A friend of mine, who is new to faith, texted me this morning. She found an article with some thoughts from the Pope. She wanted to know my thoughts on the matter.
Because it's such a hot topic right now, I wanted to post my reply both publically, and also anonymously- to help anyone who is unsure of what the Pope said, and how it aligns with the Word. You'll get the Q-Tip reference in a bit.
For the article and original source of what the Pope said, read here: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3320757
So without further writing, my reply:
"First, I want to say that I'm so proud of you for just wanting to know more, and digging deeper in your faith. The last year or so, has been a joy to watch you grow in Jesus and I can't tell you how excited I am for all that God is using you for, and transforming you into.
Before I say anything, I want to encourage you to never take what I say as truth. Not me. Not pastor. Not even the Pope.
We should always take what we hear, and go check it out for ourselves in the Bible, and make sure it lines up with what scripture says. Always. Not because we should live our lives distrusting and skeptical - but because the best way to recognize counterfeit truth is to be fully aware of genuine truth.
When bankers are trained to find counterfeit money, they aren't given a bunch a pictures of fake bills to study. They study the real thing. Over and over and over again, and by doing so, they're able to easily see the discrepancies of the counterfeits. The same is true with the Bible. The more we study it, because it's the genuine truth, the more easily we will recognize counterfeits. Some fake truths are much more recognizable- like Monopoly money- and easily spotted. Then there are others which are difficult to discern a difference because almost everything lines up. But by studying the exact and real genuine truth of the Bible, we can see when one or two small bits are off just a little, and therefore just enough to no longer be truth.
The other reason we need to evaluate everything through the word, is because we want to read the Bible for transformation and not just for information.
Many people make the mistake of getting lots of knowledge from the Bible. But then it becomes a list of rules, a check list of obligations, and a source like Google, with no power to equip them. When we read for transformation- we are open and allow God to change what we think is best, for what He says is best. We allow Him to shape us, like a piece of clay in the hands of a skilled potter, with His word as the instruction for crafting, and looking like Him as the end result.
It is true that we are made in the image of Christ- God made us in His likeness. The Bible mentions this in the story of creation. Genesis 1:26 says, "Let Us make man in Our image, and according to Our likeness", as human-kind is created in the garden.
(In case you're wondering, the plural references in the verse above like "us" and "our" are proof of the trinity- God in three persons- Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Just to be clear! And that doesn't mean I think you're stupid- it just means I don't want to confuse you or leave any open-ended rabbit trails!)
When sin entered the world, and every day since then, we've been distanced further and further from the original image of God. That's why we live shorter than 600 years like people in early Bible stories. It's why we see people dying of diseases and horrible stories of famine and torture. Because mankind has become increasingly distanced from that original image - which is like God.
We will be returned to our original purpose- back to that perfect image - when Christ returns for us as believers! (Insert super excited emotion here!)
As Christ followers, though, we are able to be shaped closer to God's image in this fallen and terrible world by transforming ourselves with the power of the word. Romans 12:2 tells us "do not be conformed to the ways of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God".
If we want to be like God, if we want to be more like Him and do what He wants- His perfect will for us- we have to not become like the world, and transform our thinking and therefore our behavior and heart condition by washing ourselves with the word.
So take every bit of what I say, and go look it up. Go find it in your bible- (if you don't have one- you let me know and I'll get you one!) Mark your bible up! Digital copies are super convenient. But there's something about being able to mark and write in a hard copy of a bible, that imprints the truth onto your soul. I often can recall a verse or a truth I've learned, and don't know the exact reference of where to find it. But in my bible- I know the markings and pen writings are on the lower half of the left side of the pages, around 2/3 of the way through.
So dig out the truths for yourself. And be transformed as you do! God will reveal Himself to you- and 99% of the time- it's through His word! I promise, if you ask Him to show up- and then you open His word searching for transformational truth- He will rock your face off- and it will sustain you and keep you for every day! (Gah- can you tell I just love the word!?!? I hope so!)
Alright- so now that I've "set the stage"- let's bring some truth to what the pope said. (Insert crazy face here!)
Since you have the article to reference, and have read it in its entirety I'm not going to "line by line" prove him wrong. But I'll rather summarize what he said-and then meticulously point out what the Bible says about it.
Basically- the pope said- that as long as people are good, they're redeemed. As long as people do the right things, they will meet Jesus. Even atheists who don't believe in God, can do good, and will meet Him, and are saved.
Alright. First I want to say, that everyone- good people, saved people, atheists, murderers, rapists, mentally disabled, poor, rich, popular, shy....whatever and whoever- ALL people can be redeemed by God. The bible says in John 3:16 that "God so loved the world that He gave His son so that NONE would perish." He doesn't want anyone to experience hell. He never wanted for people to be separated from Him. His desire is to restore ALL men(and women!) to Himself. All. There are no exceptions.
So, yes- ALL people can be saved.
Next, I want to cover the idea that all will meet Jesus. Yes. The pope is right that we will all meet Jesus. We will all see Him and be in His presence at the end of life as we know it -
The Bible says that "We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess to God.' So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God". (Romans 14:10-12)
So yes, both the unbelieving and believing will see God, and will ultimately confess that He is Lord, and will bow to Him on that day. However, we will be judged and therefore accountable for our time on the earth, and what we did while living on it.
As for remaining in the presence of God, and abiding with Him for eternity - or being then separated and thrown into hell for eternity- is selective.
There are 2 different judgments that take place at the return of Christ. I'm not going to get into great detail now about them- but basically- there's one to separate the believers and unbelievers. And there's another to judge what we as believers have done with our lives. There's a separating line of those who believe and have made Jesus Lord. And one where we are accountable for what we did while on the earth.
In Revelation 20:11-15 talks about the White Throne Judgment. This is the one where believers and unbelievers are separated.
It starts in verse 11 with: "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away" (this is God seated on His throne- and John is having this vision of what is happening, and writes The book of Revelation as a prophecy for people to understand what's coming.) John continues- "and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God." (Here we see that no matter who you are- you will be judged. No matter how awesome you were on earth or how pathetic your life seemed. And also- if you die or live when Christ returns- you will still face this judgement. The dead will rise and be judged just the same.)
"And books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. (Death and Hades are names used through the Bible in reference to the devil. He is thrown into the lake of fire- or hell - at this point, and then the passage continues...) "and anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."
We see that people who were not found in this book- names on a list essentially- were not allowed to remain with God. They're thrown into hell, a continually burning place of fire, for eternity with the devil.
In Ephesians 4:30, we know that the Holy Spirit (who is God) is the one who "seals us" until this time, or writes our name in that book, at the time of salvation. Or when we ask Jesus to come into our life, to be Lord, and confess His death, burial, and resurrection power.
So the people who do not believe and confess that Jesus is Lord, that God raised Him from the dead, will not be saved. Romans 10:9 tells us if we believe and confess- that Jesus is Lord, and God raised Him from the dead- we are saved. Not just those who even believe. The devil himself believes. He knows God is real. He believes He has power. But he does not confess His lordship. Which is why there will be people who "believed" and never confessed or lived as Jesus is Lord- and will not have their names written in that book of life.
Next, I want to address the idea that all people can be good. I know I could stop here- because I've answered the question that "not everyone will make it into Heaven- even if you're good". But the idea that people can be "good" is a fallacy. No one is good. Because we all are fallen and human and ridiculously awful people. And the sooner we understand this, and realize how unworthy and un-good we really are, the more desperately we need a Savior, and long for Jesus to make a way for us.
Romans 3:23 says that "ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". None of us is good enough. And none of us can ever be. Certainly we can do "good things". But then we are merely a religious people who "act" in a certain way to find merit, and to get into heaven. It doesn't matter how much good behavior we possess if our heart condition is filthy and rotten.
Romans 8:8 says that "those who are in the flesh cannot please God". Nothing our physical bodies can do, will ever be enough to satisfy God.
Ephesians 2:8 says that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, it is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God." We are only ever saved because of the grace of God. Nothing we can ever do, or not do, merits us a pass into eternal salvation with God.
We are filthy sinners, born into sin, and without God we are nothing.
We are then redeemed by the blood of Jesus, as He died on the cross, through the gift of salvation. And we now are allowed access into the kingdom of heaven- not because we've done something to earn it. But because we've accepted the blood of Jesus for our salvation- and that allows us access to God and Heaven.
Like a gift at Christmas, can be given- it's up to the recipient to receive and open and use the gift. God gives the gift of salvation to ALL. but some reject it. Some only ever open it. And there are then those who receive, open, and use the power within for life abundantly.
So then screw it- right? I don't have to do anything. I can just believe and confess that Jesus is Lord- and be good to go. No good deeds needed. Because I am saved by grace.
"Faith without works is dead" according to James 2:20. In fact, if you read all of James 2, it talks about "believing and not being saved, but needing grace and action to receive salvation". James 1:22 says we need to be "doers of the word, and not just hearers only".
Matthew 5:16 tells us "let your light shine before men so that they see your good deeds and praise your farther in heaven". The world will see that we love Jesus by our good deeds. And they will come to knowledge of Jesus when we do good.
Not to mention, the other judgement I talked about earlier, where our lives are judged by what we have done and not done with our time on earth. I found a great explanation of the two judgements online, and because it's lengthy, I'm just going to copy/past it here:
"There are two separate judgments. Believers are judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10-12). Every believer will give an account of himself, and the Lord will judge the decisions he made—including those concerning issues of conscience. This judgment does not determine salvation, which is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), but rather is the time when believers must give an account of their lives in service to Christ. Our position in Christ is the “foundation” spoken of in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. That which we build upon the foundation can be the “gold, silver, and precious stones” of good works in Christ’s name, obedience and fruitfulness—dedicated spiritual service to glorify God and build the church. Or what we build on the foundation may be the “wood, hay and stubble” of worthless, frivolous, shallow activity with no spiritual value. The Judgment Seat of Christ will reveal this.
The gold, silver and precious stones in the lives of believers will survive God’s refining fire (v. 13), and believers will be rewarded based on those good works—how faithfully we served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27), how well we obeyed the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), how victorious we were over sin (Romans 6:1-4), how well we controlled our tongues (James 3:1-9), etc. We will have to give an account for our actions, whether they were truly indicative of our position in Christ. The fire of God’s judgment will completely burn up the “wood, hay and stubble” of the words we spoke and things we did which had no eternal value. “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12 ).
The second judgment is that of unbelievers who will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). This judgment does not determine salvation, either. Everyone at the Great White Throne is an unbeliever who has rejected Christ in life and is therefore already doomed to the lake of fire. Revelation 20:12 says that unbelievers will be “judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Those who have rejected Christ as Lord and Savior will be judged based on their works alone, and because the Bible tells us that “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Galatians 2:16), they will be condemned. No amount of good works and the keeping of God’s laws can be sufficient to atone for sin. All their thoughts, words and actions will be judged against God’s perfect standard and found wanting. There will be no reward for them, only eternal condemnation and punishment."
So you can see, that while yes- the pope is right that we can all do good, and we should all do good- it doesn't determine our salvation. And though it doesn't determine our salvation, it also does not mean we won't be accountable for what we do with our time as believers.
This also helps to explain the circumstances surrounding various salvations:
If I said that a man who has murdered and raped children his whole life, is on death row and accepts Jesus....certainly- if he genuinely has a heart change, he can be redeemed and saved from hell and spend eternity with Jesus. But he will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ for the things he did on the earth- as opposed to a person who accepted Jesus and lived and spent countless years serving God and people with good deeds. The good deeds don't save the person. Jesus Christ saves them. But their good deeds don't go unnoticed. And the poor choices of another are certainly not overlooked.
And when Jesus does come back, we are told in revelation of a new heaven and new earth, where sin is no more, death is no more, (since its been thrown into hell) and we rule and reign with Christ. We will be returned to His image- perfect and spotless with a new body and a new mind- and according to our time on this earth and what we do with it- we will be given authority in the new earth. So someone who has been extremely faithful through their life, will be given a superior leadership position in the new heaven- as opposed to someone who spent their time wasted and doing nothing- still in the new heaven, yes- but lower on the chain of command, so to speak. Certainly humility comes into play here- so don't think it will be a "delegation of power" as we currently know it. Because evil and wrong motives will be gone at that point. But our stewardship in this life, determines our reward in the next.
There's also a picture described of heaven, where the believers worship at the feet of Jesus. And they "lay their crowns before Him".
We receive rewards and crowns for the things we do on earth, that are of eternal value. What a shame, to have made it to heaven, and find ourselves empty handed when worshipping our savior.
I want to be full of gifts to lay at His feet - to worship Him with all I have and say " all I have and have attained in this life belongs to you- because I'm nothing without You anyways!" (You can read of the worshipping and throwing of crowns at Jesus' feet in a Revelation 4:9-11, and the receiving of eternal rewards and crowns in James 1:12, Revelation 2:10; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Philippians 3:12-14, and Hebrews 12:1-3.)
I know it's a lot of information. But it's also good information that will set you free! That sounds like a cliché church phrase- but if you think about it, and believe that it's not what I do that saves me- you're free from a list of rules that seems binding and legalistic. And because I'm free in Christ, I have the choice to choose good. Not because I have to- but because I want to. Because when I do good, others see Christ in me. Others will follow. And because I will inherit a reward and a position later, when Jesus comes back for His church. I will have an offering to give to the One who saved me by grace. And I will be able to rule and reign with Him in the end.
That's exciting. That's liberating. And that, my friend, is the gospel. It's what saves people and makes them free. It's the message Jesus came to bring and deliver. And it's the message and hope we hold onto.
I believe the pope is probably a good man. I don't know what his life is like behind closed doors. Who knows? Only God.
And even our own selves- the bible says in proverbs that our hearts are wicked and No one can know them. I myself, cant even see how wicked my heart is. There are things I don't even know about myself that are evil. But God- who is holy and pure- sent His perfect son Jesus to save me and redeem me- and you!- and we get to spend eternity with Him!
The pope may love Jesus. He may even believe and confess Jesus as lord.
And I know it's hard to understand how someone who is affiliated with "church" or "God" could say something that's not what the bible says.
And to that, I would say- 1)Catholics use a different bible. So maybe there's something in his Bible that's a little different. But it's not the truth. (I'm not well enough versed in Catholicism to know exactly what those things are! Nor do I want to poke and blow through catholic theology to tear others apart).
But More than that, i know the bible also talks about in the last days (or the time close to Jesus' return) when leaders in the faith, and great teachers, teach and preach a false gospel. When they preach about things that "tickle ears".
You know the feeling you get when your ear is itching and you use a Q-tip to scratch it? It feels soooooo good!!!
That's what that's talking about. People will begin to teach things that sound so good. They will appeal to lots of people. They will feel good. And be inclusive of a large group of people because it doesn't require change of heart or submission to God. It allows for self to continue in its ways, without changing according the the word.
That's what this is an example of. The pope's words appeal to a large audience. And feel good and seem good. People who do and don't believe will be ok when they do good. They will be saved no matter what. They don't have to change their lifestyle. And the people with loved ones and family and friends who don't believe in Jesus, will still be in heaven at the end. It feels good and seems good to a broad audience of people. Like you said yourself, people accept such a teaching because it means there's hope for them without a change of heart.
But the bible says the way to heaven is narrow. And the way to destruction is broad and wide. People are going to miss it, because they want what's easy, and pleasing to their ears and lifestyle. (You can read about that in 2 Timothy 4:1-5).
And I believe we are in those last days. Pastor is about to do a series about the time we live in. So make sure you're there! But the bible says that we can tell it's going to rain by the way the sky looks, and the same way- we will know when Jesus is close to returning by a series of events. And those events are taking place. The signs are right. And the "thundering and lightening" so to speak- are sounding out.
Which is why it's so important that we be in the word- reading it, and studying it- to know the truth. And to be able to recognize when something is off. Because the pope is a leader that people expect to deliver truth. But no matter who gives the message- if it doesn't align with scripture COMPLETELY - it's not God.
If you have further questions, I'd love to answer them or help you find the answers- because I don't know all of them! I'm still learning and being transformed. We will all be until we get to heaven. So anyone who says they've "arrived" is full of crap. Haha!
I hope this helps- and I hope it isn't just blowing down and tearing up someone's perspective and theology. But rather exposing truth and in turn, pointing to Jesus."
Love you all! Have a wonderful Wednesday!