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After serving Satan for a lifetime, a dying man asks God to forgive his sins, then passes from this world confident that he will soon be in the always-welcoming arms of the Forgiver-in-chief. Upon hearing of his “salvation experience” His church-belonging family and friends rejoice that “God’s got Him another angel” since “He’s in heaven now.” The deceased, according to church theology, was miraculously snatched out of the jaws of death and sent hurtling straight onto the streets of gold where grandma and grandpa, Aunt Judy and Cousin Bill spent their time when not in their respective mansions. Joy is expressed over the “fact” that heaven’s newest arrival will be waiting at the pearly gates to greet them upon arrival in heaven of those who would one day join him. Everyone who has ever “joined the church” and taken Jesus as their “personal savior” knows the four-step formula for eternal life: Do what one wants to do during this life; repent of one’s sins when death approaches; thrill the Lord by allowing Him to cleanse one’s sins with His blood; enter heaven immediately upon drawing one’s last breath. In the social realm it’s called “having your cake and eating it too.” In the Biblical realm it’s called “heresy.”
The story of the instantaneous salvation of a last-minute penitent is one of the first lessons a child learns in Sunday School. This theological doctrine is universally believed because it goes hand-in-hand with the teaching that one need only believe in Jesus as one’s Savior in order to be guaranteed a heavenly abode upon one’s demise. The commonly held belief that it does not matter what preceded one’s “salvation experience” combined with the “now you aren’t–now you are” doctrine has produced an iron-clad, unquestionable church “truth” upon which billions of heaven-seekers have hung their spiritual hats. The Words of the Messiah as He approached his final moments of life are construed to “prove” that all “11th hour” salvations are not only legitimate, but are the most logical way to go if one wants to live for Satan in this life and in the presence of God in the next.
Using this popular set of religious rationales, many people have supposedly been saved and born again on the spot by repeating a prescribed prayer and making a prescribed statement. Legends have sprung up about people rejecting God one moment and being saved the next. Relative to the assumption of salvation based on what one says, does and thinks at the time of “the experience,” I am reminded of the Lord’s Words to the Apostle Peter as they talked about the future. Bear in mind that the disciples, led by Peter, had been with Jesus night and day for 3 1/2 years, hearing Him teach the gospel of the Kingdom of God and preaching that gospel while healing the sick and casting out demons in His name. Knowing this, one naturally assumes (as did I initially) that these 12 men were permanently joined at the heart to the Messiah. As we will see in the next posting, this was not the case. This then begs the question: What about the billions of church people who, though calling themselves by His name, have never done any of the things the disciples had done during the time they were with Jesus? Where do these people stand spiritually? We will find out in the next posting. The answer will anger some and cause others to perform a “heart-check” to determine if they are what they believe themselves to be. As we will see, the disciples, like their ancestors in the Garden of Eden, were spiritually far from where God commanded them to be spiritually. However, with the exception of one, they would all be changed as their “old man” died and their “new man” was created through the power of the Holy Spirit which would come upon them on the Day of Pentecost, 31 A.D. Then, and only then, could Jesus send them out to do what He had chosen them to do. L.J.