For pages 354 to 356, oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we stick the Rapture and the Resurrection before the Tribulation! (And when we make the Rapture separate from the Resurrection.)
Where do I start? This is so convoluted and imaginary. Get this scheme of things, which in all my years of being a premillennial dispensationalist, never cropped up in anything I heard or read about the End of Days:
First, you have the Rapture, which is the beginning of error, because it is not biblical and mangles the doctrines and timelines of the Second Coming and Resurrection. Then this Rapture applies only to Christians and not to Old Testament saints.
Then the authors split the Resurrection into two resurrections, one of life and one of death (condemnation). Um, I thought they were supposed to happen at the same time for everyone, after the Tribulation and at the end of time, then we’d all be judged, and some would go to Heaven and some would go to Hell.
But the first resurrection (of life) gets split still further, with timing depending on when you lived.
Christians who died before the Rapture are resurrected at the Rapture, Resurrection #1.
Old Testament saints and Tribulation martyrs are resurrected between the Glorious Appearing (ie, Christ coming to stop Armageddon) and the Millennium, Resurrection #2.
(Like they did between the Rapture and the Tribulation, the authors have inserted an interval here which they seem to have pulled out of their butts. And what about Christians who died of natural causes during the Tribulation, so aren’t martyrs?)
The Millennium believers are resurrected at the end of the Millennium, even though they’re all still alive (yes, the book points this out), Resurrection #3.
But all the condemned are resurrected at once no matter when they lived: after the Millennium, during the Great White Throne Judgment, Resurrection #4.
On page 357, we read, “…[A]pparently it was God’s intent that the Millennium start with a clean slate. All unbelievers would soon die.” All unbelievers are doomed, doomed, doomed!
On page 358, we read,
The various groups of believers might find each other, but what were they to do? Would there be enough of them to start rebuilding the country as, finally for real, a Christian nation?
Oh, they get their theocracy! You often hear from the religious right that we’re a “Christian nation,” even though we are pluralist. Then we find that everyone is to live in Israel. So they don’t even get to choose where to live?
On page 363, the authors totally misinterpret Christ’s representation of the sheep vs. the goats (Matt. 25:31-46). We read,
“Some call this a Semitic jugment,” Eleazar said. “Jesus will judge you Gentiles on how you have treated His chosen people. Those who honored the Jews are the sheep, and those who did not are the goats.”
NO, NO, NO! The passage is very clear on what is meant: The sheep showed love for other people–Jew or Gentile–by treating them as if they were Christ, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, that sort of thing. The goats showed disdain for other people by being selfish and self-centered.
Don’t make this into some political statement about Christian Zionism, let’s all vote for the Republican Party so we don’t get labeled a goat, when it’s really about love for one’s fellow man! Especially since for centuries, there was no political Israel. And before Israel existed, there was no Israel, period.
The story of the sheep and goats says absolutely nothing about nations or Jews or Gentiles–or, for that matter, religions, period.
(Realizing this fact is one of the first things that got me wondering if I had been taught correctly about the Judgment, which ultimately led me to Orthodoxy, which also recognizes that this passage is not about correct religion, but love toward one’s fellow man.)
In United States politics, Christian Zionism is important because it mobilises an important Republican constituency: fundamentalist and evangelical Protestants who support Israel.
The Democratic Party, which has the support of most American Jews, is also generally pro-Israel, but with less intensity and fewer theological underpinnings. —Christian Zionism
Then after this heresy we find the grammatical heresy of Eleazar saying “When Jesus slayed all his enemies.” Slayed?
Pages 364 to 365 demonstrate the worst heresy of Calvinism–and the reason why I could no longer, in good conscience, believe the stringent Evangelical/ Fundamentalist teachings about the Judgment (and discovered, to my delight, that even the Catholics and the Orthodox are not nearly so strict):
Priscilla Sebastian says, “But it doesn’t sound like there will be much to judge [at the Great White Throne Judgment]. People either received Christ as their Savior, or they didn’t.” Eleazar replies,
Right, but we believe that God, being wise and fair and wanting to demonstrate how far men and women fall short of His standard, will judge them based on their own works.
Obviously, all will fail to measure up. This will show that the punishment is deserved, and as I have said, they will be sent to the lake of fire for eternity.
So how do you know they’re all going to fail?
From the Orthodox Study Bible:
–The Orthodox view is that unbelievers are judged according to the natural law, the law written on the conscience which every human being has. We are naturally good; to sin is to act against our nature.
–Habitual sins can dull the conscience; the conscience is also the means by which unbelievers can ultimately be saved. The goal is not man’s praise, but pleasing God. This is based on Romans 2:14-16 and 29.
–Also, those of us who are aware of the Mosaic Law (particularly the moral one, which still stands) are also aware that it is impossible to keep it perfectly; it cannot make us righteous.
–We are accountable to both the natural and Mosaic Law. Those who “become righteous by grace through faith fulfill in Christ both the natural and the Mosaic Law” (pp. 341-343, The Orthodox Study Bible).
Jesus Christ’s Parable of the Last Judgment (Matt.25:31-46) indicates that for many people the Judgment will become a moment of insight, recognition and conversion, while for others it may turn out to be a great disappointment and frustration.
Those who were sure of their own salvation will suddenly find themselves condemned, while those who perhaps did not meet Christ in their earthly life (‘when did we see Thee?’) but were merciful towards their neighbour, will be saved.
In this parable, the King does not ask people about matters of belief, doctrine and religious practice. He does not ask them whether they went to church, kept the fasts, or prayed for long time: He only asks them how they treated His ‘brethren’.
The main criteria of the Judgment are therefore the acts of mercy performed or not performed by people during their earthly lives.
According to the teaching of the Church, the Last Judgment will be universal: all people will undergo it, be they believers or non-believers, Christians or non-Christians.
If Christians will be judged by the Gospel’s standards, pagans will be judged by the natural law which is ‘written in their hearts’ (Rom.2:15).
Christians will take full responsibility for their deeds as those who ‘knew’ the will of God, while some non-Christians will be treated less strictly for they did not know God or His will.
The Judgment will ‘begin with the household of the Lord’ (1 Pet.4:17), that is, with the Church and its members, and not with those who did not meet Christ nor hear the message of the Gospel. —The Last Judgment
The Catholic view:
So, in the Orthodox view, what does it mean that Christ is the “Way, the Truth and the Life”? It does not mean that belief in Christ is the only way to Heaven, or that Christ is a gatekeeper keeping out the unbelievers. (One Orthodox forum poster jokingly referred to this belief as “Bouncer of Heaven.”) Rather, it means that Christ is the Judge of who receives salvation.
How will people be judged if they were not properly taught about Christ? We don’t know. But, as my priest says, we who were properly taught have the responsibility to believe/live the faith, be an example of it, and pray for those who are not Christians.
And how do the Orthodox answer the question, “What’s the point of missions, then, if good Muslims/Hindus/etc. can go to Heaven anyway?”
The point of missions is not to get spiritual notches on your witness belt, or to increase believer counts, or to snatch people out of Hell. Our eternal life begins now, not in Heaven, and here we begin sanctification (“theosis”).
The point of missions is to spiritually feed the church and then the people outside the church, getting them started on theosis right here and now.
“You ask, will the heterodox be saved….Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins…” –St. Theophan the Recluse