The second error that hinders the effectiveness of the gospel is not giving Ephesians 1:3-7 the importance it demands. Let's look at what it says to us: Ephesians 1:3-7 NKJV "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (4) just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, (5) having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, (6) to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (7) In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." The three phrases and clauses that I have emboldened and underlined become very important in recognizing the error.
The first underlined phrase "before the foundation of the world," places the timing on subjects of this passage. It was before the foundation of the world, in other words, it was before creation. So then, we can see that God's purpose in creation was redemption... let me emphasize that, God's purpose in creation was redemption! Also, he gives the reason... it was to the praise of the glory of his grace, and it was according to the good pleasure of His will. This passage, and John chapter one are the two passages in the scripture that tell about the farthest reaches of time. The subject of this passage predates Genesis 1:1... IT IS BEFORE THE BEGINNING! The fact, that God's purpose in creation was redemption holds a myriad of implications. Further, that the purpose is to the praise of the glory of His grace, holds even further implications. add to this Ephesians 1:11, and we see that God works ALL THINGS to the council of His will.
So what is written about God's will? In 2Pe 3 we find that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, and in John's gospel, Jesus states the Father's will (Jn 6:39-40) as being Jesus, raising up in the last day, all those given to him by the Father, and likewise, all who see the Son and believe would also be raised up on the last day. So think about it. God is sovereign. If he is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, and if He works ALL THINGS after the council of his will... how indeed can anyone perish? I know... I know, you will tell me that there are so many passages about hell, death and Hades, about the lake of fire and Gehenna, but wait a minute... perhaps we should look for other ways to gain meaning from those passages. In fact, that is precisely what is needed. My answer is that in those references, Jesus and others were metaphorically speaking of the impending destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. I am certain beyond doubt that Jesus reference in Mark 9:43-44 relate one to one with Isaiah 66 which is most definitely a prophesy about the destruction of the temple. How can I be certain you ask? By the language link between the two passages. Jesus is referring to Isaiah 66:24 and there is a definite grammatical link that is common among first century Jewish Rabbi's. Believe me, the first century Jews would have known his reference, and they would not have considered it to be eternal torment.
When one is confronted with the idea that redemption was the reason for creation, and that it was to get the creation, to praise God for his grace, it becomes clear that the penal substitution atonement theory is out of whack. God had judged the creation very good in Genesis 1:31, and this was knowing about the fall, the acquisition of the knowledge of good and evil, and ALL that would take place there after. It was humanity that hid from God. It was humanity that covered themselves with fig leaves. God had to shed the blood of a creature, take the skins to cover their shame. Of course, the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, whether metaphorical, or an actual fruit of a tree, brought judgment. It brought about the ability for humanity to judge itself, him and herself, as evil, and not acceptable to God. It also allowed the entrance of doubt and unbelief. Unbelief in the concept of God. That is the source of the need for redemption. While it is true that humanity must now face judgment as the result of the fall, God has graciously made a way to undo the damage done from the knowledge of good and evil. His solution was redemption, and it was the first thing that we know about God as creator.
Christ was the victor over the knowledge of good and evil, and death. He was willing to die, to confirm his faith in a loving Father that would indeed raise him from the grave. He is living proof that we are eternal, and have an eternal relationship with a loving Father. He aids us by His Spirit to believe the gospel. That is, that God the Father, was in Jesus Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. Notice that Paul did not say reconciling the elect to Himself, no... indeed, God was reconciling the kosmos to Himself. How? By not imputing sin. Further, He made Jesus who did not know the concept of sin, (He always believed the Father) to be made sin on the behalf of humanity, that humanity might then be made the righteousness of God in Him. Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection restored, redeemed, God's original declaration in Genesis 1:31.
Yes, there is judgment. Yes, we are responsible for our actions, most specifically, our love toward God, and our fellow humanity. Yes, there is justice. But how that operates we do not know for sure. We only can be sure that God's judgment does not end in eternal torture of individuals. We can base that on the fact that God's purpose in creation was redemption, and if God purposed it, you can bet that it will be accomplished! Do not be afraid to think outside the box. Do not fear the labels of heresy. The truth is that I have come to realize that those who hold to strict orthodoxy are actually the false teachers and false prophets. I do not think they are that purposefully. I just think that they do not know any better, and are too frightened by religion to really experience the freedom of real relationship with the Father.
It comes from they way they erroneously look at the scripture and we will address that in Part 3.