied to the individual human soul, just as the atoning blood of the Passover Lamb had to be applied to the doorposts. If the lamb was slaughtered and the blood was shed, but the blood was unapplied, the house would have lost its firstborn that night.

Let us end with a hypothetical.

There are two people sitting next to each other at church on a Sunday morning. Both claim to be Christians. Both, on the Friday night before church, went out on the town and committed grievous sins against God – drunkenness and sexual immorality. While the pastor is preaching the gospel message of Jesus Christ, the first person is delighted with joy, for they know that not only the sins they committed on Friday, but the sum work of their entire life, will lead to a judgment of “guilty” by God. But they do not fear this judgment, for in faith they believe in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and they know their righteousness is because of Christ and not because of their own piety. The other person, knowing that they sinned against God on Friday night, made a point to show up to church on Sunday, hoping to make up for the sins they committed by attendance and by putting a little extra in the offering plate. This person in their own mind is generally a moral person pleasing to God, but every once in a while slips up and needs to make amends to get right with God.

Only the first person has true faith in Jesus Christ. They will be counted as righteous on Judgment Day. The other person has a false faith. They believe in themselves, and that they can atone for their own sins through religious service. They will be guilty on the Day of Judgment and judged as an unbeliever.

Righteousness before God is real. It is not given to all, but only to some. And it cannot be faked, for God is not deceived. Those with true faith, a faith that is itself a gift from God, are the righteous ones. Those with a contrived faith, a faith that comes not from God but from within, are lawless and do not know Christ.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7: 21 – 23)

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 4 – Summarizing the Centrality of Christ


Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ 3


It has crossed my mind that perhaps the cart has been put before the horse. We have discussed how Christ is central to the New Testament, the Old Testament, and the five major covenants of God. But we have not talked a lot about “the Christ”. So herein is a brief summary of the Christ, serving as the conclusion to our study of the principle that God’s oracles center around Him.

The foundation for the Christ is laid when the prophet Nathan gives King David these words from God:

Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7: 16)

God promised David an eternal throne. Over the course of time the prophets made it clear that the eternal throne would be occupied not by an endless succession of kings, but by one ultimate king.

…I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. (Jeremiah 23: 5)

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom…(Isaiah 9: 7)

But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11: 4)

My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. (Ezekiel 37: 24)

One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7: 13 – 14)

Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices. (Zechariah 6: 13)

Because the prophets clearly told of a coming king from the line of David, one might think that the most frequent rabbinic name ascribed to this anticipated man would be “Melek ben David”, meaning King Son of David. But the rabbis did not call Him that; instead, they referred to Him as “Mashiach ben David”, meaning Messiah Son of David. To understand why the rabbis called this man Messiah, one needs to know what Messiah means:

The word Messiah comes from a Hebrew term that means “anointed one.” Its Greek counterpart is Christos, from which the word Christ comes…In Old Testament times, part of the ritual of commissioning a person for a special task was to anoint him with oil. The phrase “anointed” one was applied to a person in such cases.1

In the Old Testament there are many messiahs. Saul was anointed as king of Israel. David was anointed as king of Israel. God anointed the Gentile king Cyrus to allow the Jews to return to Israel. This concept of an anointed one, which had general usage, took on a new specific usage because of the prophecies about the son of David. The son of David was commissioned by God to be a king. He would be a king, not just of Israel, but the entire world. He would bring about a universal utopia, the likes of which this world has never seen. He would teach the world the commands of God. There would be mass conversion to the God of Israel. The accomplishments of this man would be exceeded by no one. Therefore, this person was not “an” anointed one, but “the” anointed one. That is why the rabbis called him Mashiach ben David. That is why we call Him Jesus Christ.

The magnitude of the messianic vision of the prophets makes it easy to conclude that the Christ is at the center of all of God’s oracles. How could a man commissioned to do all of the things the prophets said not be the primary character of God’s story? How could someone who single-handedly ushers in the utopia we all yearn for not be the central figure of the Biblical narrative? We would do well to remember the words of Jesus, Mashiach ben David, spoken to rabbis who, though waiting for Messiah, thought that the laws and commands of God were the central figures of the Biblical narrative:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…John 5: 39

The Bible is about Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One. Of this, we can be certain.


1 Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995)

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 3 – The Five Major Covenants Teach the Centrality of Christ


Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 2


The Bible contains five major covenants, or promises, from God:

Name Details
Noahic Covenant God promised to never again destroy humanity by flood
Abrahamic Covenant God promised to bless all the nations through Abraham
Israelite Covenant God promised to bless Israel if they obeyed His law and to curse them if they didn’t
Davidic Covenant God promised to set one of David’s offspring (the Messiah) on the throne as king forever
New Covenant God promised to usher in the Messianic kingdom and write His law on peoples’ hearts (unlike the Israelite Covenant in which the law was written on stone)

Each of the five covenants has Messianic implications. To put it another way, each of the five main promises of God are best understood in relation to the Messiah and His kingdom. Consider the words of the prophet Ezekiel, which link the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant to the start of the New (Everlasting) Covenant:

My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them…David My servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. (Ezekiel 37: 24 – 26)

The link between the covenants and the Christ was noticed by far more than the prophet Ezekiel. The authors of the New Testament also commented on the five covenants and interpreted them in light of the Messiah:

Covenant New Testament Reference
Noahic For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3: 5 – 7)
Abrahamic Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3: 7 – 9)
Israelite Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also…For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 7: 11 – 12, 10: 1)

Davidic After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’ From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus…(Acts 13: 22 – 23)

New (Everlasting) For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the LORD, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant (Hebrews 8: 7 – 9)

As we can see by these New Testament teachings, each of the covenants relate to Jesus the Messiah in their own particular way. Jesus will judge humanity with fire, akin to how God judged humanity with water in the days of Noah. The nations have been blessed through Abraham because it is the gospel of one of his descendants (Jesus) that has gone out to the world and brought unbelievers into the household of God. The Israelite Covenant demonstrated that humanity by its own power could never achieve righteousness through obedience, and it pointed to the need for a greater covenant in which God supplied everything necessary for salvation – this was fulfilled by Jesus and the New Covenant. Jesus and the New Covenant were also the means by which God fulfilled His promise to David, to provide him an everlasting throne and kingdom.

Just as the New Testament is about Jesus, just as the Old Testament is about Jesus, so too are the five major covenants about Jesus. We should expect this, because it is consistent with what God wants us to know. God wants us to know and believe in Jesus Christ, and He has engineered the whole of Scripture, including His five main covenants, to testify to Jesus and our need for a Savior.

Introduction to Faith Foundations

It seems appropriate, after more than two years of producing blogs targeting mature Christians, to provide content suitable for a new Christian or a non-Christian wanting to learn about Christianity. Therefore, the next series will be called “Faith Foundations”, and will discuss seven core Christian principles found in the Bible. An overview is provided below:


The Bible is a big book. There is a lot to read and understand. If you are a new Christian, or a non-Christian wanting to learn about Christianity, where do you start? What page do you turn to?

Although there is more than one answer to those questions, it may be helpful to point out that within the Bible is a short list of what are considered “the elementary principles of the oracles of God.” These would be things that are considered essentials of Christianity, foundations of the faith:

  • Repentance from dead works
  • Faith toward God
  • Instructions about washing and laying on of hands
  • Resurrection of the dead
  • Eternal judgment

This list is taken from the sixth chapter of the book of Hebrews. Implicit in the list are two more principles:

  • God reveals His oracles
  • God’s oracles center around Christ

Here is the passage these principles are taken from:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food…Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 5: 12, 6: 1 – 2)

The goal of Faith Foundations is not to comprehensively discuss the passage above, but to provide a detailed introduction to each of the seven principles listed. Whether a non-Christian, a new-Christian, or an old-Christian, it is hoped that the end result of the series will be a useful primer.