The Bible teaches salvation by grace, while all the other religions insist on good works to ingratiate themselves with whomever is regarded as the one to be worshipped. Salvation by grace or works is one of the crucial ways the Kingdom of God differs from all other religions. What makes God’s ‘system’ different?
The answer is in the Old Testament, in Genesis 2:8, ‘Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden, and there He put the man He had formed.’ Why did God do that? He created the whole earth with plants, trees, birds and animals. So surely Adam could just have lived all over.
The garden of Eden is God’s picture of the coming new heavens and earth.1 God put Adam there and it cost Adam nothing. He was there because God loved him and wanted him there. If he earned the right to be in the garden, he had tenant rights. He could bargain with God, but he was there by the grace and mercy of God.
What does it mean?
- God’s Kingdom is not only for the privileged, the gifted, or the favoured. God invites all people. It is free of charge. Nobody will be able to argue with God at the final judgement 2 that he or she could not become a child of God. Entrance is free, by grace. Man can decide to accept or reject it.
- Nobody will ever have the right to argue about aspects of God’s Kingdom. He is the King. He is to be loved and obeyed. People who might dispute it, will have to understand that they don’t have tenant rights. Salvation is by God’s grace, but He is the Ruler, the One who decides what is right and wrong. He can do it, since He is not only a Creator, but a wise and omniscient Creator. He knows what is best to ensure an eternal Kingdom of Peace.
However, we cannot forget that salvation by grace is the beginning. It is like the birth process (we call it ‘justification’). That is free. Yet once a person has been born, his preparation for life in the Kingdom starts. It just means that he has to learn who the Trinity is, what their ways are, and how he should live as a citizen of the most wonderful Kingdom of all times (we call it ‘holiness’).
People might object that holiness depends on a person’s own discipline, but again there are no excuses. God gives us the Holy Spirit, freely, by grace. The Holy Spirit is our Guide and Counsellor. He leads and prepares us to meet our wonderful God and Saviour face to face.
At the end of time the Great Judgement will take place. Unfortunately there will be people who will miss the glorious privilege of an eternity with God. They mostly decided that they don’t like to be in the presence of God. However, no person will be able to accuse God of favouritism, or exclusivism when He chose the citizens for His Kingdom. It was all by grace and mercy.
One can only marvel at the brilliance of our God. Everything was designed and decided upon before the heavens and the earth were created. That calls for wisdom, insight and knowledge. It is all the more reason to entrust ourselves to our most wonderful God, Saviour Jesus and Counsellor, the Holy Spirit.
- TD Alexander, From Eden to the New Jerusalem, Kregel, 2008
- Revelation 20:11-15