This is my final post in the summary doctrine series. Today we look at what it means for people to respond to the Gospel and what happens to those who do or don’t accept the Gospel message. Like my other posts, I’m using the Evangelical Free Church of America’s statement of faith as a guide.
Response and Eternal Destiny. Article #10. We believe that God commands everyone everywhere to believe the gospel by turning to Him in repentance and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. Amen.
I. BASICS OF THE GOSPEL MESSAGE
A. The Gospel Message
The Gospel message is offered to everyone everywhere (Acts 17:30).[ref]I am a firm believer in the unlimited atoned. Primary passages about the unlimited atonement are 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:2; 2 Cor 5:14-15, 19. Some of the secondary and less clear descriptions of unlimited atonement are Isa 53:6; John 1:29; 3:16-18, 36; 4:42; 1 Tim 2:3-6; 4:10; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2; 4:14.[/ref] This is seen in how Jesus sent his disciples everywhere (Matt 28:19; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8) and it is seen in the grace of the Gospel’s proclamation in the book of Acts (to the Jews in Jerusalem in Acts 2, Samaritans in Acts 8, and Gentile world in Acts 10).
To receive the Lord Jesus Christ we must repent of our sins (Mark 1:14-15; Matt 11:20-21; 12:41; Luke 13:3, 5, 7; 16:30; 24:46-47). Peter taught this as part of the early church (Acts 2:38; 2 Peter 3:9) and Paul taught this too (Acts 3:19; 14:15; 17:30; 20:21; 26:17-20; Rom 2:4; 2 Cor 7:10; see Isa 55:6-7).
B. Receiving the Lord Jesus Christ
Receiving the Lord Jesus Christ is the personal nature of the Gospel because it is not just facts to believe, it is a personal relationship (John 1:12; Col 2:6; Phil 3:8; Col 1:27; 1 Cor 4:7; Rom 5:17; Rev 3:20). In this way, we confess that Jesus is Lord (Rom 10:8-13; 1 Cor 12:3) and also commit to follow him (Matt 4:19).
C. Christ as the Only Way for Salvation
While it seems wrong and unfair to an American mind, the Bible is absolutely clear that Jesus is the only way of Salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). It is through our faith in Jesus Christ that we are made right in God’s eyes (John 17:3; Rom 3:22)
II. THOSE WHO DON’T ACCEPT CHRIST
It is only through Jesus Christ that a person can be saved; therefore those who reject him suffer eternal punishment (Gal 1:6; Rom 9:22-23). Those who have rejected Jesus Christ will experience condemnation and eternal conscious punishment in hell.
The Bible describes hell as
- a place of physical torment with burning fire (Mark 9:43, 48; Jude 7: Rev 21:8),
- a fiery furnace (Matt 13:41-42), a place of flames (Luke 16:24),
- a place of darkness (Matt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; 2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13),
- a place banished from God’s presence (1 Thess 1:9; Matt 24:51; 22:13; 7:23),
- and it is described as a place of death and destruction (Rev 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8; Matt 7:13; Luke 6:49; Rom 9:22; Phil 3:19).
III. PEOPLE WHO DIE DURING THE CHURCH DISPENSATION
Believers that die under the dispensation of the church immediately go to heaven and are in the presence of our Lord (Phil 1:21-24). In heaven, believers experience great joy (Rev 19:7; Matt 22:2; 25:1-13) and shine like the sun (Mat 13:43).
IV. A BIBLICAL DESCRIPTION OF HELL
Hell is a place of eternal conscious punishment. Worms which will “never die” devour people and the fire that devours people will “never go out” (Isa 66:22-24; Mark 9:48). At the end times many bodies will rise up to “everlasting life” or to shame and “everlasting disgrace” (Dan 12:2-3). Hell is also described as an “eternal fire” (Matt 18:6-9; 25:4; Jude 7). The smoke of this fire that torments unbelievers in hell will rise “forever and ever” (Rev 14:9-11).
Likewise, the Devil, False Prophet, and the Beast will be tormented “day and night forever and ever” in hell (Rev 20:10, 14-15). In the New Testament letters unbelievers will receive “eternal destruction” (2 Thess 1:9), will “forever be separated” from the Lord (2 Thes 1:9), and are “doomed forever” to the blackest darkness (Jude 13).
V. THE NEW HEAVEN AND NEW EARTH
The New Heaven and New Earth will be a new place (Rev 21:5) that God creates after this world is destroyed (Isa 65:17). In this New Heaven and New Earth every tear will be wiped from people’s eyes (Rev 21:4) because there will be no more death, crying, sorrow, or pain (Rom 8:21-23; Isa 65:19-20), evil, idolatry, or dishonesty (Rev 21:27). There will no longer be a curse on anything (Rev 22:3), and the earth will no longer be in decay (Rom 8:21-23).
Instead, this new heaven and earth will be filled will God’s righteousness (2 Peter 3:13) and it will be a place of happiness and joy (Isa 65:17). God’s people—those who have accepted Jesus Christ—will rule with God in the same way they were supposed to have ruled when the world was created (Gen 1:26, 28; 22:5). God’s creation will worship him from this new heaven and earth that is a solid place that will not be shaken (Isa 66:22-23; Heb 11:10; 12:28).