"Eternal life starts now, it is a reality we live in, not a state we enter upon death.”

Israel's Messiah and the People of God
"Kinzer explores the topic of individual 'salvation,' mining the biblical texts for guidance and challenging some of the most common prevailing viewpoints and verbiage. Examining the traditions of Peter and James, Paul, and John, Kinzer finds several distinctives regarding what one must do to be 'saved.' First, the Apostolic Writings (New Testament) are unequivocal in warning against presumption about insiders and outsiders with regard to the kingdom of God. Second, salvation has much more to do with faith as a life of obedience than faith as affirmation of propositional truth. Third, especially according to the Johannine tradition, eternal life starts now, it is a reality we live in, not a state we enter upon death. Finally, each person is accountable for the light they have seen and the truth that has been unveiled to them. Kinzer defines salvation as a life of obedience to the Torah as definitely interpreted by Yeshua, and final judgment as God's just and merciful assessment of each person's deeds in consideration of their circumstances and limitations.

In his gracious but penetrating response to the essays in this volume, Oxford professor John Webster wonders whether it is particularly North American evangelicals who need to be reminded that the Bible presents salvation as offering more than getting souls to heaven. My experience of teaching soteriology for several years at Regent College - an international graduate school of Christian studies whose students come from thirty-five countries on every continent except Antarctica - leads me to think that evangelicals far and wide also need their horizons expanded. Over and over, students have betrayed an understanding of salvation that amounted to a sort of spiritual individualism that is little better than Gnosticism. *

In fact, we could make an important start simply by teaching that salvation is not about 'Christians going to heaven.' Salvation is about God redeeming the whole earth... Salvation is about heading for the New Jerusalem, not heaven: a garden city on earth, not the very abode of God and certainly not a bunch of pink clouds in the sky... And salvation is not only about what is to come but also about what is ours to enjoy and foster here and now.[1]

According to Stackhouse and his colleagues, evangelicals too often view salvation in negative terms (what we are saved from), and as forensic, individualistic, private and pietistic, and spiritualized. In contrast, the authors argue that salvation should be viewed primarily as positive, transformative, communal, relational, cosmic, and embodied.[2]

Even if salvation is far more than 'souls going to heaven,' we cannot divorce soteriology from eschatology, nor should we minimize the significance of identifying the criteria by which individuals qualify for the final installment of the eschatological gift. Let us formulate our question in a manner that avoids soteriological ambiguity or confusion: What qualifications must individual human beings possess to inherit life in the world to come? Underlying this general question is a more specific one: Do we have grounds for hope that some who do not explicitly acknowledge Yeshua before death will be among those who inherit life in the world to come?[3] within the Messianic Jewish movement the driving concern is even more specific: Do we have grounds for hope that some Jewish people who do not explicitly acknowledge Yeshua in this life will be among the redeemed in the world to come?

I call this the question of final destinies. In my view, the good news proclaimed and lived by the apostles is primarily concerned with final destiny (in the singular): the eschatological consummation of covenant history and the created order in Messiah Yeshua by God's Spirit. However, that singular destiny is manifold and diverse, and encompasses the destinies of unique individuals. It is these eschatological destinies that will occupy my attention in this article.

A thorough and compelling response to this question of final destinies would include at least four elements: (1) a study of the explicit biblical teaching on the topic, which would focus on the Apostolic Writings (since reward and judgment in the world to come is not a major theme in Tanakh); (2) a consideration of broader theological issues that have a bearing on the question;[4] (3) an examination of the practical implications of the available responses;[5] (4) a summary of the various responses to the question that have been offered through the centuries, and the reception they have received in the community of faith.[6]

I will pursue here only the first of these inquiries: a study of what the Apostolic Writings have to say about final destinies. Even on this point I will need to limit myself to the first two sub-questions: (1) What qualifications must individual human beings possess to inherit life in the world to come? (2) Do we have grounds for hope that some who do not explicitly acknowledge Yeshua before death will be among those who inherit life in the world to come? Our answers to these sub-questions will have implications for the third sub-question (i.e., the case of Jewish people who lack explicit Yeshua-faith), but we will not examine this as a topic in its own right.[7]

within the Apostolic Writings I find three distinct ways of approaching this topic. They correspond roughly to three spheres of apostolic influence and activity: (1) the apostolic tradition of Peter and James (as reflected especially in the Synoptic Gospels and the General Letters); (2) the apostolic tradition of Paul (as displayed in the letters which bear his name); and (3) the apostolic tradition of John (as embodied in the Gospel and Letters of John).[8] I will begin with the tradition of Peter and James, and then take up the traditions of Paul and of John.[9]

The Tradition of Peter and James

One of the primary themes in this tradition's approach to final destinies is the warning against presumption. The tradition that derives from Peter and James has much to say on the topic of final destinies - the reward and punishment of individuals in the world to come. It is usually overshadowed by the traditions of Paul and John, and read only in the light of their distinctive terminologies and emphases. This is unfortunate, and constitutes an oversight that we as Messianic Jews (to whom this tradition is especially addressed) are especially well-suited to overcome. When studied on its own terms and taken seriously in its own right, the tradition of Peter and James challenges many popular assumptions and raises important questions.

One of the primary themes in this tradition's approach to final destinies is the warning against presumption: the misplaced confidence that we will be rewarded at the end, while others (who do not possess our qualifications) will be punished. The threatening words of John the Immerser, with which the story of Yeshua's mission begins, are typical:

John said to the crowds that came out to be immersed by him, You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Luke 3:7-9; see Matthew 3:7-10)[10]

Descent from Abraham - a Jewish genealogy - will not provide automatic entry into the final banquet. Similarly, Gentile descent will not ensure automatic exclusion:

I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 8:11-12)

In Matthew's version of this saying, it is evident that those who 'come from east and west' are Gentiles, since the words are uttered in response to the faithfulness of a Gentile centurion (Matthew 8:5-10). Accordingly, the 'heirs of the kingdom' are Jews. Like the warning of John the Immerser, this teaching serves as an admonition against presumption based on Jewish identity.[11] Of course, it does not imply that all the 'heirs of the kingdom' will be excluded, but instead contrasts the final destinies of many Gentiles with that of many Jews in order to challenge the comfortable assurance and exclusivism of the people of the covenant.

Yeshua's admonition against presumption extends beyond the claims of Jewish identity. He issues the same warning to his own disciples, and makes clear that their confession of faith in him as Lord, their public association with him, and even their mighty deeds done in his name will be insufficient to ensure their final destiny:

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)

This is an extremely significant text. It is not addressed to casual hearers of Yeshua, but to those who speak and act publicly in his name - and do so effectively! It is addressed to leaders of the Yeshua-movement - to us! Like the 'heirs of the kingdom' in general, we must guard against the presumption that our participation in and apparently fruitful leadership of the community of the (renewed) covenant ensures our final destiny.[12]

Just as hopeful passages regarding the final destiny of Gentiles stand side by side with stern rebukes of Jewish presumption, so the tradition of Peter and James includes hopeful passages regarding non-Yeshua-followers that contrast with the above warning to his disciples. Of special significance is the parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46). As Davies and Allison note, the Gospel of Matthew highlights the importance of this 'word-picture of the Last Judgment' by placing it at the conclusion of Yeshua's fifth and final discourse.[13] It is thus the climax of Yeshua's public mission. The beginning of the 'word-picture' describes the scene:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. (Matthew 25:31-33).

Whoever 'all the nations' may be, they certainly include multitudes that were not part of the Yeshua-believing community during their lifetime. This is confirmed by the fact that they do not recognize Yeshua as the one they helped (25:37) or failed to help (25:44). Yet, many among them inherit the life of the world to come.

The 'word-picture' of the sheep and the goats deals with people who have not consciously known Yeshua during their lifetimes. In another saying Yeshua even opens up the possibility of a happy ending for those who have opposed him:

Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.[14] (Matthew 12:31-32; see Luke 12:10)

Some Pharisees had asserted that Yeshua expelled demons by means of demonic power (i.e., magic). Yeshua sees this as an act of 'speaking against the Holy Spirit,' that is, attributing deeds that are manifestly good (and thus the work of God) to an evil source. It is to call good evil. According to Yeshua, this constitutes a basic rejection of God. In contrast, merely to speak against Yeshua is a less serious offense. It can be forgiven - that is, some of those who do it may inherit the life of the world to come.[15]

If being a Jew or a public follower of Yeshua is insufficient for inheriting the life of the world to come, and if being a Gentile or one outside the Yeshua-believing community does not exclude one from that life, what are the qualifications for a happy final destiny? The teaching of the tradition of Peter and James shows remarkable consistency in answering this question. Yeshua's words in Matthew 7:21 are emblematic of this answer: '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.' What counts are actions (i.e., words and deeds) that conform to the divine will. Sometimes this tradition places particular emphasis on the action component:

For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. (Matthew 16:27)

I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37)

If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. (1 Peter 1:17)

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judgedaccording to their works, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. (Revelation 20:12-13)

Sometimes the tradition emphasizes that the deeds required are those that conform to the will of God as expressed in the commandments (mitzvot) of the Torah, i.e., righteous deeds:

Then someone came to him and said, 'Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?' And he said to him, 'Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the mitzvot.' (Matthew 19:16-17)

'For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.' (Matthew 5:20)

The most important commandments that lead to life are those that summon us to love God and neighbor:

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Yeshua. 'Rabbi,' he said, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' He said to him: 'What is written in the Torah? What do you read there?' He answered, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.' And he said to him, 'You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.' (Luke 10:25-28)

Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? (James 2:5)

You do well if you really fulfill the Torah of the Kingdom according to the scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'. ...So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the Torah of liberty. (James 2:8, 12)

The love that fulfills the Torah is not a sentiment, but an action done in the context of a relationship - a relationship with God, and a relationship with other people.

We may specify further the character of the love of neighbor commanded by Yeshua that serves as a key criterion for the inheritance of life. In so doing, we come to the heart of the teaching of Peter and James regarding final destinies. From what has been said thus far, one might think that the tradition of Peter and James presents an unattainable ideal of perfectionism that fails to take account of human sinfulness and our constant need for divine mercy. In reality, these texts demonstrate a vivid awareness of our dependence on God's mercy, expressed concretely in the forgiveness of sins. But the way we avail ourselves of this mercy is by showing mercy ourselves:

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. . . .For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:12-15)

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. (Matthew 7:1-2)

For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)[16]

Yeshua also conveys this central teaching through the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35). A king forgives an enormous debt owed him by one of his ministers, but that same minister fails to forgive a tiny debt owed him by one of his slaves. The parable concludes in this way:

Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart. (Matthew 18:32-35)

All of the above texts provide classic examples of the traditional rabbinic principle of 'measure for measure' (middah keneged middah). According to this principle, God will treat us in the same way we have treated others. Yeshua takes up this principle, but he applies it to only one feature of our conduct: if we want God to be generous and merciful toward us, we must be generous and merciful to others. This reflects Yeshua's sense that all human beings are in desperate need for mercy. Strict justice will not produce a good result for anyone. This does not lead him to emphasize faith rather than deeds, but instead to emphasize one aspect of how we act toward others - our generosity and readiness to forgive.[17]

According to the tradition of Peter and James, Yeshua also teaches that the final judgment which determines final destinies takes account of the unique circumstances, challenges, and opportunities of each individual. The judge assesses not only what the individual has done, but also the relationship between what they have done and what they were given. This aspect of the final judgment is especially prominent in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), placed immediately before the parable of the sheep and goats. A master entrusts property to three servants: the first servant receives five talents, the second receives two talents, and the third receives one.[18] The first servant goes into business, and produces an additional five talents for his master. The second servant does the same, and likewise doubles the initial investment. The response of the master in both cases is the same: 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master' (25:21, 23). The third servant returns the deposit without addition, and is rebuked for it. If he had produced one additional talent - thus doubling the master's initial investment - he would have received the same commendation as the other two servants. Thus, the master's pleasure is dependent not simply on what each servant produces, but on what they have done with what they were given.

This principle of relative accountability is likewise reflected in another saying of Yeshua dealing with masters and slaves:

That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. (Luke 12:47-48a)

The slave who did not know what was expected of him is still held accountable, presumably because he should have known! His ignorance is culpable. Nevertheless, his punishment is light in comparison to the slave who knew what his master wanted, and did not do it. The principle of justice illustrated by this example is then stated explicitly:

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded (Luke 12:48b).

Yeshua here teaches that the final judgment will take account of what each of us knew and did not know, of the resources each of us had or lacked. The perfect justice of God will be administered in light of God's all-seeing eye.

The tradition of Peter and James calls for faith in Yeshua as God's elect servant, and insists that the afflicted are healed when they trust in him (e.g., Mark 2:5; 5:34, 36; 6:5-6; 10:52; Matthew 8:10, 13; 15:28). [19] Nevertheless, this tradition nowhere presents explicit faith in Yeshua (or lack of such faith) as a criterion of judgment in the last day.[20] What then is Yeshua's role in the determination of final destinies? In order to understand the perspective of the tradition of Peter and James on this question, we must attend to the eschatological expectations displayed in this tradition.

John the Immerser had proclaimed an imminent judgment on Israel as part of the birth pangs of the Messianic age (Matthew 3:1-12). Yeshua came to renew Israel's covenant (Luke 22:20) and to restore the twelve tribes (Matthew 19:28), but first he had to take upon himself the judgment that belonged to Israel so that Israel and the nations might receive divine forgiveness (Matthew 20:28; 26:28). As his death involves the bearing of Israel's judgment, so his resurrection anticipates and secures Israel's ultimate eschatological resurrection (Matthew 27:52-53).

Yeshua's redemptive work thus focuses first on Israel's - and the world's - final destiny. The destinies of individuals receive their particular meaning only within the framework of that singular but multifarious national and cosmic destiny. The mission of Yeshua thus has a direct bearing on the life and destiny of every individual. But does the tradition of Peter and James provide any further insight into what this entails?

This tradition tells us three additional things about Yeshua and the final destinies of individuals that are of great importance. First, Yeshua himself will be the judge who determines each destiny (Matthew 7:22-23; 10:33; 16:27; 25:31-33). His teaching and his example, which provide God's definitive interpretation of the essential requirements of the Torah, will serve as the standard of judgment,[21] and his atoning sacrifice will make available God's forgiveness. But every individual will also encounter him face to face to receive his personal verdict on their lives.

Second, those who hear his call to discipleship and leave all to follow him, and remain faithful to the end, will inherit the life of the world to come (Matthew 19:21, 29; Mark 8:35). Following Yeshua is the perfect observance of the Torah (Matthew 19:16-21), and thus qualifies one for that inheritance. Those who live in a manner that acknowledges before the world their relationship to Yeshua, will have that relationship acknowledged by Yeshua the judge before the Father (Matthew 10:32). Even those who hear that call at the end of their lives, and respond sincerely, will be with Yeshua in Paradise (Luke 23:39-43). However, if one becomes a disciple and then, in a situation of stress, denies knowing Yeshua (like Peter in Matthew 26:69-75) and fails to repent (unlike Peter), then Yeshua the judge will deny that person before the Father (Matthew 10:33). This accords with the principle of accountability, 'From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.' (Luke 12:48b)

Finally, as noted above, some who were not conscious and explicit followers of Yeshua will be welcomed at the end by Yeshua the judge with the words 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' (Matthew 25:34) But, according to this crucial 'word-picture of the Last Judgment,' these heirs of the kingdom actually had a history of responding faithfully to the personal call of Yeshua, and were inheriting the kingdom because of that response. That call had come through Yeshua's family members - the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned. (Matthew 25:35-36, 40) Apparently, what Yeshua had said of the apostles also applies to the needy: 'Whoever welcomes you welcomes me.' (Matthew 10:40)[22] Thus, even those who are never conscious of Yeshua's presence or call (Matthew 25:37-38, 44), which comes to all people, are judged by how they respond to that call.

In summary, the apostolic tradition of Peter and James challenges the presumption of Jews and Yeshua-believers regarding final destinies, and insists that the final judgment will involve a just and merciful assessment of everyone's deeds. While the judgment will take account of the particular circumstances, gifts, and limitations of each individual, it will also scrutinize the deeds of all according to the Torah as definitively interpreted by Yeshua. That definitive interpretation places special emphasis on the requirement that we show mercy to others, giving and forgiving. Yeshua himself will be the judge, and his assessment of our deeds will also reveal how we related to him during our lives - explicitly or implicitly.”

Mark S. Kinzer, Israel's Messiah and the People of God
Wipf & Stock Pub (January 7, 2011) pp. 126-35

* ©Mark S. Kinzer 2007, Prepared for, and delivered at the Boro Park Symposium October 2007.
[1] John G. Stackhouse, Jr. (editor), What Does It Mean To Be Saved? (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 9-10.
[2] Most Messianic Jews would also consider salvation as dealing prominently with nations, and in particular with the nation of Israel.
[3] The distinction between implicit and explicit faith goes back to the middle ages. For its use by Thomas Aquinas, see Matthew Levering, Christ's Fulfillment of Torah and Temple (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002), 23-24, 92-93.
[4] Relevant theological issues include the meaning and significance of God's attributes of mercy and justice and the relationship between them; the divinity of Yeshua and his mediatorial role in creation, revelation, and redemption; the validity of the traditional doctrine of "original sin," and its implications for a free human response to God's gracious initiative; the implications of the paradigmatic cases of infant mortality and those with severe mental limitations; and the nature of Israel's enduring covenant and the ecclesiological bond between the Jewish people and the Christian Church.
[5] Practical implications include how the embrace of the various responses affect the following: motivation for outreach; the power and attractiveness of our presentation of the good news; our relationships with those who are outside the Yeshua-faith community (especially our fellow Jews); our attitudes towards the Jewish people through history and the Jewish religious tradition; and the formation of personal character that bears the image of Yeshua.
[6] For an excellent recent volume that covers much of this ground, written by an evangelical theologian with a missionary background, see Terrance L. Tiessen, Who Can Be Saved? (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2004).
[7] Given the passionate concerns about this topic within the Messianic Jewish movement, it is unfortunate that I am unable to address this question explicitly in the present paper. However, in my view the question of non-Messianic Jews and the world to come must be examined in the broader context provided by the studies undertaken here and in my book, Postmissionary Messianic Judaism (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2005).
[8] Some texts (i.e., Acts, Hebrews, and Revelation) demonstrate an overlap of traditions. On the present topic, Revelation shares the perspective of the tradition of Peter and James. Acts and Hebrews are also closest to this tradition, though they likewise have elements in common with the tradition of Paul.
[9] My focus in this paper on biblical "traditions" has a twofold purpose: (1) to facilitate the discerning of family resemblances among various strands of teaching in the Apostolic Writings, so as to enable an exegetical treatment that takes account of similarities and differences in language, conceptuality, and focus; and (2) to underline the fact that books whose authors are not themselves apostles (e.g., Mark, Luke) rely upon authoritative apostolic testimony. I am certainly not aiming to ascribe authority to underlying "traditions" apart from the canonical text, and context in which they are embodied and transmitted. I am also not asserting any grand claims regarding the composition of the individual books. My purpose is in large part heuristic.
[10] All biblical citations are based on the NRSV, with my own modifications.
[11] The parallel in Luke has a different context, which leads to a different meaning. There the warning is issued to those who heard and saw Yeshua personally, among whom he lived and worked: "Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.'" (Luke 13:26). Those "thrust out" of the presence of the Patriarchs are not "The heirs of the kingdom," as in Matthew, but "you yourselves" (i.e., those who knew Yeshua; Luke 11:28). In this context, those who "come from east and west, and north and south" are not necessarily Gentiles, but those from outside the land of Israel, who could not have known Yeshua personally.
[12] This is a common theme in the tradition of Peter and James. See, for example, 2 Peter 2:21; Hebrews 2:1-3; 10:26-31. 12:25-26.
[13] W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997) 3:418.
[14] Some exegetes imply that this text may refer only to the period of Yeshua's earthly mission, when he operated "Incognito" (R. T. France, The Gospel According to Matthew [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985], 210). However, would the community have preserved such a saying if it had no application to their lives? Such a reductionist explanation derives more from a preconceived doctrinal position that seeks to evade the force of the text than from serious theological exegesis.
[15] On the basis of this text, Athol Dickson asks the following questions regarding the final destinies of Jewish people who do not believe in Yeshua: "Is it possible for people of this age who were taught since birth to 'speak against the Son of Man' to be forgiven for doing exactly as they have been trained to do?...Will a gracious God consider their situation, look into their hearts to see if they truly love him, and forgive 'their words spoken against the Son of Man?' " (The Gospel according to Moses [Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2003] 253). C. S. Lewis concluded from this text that "honest rejection of Christ, however mistaken, will be forgiven and healed.” (God in the Dock [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970] 111).
[16] Texts on tzedakah show the same principle at work (e.g., Luke 6:38; 16:9-13, 19-31; 19:8-90).
[17] See Gabriele Boccaccini, Middle Judaism (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), 217-20. Boccaccini exaggerates the difference between the Yeshua tradition and Rabbinic thought on this topic, but his exposition of the teaching of the Yeshua tradition on forgiveness is superb.
[18] A talent was worth more than fifteen years' wages of a laborer.
[19] In keeping with the usage of the synoptic gospels, Acts 4:9 employs the verb "Be saved" (sosotai) to refer to bodily healing. It also attributes this healing to the "name" of Yeshua and to "The faith of his name" (3:16). This is the context for Peter's claim, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Obviously, "salvation" has wider meaning here than just physical healing. However, it must include such manifestations of saving power. Given this fact, John Taylor's interpretation of the text has merit:
He was saying that Jesus of Nazareth is the source of every act of healing and salvation that has ever happened. He knew perfectly well that vast numbers of people had been healed without any knowledge of Jesus, yet he made the astounding claim that Jesus was the hidden author of all healing. He was the totally unique savior because he was totally universal.(cited by Tiessen, 85)
[20] Of the two possible exceptions, Revelation 21:8 and Mark 16:16, the apistois who are cast into the lake burning with fire are not "The unbelievers" (KJV, NASB, NIV) but "The faithless" (RSV, NRSV, NEB, ESV), "The unfaithful" (CEV), or "The untrustworthy.” (Stern) JB properly paraphrases as "those who break their word," while TEV has "The traitors.” This reading is supported by Revelation's universal use of the positive form of the adjective (pistos) to mean "faithful" rather than "Believing" (1:5; 2:10; 2:13; 3:14; 17:14; 19:11; 21:5; 21:6). The other possible exception to this generalization (Mark 16:16) will be treated later, for reasons to be explained at that point.
[21] Wolfhart Pannenberg notes that the Beatitudes allot the inheritance of the kingdom to categories of people whose character reflects the teaching and example of Yeshua, regardless of whether they have ever heard of him: "The message of Jesus is the norm by which God judges even in the case of those who never meet Jesus personally... All to whom the Beatitudes apply will have a share in the coming salvation whether or not they ever heard of Jesus in this life. For factually they have a share in Jesus and his message, as the day of judgment will make manifest.” (Systematic Theology, Volume 3 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998], 615).
[22] Exegetes disagree over the identity of Yeshua's "family members" in Matthew 25. Some see them as disciples of Yeshua, either apostles or other suffering members of the community (see, for example Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999], 604-6). Others, such as Davies and Allison, see them as the needy in general. While I incline to the latter view, it is significant, regardless, that (1) the sheep and goats are those outside the covenant community, and (2) they did not know that they were encountering Yeshua when they cared for his "family members.”

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Al-Qiyamah (The Resurrection)
His Light Within
His Universe Within
His Beings Within
Subtle System
Lectures To Earth
Shri Mataji
Drumbeat Of Death
Table Of Contents
Contact Us
Declaration of the Paraclete
The Paraclete opens the Kingdom of God
Cool Breeze of the Resurrection - BBC 1985
The Supreme Source Of Love 1985
The Great Mother
The Vision Part One
The Vision Part Two
The Vision Part Three
The Vision Part Four