Saved or Lost 'In Christ'
If all humanity was taken up 'in Christ' when Jesus died and was resurrected, then how does the fact that most will be lost fit into that model? This is a question that many think shoots down this concept.
As I see it so far, simply acknowledging that every human is now 'in Christ' is not sufficient to deal with the problem of disharmony between God's pure, passionate divinity and our rebellion and hostility toward such an environment. Sin creates within our hearts a lethal liability that will self-destruct if exposed to the atmosphere of pure love. Sin is so hostile toward selfless love that even when that kind of love is veiled significantly, humans feel so uncomfortable around it that they feel compelled to either run away or to attack it and try to destroy the person exhibiting such love. This is why they ultimately killed Jesus and has been the cause of all persecution throughout the history of this world.
Being 'in Christ' does not in and of itself produce any real transformative change inside a person. That may sound very strange initially, but from the perspective the larger context I believe such an assertion can be more readily appreciated and validated. Having the 'legal' status of every human being on this planet switched from only inheriting the nature of the first Adam to now being in Christ because of what He accomplished created the possibility for our salvation. Without this arrangement of redemption that was worked out by our Savior, it would be impossible for anyone to be reconciled to God or be restored to a condition making it safe for them to live in His presence without being consumed.
As I said, being 'in Christ' I believe is simply a description of the status of all humanity, but not the complete qualification needed to survive or thrive in the atmosphere of heaven. This is only the initial fundamental reality that had to be firmly established so that the rest of the process can be built on top of it for all those who choose to base their faith on this secure foundation. This is why the Bible writers speak of building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. He is the one who now represents humanity in the heavenly assemblies where once Satan asserted that he was the only possible representative from our world. And this also explains why the Bible teaches that only through Christ can anyone be saved.
Being 'saved' has become very distorted as a concept itself. Because we usually think of salvation only as a technique of getting sinners out of trouble and into a pleasant heaven so they can feel better, we cannot grasp the larger context in which all of these things must fit. Our selfishness has so influenced our theology and beliefs about religion that about all we can think about is how we might escape the effects of sin while still allowing our unfitness to live in the fire of God's presence go unrepaired. Yet unless we move beyond the initial foundation established by Christ's death taking us up into Himself as His children in place of being descendants of the first Adam who got us into this mess, we will still find ourselves so infected with the deadly condition of selfishness (the essence of sin) that it will still destroy us when we finally become exposed to the rare atmosphere of passionate, selfless love.
What Jesus accomplished in His life, death and resurrection was vitally necessary for our salvation – that is a fact almost everyone agrees on. But the reason for this is terribly distorted by most of religion's explanations about why He came to our earth. Because we have embraced so many of Satan's subtle lies and insinuations about God and about Jesus, we long ago lost the view of the early Christian believers that unleashed tremendous power into and out of their lives. Our watered down, self-oriented concepts about salvation have left us powerless, insipid and vulnerable to temptations. If we do not earnestly pursue a knowledge of the real truth as it is 'in Jesus' we will find ourselves insisting that we have done everything right and wondering why we are on the wrong side of the gates of heaven.
Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.' (Matthew 7:21-23 NRSV)
I am still processing just what it means for humans to be 'in Christ' and how Jesus set up this arrangement to start with. I look forward to the excitement I know will accompany my discoveries in expanded study of this subject. But I also want to know what needs to be built on top of this truth in order to experience it as God intends for us to do so as to be prepared to encounter the unveiled glory of God successfully. I also want to know what goes wrong for those who have been taken up into Christ in what He accomplished on the cross yet still end up being lost in the end.
What comes to my attention is the Bible study laid out in the book of Hebrews among other resources. The author of Hebrews particularly speaks of entering into God's rest and how many have failed to enter into that rest. This is the same rest that Jesus spoke of when He invited all to come to Him and He would give them rest in exchange for their heavy burdens. We have attempted to explain this in various ways, but I feel we still have not explored it nearly enough to enter into ourselves. We are still falling short of entering into that unique rest that is necessary to prepare us to live safely in God's presence.
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest.... (Hebrews 4:1-3 NIV)
Here is the key pivotal point, the difference between those who end up being transformed so that they are safe to save and those who find themselves vulnerable and consumable in the presence of God's consuming fire. Just what is this faith that is spoken of here? It is certainly not a self-generated intensity of trying hard to not have any doubts or trying hard to eliminate sin from our lives. Rather it must be a restful trust in the reality that we are already redeemed in Christ and a letting go of our resistance to what Jesus wants to do within us to prepare us to meet God and thrive in His presence.
If each human being is already 'in Christ' as the Bible teaches, then based on that reality we must each contain within ourselves the very seed within which is all the power of the Godhead simply waiting to be released into the mind and heart of every person choosing to allow it to spring to life and take root and develop within them the plant of righteousness after His kind. This is the principle laid out clearly at the creation of our world, that every seed will produce fruit after its kind and can do no other. The pivotal difference then between whether we are saved from sin or lost in it comes down to each person's choice as to how they will treat this seed of eternal life waiting to open and grow from inside.
Jesus will never do anything against our will in our hearts. Faulty theologies so popular today leave out key elements of the truth leaving millions vulnerable to being consumed in God's presence while presuming they have a guaranteed place in heaven through a legal solution. But our real problem and our true danger comes not from a legal case against us for breaking arbitrary rules imposed by God. Rather our core problem is one of a fatal internal infection with the virus of selfishness. For this we need far more than a simple legal adjustment of our perceived standing before God. Jesus has already taken care of that by displacing Satan with Himself as our representative before God and now represents all of humanity who have all been taken up in Him. Yet until we become willing to submit to His authority and surrender our spirit of rebellion against His kingdom of selfless love, we in effect defeat our predestined position of being in Christ and through our continuing choices to remain in rebellion we cause our names to be reluctantly and sadly removed from the Book of Life in heaven.
By taking all of humanity into Himself at the cross, Jesus was empowered with the authority to write the name of every human being into the Book of Life giving everyone full access and permission to live and thrive in God's presence. In these last days there is an ongoing investigation taking place in heaven to determine which humans have accepted that opportunity and have given God permission to dwell in them based on Jesus as their new ancestor and representative instead of Adam. God is not in the business of putting in and removing repeatedly names from the Book of Life. Rather, He has already included every name there based on Jesus' credentials to represent all of humanity that is accepted 'in the Beloved,' and this arrangement was endorsed by the legislature of heaven soon after Jesus returned after His resurrection.
Because this approved action was retroactive for all humans all the way back to creation, Jesus is spoken of in Revelation as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. All who were trapped in the snare of Satan and were enslaved by their fallen nature because Adam relinquished his dominion over to Satan, were cued into this even before Jesus literally came to confirm this arrangement. All those living before Jesus died were written into the Book of Life on credit so to speak. But once Jesus completed the requirements for full accreditation as the sole representative in the councils of heaven for humanity and this world and His credentials had been accepted by the accreditation authorities in heaven, the gospel – this good news of everyone being 'in Christ' – took on enhanced power and clarity.
The problem with the lost is an interesting one that needs to be better clarified. Clearly a person can be 'in Christ' and yet reject that status through their choices to reject that privilege by refusing to be transformed by the Spirit Jesus sent. That Spirit wants to prepare us to live in heaven's rare atmosphere of purity. Like the danger of playing with fire around pure oxygen or other useful illustrations from nature, we can see how we can be in grave danger if we allow any sin to remain embedded in our hearts. This is fatal, not because God will punish us if He discovers we have broken a rule we have not legally absolved with Him, but because sin itself is so reactive to pure love that it will spontaneously ignite and turn into a consuming fire that itself will destroy all who refuse to have it removed by Jesus.
Again, it is vitally important to get away from thinking about these issues through the legal filters that we have so long used to interpret everything. Our problem with God is not a legal one but rather an issue of terminal sickness. The spirit of rebellion that grew and infected the heart of Lucifer, transforming him into the greatest demon imaginable, is the same virus that has infected all of humanity – except for Jesus. Unless we fully cooperate with the regimen of healing that Jesus offers to cure our condition, we cannot be restored in heart to be able to survive the intense atmosphere that emanates from the heart of God. Thus, it is not enough to be declared a member of a new order of human beings created through the incarnation of the Son of God. We must have the lies embedded in our minds and hearts about God and about ourselves eradicated from inside, flushed out because of the light and the truths that come through the new revelation of God in the life of Jesus our Savior.
Many of those who end up lost will suffer the most from lies they now insist are truths about God. By clinging to lies about God's disposition toward them, insisting that He is more like His enemy, that He must use force, coercion and even deception to get His way – they unfit themselves to live in the intense presence of pure love. God's government only thrives in the rare atmosphere of pure freedom and pure love. Satan insists that selfless love is only a mirage and does not actually exist. Most Christians also insist that love is not enough to overcome evil and that God must resort to using at least some of Satan's methods to accomplish His victory after love fails to get the job completed. But in teaching such things about God people endorse the very insinuations of Satan that began the rebellion in the first place and they are setting up millions to be lost with them because they refuse to allow the power of pure love to rule in their own hearts and lives as it did in Jesus.
The battle heating up right now in the world is over whether love can be strong enough to govern free beings without using any of Satan's methods, or whether there must be a mixture of good and evil tactics to accomplish the purposes of God. Most people come down on the side of insisting that God can never win relying on love alone, though they may resort to redefining words so as to make them to fit the way God says them while actually meaning something very different. Today those who are beginning to embrace and share the real truth about God's character are being increasingly resisted by the majority who want to cling to the status quo so familiar in religion.
The danger here is that insisting that God must resort to force, fear or any other technique invented by Satan, is to side with the enemy and actually confirm his accusations about God and His character. Lucifer originally claimed that there were flaws in the perfect government of heaven, hidden aspects in the character of God that make His government vulnerable to rebellion and insurrection. Failing to convince God to make adjustments, he then set about leading just such an insurrection to prove his case and to demonstrate that God's government of love alone was inadequate to deal with such a threat.
For a very long time it appeared that Satan had successfully proved his assertions about the weaknesses of God's way of governing. Satan has exploited every area of God's kingdom that he insisted was vulnerable. But the war is not over yet and we are each called on to choose whom we are going to believe ourselves and which version of truth about God we will embrace. Of course, our decision also involves who we relate to that seed of eternal life Jesus implanted into every human heart.
Jesus has maintained a beachhead on this planet throughout history through people loyal to Him and His ways in every generation. Satan has both contested Christ's claims that He still had rights to this planet after the fall of Adam, as well as trying to exterminate all humans who remained loyal to God. But Jesus came and established His own credentials to displace Satan from the heavenly court of representatives by becoming a human, living on earth among humans and suffering all the temptations they suffer without ever once taking offense or rebelling. Then He took on the full effect of all the sins of humanity, letting all that kill Him. God no longer has to contend with Satan over God's authority on this earth, for Satan has been fully exposed as a fraud, a lier and a murderer. By exposing the lies of Satan with the light of the real truth about God in Jesus, God has set up His kingdom on this earth that will eventually displace the kingdom of darkness, for it became irrevocably established because Jesus our permanent representative lives forever, unlike Adam.
By no means however, does that mean the battle is over between good and evil. Even though the credentials of Jesus have been accepted and settled from heaven's perspective, the mop-up operations still continue in the occupied territory of this world where Satan's authority still has credibility. So long as there are those who believe Satan has legitimacy to his claims against God and the kingdom of love and freedom, God respects their position and still relies only on love to bring out the real truth.
So, how is it that the lost can be 'in Christ' and still end up being consumed by the presence of God while the saved 'in Christ' thrive in that same fire?
Hear, you who are far away, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can live with the devouring fire? Who among us can live with everlasting flames?" Those who walk righteously and speak uprightly, who despise the gain of oppression, who wave away a bribe instead of accepting it, who stop their ears from hearing of bloodshed and shut their eyes from looking on evil, they will live on the heights; their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks; their food will be supplied, their water assured. Your eyes will see the king in his beauty; they will behold a land that stretches far away. (Isaiah 33:13-17 NRSV)
The key decisive factor is the internal perception of reality that is shaped by the choices of each individual as to what they choose to believe is true about God's disposition towards them. God has exposed the truth about how He feels about sinners in Jesus Christ, but Satan has worked even more diligently and all too successfully to continue to obscure and distort that truth since its revelation at the cross. By getting us to believe that Jesus was really just appeasing an angry God instead of being God willing to suffer in the hands of angry sinners, Satan has tightened his grip over human hearts and continues to complicate God's efforts to reveal His love. Yet for all those who choose to believe the real truth about God as revealed in Jesus, He dispenses His Holy Spirit to affect a transformation from inside of them that has the power to produce the fruit of the reality He effected in the incarnation.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. (Ephesians 1:3-4 NRSV)
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:4-6 NRSV)
By placing all of humanity in Himself as the new Adam, Jesus places us in a powerful vantage position giving every person the option and potential power to escape the slavery of Satan when they choose to believe what He has revealed about their reality. The key ingredient here is what we choose to believe and how we interpret God's intent and motive in what He has done for and in us. If we refuse to accept that God's anger against us is purely a figment of Satan' imagination, if we cling to the false idea that God is in fact double-minded just like we are, then the reality created in our thinking becomes the very reality that defines everything we read, think about and conclude. It is up to us who's version will determine our destiny.
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21 NAS95)
Herein is the gospel. When we embrace what Christ has done – taken us up into Himself – we find in the same place, God the Father who is also in Christ. We become His exhibition of righteousness!