What’s Your View?
You may not want to hear it. You may not believe me. But I want to tell you an astonishing truth right up front: not all Jesus believers on this planet believe exactly the same as you do, but they’re still believers in Jesus! I know . . . that’s a real shock to you. I’m sorry I had to be the one to break this news to you, but you’d have probably found it out sooner or later, anyhow. You see, we who are believers in Jesus tend to feel that other believers in Jesus hold the same views we do—that is, if they’re “real” Jesus believers as we are . . . C’mon now, be honest. Don’t we all tend to think a little bit like that? In one area of belief or another? Sure we do. We all hold to certain teachings or biblical doctrines we believe are absolutely true, and if others don’t believe them the same way we do, we suspect they just might not be genuine believers in Jesus as we are.
In fact, we even tend to congregate with other believers who think alike. It’s less unsettling that way. In some respects, that’s why we have denominations and non-denominational denominations—so we can be around other people who hold similar views. We’re more comfortable.
After all, it’s kind of uncomfortable being around other people who don’t think and talk quite as we do. For some people, it’s actually threatening to be around Jesus believers who are “different.” We think to ourselves: “Let’s see, Jesus lives in me and Jesus is the truth; therefore, my truth about Jesus, about God, about the Bible, about salvation—must be the truth, too.” I’m not making fun or being critical. That’s just one of the ways human minds work. We tend to develop a case of spiritual “tunnel vision” and discount or minimize contrary or different views held by other believers or other religious groups as not being the real truth like we believe.
There’s even a web-shaped group of cells in the brain called the reticular activating system which tends to actually filter out incoming information which doesn’t “fit” our thinking or beliefs. We say to ourselves, “Okay, maybe (name someone) or the (name another Church or group) are believers in Jesus . . . kinda . . . sorta . . . but not really like we are; after all, we really believe the Bible—all of it—and they don’t—at least not like we do.”
I’m being serious here . . . about a serious problem. God’s universal Church, the worldwide Body of Jesus, contains far more people than we think it does, and there are far more people who are believers in Jesus than we believe there are. They may dress differently, think differently, worship differently, use a different version of the Bible (and believe some of it differently), “perceive” God differently, and talk differently . . . but they’re still Jesus believers in all aspects and in all respects just as we are.
The Church of Jesus is comprised of everyone everywhere and everywhen in whom Jesus lives in the “unbodied form” of the Holy Spirit!
Let me give you one example of the spiritual tunnel vision I mentioned earlier. I know of one particular group of Jesus believers in my communitywho teach and seriously believe that if you read or study any version of the Bible other than the old, outdated King James Version, you cannot possibly be a believer in Jesus! Let’s see, I’ve got at least six or seven different versions (besides the King James Version) in my bookcase about two feet away from where I’m sitting right now. Hmmm, where does that kind of thinking leave me? Is it really possible that I’m not an authentic believer in Jesus because I don’t rely solely upon the King James Version of the Bible? Maybe that belief is a bit extreme, but in a less extreme way what do you believe that causes you to think maybe—just maybe—someone else isn’t really a genuine believer because he or she doesn’t believe exactly as you do?
If you feel that way, as author J. B. Phillips once put it, “Your God is too small!” You need to realize there are millions of other believers in Jesus who are not made in your image. God is in the process of restoring people into his image, not in your image or in the image of other people who believe as you do. And God’s image certainly encompasses a great many more people than does our image.
God’s universal Church is a Church of infinite variety. What does it mean to be created in God’s image? It means we are visible representations of the invisible God. God’s invisible image in us is as diverse as there are people. Yes, we need to see beyond our own limited beliefs and doctrines and understand that the Body of Jesus is much larger than our own little worlds we move around in from day to day. God has an innumerable company of sons and daughters, all of whom are as much his children as you and I are. And the Body of Jesus is comprised of many different parts, some of those parts holding differing views. Nevertheless, it’s one composite, many-membered body, with Jesus as the Head!
Whew! “Why in the world,” you ask, “is Bill writing all this stuff?” Thanks for asking. Here’s why. You need to understand there are differing views about many biblical subjects, all held by true, legitimate, honest, authentic believers in Jesus.
One particular view—maybe the very belief you embrace—may be only part of the whole truth. Don’t ever be naïve enough to feel that the small portion of truth you comprehend and embrace is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You need to be tolerant enough to let others hold their views about various biblical subjects without condemning them and excluding them from God’s family of believers in Jesus. Oh, I’m not saying you need to believe what others believe. But, please, do them the courtesy of “letting” them hold their views just as you hold yours. Their views may be as true, authentic, legitimate and honest as yours.
Each group and each individual has its own states of awareness and its own levels of understanding. Our awareness of God, Jesus, and the Bible is based upon such factors as our individual genetic makeup, lifetime conditioning, cultural biases, family traditions, who teaches us the Bible and why, and with what groups we are involved for fellowship and ministry. Do you readily see how each of us comes to various biblical subjects with different states of awareness and levels of understanding? Oh, we have the same God. The same Jesus. The same Holy Spirit. The same salvation through the shed blood, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The same Bible in most respects . . . but differing views, doctrines, and beliefs.
I want to share with you some different views about one controversial doctrine or view: eternal judgment. “But,” you ask, “how can there be differing views? Doesn’t there have to be just one view that’s the correct one?” The only way I can attempt to answer that without going into a lot of detail is with this simple illustration. The person, character, and nature of God is like that of a many-faceted diamond. It’s the same diamond, but there are many facets to it, each facet just a little different from the other facets. Yes, the same God, the same means of salvation, but differing perceptions of eternal judgment depending upon the vantage point from which we approach the subject.
We have different levels of understanding, different states of awareness, different “filter systems,” different reticular activating systems in our brains, different backgrounds; we come from different eras, we hold different understandings of the meanings of words . . . Yes, we have many, many types of differences—often leading us to differing conclusions about many matters.
Let’s have God be God, Jesus be the Savior, truth be truth, and eternal judgment be eternal judgment, but let’s recognize and acknowledge we don’t all hold the same views of how it all turns out in the end. As long as God, Jesus, and the Bible are central to our understanding and personal experience, then whatever views we hold about eternal judgment are as legitimate as the views held by the next Jesus believer or group of believers.
Four Major Views
There are four major views about eternal judgment which believers in the Bible all over the world have held in one form or another and to one extent or another for 2,000+ years. I’m going to be oversimplifying them and generalizing a little, but here’s a summary of those four views:
- One. Authentic believers in Jesus go to heaven when they die. Pre-believers go to hell (or the lake of fire) when they die, where they are punished for their sins by being burned “alive” and tormented forever in the never-ending fires of hell (or the lake of fire). When all the pre-believers in hell have finally had all their sins burned out of them (no matter how long it takes, but not forever), they will go to heaven, and hell’s “unquenchable” fires will then die out for lack of “fuel.”
How in the world do well-meaning, rational, thoughtful, intelligent, serious believers in Jesus get four differing views about eternal judgment from the same Bible and, often, from the same references in the Bible? How can that possibly happen? Good question. I’ll attempt to answer that later, but first I want to examine what the four views have in common.
To be continued and concluded next month.
“We are all going to be changed; we’ll all hear the loud blast of a trumpet, and in less time than it takes to blink, we’ll be changed! We’ll be up and out of our graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. Yes, in God’s resurrection scheme of things, we will all be changed!” –Paraphrased from 1Corinthians 15
To Think About This Month
“We shall never cease from our mortal journeying, and the end of all our journeying will be to arrive at where we started and know the Place for the first time!” –adapted from T. S. Eliot
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Revised and Updated May 2019