Monday, March 08, 2010

Degrees of Salvation

Accepting Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Savior is all is required for Salvation from Hell. But many Early Church Fathers clearly understood the Bible to teach that the degree of Salvation depended upon ones degree of acceptance of Christ (i.e. faith and obedience). Accepting Christ empowers obedience and therefore obedience is a sign of one's faith. So, while all believers in Christ will be saved in heaven, obedience to God's laws will determine the degree of our reward/gift/mansion/glory/world/seat/crown/abode/kingdom. Differing degrees of salvation does not necessarily mean a physical separation but a separation in responsibilities and opportunities to participate with God in His work of creation and eternal parenting.

Heb 1:4, 13-14 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. . . But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand. . .Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

When Paul is saying that we are saved by our faith alone and not works, Paul is speaking our our initial rescue from sin and justification. Our initial rescuing from sin has nothing to do with any personal righteousness since all mankind are lost and fallen and cannot take even one step towards Christ on our own without God drawing us to Christ. "No man cometh unto me save the Father . . . draweth him" (John 6:44). This just explains that it is God that makes the first move. However, after that, the Bible is very clear that after the initial condescension of God, and our Justification, the process of Sanctification is dependent upon the degree at which we are willing to surrender our will to God and our degree of acceptance and faith in Jesus Christ which is manifest by our works and obedience. Therefore, the Bible is clear that in the end "every man" will be judged by our works.

Rev 20:12-13 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

The Biblical, Apostolic Fathers, and LDS concept of differing rewards, states of salvation, or glories is not necessarily mean a physical separation of those who are saved. Remember that Joseph Smith taught that those of a higher glory can minister to a lower glory (do the work of a lower glory), but those of a lower glory cannot minister of that of a higher (do the work of a higher glory), worlds without end. It does mean a separation in terms of gifts and responsibilities given by God to different people based on the degree of their faith in Jesus Christ.

Heb 1 says those that are glorified together with Christ, like Christ will be made higher than the angels and given a more excellent name than they. Those who desire to receive the highest gift of salvation which is exaltation will be blessed to participate with God in His work of creation and eternal parenting.

Michael Savage said on the radio tonight that Jews believe the angels are separated based on differing intelligence which intelligence is based upon their understanding of the true nature of God. This would fit Joseph Smith's explanation that those that see God as a great spirit will inherit the Telestial Kingdom and enjoy communion with God the Holy Spirit. Those whose understanding that Jesus Christ and the Father are the same Being, will enjoy communion with God the Son in the Terrestial Kingdom. And those whose understanding is that God the Father and God the Son are one God in purpose, will, and power, yet numerically distinct individuals will enjoy communion with the Father and the Son in the Celestial Kingdom. However, again, it is not clear that there is necessarily a physical separation but a figurative separation based on gifts and opportunities.

And as the presbyters say, Then those who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven shall go there, others shall enjoy the delights of paradise, and others shall possess the splendour of the city; for everywhere the Saviour shall be seen according as they who see Him shall be worthy. [They say, moreover], that there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundred-fold, and that of those who produce sixty-fold, and that of those who produce thirty-fold: for the first will be taken up into the heavens, the second will dwell in paradise, the last will inhabit the city; and that was on this account the Lord declared, "In My Father's house are many mansions." For all things belong to God, who supplies all with a suitable dwelling-place; even as His Word says, that a share is allotted to all by the Father, according as each person is or shall be worthy. And this is the couch on which the guests shall recline, having been invited to the wedding. The presbyters, the disciples of the Apostles, affirm that this is the gradation and arrangement of those who are saved, and that they advance through steps of this nature; also that they ascend through the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son to the Father, and that in due time the Son will yield up His work to the Father, even as it is said by the Apostle, "For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."
Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:36:1-2, in ANF 1:567,

"Conformably, therefore, there are various abodes, according to the worth of those who have believed . . . . These chosen abodes, which are three, are indicated by the numbers in the Gospel--the thirty, the sixty, the hundred. And the perfect inheritance belongs to those who attain to "a perfect man," according to the image of the Lord . . . . To the likeness of God, then, he that is introduced into adoption and the friendship of God, to the just inheritance of the lords and gods is brought; if he be perfected, according to the Gospel, as the Lord Himself taught."
Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6:14, in ANF 2:506.

[Clement of Alexandria] reckons three kinds of actions, the first of which is . . . right or perfect action, which is characteristic of the perfect man and Gnostic alone, and raises him to the height of glory. The second is the class of . . . medium, or intermediate actions, which are done by less perfect believers, and procure a lower grade of glory. In the third place he reckons sinful actions, which are done by those who fall away from salvation.
Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6:14, in ANF 2:506.

Origen on the interpretation of 1 Cor 15:40-42:
There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. (1 Cor. 15:40-42)

[i]Our understanding of the passage indeed is, that the Apostle, wishing to describe the great difference among those who rise again in glory, i.e., of the saints, borrowed a comparison from the heavenly bodies, saying, "One is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, another the glory of the stars."[i]
Origen, De Principiis 2:10:2, in ANF 4:294.

And some men are connected with the Father, being part of Him, and next to these, those whom our argument now brings into clearer light, those who have come to the Saviour and take their stand entirely in Him. And third are those of whom we spoke before, who reckon the sun and the moon and the stars to be gods, and take their stand by them. And in the fourth and last place those who submit to soulless and dead idols.
Origen, Commentary on John 2:3, in ANF 10:324-325.

And having said this, he ascends again to the heaven, saying, "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon." For as in the earthly bodies there is a difference, so also in the heavenly; and that difference no ordinary one, but reaching even to the uttermost: there being not only a difference between sun and moon, and stars, but also between stars and stars. For what though they be all in the heaven? yet some have a larger, others a less share of glory. What do we learn from hence? That although they be all in God's kingdom, all shall not enjoy the same reward; and though all sinners be in hell, all shall not endure the same punishment.
John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians 41:4, in NPNF Series 1, 12:251.

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