To our finite minds, eternity is an extremely difficult concept to grasp. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said God has placed “eternity in the human heart” (Eccl. 3:11). Makes me think of a built-in homing device…a beacon that keeps pointing us toward our true home with God. But the wiring has gone bad, thus the human race looks every-which-way for answers to our questions about God and eternity. That is what makes the Gospel message so important: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” –John 3:16.
Do you remember who Jesus stated this truth to? Nicodemus, a Pharisee who came to Jesus in the dead of night to see if there was anything to the rumor that He was the Messiah. Can you imagine how shocking this revelation would have been to this Jew’s Jew, to hear that God loves the entire WORLD, and intends salvation for EVERYONE? If you remember from Leviticus, Gentiles were considered unclean, and spending time with a Gentile made a Jew unclean for a time. To a circumcised Jew, the idea of spending eternity alongside Gentiles was unthinkable.
But that is exactly what Christianity teaches: Salvation is God’s free gift to every man, woman and child, regardless of ethnicity or birth-religion. Many believe what Paul referred to as “the mystery of God” in his writings was actually the fact that God made a way for Gentiles to be saved, too. The message of the Gospel, then, is that God loved me (a non-Jew) enough even before I was born to create His plan of salvation from the beginning of time, for Jesus to die for me and my sins. Paul explains this by saying that in His foreknowledge, God claimed me and saved me through grace, so that my soul will live with Him into eternity (Romans 8:29).
As a journalist and former crime beat reporter, I understand how perspective plays into stories. It is true that if you ask 10 witnesses to give an account of “what happened,” you will get 10 different answers. Like trial lawyers, journalists try and piece the different perspectives together to create a likely scenario of the truth. Likewise, the myriad of Christian factions (Evangelicals, Episcopalians, Orthodox, Catholics, etc.) all see and interpret Scripture and God’s work in the world slightly differently. (We Evangelicals are probably in for a few surprises, when we make our “final destination.”)
But one essential truth all Christian faiths share in common – eternal salvation for Gentiles is at the heart of the Gospel. God loves Gentiles every bit as much as Jews, and His plan from the beginning was to bless Gentiles with His free gift of grace. We were never an afterthought. But if you look closely at the plan’s blueprint, using Paul’s analogy of tree grafts (see my last post), we Gentiles are the branches thoughtfully grafted onto the rootstock. The foundation of Christian faith is the rootstock, and the rootstock is as Jewish as circumcision itself.