The Return of Jesus, Free Will, and Heaven

New addition to the Questions page:

Question

“Why do you think God has decided to take so long to begin what was described in Revelations?

I meant by Revelation the return of Jesus Christ to this earth and beginning the millennial reign. Basically the second coming.”

Answer

Is your question, why is God taking so long to fulfill the prophesy of Christ’s return? If that’s what you’re asking, I don’t have an exact answer. I’m not the most knowledgeable person, but based on what I do know my thoughts are that God is still dealing patiently with the creation. There are things that must happen before the return of Jesus. You can read about that in Matthew chapter 24:

  • The gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations
  • The abomination of desolation must stand in Jerusalem

We might assume that the gospel has been proclaimed in all nations, but, from where I stand the gospel that most accept today is not the full message of salvation. I believe there will be a revival in the Christian community in which we see the Holy Spirit poured out on many people and the fullness of the gospel restored (Joel 3). In Romans 11, it eludes to there being a period of time in which Christians cause many Jewish people to come into the faith. I have ideas about that, but I can’t say for sure. We do know that Jesus will not return until “the fullness of the gentiles is brought in” meaning, there will be people of every family reconciled to the creator so that the entirety of creation which fell under Adam is redeemed.

Also, there are OT prophesies in the book of Daniel that scholars have interpreted to mean that Jesus would return 2000 years after his death. Assuming our calendar is correct and the scholars calculations of those prophesies are correct, that could be around 2020’s-2030’s. However, we are told that no none knows the exact time Jesus will return (Matthew 24:36), and it’s not the most important thing for us to focus on.

My question to you is, do you have a concern about why this has not happened yet? It’s very common for people to get wrapped up in wondering over when Jesus will return. It is definitely something to look forward to, but I think when we worry too much about this our focus is taken off of the wonderful things that come to us when we seek after the kingdom of God now—which is what the essence of the gospel is about: that through Jesus, the kingdom will come to our hearts, changing our natures and freeing us from the kingdoms of this world and the powers of darkness that presently enslave mankind.

Traditional teachings of the gospel and salvation tells us that we make a declaration of faith then continue bound to this world, though we should strive to do good because we love Jesus. This mindset leads to a lot of problems like legalism (trying to please God by creating our own rules of righteousness that’s conditional upon our limited abilities of obedience) — which leads to hypocrisy very often. Without the right understanding we are still as under the Old Covenant. We try to please God by our own power. Even the “declaration of faith” or “sinners prayer” is a work, though many do not see it that way.

The righteousness of God can never be obtained by our own power. It can only come though the Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts and “writing the laws of the kingdom in our hearts.” God is still merciful though, and he causes many Christians to grow in things of the kingdom of God even if they do not fully understand the picture of salvation in Jesus. Even so, I do believe we are nearing a time when many people will come to a clearer understanding of the gospel.

Question

“I believe that we do have personal free will, though God is supreme over all. We simply choose how to react to him, and choose to obey him or not. Is this something you would agree with? Or does this go against your understanding? I do not believe God intentionally creates people do evil, he just knows all, and knew someone like Judas would betray Jesus, going with His ultimate plan.”

Answer

This is a topic that many Christians debate. I believe that the scriptures paint a very clear picture of the sovereignty of God. The way I deal with it is this: God creates our natures. Some of us are given natures that seek Jesus and others are not. If our nature is to seek Jesus and his righteousness, then we freely choose to do so. So, yes, we live according to free will. However, we are created by God in a manner that greatly influences the choices we will make.

The best I have been able to do with explaining this can be found in this article:

God’s Predetermined Will for the Election of His Children in Christ

I spent a lot of time going through the NT and gathering scriptures about predestination and free will as well as God’s sovereignty over who will believe in Him. You can take a look at predestination scripture here.

Question


“I thought when we die, we are judged and then go to heaven or hell based on our judgement. I have never heard before of the idea that we die, and resurrect only when Christ returns. I thought we would return with him from Heaven to Earth directly, following his lead.”

That is common belief, but I do not think the scriptures teach this. This is an example of what I call a man-made tradition. I believe in what many call “soul sleep.” I believe that currently all the dead are dead. There may be a few who are exceptions to the rule, like Enoch who was “taken” and did not die (Genesis 5). However, the bible makes it clear that no one has ascended to heaven but Jesus. We also see that when Jesus returns, the graves are open and the dead in Christ rise. How could they be in heaven and also raise from the dead after he returns? It makes no sense to me.

Here are some scriptures that have caused me to question our traditional views about dying and going to heaven right away:

For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. — Ecclesiastes 9:5

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. — 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Psalm 146:4

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. — John 3:13

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. — 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17

And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. — John 6:39-40

As for those who do not believe in Jesus, I do not believe the bible teaches eternal torment in hell. I believe that the bible teaches “the second death” which is a final and total destruction of death and all that cause death. We are told in Revelation that “death and hell are cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.” Hell, when properly translated, means death, the grave, or a place where people in the OT days burned waste — a place “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”

Without Jesus who is Life, we will all continue causing death and death will be our reward. That’s another reason why I believe the fullness of the gospel is so important because it promises “life abundant.” We are promised actual change that allows us to stop sinning (causing death) so that we can live eternally. The wages for sin is death. Point blank. And just as the devil tried to use that old lie, “you will not surely die,” he still does today and many Christians believe him.

That being said, I also believe in the mercy of Jesus. I do not think that if a Christian dies without overcoming all sin though Jesus that they will fail to inherit eternal life. Not necessarily, anyhow. I believe that a lot of the judgement of God depends on where our heart is set. If we want to do good and believe that the blood of Jesus covers us, we do not make excuse for our sin, and we are not hypocritical about our sin, unforgiving of the sins of others, and bring forth “fruit,”  then I have faith in His mercy. That judgment is up to God, so there is only so much we can determine based on the scriptures.

To that end, my advice is to continue in the faith and seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Ask Jesus to teach you how to love him will all your might. Ask him to fill you with his Spirit so that you can experience a change of heart that will continue to grow over time.

Related Posts:

Die and Go to Heaven

The Gospel of the Kingdom at Hand

Are We Making Our Covenant with Jesus or Death?

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Posted in Questions / Discussions
4 comments on “The Return of Jesus, Free Will, and Heaven
  1. Very helpful to your readers, Sister Amanda! Food in due season! God bless your work of restoring the Good News of salvation by the Spirit which leads to sanctification indeed…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amanda says:

      Thank you, but it’s not my work. As I’m sure you know, it is the work of the Lord done though many people within the body of Christ. I myself learned from another and then studied the scriptures for myself to test what I was taught. Thank you for the encouraging words!

      Like

  2. it is tragically true however, what do you say: that there are precious few who are really getting hold of the power of godliness, the ability to walk in the spirit in the fullness of his joy which can only come with conscientious submission of obedience, which as you say, only comes to the grace of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ our Lord. Grace and peace be multiplied to you and all who preach this precious message !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amanda says:

      I’m sure I have said there are few at points, but I have also learned recently that I should not place limits on the mercy of God. All I can say is that if we are Christians and we become aware that by Jesus we can live more abundantly in the knowledge of the Lord which is the righteousness of the kingdom, why refuse that? If we refuse that, we might have a faith problem or perhaps we love our sin. In either case, all I can do is encourage freedom from this world through Jesus. He will sort out the rest–and because of his mercy, the “few” will be many. That is my belief. I also believe that our submission and obedience is given by grace through faith, not of our own ability, lest we should boast, right? As you said, it is Holy Spirit given. I think it’s good that we want to obey the commands of Jesus, but we are not able without him. For example, he said that if we call our brother a fool it is as if we killed him. If we look at a women with lust, we commit adultery. The laws of God are complex and beyond counting or containment by legalism or our righteousness which is as filthy rags. We cannot perform them on our own. That’s why legalism does not work. I think it’s important to keep in mind that any good thing in us comes from God so we should always show patience to others and avoid feeling as if we are superior because we are the “few.” I’m not saying you feel that way, just stating this for the sake of any who might read these comments.

      Like

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These are the things that ye shall do: Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things I hate, saith the Lord.  — Zechariah 8:16-17