I have decided to move Ed's off-topic question from A Fun Bible Study on the End Times to a separate blog post. He has raised some interesting thoughts, and I appreciate his intelligent questions. I hope that others will join in on the discussion. I have separated Ed's comments into three separate questions:
Ed says (Question #1): To answer your last question first: If I had utter proof (no faith needed) that the Christian God was coming to Earth tomorrow, I would become a Christian. Who wouldn't?
Tom replies: So Ed let me engage what you just said. If you had absolute proof, you would become a Christian. Is this right? Would you mind telling me what you think it means to be a Christian. What would be different in your life?
Ed continues (Question #2): Which brings up a side issue: Skepticism... Now we all know that Jesus wants us to take himself and God on faith, but he did say, "Blessed are those who have seen, and believed..." Doesn't that sort of imply that it's okay NOT to believe until one has seen (i.e. been presented personally acceptable proof)? And does this not further imply that conversion upon actually seeing the returned Christ would qualify one for grace?
Tom's response: Yes, there is a long history of skepticism even in the church. Did you know that even after the 11 Disciples saw Jesus post-crucifixion and death, and He was with them resurrected to life, even then some of the Disciples had doubts. God's Word says: Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16-17).
So if some Disciples doubted Jesus even after seeing Him dead and brought back to life, right in front of their eyes, yes, I think there is room for doubt from those of us living 2,000 years later. But on your last point, I know you have it mistaken, for there will be no extra chance to see Jesus' return and be converted. All of the descriptions of Jesus' return describe Jesus or His angels separating people into two groups, for example separating the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:32). So by the time Jesus returns, all people have already made their choice. The sheep that choose faith in Jesus will go to the Kingdom of God (v. 34). And to the goats that rejected Jesus, they will be sent away to "eternal punishment" (v. 46).
Ed's Final Point (Question #3)- Tom, I have a purely mental exercise that belongs at the end of your Bible lesson: If I could provide utter proof (no faith needed) that Odin was coming to Earth tomorrow, what would YOU do? Show your work. :-P ~Ed~
Tom's response: Ed, I assume you did not mean to raise such an offensive comparison – the Return of the King of Kings, Jesus the Messiah returns to set Creation in order, compared to the 'return' of a myth (Odin). But apart from the obnoxious character of your question, I assume you intended to raise the possibility of some other religion being correct. If this is your intent, it is a valid question, and I will go through the mental exercise you suggested.
For me, and I am not speaking for all Christians here, even if there was irrefutable proof that some other religion was correct , and that tomorrow was Judgment Day, I hope that I would not turn from my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord. Faith is not trusting in God despite the proof around us. No, I see faith as a gift given by God where one day I did not have it, and over a process of three years later, I received it. I received this gift of faith starting with skepticism (I remember my mighty struggles trying to understand John 14:6), And through prayer, and directed study of God's Word in BSF, it started making sense. And yes, when it started making sense, I checked out and investigated some of the difficult questions, like how should I live my life now. And the issue of other religions (you may remember my SOF outlines as I went through and learned more about some of the other religions during this time of my life).
And I found that only a faith in Jesus Christ answers all of the questions of life. Including the BIG question of how can someone who messes up all the time like me with actions that show I do not fully trust in Him, how could I ever hope to be in the presence of a holy, righteous and perfect God? I know it is not going to be on anything good I've done in my life. Instead, my only hope, and it is a blessed hope, is my complete faith and trusting in Jesus' righteousness in my place.
So what if I know that some Norse god named Odin is showing up tomorrow? Fine, I will strap on a shield and battleaxe and charge him. I know I won't make it far, but doesn't he reward brave warriors with entrance to Valhalla? OK, I'm letting my past experience in D & D get the best of me. My only real hope is in Jesus the Messiah and the eternal life the Lord promises.