Vincent Yeung—Cambridge, UK
Across the world, we are
witnessing a growing gap between the super wealthy and the rest of society.
Oxfam reports that eighty-two percent of wealth created in 2017 went to the richest
one percent, while the poorest half of the human race gained nothing.
This extreme imbalance between rich and poor is evident even in the specter of
climate change: the effects of greenhouse emissions from more developed
countries are wreaking havoc on poorer nations that are ill-placed and
ill-equipped to survive extreme weather and rising sea levels.
Those advocating for the
powerless against inequality, social injustice and corruption have brought such
scandals to wider attention. It is important to fight for justice and equality
for all, regardless of gender, race and social status. The question is, if we
all deserve the right to life and equal opportunities, what about the right to
The human ideal of equality
finds a pleasing parallel in the impartial nature of God’s love: we are all
undeserving of His grace, so we all have an equal right to salvation. With this
logic, perhaps Christians of different denominations should not be so uptight
about their differences and, instead, celebrate their shared values.
Ecumenism is the culmination
of this belief. The ecumenical movement began in 1910 at the World Missionary
Conference in Edinburgh,promoting
unity within the Christian world. It seeks to bring diverse groups of
Christians together to enact wider social and political change. The ecumenical
movement has also gained traction in a broader context, promoting unity across
all religions to work towards the common goals of freedom, charity, and peace
TO ADAPT OR BECOME IRRELEVANT?
The liberal, pluralistic
Western society champions the moral standards of tolerance and inclusivity.
While these principles afford us the freedom to thrive and to worship,
political correctness can begin to seep into religious belief, to its
detriment. In one BBC radio interview, the interviewer challenged the Christian
belief that only faith in Jesus can save, calling this belief offensive. When
the Christian interviewee pointed out that it is the teaching of the Bible, the
interviewer retorted that this was a matter of opinion. We are now in a
relativist, “post-truth” environment, where there is no absolute truth, only
opinions. No wonder some Christians try to reconcile the unwavering and
timeless teachings of the Bible with the inclusive attitude of liberal society.
This leads to the belief that the blessing of Jesus applies to all; that every
family of the earth will be blessed (Gen 12:3; 28:14), and that all flesh shall
see the salvation of God (Lk 3:6).
The message of the True
Jesus Church has become politically incorrect and diametrically opposed to the
general direction of mainstream Christianity. The message of one hope, one
Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God (Eph 4:4–6) is outdated and backwards.
The true church is seen as a sect, stuck in the past and irrelevant to the
And yet, we still carry the
commission to preach to the ends of the earth. Should we dilute our message and
join wider Christian and interfaith communities to promote social justice?
Surely, this openness would not only make our lives easier, but also attract
more souls to our fold and quicken our spread throughout the world. Before
going down this path, we need to address two questions: Since God is all-loving
and merciful, are biblical doctrines irrelevant to salvation? And what is the
church’s role in making the world a better place?
UNIVERSALISM: RESTORATION OF ALL
To address the first
question, let us look at the concept of universalism—the belief that all human
souls will ultimately be reconciled to God, through His divine love and mercy.
Before Jesus ascended to
heaven, the disciples were eager to find out if the kingdom of Israel would be
restored at that time (Acts 1:6). This question was borne of the misconception
that the fallen Davidic kingdom (Amos 9:11) would be physically restored on
earth. This idea was wholly rejected by Jesus, who emphatically proclaimed that
His kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36). His kingdom arrived with power, as
He foretold (Mk 9:1), when the Holy Spirit established the apostolic church at
Pentecost (Acts 2).
Later, after healing a lame
man at the temple, Peter spoke of the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21).
This has different connotations, depending on your interpretation. The original
Greek is ἀποκατάστασις (apokatastasis), meaning “reconstitution, restitution or
restoration to the original or primordial condition.” The Bible depicts the
coming of the Messiah as the inauguration of a utopian period where there is no
pain or destruction (Isa 11:6–9; 65:25). Death entered this world through Adam
(Rom 5:11–12), but the “gift of righteousness” and “justification of life” came
to all men through Jesus (Rom 5:17–18). The concept is clear, but its application
is equivocal. Does the restoration of “all things” include the material world,
as well as the whole of humankind—the good, the bad, and the indifferent?
According to universalism,
the “restoration of all things” applies to all humankind, because God will
“gather together in one all things in Christ” (Eph 1:10). God is love, and love
never fails (1 Jn 4:8; 1 Cor 13:8). God commanded us to forgive, so if He were
to cast sinners into endless punishment, would that not make Him a hypocrite?
The punishment of hell depicted in the Bible must be temporary and remedial,
not merely punitive, because nothing can overcome the love and compassion of
God. Therefore, at some point, all human souls will become holy and know the
joys of heaven.
Humanism: Logic and the Sanctity
understand the concept of universalism, we must recognize its debt to humanism.
This is a philosophy that emphasizes the value of human life and individual
agency, and that has a positive view of human nature. Modern humanism is fundamentally
atheistic, and expresses itself in these terms:
Humanists are people who shape their own lives in the here and now,
because we believe it's the only life we have. We make sense of the world
through logic, reason, and evidence, and always seek to treat those around us
with warmth, understanding, and respect
uplifting ideals have not only influenced society but also permeated the hearts
and minds of modern Christians. This has led some Christians to reassess the
Bible and their faith in a new light. They ask: How can an absolutely loving
God be absolutely just—rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked (Rom
2:6–8)—at the same time? How could a merciful God allow the poor souls of
sinners to suffer eternal torment?
such Christians, the traditional teaching of heaven and hell has become
irrelevant. To satisfy their human logic, these Christians attempt to bridge
the perceived gap between God’s righteousness and mercy. The result is the
belief that, at some stage, all believers, non-believers, sinners and saints
will be forgiven and saved. Nothing is impossible for God, and in the big
scheme of eternity, even a billion millennia would still be temporary. This is
a comforting thought, but is it based on sound biblical teaching?
Contradictions: Theories Falsely
reminded Timothy to guard the faith by “avoiding…contradictions of what is
falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim 6:20). Persuasive though it is, universalism
is an unproven theory. Much of its reasoning comes from the Scriptures, but we
know that even the devil quotes the Scriptures (Lk 4:10–11). Throughout the
ages, humankind has attempted to rationalize God’s nature and deeds, using
human logic to explain any apparent contradictions. They either invent new
language to blur or distract from the issue, or find some other way to explain
classic example of this relates to Jesus’ dual nature—His simultaneously human
and divine status as both the seed of David, according to the flesh, and the
Son of God (Rom 1:3–4). In contemplating how the divine could exist in fallen
flesh, the human mind has conceived such ideas as docetism and adoptionism. The
former is the belief that Jesus’ body was not human, but some kind of phantom;
He only appeared to suffer, while not experiencing physical pain. The latter is
the belief that Jesus was merely a man, but was adopted by God because of His
virtue. Not only are both of these theories heresies, they also fail to explain
the so-called contradictions in Jesus’ nature, which is ultimately a mystery
beyond human conception.
THE WORD OF GOD IS ABSOLUTE
One Path to Salvation
have a tendency to play with words to make unpleasant truths more palatable.
God’s word, on the other hand, is absolute and immutable. When it comes to
salvation, the Bible is unequivocal: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for
there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”
(Acts 4:12). The only way to find God and salvation is through Jesus; as Jesus
Himself said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:6). In
simple terms, no religion except Christianity can lead man to God.
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom
of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21). Jesus
foretold that many would enter the broad gate leading to destruction, and that
few would enter the narrow gate leading to life (Mt 7:13–14). These verses
indicate that not all Christians will be saved. In fact, Jesus declared, “Most
assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot
enter the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5). It is clear that one needs to meet certain
conditions in order to enter God’s kingdom. Whether one is saved or condemned
(Jn 3:16; 5:29) depends on one’s actions. No amount of euphemism can nullify
the gravity of God’s word.
are Christians who accept that hell is a final destination, but argue that God
would not allow the suffering of sinners to be eternal—they would just
eventually cease to exist. This belief is called annihilationism. Again, this
attempt to cast God’s judgement in a “friendlier” light is misguided. The Greek
word translated as “perish” (ἀπόλλυμι,
indeed mean “total destruction,” but the word translated as “destruction” (ἀπώλεια, apóleia) also has connotations of being “completely cut
off.” The latter better describes the “torments in Hades” experienced by the
rich man in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:23; cf. 2 Thess
The Urgency of the Gospel
the concept of universalism does not hold up. If everyone will eventually
receive salvation and enter the kingdom of God, what is the point of preaching
the gospel, and with such urgency?
for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2; 4:17; cf. Mt 10:7; Mk 1:15).
This phrase is repeated throughout the Gospel books, and the message is clear:
the kingdom is near and hearers must respond immediately, believe and come to
the light (Jn 3:18–20). If universal salvation had been accomplished through
Christ’s death on the cross, there would be no need to proclaim the gospel to
all creation. There would be no need to preach that “He who believes and is baptized
will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:16; also
see Mt 28:19–20). We would all be able to sit back and relax because, at some
point in the future, everything and everyone, including Satan, will be
restored. There would be no need for Jesus to point out the many criteria for
being saved and the difficulty of entering the kingdom (Mt 18:3, 35; Lk 13:3,
5; Jn 3:5; 6:53; 13:8; 15:4; Mt 19:23). And there would be no need to cultivate
our salvation with “fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).
Contend for the Truth
is, indeed, open to all humankind, since Jesus sacrificed Himself “once for
all” (Rom 6:10; Heb 7:27; 9:12; 10:10). But does that mean we can continue to
do and believe whatever we like, and still expect to receive salvation?
doctrinal disputes are redundant, why did Jude encourage us to “contend
earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3)? Why would Paul be willing to suffer in
order to defend the faith (2 Cor 11:26–27; Gal 5:11; 1 Cor 15:20)? Why would he
encourage Timothy to “hold fast the pattern of sound words,” keep “that good
thing which was committed to you,” and “commit these [things] to faithful men
who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 1:13–14; 2:2)? If there is no
resurrection, if Christ has not come in the flesh, and if circumcision is
required for salvation (1 Cor 15:12–13; 1 Jn 4:3; Gal 5:3), why would the
apostles dispute these beliefs? Why would the apostles warn against sin and
unrighteousness if they were of little consequence (Rom 6:1–2; 1 Cor 6:9)?
fact is that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).
The church is not a cafeteria where you can pick and choose items according to
your personal taste.
not be mistaken—in Matthew 25:46, “everlasting” punishment and “eternal” life
are both based on the same Greek adjective: αἰώνιος
(aiónios). Paul also describes the punishment as “everlasting destruction
from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess 1:9).
In this verse, the original Greek word for “destruction” (ολεθρον, olethron, “ruination”) does not imply “extinction,” but
total and everlasting separation from the Lord and His glory. There is no way
truth and validity of God’s words remain the same yesterday, today and
tomorrow. Human theories and logic have no place if they contradict the
teaching of the Bible. The Bible does not change, and neither does the message
of the true church.
THE SOCIAL MISSION OF ECUMENISM
To address the question of
what the church’s role in society should be, let us examine the forces driving
the ecumenical trend. Given that modern society has become more liberal and
pluralistic, and churches are seeing a decline in membership, it seems
Christianity needs to become more relevant to attract believers. The most
obvious method of reinvention is to downplay traditional doctrines in favour of
something everyone can agree on: social justice, making the world a better
place, and providing charity to those in need. By emphasizing the endeavors and
issues they are similarly passionate about, theologically divergent groups can
be drawn together.
Many Christians who
interpret the Bible strictly hold a strong pro-life stance, a traditional view
of family, a commitment to care for the homeless and sick, and a desire to see
justice in the world. It would make sense for these Christians to set aside
their differences to create a global organization to push for the change they
wish to see in the world. But should the true church join with other churches
to promote such charitable causes?
As a church, we should not
forget our responsibility to care for our members and broader society. When
there is a natural disaster, the church should address the immediate needs of
those suffering and comfort the bereaved. But we should not forget the primary
mission of the church: to preach the gospel of salvation. Jesus, out of
compassion, healed all kinds of sickness and disease (Mt 4:23; 9:35), performed
miracles to feed the crowds (Mt 14:14–21; 15:32–38), and, when He sent out the twelve,
commanded them to heal the sick, cleanse lepers and raise the dead (Mt 10:8).
But we should note that He always prioritized preaching the gospel above
addressing the physical needs of the people (Mt 10:7–8).
The Spiritual Mission of the
Jesus’ anointing at Bethany is retold, the emphasis is often placed on the woman’s unreserved sacrifice
for Jesus—her willingness to give up a precious flask of costly fragrant oil.
But notice the reaction of the disciples, who indignantly asked, “Why this waste?”
we could point to the many hours spent on church administration: repetitive
discussions about human and financial resources, fundraising for local church
buildings, event schedules, and so on. The humanitarian efforts of our church
fall into this list, and, just as Jesus reminds us that we will always have the
poor (Jn 12:8; Mt 26:11), these administrative and humanitarian tasks will
need to pray for the wisdom of Mary—to be able to serve God unreservedly and in
a timely manner (Jn 12:3, 7; Mt 26:12). The Bible tells us that the angels
rejoice over one repentant sinner (Lk 15:10), not when a road is built or a
well is dug in a developing country, and not when a food bank is stocked in the
developed world. Time is short and opportunity is fleeting (Rom 13:12; Jn
12:35–36), so we should preach the gospel while it is still day.
CONCLUSION: THE LIMITS OF LOGIC
Proponents of universalism
would have us believe that we will all be saved eventually. But the apostle
Peter tells us to “be even more diligent to make [our] call and election sure,”
to secure our entrance into the “everlasting kingdom” (2 Pet 1:10–11). Our
salvation is not a given. The Bible warns us not to be swayed by philosophy and
vain deceit, beguiled by persuasive words, or carried about by strange
doctrines (Col 2:8, 4; Heb 13:9; Eph 4:14).
This diverse and liberal
society is the ideal environment for wide-ranging ideas to flourish, but True
Jesus Church members should beware of human philosophies creeping into their
faith. These philosophies can seem logical and persuasive, but they are not the
truth of God. For example, consider the well-known philosophical conundrum: can
the Omnipotent God create an immovable object that even He cannot move? By the
logic of this conundrum, no matter if the answer is yes or no, God’s
omnipotence is disproved. This logic is circulatory and hermetically sealed.
But God cannot be reduced to fit a human definition of omnipotence; it is not
possible to apply cold logic to God’s nature and existence.
God says, “I will have mercy
on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will
have compassion” (Rom 9:15), yet humans judge this to be unfair. God says, “I
AM WHO I AM” (Ex 3:14) and calls Himself “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev 22:13),
yet humans yearn to remake God in their own image. We are His creatures, and
should remember that we cannot question His sovereignty (Rom 9:20).
Jesus says: “I am the way,
the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn
14:6). There is only one body, one hope, one faith and one baptism (Eph 4:4–5),
and only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven
(Mt 7:21). From a human perspective, these words are offensive to members of
other religions and Christian denominations; but to believers, they are words
of salvation. We do not condemn those who do not believe and remain in
darkness. It is the gospel that judges (Jn 12:46–48; 3:18); it is the gospel
that evokes and demands a response. Jesus’ salvation is effective only for
those who believe, and restoration is granted only to those who respond (Jn
3:19–20). With this knowledge, believers of the gospel should not hold back,
but go forth confidently to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).