Leaving the Fold

Leaving the Fold

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Does God want everyone in Heaven?

Does God want everyone in heaven?

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”2 Peter 3:9

For the sake of context in the corresponding chapter Peter’s audience appears troubled that the day of judgment, i.e. Jesus return, has not come yet despite the fact it was anticipated that he would return in the lifetime of the first disciples and in this particular passage Peter is trying to reassure them.

There are two verses, which appear to present a conflicting idea with 2 Peter 3:9 which states that God does not want anyone to perish, this is not including the heart hardening verse from Romans.

- “He [God] hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.”
– John 12:40

“God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie; That they all might be damned.”
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12

The first verse is an apparent fulfilment of a prophecy made by the prophet Isaiah, referred to as Esaias.

Together with the second one they appear, whether out of some unexplained necessity or not, to suggest that God deliberately assists the hardening of non-believers hearts against him. The role of discouraging non-believers from Christianity by making them less likely to convert seems to be attributed to God here. More often, this role is more commonly accepted to be the role played by the devil. There is some suggestion namely in Romans that this is done deliberately for the benefit of believers. This supports the idea that people’s fates, at least the fate of those who are unfortunate enough to have their hearts hardened further, are predetermined. In addition, it does not make sense that God would make people who doubt his existence or word, doubt even further if his will is they do not perish unless he has just given up on them. It it is as if God has no alternative available to him but to condemn non-believers as though something is preventing him from not following this course of action. Either way, it does not appear to promote the idea of free will. An earlier part of the passage in John talks about an entity assumed to be the anti-Christ, although the hardening part does not appear to apply to this being in particular. Does this character have free will if its destiny has been predetermined? If it had free will, could it gain knowledge of these prophecies and then decide if it does not want to make them true could it? The concept of predestination and free will seem to be polar opposites and I would argue they do not seem compatible.

Several following examples give support to the idea that God wants everyone in heaven. The following verses would certainly suggest that, despite the misgivings mentioned earlier God wants to save everyone.

“[2:1] First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, [2] for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. [3] This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight ofGod our Savior, [4] who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, [6] who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” - 1 Timothy 2:1-6

“[8] But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance. [10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”2 Peter 3:8-10 ESV

[16] “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. [19] And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. [20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. [21] But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” - John 3:16-21 ESV

However, as mentioned earlier the following excerpts do not support the idea that God wants everyone in heaven, some of these suggest that God selects, or appoints, people to heaven supporting the idea of predestination.

“[2:1] Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, [2] not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. [3] Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, [4] who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. [5] Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? [6] And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. [7] For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. [8] And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. [9] The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, [10] and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. [11] Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, [12] in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
-2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ESV

“[46] And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. [47] For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth. [48] And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. [49] And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” – Acts 13:46-49 ESV

- “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” – John 12:40

Indeed, more than once does the bible in the New Testament refer to a group of people who have been put aside, or chosen, to follow him. That just makes it sound like bad luck if you are not one of those individuals. In this manner the New Testament is similar to the Old Testament wherein God has chosen a group of people to be his chosen, much to the misfortune of those not in that group, at least in the Old Testament those who are not in this group, namely the gentiles, do not have to look forward to roasting for eternity. In the New Testament however, if you are not part of God’s selected group, there is hell to pay (pardon the pun).