I was listening to the Toronto street preachers again yesterday afternoon, and as usual their messages would often get dangerously close to the truth right before they’d once again swerve and miss the mark entirely when it comes to what Scripture actually teaches about heaven, hell, sin, and salvation, but there’s one assertion in particular that I wanted to focus on in this post. This isn’t an exact quote, but one of them liked to say something along the lines of, “Jesus died to pay the price for our sins, but if we don’t accept His payment, we’ll have to pay the price ourselves, because the price will be paid either way.” (Paying the price by suffering forever in the lake of fire is, of course, what he was talking about.)
This is a common idea among Christians, but if we’re going to use payment analogies, it’s pretty obvious where he went wrong there (although, for the sake of those like the preacher himself who can’t see it, I’ll continue). A far better comparison to how salvation works, one which lines up closer with what Scripture actually says about the topic (at least as far as salvation under Paul’s Gospel goes), is that you were in debt and about to end up homeless because you couldn’t complete your mortgage when the bank president’s son came along and paid the outstanding balance for you. This is like salvation from an absolute perspective in Scripture (remember, the word “salvation” means different things in different parts of Scripture, and isn’t always referring to the same type or stage of salvation each time the word is used), and is something that occurred entirely out of your control. Now, you can believe it’s been paid or you can refuse to believe it, but either way, the bank isn’t going to send the sheriff to kick you out of your house if you don’t either also pay them on top of what the bank president’s son already paid or at least choose to believe that the mortgage has been paid. The bank won’t double-charge, and neither will God (Christ already “paid the mortgage,” so to speak, and God doesn’t need two payments, or even the faith that the payment has been made, to be satisfied, since it was Christ’s death for our sins that satisfied Him just like it was the president’s son’s payment of the mortgage that satisfied the bank), and if you happen to believe the Good News that your mortgage has been paid, this is like salvation from a relative perspective in Scripture. Now you can, of course, desperately continue trying to earn enough money in the hopes that you can pay the bank off before the sheriff drags you out into the street (as the religious do when it comes to our salvation), but there’s no reason to do so since your lack of belief in the truth doesn’t change the facts that the mortgage has already been paid and that the sheriff will never be called. Those who do believe the Good News about their mortgage get the added benefit of living with the peace of mind that they aren’t going to be evicted, but even if you don’t believe the truth of this Good News, in the end, you’re still going to remain living in the house, and likewise, everyone will eventually experience immortality and sinlessness, because Christ dealt with all of our mortality, death, and sin (which is what salvation is actually from) through His death for our sins, and His subsequent burial and resurrection.
I hope that the above made it abundantly clear where Christians go wrong when it comes to the idea of having to pay for our own sins if we don’t accept that Jesus already “paid for them,” so to speak. To double-charge for something just because the person receiving it doesn’t believe it’s already been paid for would be extremely dishonest, and the idea that God would be so unethical that He would not only charge twice (since Christ already “paid the price” through the cross, any additional payment by us would be a second payment), but that He would then also add on an even higher price on top of the actual price that’s already been paid for those who don’t believe our sin has already been paid for (referring to the torment in the lake of fire that most Christians believe we have to suffer in forever as payment for our sins if we don’t believe that Christ’s cross was the actual payment already made, which is something that Jesus didn’t even have to suffer a few seconds in, much less forever in, because the “payment” for our sins was actually simply His death), makes God out to be not only a liar but also something far worse.
Of course, it is understandable that most Christian do believe this, because while what I just wrote is all true, it’s also true that Scripture seems to say not everyone will be saved. The key to understanding this is found in the fact that, again, “salvation” doesn’t always mean the same thing every time the word is used in Scripture, and there are indeed types of salvation that not everyone will get to enjoy. But those who miss out on the “special” salvation Paul wrote about, or even the salvation Jesus spoke about when He walked the earth, will still get to experience the ultimate salvation that Christ won through His cross. And so, by the end of the ages, we’ll all get to live in our heavenly house not made by hands, because the mortgage for that home has already been paid, once, and for all.