Truth and Our Eternal Destiny
Truth is crucially important and adhering to what is true is far more vital than what we imagine. But trying to make this case becomes a hard sell however in an age which no longer believes in truth. To even suggest that you might know truth makes many folks uptight and defensive.
But believers are people of truth. The Bible is a book of truth, and we are called to share the truth. All up, the phrase “the truth” is used over 150 times in the New Testament alone. Truth matters. And given that truth and salvation are so often paired in the New Testament, this makes truth even more significant.
Jesus made it clear that eternal life is based on receiving the truth. Just a few verses of many can be mentioned here:
-John 3:21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
-John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
-John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
Paul also regularly tied together truth and eternal life (and the rejection of truth with eternal damnation). Here are just a few passages:
-Romans 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness
-Romans 2:8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
-1 Timothy 2:4 God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Another very powerful text in this regard can be found in 2 Thessalonians 2. In verses 9-12 we see this very strong connection between truth and one’s eternal destiny:
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
The context to this passage concerns “the Man of Lawlessness” (vv. 1-12). Let me offer two quick caveats here: the New Testament does not fully identify this man of lawlessness, nor do we know for sure who or what the ‘restrainer’ is that keeps him in check. So while we can debate these points all we like, we may need to hold things a bit loosely here, and admit that we do not have full knowledge about all this.
But that will not be my main focus. Instead, I want to look at the important role that truth plays, and negatively, the important role of deception. Paul makes it quite clear that those who prefer to delight in wickedness are not able to grasp the truth.
Indeed, it is only those who love the truth who can be saved. And by love of the truth, Paul clearly means the love of the gospel. The gospel message is what saves us, and it is the truth of the gospel which we all need to get right with God.
But note again the connection between loving evil and hating truth. We saw that in some of the above passages, such as Romans 1:18 where Paul spoke of those “who suppress the truth by their wickedness”. And in John 3, also mentioned above, Jesus makes it perfectly clear that people do not come to the truth because they prefer their evil ways. The fuller context (vv. 19-21) is worth citing here:
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
But back to the Thessalonians passage. When people remain in their sin, hardened to biblical truth, God even further cements them in this. Once they have clearly decided for themselves and against God, the hardening process is allowed to go all the way.
The idea that God takes part in this hardening process may sound odd to some, but it is indeed a biblical truth, stated in various places. But I look at this aspect in more detail here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/10/15/difficult-bible-passages-2-thessalonians-211/
But a few more words about this process of judicial blinding may be worth offering. The order of things is important to bear in mind: unbelievers reject God and his truth, so God rejects them by confirming them in their unbelief. Michael Holmes offers this commentary:
They are perishing specifically “because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2:10); that is, their fate is a consequence of their own choice. As I. H. Marshall observes, “Whatever one may say about divine predestination, the lost carry the responsibility for their own perdition.” When presented with an opportunity to “receive the love of the truth” and thereby experience salvation, these people instead rejected it (cf. 1:8). As Paul puts it emphatically in 2:12b, when they could have “believed the truth,” they instead “delighted in wickedness”.
Or as D. Michael Martin comments:
God’s act of sending a “powerful delusion” to “those who are perishing” is the result of their choice to reject the truth. Once the truth is rejected, the only alternative is to trust that which is false. By refusing to receive the truth (v. 10) and then choosing to “believe the lie” (v. 11), unbelievers compound their culpability and make plain the justice of their condemnation. God does not cause their unbelief, but he does set the stage for them to demonstrate it and thus openly earn their own condemnation. Genuine believers will not be deceived in this way (vv. 13-14).
Jeffrey Weima offers this tidy summation of the order of events: “The past rejection of the gospel by unbelievers, which leads to the present delusion sent to them by God, will result in their future judgment.”
Such is the importance of truth. When we reject truth, we reject God. And God then must reject the unrepentant. This is a very scary place to be in. We would wish it on no one. That is why the truth is so absolutely important and why believers must proclaim it, regardless of any hostile reactions.
Our eternal destiny is determined by our response to the truth. Let us all choose wisely, while we have the chance.
3 Replies to “Truth and Our Eternal Destiny”
Wow, that word “truth” sounds as quaint as whalebone corsets and bustle dresses these days. However, it doesn’t cease to exist just because so many spurn it. There’s a lot of “outing” these days of various perversions but the only thing that will out in the end is the Truth. Blessings to all for 2016.
I think it was the Jesuit Daniel Berrigan who said of Dorothy Day at her funeral that she believed that the truth was actually true. Dorothy Day knew that to know the truth was evidence that her sins had been forgiven. The letter to the Ephesians might suggest that she was correct in her thinking. Forgiveness of sins seems to equate with spiritual knowledge.
I think the gospel of John 10, verses 25-30, solves the conundrum of belief in something you cannot see or touch. When the Jews were asking Jesus to tell them plainly if he was Christ, Jesus told them that the works that He had done in his Father’s name bear witness to him; but they did not believe him because they were not of his flock. He said: My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and no man shall pluck them from my hand. My father who gave them to me is greater than all and no one can pluck them from my Father’s hand.