by Mike Ratliff
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:14-21 ESV)
I received an email today from a good friend asking about a certain well known preacher and author named Tony Evans. I confess that I did not know much about him. I had heard him preach on the radio several times, but my exposure to his preaching was very hit and miss and I have never read any of his books. After some research though I found a troubling teaching by this man. He holds to transdispensationalism, which is the teaching that says people can be saved through general revelation without even knowing the name of Jesus. Evan’s says that the criteria for this “salvation” are that those saved this way genuinely seek God and He will honor that.
The problem is that there is not one iota of support for transdispensationalism in the Word of God. Evans was interviewed concerning this and was asked, “You’re saying, if a Hindu looks up and says, ‘I know you’re up there somewhere. I don’t know who you are, but I’d really like to know you,’ God will count that as sufficient as salvation?” Evans answered, “Yes!.” What does God’s Word tell us about who is saved and who is not?
Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:10-12 ESV)
This statement by John the Baptist combined our Lord’s first coming as the suffering servant dying for the sins of His people and His second coming when He returns in judgment. If we compare this statement with John 3:14-21 (above) we see that those who are baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire are divided into two groups. Those who believe the Gospel are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9) and the fire cleanses and renews them. On the other hand, those who do not believe the Gospel are condemned already. The baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire in their case will simply be that they will be thrown into the fire in righteous judgment.
The Gospel is the winnowing fork in the hand of our Lord. The winnowing fork was a tool used by farmers to thresh their grain. They would scoop up the grain with the fork then throw it up into the air. The good grain would fall to the ground in a heap, but the chaff would blow away. This separated the good from the worthless. The Gospel does this with people. The Gospel is offensive. It divides people. Those who believe and are saved are the good grain. These are the same as the good soil from the parable of the Sower and the Soils. Their hearts have been prepared by God to receive the Gospel and via the gift of faith they believe, repent, and are justified by God. This heart preparation is the result of the washing of regeneration via the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.
On the other hand, the chaff that is separated from the good grain is gathered and burned for it is worthless. The Gospel separates these from the good grain. Our Lord said that these who do not believe are condemned already. This separation by the Gospel is spiritual, not physical. However, when our Lord returns soon his winnowing fork will be in His hand. The good grain will be separated from the chaff. These will be gathered together into our Lord’s barns, but the chaff will be excluded, judged, then cast into the fire.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)
Those who believe and are saved enter by the narrow gate, while those who do not believe follow the wide and easy way. The narrow way is hard, but it is the exclusive way to life. Few find it.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46 ESV)
Tony Evans and all others who deny the doctrine of Hell or teach some form of universalism are attempting to open wide the narrow gate our Lord says is narrow, hard, and the only way to life. They are including people into the sheepfold who will be separated from it and placed with the goats when our Lord returns with His winnowing fork. I find it interesting that the criteria used to include them is always works of some kind. Tony Jones and others go even further saying that no one will be cast into Hell. Instead, each will be changed at the judgment and made acceptable by God so that all people will enter into heaven to be with our Lord forever. Sounds nice, but that is not what the Bible teaches at all. In fact, the one who taught on Hell the most was the Lord Jesus Himself. Tony Evans still preaches the gospel, but he still holds to transdispensationalism. Tony Jones and the emergents are moving more and more into pure universalism making the gospel irrelevant.
In the last of the last days of this age the visible Church will have become the Harlot riding on the Beast (Revelation 17). It will be spiritually dead and the reason why is that its leadership have forsaken the Gospel, the real Gospel, not the watered-down, seeker-sensitive, non-gospel that only presents the benefits of salvation, but excludes the reason why it is called the Good News. They abhor the real Gospel because it is part of our Lord’s winnowing fork that separates the grain from the chaff. They want to include the chaff so they remove the indictment of God against all whose sins have not been covered by the blood of Christ.
God has a remnant my brethren. These hold to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and refuse to compromise His Truth for any reason. They joyfully anticipate His return. Those who have compromised the truth in order to please men may believe right now that they are sheep in the sheepfold, but they are only goat herders preparing their flocks for the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
I find it interesting that those who fall for all of the compromising going on in the visible Church right now insist that their faith and their walk be on their own terms. Those who remain faithful to the end are the ones who are saved. They are saved and walk as Christ’s δοῦλος. This is the Greek word for slave and is often translated as servant in the Bible. They are His according to the Will of God, by His Grace, through the gift of faith. They are not Christians on their own terms, but on His terms. These have been separated by Christ’s winnowing fork from those bound for the fires of Hell and it was not because they were seekers who found God, but because God elected them, called them, regenerated them, justified them as they believed and repented, adopted them, sanctified them, and glorified them.
Soli Deo Gloria!