It amazes me that when a celebrity dies, multitudes quickly make statements on how that person is enjoying being in heaven. Of course, no one wants to make any comments of any other destination, but on what basis can someone say with authority that the deceased is in heaven? Below are some unbiblical theological positions concerning death and the afterlife which is the subject of thanatology (Greek word thanatos = death).
Universalism- This view posits that all people, regardless of how they lived or what they believed, will be “saved” or forgiven of their sins by God. Death only becomes a transition from one life to another. This view was popularized a few years ago by Rob Bell, author of the book, Love Wins. He believes in “post-mortem evangelism/salvation” which basically espouses the theory that those who have chosen something other than God (such as self, injustice, evil, greed, tyranny) will be given an eternity of opportunities to accept God's free gift of reconciliation. Bell presents the theory that God's gift is so good, so loving and so compelling that eventually hell will be closed and all people will be fully reconciled to God through the saving power of Christ's life, death and resurrection. A modification of universalism is that there will be some that will be incorrigible and will either pass into non-existence (annihilation) or suffer perpetually in some sort of hell.
Pluralism- This view is similar to universalism, however it deals with religious beliefs. The pluralist believes that God receives all into heaven who believe in some god or method of salvation. The Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist, as well as any other religionist, are all on the same ground in terms of acceptance with God. A variation of pluralism is what is known as “Christian Inclusivism” where the exclusivity of salvation in Christ is maintained, but the believer of another religion is seen as “trusting” Jesus even though they relate to another “savior.”
Christian Modernism/Liberalism- This view depreciates God of some of His attributes. Chief among them is His justice. God is either not just at all, or His justice is overruled by His mercy and grace. Therefore, there is no need for anyone’s faith in Jesus Christ’s provision of salvation. God is seen exclusively as a loving God and not wanting that any should perish and so He redeems all.
The problem with each of these three theologies is two-fold. The first is that they deny all that the Bible says about death and eternity, literally from Genesis to Revelation. Eternal death is seen in God’s warning to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, (Genesis 2:17) as well as to those who stand at the Great White Throne judgment in Revelation 21:8. If what God has revealed in these passages is true (and it is), then there is no possibility that these other ideas concerning death and eternity can be true. Secondly, they deny the exclusivity of salvation in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Scripture is clear, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Lord willing, the next THURSDAY’S THOUGHT will deal with the biblical declaration of eternal destinations.