Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, October 15, 2023
Shavuah Tov,

Salvation– Childlike Faith or Something More Involved? Part 3 of 4
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: Consider three Biblical truths:

● We all are sinners and deserve punishment. << See Romans 3:23: … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. >>

● God wishes all of His children to repent of sin. << See 2 Peter 3:9b: … [The Lord is] patient toward you– not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. >>

● Since the time of Cain and Abel, shedding of blood has been the acceptable sacrifice to atone for sin. << See Hebrews 9:22: And nearly everything is purified in blood according to the Torah, and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. >>

How do we reconcile these three truths? God in Three Persons has devised a way:

● God, our Father, promises to forgive and forget sin, if approached appropriately.

● Yesuha, our Passover Lamb, provided the perfect blood sacrifice on Golgotha’s cross to atone for sins, dying in our place for our sins.

● The Ruach ha-Kodesh provides the invitation to follow Yeshua and be forgiven of sin.

We call this process of saving a soul from eternal death in Hell to eternal life in Heaven, “salvation.”

Salvation is so simple that a child or mentally challenged person can understand enough to accept God’s grace. Salvation is so complex that not even the most learned theologian can understand all of it. Salvation is truly a mystery of God.

WILL SOME GO TO HEAVEN EMPTY-HANDED? I have written about this in a previous RR, but it is an important concept and bears repeating. The Apostle Paul was apparently a sports fan. During the first century, races were popular. A judge sat at the finish line to determine the order of finish of the racers so that prizes could be awarded. The judge sat on a raised platform, directly beside the finish line. This platform was called a bema (ponounced bay-mah, in B’rit Chadashah Koine Greek). Paul told us that we will all stand before the Divine Judge Yeshua, as He sits on His judgment seat (judgment seat of Messiah or bema), to be judged for our works (deeds) in the name of God (see Romans 14:10c and 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Works, or lack of works, is the only thing which can be used to judge a Christian’s life (see Matthew 7:16-17, 20). Jacob (James) wrote that a person’s faith is confirmed by his/ her works for others (see James, chapter 2). Paul told us that every Believer brings materials to build for his/ her future (see 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Some build with precious metals and stones (“good works”), but others build with sticks and hay (“bad works”). Yeshua will test each person’s works with fire. Good works (precious metals, stones) will be purified by the fire, just as earthly metalworkers refine (separate) the dross (impurities) from precious metals by melting in fire. Bad works (sticks, hay) will be burned to worthless ashes by the fire of judgment.

The precious metals and stones of good works will be used to fashion crowns, but the ashes of bad works cannot be used for crowns. Crowns, representing life’s works, can be given to Him in appreciation for the perfection of Heaven and Yeshua’s sacrifices to get us to Heaven. Several “crowns” (rewards) are mentioned in the Bible:

… The Crown of Rejoicing for Soul Winners (see 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20);

… The Crown of Righteousness for Those Who Love Jesus’ Return (see 2 Timothy 4:8);

… The Incorruptible Crown for Victorious Lives of Purity (see 1 Corinthians 9:25, 27);

… The Crown of Life for Christian Martyrs (see Revelation 2:10);

… The Crown of Glory for Faithful Servants (see 1 Peter 5:4);

… The Crown of Life to Endure Temptation for the Love of Jesus (see James 1:12);

… The Crown of Joy for Converts (see Philippians 4:1);

… The Crown for Faithful Perseverance (see Revelation 3:11); and

… The Elder’s Crown (see Revelation 4:4, 10).

Those with no works may still enter Heaven, but they will be ashamed that they have no crowns to give Yeshua (again, see 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Yeshua preached against greed, except in one instance. He advised us to lay up treasures in Heaven (see Matthew 6:19-21), because heavenly treasures can be earned only by selflessly working for others in Yeshua’s name and because working for heavenly rewards shows the focus of a Believer’s heart.

□ Application: We must work as much as possible for the Kingdom of God. We must work as anonymously as possible. (In the example off the poor widow’s meager gift of a couple of coins of little value, God did not value the Pharisees’ gifts because they gave for the public acclaim of man, not to show love for God and their neighbors.)

When you are called home to Heaven, do not go empty-handed, but go with your heavenly works’ account overflowing with good works, performed in a Scriptural manner. In addition to being awarded crowns, you may hear the most blessed words you will ever want to hear, as your Savior smiles at you and says, “Well done, good servant” (Luke 19:17a). God has blessed each person with life. Giving back some of that life to Him shows appreciation for life.

WHAT IS AN “OVERCOMER?” A Messiah-follower is repeatedly told to be an “overcomer” in the B’rit Chadashah, included in the books of Mark, John, Romans, and 1 John. The Apostle John quoted Yeshua eight times in the Book of Revelation that only “overcomers” may enter Heaven (see Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:26, 3:5, 3:12, 3:21, and 21:7).

What must we overcome? Sin? Satan? The world? Why was Yeshua not specific in what must be overcome? Yeshua has not asked me to speak for Him, but this is my thought: I may need to overcome some things in my life, and you may need to overcome other things in your life. We are all different, with different challenges and shortcomings. Each person needs to assess what he/ she must overcome, and work to overcome those things. << See Philippians 2:12: Therefore, my loved ones, just as you have always obeyed– not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence– work out your salvation with fear and trembling. >>

□ Application: Yeshua gave practical advice on being an overcomer. See Matthew 19:13-24, which I summarize: Little children were brought before Yeshua, and He said Heaven belonged to such as these children. This sentiment is incorporated into the title of this RR. Someone came to Yeshua and asked what should he do to earn eternal life. Yeshua recapped some of the commandments expected to be kept. The young man was confident he had kept these commandments. << Then, Yeshua said (Matthew 19:21-22): Yeshua said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you own, and give to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving, for he had much property. >>

Did Yeshua mean that only paupers can enter Heaven? I do not think so. I think Yeshua saw this young man’s heart and found a person who loved wealth more than anything else life had to offer. I have known such people. The young man needed to remove an idol (wealth and possessions in his life) before giving his heart to God. We all have obstacles to a more perfect life in seeking God– wealth, drugs, sex, work, sports, and the list is nearly endless.

I think Yeshua could look at me or you, and say: “You need to remove xxxxxxx  from your life.” [That is, you should overcome the obstacle of  xxxxxxx]. I may need to overcome one thing, and you may need to overcome something else.

The Revelation describes a Believer’s entry into Heaven through gates of pearl (see Revelation 21:21). Pearl seems to be an odd choice for a gate (I have never seen a pearl gate), unless one considers how a pearl is formed. A shellfish, say an oyster, may have an irritant, say a grain of sand, lodge inside its shell. The oyster secretes a hard material– nacre– to surround the irritant, making it smooth (non-irritating) instead of jagged (irritating). As a pearl removes the irritating effect of a foreign object by covering it with nacre, we are to remove the harmful effect of sins, which should be foreign to a Messiah-follower, by covering the sins by the blood of Yeshua (the sign of the New Covenant, secured for us by His crucifixion). << See Hebrews 9:22: And nearly everything is purified in blood according to the Torah, and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. >>

Earlier in this RR, I used a quote, often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” If you boldly proclaim Yeshua to others, your chances of being admitted to Heaven are surely greater than if you never mention Him. For example, I have been married sixty-two years to the love of my life, Linda. Whenever possible, Linda and I try to go everywhere together as a couple. I proudly introduce her to others as my wife. Everything I own is jointly owned by her. We truly have become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

In the preceding example, Linda knows I love her by my actions. Suppose: if I only go out alone… if I cause her to stand alone in a corner, while I talk to others… if I never walk beside her or sit with her… if I never introduce her as my wife… if I have a mistress… and so forth, she would justifiably wonder if I love her and if we have a strong marital bond. If you plan to be married to your Bridegroom Yeshua, treat Him with the same love and respect you would treat an earthly spouse.

Overcome sin and overcome Satan’s lies, certainly, but also overcome any reticence to proclaim Yeshua and Him crucified. The Apostle Paul had a simple formula to begin a salvation message. << See 1 Corinthians 2:2-5: For I decided not to know about anything among you except Yeshua the Messiah– and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power– so that your faith would not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. >>

Brevity is golden in spreading the Gospel. Readers of my RRs never accuse me of brevity. (Sorry!)

● Consider the written teachings of Paul. In a few verses, he capsulized important teachings of the Gospel message.

● A more recent example is the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863. Two men were invited to speak. Edward Everett spoke for two hours, and his eloquent speech is remembered by no one. (I had to look up who the second speaker was.) President Lincoln delivered a 272-word speech in three minutes. Lincoln’s voice was shrill and high-pitched, and his Kentucky accent offended his northerner  audience. Lincoln’s speech, “The Gettysburg Address,” has been called by historian James McPherson as “the world’s foremost statement of freedom and democracy and the sacrifices required to achieve and defend them.” Nearly every American has read Lincoln’s eloquent words.

If you have three minutes, refresh your admiration of Lincoln’s brief address at: https://www.historynet.com/gettysburg-address-text/ . As you read Lincoln’s beautiful remarks, recall that he was essentially self-educated and did not attend college. Education can be achieved by a person in many ways.

I mention these things to encourage all of us to spread the Gospel. Eloquence and education are not important. Many of Yeshua’s disciples were rough, uneducated, “blue collar” workers. He did not call the educated, well-read scribes and Pharisees to learn from Him. I believe the reason was this: fishermen would be willing to learn from Him, but self-important scribes and Pharisees would want to debate Him. No one is as deaf as a person who will not listen

CAN ANYONE BE WORTHY TO ENTER HEAVEN? Yeshua gave the Apostle John a long list of persons who will not be admitted to Heaven because of their sins. << See Revelation 21:8: [Yeshua told John] “But for the cowardly and faithless and detestable and murderers and sexually immoral and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars– their lot is in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” >> I suspect this is a short list, rather than a complete list. 

Yeshua also taught that being born again is critical. << See John 3:5-7: Yeshua answered, “Amen, amen I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be surprised that I said to you, ‘You all must be born from above.’” >>

The Apostle Paul added his list. << See 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: Or don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, those who practice homosexuality, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers– none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. >> These poor, “unworthy” persons can be made “worthy” through acceptance of God’s grace and Yeshua’s payment of a person’s sin debt through the blood sacrifice He provided on a cross at Golgotha.. << See Hebrews 9:22: And nearly everything is purified in blood according to the Torah, and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. >>

□ Application: These and other Bible passages would seem to exclude nearly all persons. For example, Yeshua’s teaching (see Matthew 5:27) that lust (thought) is as sinful as adultery (action) raises the bar of sin even higher. How can  anyone be worthy to enter Heaven? The answer is that no one of his/ her own accord is worthy. However, God provided a way to make us worthy. God promises to forgive and forget any sin, if asked under the right conditions. In the Apostle Paul’s list of sins preventing people from entering Heaven, listed above, he added another verse. << See 1 Corinthians 6:11: That [being sinners] is what some of you were– but you were washed, you were made holy, you were set right in the name of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah and by the Ruach of our God. >>

CONCLUSION: I will conclude these brief notes on salvation next Sunday. Until then, Shalom and Maranatha.

<< Scriptures from the Tree of Life Version Bible. >>

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 15-Oct-2023 30th of Tishrei, 5784 Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan (Day 1)
Ge 6:9-22, Nu 28:11-15 Jos 8 Ps 8 Mt 6 (1 Pet 2)