Does The Salvation "Process" Continue After Death?


#1

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

God’s ultimate goal is to transform each of us into the image of Christ. I believe this refers not only to giving us spiritual bodies like Christ, but the shaping of our characters, as well. This being the case, I would assume that God will not be finished with us immediately after we die, perhaps not even after we receive our resurrected spiritual bodies.

Paul referred to some of the Christians in Corinth as mere “babes in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1), and some of them were sick and dying because of their sin (1 Cor. 11:30). It is obvious from these passages, and from simple observation, that Christians do not enter life after death with fully reformed characters. Some, perhaps most, Christians think that our basic character will be instantly changed at the rapture, when our bodies are transformed, but is this really the case? If God were to change our characters instantly in this way, the only way He could do it would be to reprogram our brains, as with a computer or robot. Would the result be an authentic change in character, or the loss of our basic humanity and “genuine” character, instead? Only through genuine life experiences can we develop genuine qualities of character, especially, that of Agape love which involves, by definition, sacrifice and selfless acts of kindness. Also, an important facet of genuine love is “empathy,” or the ability to feel what others are feeling and identify with the sufferings of others. This can only be genuinely learned from actual human experience. If God were to instantly create these attitudes, feelings and qualities of character, without exposing us to the actual living conditions under which they are authentically produced, they would not be real, in my view. That is why, when he created us, he placed us in a flawed world, and gave us the freedom to make both right and wrong choices, suffer the consequences of such, and in the process develop genuine qualities of character. One of my favorite Scripture passages, that describes this process, is found in the book of James:

James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

According to the above passage, “perseverance must finish its work.” If this work has not been finished by the time you die, then it may logically be assumed that more time will be required after death. If we view salvation as a process, rather than an instantaneous event, then the warning that James gives in Chapter two of his epistle, regarding the relationship between faith and works would apply to Christians, even after death. We are saved by faith, not of works, but our salvation is an “ages-long” process and will not be complete until our character fully conforms to that of Christ.

By the time Christians die, their characters have only been partially developed. Why should God, all of a sudden, change our character by fitting us with “artificial” Christ-like character “parts,” as with Cyborgs of StarTrek fame? This would result in “artificial,” not “real” character. Regardless of whether you take literally or figuratively the Old Testament and New Testament prophecies regarding the Kingdom ages to come, the message appears to be the same. All sorts of things go on during those ages. Many are brought to Christ and many continue to rebel. Various forms of rewards and judgment occur. Some Christians mistakenly feel that the process of transformation wrought in them by the Holy Spirit is some kind of a magical process which requires no effort on their part. I have heard many ardent Christians repeat over and over again how they have been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and are now “new creatures” in Christ. When confronted with the sin in their lives, they will attribute that to their “old flesh” nature, which has been replaced with their “new nature.” They look upon their transformation as something that happened instantaneously, but in their spirit, not their flesh. They look upon their new self, their spiritual self, as their “real” self, and their old self, and their old sinful nature, as something that is no longer real or relevant, or at the very least, something that will be instantly done away with when they die. In my view, both natures are “real” and you are not yet in conformity with the image of Christ until the two natures match. The old nature must be completely defeated and replaced by the new nature.

Sometimes the Bible expresses truths from a “positional” point of view, from the viewpoint of our position in Christ. Positionally, according to Ephesians 2:6, we have already been seated with Christ in the heavenlies. From God’s point of view, who can view the events of history from a timeless perspective, the process of our transformation into the likeness of Christ has already been accomplished. He views us “in Christ” through the cross of Calvary. But in our human experience, we view this transformation as a process that occurs over time. Expecially in the writings of Paul, many of these truths about our relationship with Christ are expressed as “positional” truth, while at other times they are expressed as “experiential” truth. That is why the writers of the New Testament seem to contradict themselves so often. These conflicting views of our salvation may be easily resolved if you view salvation as a continuing process from our human “experiential” perspective, but a completed process from God’s perspective.

Various aspects of the salvation experiences are described in past, presently continuous, and future terms. Some verses tell us that we have been saved and that we have been given eternal life, and so on, while other passages speak of these same experiences as something that we must currently work on, or “work out,” while other passages speak of these experiences as things that we patiently wait for and look forward to in the future. According to Titus 3-7, God saved us (past tense) and we were justified by grace and became heirs of the promise. We now have the “hope” of eternal (aionian) life. In Philippians 2:12b-13, Paul tells us we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. According to Rom. 8:18-25, we have already received the “first-fruits” of our salvation, the Holy Spirit. We wait eagerly for our ultimate redemption. We don’t have it yet. We hope for it and wait for it patiently. Hebrews 9:28 states that Christ will come again to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

For reasons given above, I believe that this salvation process continues after death.


#2

Colossians 1:12-14 " 12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kngdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Now, paraphrasing: Verse 12 is talking about your salvation…Verse 13 and 14 are talking about being “born again”.

Verse 12 tells us that God has done something for us to qualify us to be a recepient and a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light; ( you can partake of it right now, Jesus has died for you to have it in this life)

Verse 13 begins to tell us how this happened. It tells us how you were qualified for the inheritance.

Verse 14 tells us how we were translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son, by the redemption of his Son’s blood ( you have been purchased away from the power of darkness and bought into the kingdom of his Son).

Your qualified to exercise the inheritance now while your alive on this planet because you have been translated into the kingdom of his dear Son where that inheritance exits, and the reason you were translated into the kingdom where the inheritance exits is because you got “Born Again” by your faith in Jesus’ sacrifice.

God has determined that you can have a new nature. He is also determined you can be translated into a new kingdom. He has also determined once this has happenned your qualified to operate out of the inheritance, and part of that inheritance is God’s power flowing through you to produce miracles.

A part of this inheritance or salvation includes waiting for the manifestation of our glorified bodies and experiencing heaven, but the rest of it… as far as our life on earth… what it takes to live on this earth… all that inheritance is ours , NOW! :smiley:

God bless,
Aaron


#3

Aaron,

Aaron, in your response, you expressed many “positional” truths, to which I reply with a hearty “Amen!”

In this regard we speak the same language, the language of the Bible.

Blessings,

Richard


#4

I speak English, not Greek. :laughing: …There also “right now” truths except wearing your glorified body and experiencing heaven. :wink:

God bless,
Aaron


#5

Very true, we already have the “first-fruits,” the Holy Spirit. God has already given us more than most of us realize or are willing to avail ourselves of.

Richard


#6

The “first fruits” is not referring to the Holy Spirit, Richard. Lets look into Romans 8:23 to see what it is:

Romans 8:23 And not only [they], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, [to wit], the redemption of our body.

I want to point out that the translators got it wrong by capitalizing the S in spirit from 8:1-15 to verse 25. The greek word
Pneuma (πνεύμα) meaning “spirit” is used for both the Holy Spirit and our spirits…the way you determine which one to use is by context. The capital S should actually be a small s in the context of this verse. The firstfruits being spoken of here is our born again( the nature and life of God) spirits, not the Holy Spirit. :wink: Therefore the verse should actually be read like this:

And not only [they], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, [to wit], the redemption of our body.

God bless,
Aaron


#7

Aaron,

Makes sense to me.

Richard


#8

A great question, does the salvation process (regeneration, faith, sanctification etc) continue after death?

However this question points to two problematic alternatives for Universalism:

  1. If everything does continue as it was before death, evangelism etc, why does the Bible describe death as such a radical break in our affairs?
  2. If the ‘second-chance-realm’ is different to our world, how is it different, what does or doesn’t happen there that happens here and why?

#9

I often ponder about this question. I agree with Richard that it seems unlikely that if I got hit by a bus today, that I’d wake up in heaven with a mind completely in-tune with Christ (I think the change would have to be too great). Having said that, I don’t think the experience of death and rebirth, will just be business-as-usual.

Going by the descriptions of Hell, I think there will be at least a greater intensity after death. Exactly how the intensity applies to Christian’s in the next life, I don’t know. However, as a side point, if Jesus’ resurrected body if anything to go by, we should be able to teleport :mrgreen:

I would imagine that if it were possible to zap people into perfect beings, God would have done so originally…


#10

But Alex it says in 1 Cor 15 we’ll be changed immediately " in the twinkling of an eye" (15:52) which if we take the stuff about the final judgement on board as well must mean that in quick succession we’ll be changed and then facing judgement and then (however long judgement takes) off to the new heavens and earth or hell depending on God’s judgment.


#11

I agree Luke, those passages had come to mind. I’m not sure what to make of them. I’d certainly like to be changed as quickly as possible and go chill out in heaven! :wink:

I guess one thing that might help is thinking about God’s understanding of time. For example, Jesus said he was coming soon… over 2000 years ago!


#12

I heard a good explanation of “soon” recently. It’s qualitative not chronological. In other-words the urgency describes the nature of these times as opposed to a chronological dating.


#13

Some suggestions.

Death is the spiritual filter where Good is separated from Evil. There is a sheep and a goat in all of us. Both wheat and weeds grow in every heart.

Changing metaphors, Good and Evil oscillate at different frequencies. Good is in tune with God and resonates in his presence. Evil is damped because there is nothing in God with which it can resonate. It dies in God’s presence. (Speaking of resonance, Paul asks, “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?”)

Another physics metaphor. Good and Evil operate in mutually exclusive dimensions. Just as there is absolutely no East in North, there is absolutely no Good in Evil. I’m a “vector quantity” that can be resolved into two components at right angles: Good and Evil. Death is the Narrow Gate, a spiritual polarizing filter.

Here’s another. I am a temporary superposition of two waves, one Good, one Evil. Like Schrodinger’s proverbial cat, I am spiritually alive and dead simultaneously. The lid comes off the box at death and God looks in, saving the Good.

We find hints of this in Romans. Paul laments that he fails to do the good he wants to do. Two natures exist simultaneously in the one person: Saul and Paul. The Old and the New. Adam and Christ. They are locked is a bitter struggle. “Put to death the deeds of the flesh’…” “Take up your cross and follow…” Paul concludes the New is not responsible for the evil deeds of the Old. He looks forward to the time when Christ will free him from his “body of death”.

Some argue that evil isn’t real. Rather, it is the dark space where the Real is not. Cowardice is the room in my soul that is empty of courage. Lust lurks precisely where purity is lacking. The same can be said of greed and contentment, indifference and love, fear and faith, selfishness and selflessness. (When God took his Spirit from King Saul, perhaps the evil thing that tormented him was the gaping black hole left behind.)

Evil is darkness, the absence of light. Absolute Zero. True vacuum. Utter ignorance. In contrast, God is the Lake of Fire. Pure energy. Boundless potentiality. Infinite consciousness. God: the lover of all things lovable; the creator of all things creatable; the knower of all things knowable.

When we fall into the Fire, every dark recess in our soul will be flooded with light. The wicked man in me, the dark shadow-self I’ve lugged about my whole life long, will be destroyed utterly.

(Adam’s turning blue in the face. God slaps him hard between the shoulder blades. Up comes the apple.

“Well,” says Adam, wiping his eyes, “I’ll not be eating *that *again any time soon.”

“Glad to hear it,” God replies.)


#14

there’s a kind of controversial EO teaching about something called “aerial toll houses”. based on the vision of a Saint who was praying about the were-abouts of a fellow Christian, the basic belief is that on death, the soul travels through a series of “toll houses”, where the soul must pay for certain sins with their good deeds, or be dragged to hell. i’ve heard some EO describe it as a kind of purifying process after death, while other EO dismiss the idea as heretical, or non-essential at best.

i’m not sure i understand it, myself. but it’s one pre-modern example of possible sanctification / salvation after death, within the Christian context.


#15

------Bolding mine

Jesus said these words immediately after He warned about going to Gehenna. Does “everyone” mean “everyone”? I suggest it is universal. Just as the purifying fires of Gehenna are meant to correct those who will be sent there at the resurrection of the unrighteous, so God will purify those of His children who are raised at the resurrection of the righteous.

On the other hand, all who are on the narrow road to righteousness may be treated quite differently. It may be that, in the resurrection, they will be permitted to develop their characters through God’s enabling grace (which may continue to work in them). They may be given the opportunity to become perfected in Christ without undergoing pain, because they will have a mind set to do so when they are physically in the presence of Christ — a mind set which they do not fully enjoy here on earth.


#16

Hello all
I have been asking the same question myself as the OP. But doesn’t it imply that sin will exist in the next life? I think I had assumed that Christ, on the cross, not only paid for my sin but also banished sin from the next life. I’m not sure why I believed this. So on the one hand, I feel that UR is showing me a picture of a more victorious cross, and now its showing me a less victorious cross.
Any help out there?


#17

From God’s timeless point of view, the entire salvation process is finished. From our point of view, within the confines of God’s space/time universe, it is a process. Christ made atonement for the sins of all mankind on the cross of Calvary, but from our limited point of view, the blood of Christ is not actually “applied” to our sins until after they are committed and repented of. Christ’s victory over sin and death was assured because of Calvary, but the war still continues from our viewpoint. A good analogy is that of D-Day. The battles that occurred on that day assured us of ultimate victory in Europe, but the complete victory was not actually realized until VE day.

Richard


#18

Thank you Richard. I understand that, but I’m not sure how to apply it to the question I raised or even the OP. Perhaps I’m being a little slow today.


#19

Pilgrim, my point was that the cross is not “less victorious” because the salvation process continues after death. Although salvation is not instantaneous from our point of view, it is not any less sure. The end result, the complete salvation of all mankind is assured because “complete” victory over sin and death was achieved on Calvary.


#20

i am wondering, soteriologically, how do people here feel about prayers for the dead?

i know the Catholic, EO, and OO Churches pray for the dead, and believe that these prayers are of help to the deceased. do any of us feel similarly, or would you consider prayers for the dead to be a possible means that more could be saved?

i’ve found myself reading accounts of non-Christians killed and massacred and praying “Lord Jesus, please welcome them into Your Kingdom”. does anyone else practice this, or something like it?