OK, so I guess I did lapse into a bit of proof-texting in the last post, although that wasn’t my intention. That is, I wasn’t trying to say, “Here are these verses that trump your verses.” I was trying to show why one particular argument by Edward Fudge doesn’t hold water.
Oh, well… so be it. I didn’t express myself well. At least it gave Randall the opportunity to teach us all a bit about Calvinistic views.
Let’s take some particular examples, and see if that helps. Since I’ve been working so much with the letters in Revelation over the last few years, let’s start there. First, there’s the Ephesus church. Hard-working. Sound doctrine. But they’ve lost their first love. Because of it, Jesus says: “Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Revelation 2:5) Since the lampstands are the churches themselves, Jesus is saying the church can cease to be a church. (Just as he will later refer to synagogues that aren’t really synagogues) This would necessitate the removal of these Christians from the body. How else do I say it? They would no longer belong to Christ.
Let’s skip down to the letter to Sardis. Jesus tells them: “Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.” (Revelation 3:4-5) The minority in that church are ready for Jesus’ return; most need to wake from a spiritual slumber. The ones that overcome (remain faithful, not renouncing Christ during persecution) will not have their names blotted from the book of life. What does that say about the others? That they ran the risk of that very thing, of being removed from the book of life (I gave a fuller explanation of the Book of Life in an earlier post).
Next is the letter to Philadelphia. This is a healthy church, but Jesus warns them: “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” (Revelation 3:11) Take your crown? The word for crown is the word for the laurel wreath given to the victor in athletic events. The church in Smyrna was told that the crown was the crown of life, that is, life would be their crown for having endured. Jesus says that if Christians don’t hold on to what they have, they can lose that crown. (It’s not the image of the crown being snatched, but of failing to win. We talk of someone getting someone else’s gold medal when the original winner is disqualified. It’s that sort of idea.)
The last church in the group is Laodicea. Note that these Christians have gotten into such a state that Jesus is asking to be let back into their lives (“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20) If they do not change their ways, Jesus will vomit them out of his mouth.
The letters in Revelation were written to prepare the Christians in Asia Minor for a time of testing, a time of persecution. They had to guard their faith, for the risk of losing it was very real. They needed to be willing to lose their lives rather than lose their faith.