Deuteronomy 30:19, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:…”
In a previous effort we established that eternal life was not the recipients’ choice, but the work of the sovereign, omnipotent God of the universe. I’m often asked by Bible students, “if this is true, what is the Bible referring to when we read about the choices we are able to make?” The answer to the question to understand context. Any time we find people in the Bible making decisions between good and bad (other than Adam in the beginning), we are quickly able to gather that the blessings and consequences of the decision are temporal, not eternal.
In the verse previously cited, Moses is calling on the children of Israel to choose to live before the Lord in the Land of Canaan. The generation to whom Moses spoke had watched many die in the wilderness. Moses had a longing desire for the generation to live in humble obedience to the Lord and enjoy the quality of life that would be available to them in the new land. Nowhere in this context is Moses calling on them to make a choice that involved eternal consequence.
In Joshua 24:15 we read “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua, before his departure from this world, calls on the children of Israel to faithfully serve the Lord. In this verse of scripture, Joshua is not calling on this people to choose heaven for their afterlife. Joshua is saying, if you don’t want to serve God, it doesn’t matter who you serve, you will be wrong and suffer for your disobedience in this world, but me and my house are going to serve the Lord (my words). Joshua never said they would go to hell for their unwillingness to serve God, nor did he say they would go to heaven for being humble servants. The blessings and consequences of their decisions were temporal in nature. Other verses which may be considered and examined concerning this Bible truth are:
Amos 4:12, “Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.” This particular verse was one that troubled me for many years before coming to the Primitive Baptists. I was taught early in my life that it was important to prepare myself for that great day of judgement so I could be invited into heaven. After many years of examining the verse, it teaches no such thing. By reading the verses recorded prior to this verse, it’s plainly understood that the Lord has been chastening the children of Israel for their disobedience to Him. Hebrews 12:6 teaches that His chastening is evidence of His eternal love and of them being His children. In verse 12, Amos tells the people to prepare yourself for a BIG whipping. The Lord’s loving chastisement has not profited them; therefore they would meet the temporal wrath of their Father in heaven.
Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” In Romans chapter 10, Paul is not calling on the reader to choose between heaven and hell, but to choose to be saved from the temporal troubles of this life by confessing and believing in the Lord. These words were written to Church members and disciples of Jesus Christ whose “faith” was “spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom 1:8). Paul, in this verse of scripture, is calling on them to put their faith (which they have because they are born again, Gal 5:22; 2 Thess 3:1-2), that they may be saved from the experiential condemnation (Rom 8:1); the ignorance (Rom 10:3); and the temporal disappointments (Rom 9:33), which are found in this present world. In my words, Paul is calling on them to focus on The Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy a peace which passeth all understanding (Isa 26:3; Phil 4:7).
Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” In this verse, we read about the Church of the Laodicean’s which, in their selfish self-sufficient attitude, have found themselves out of fellowship with their Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ is not in their Church, but outside calling on them to repent of their sins that they may enjoy His fellowship once again. Every facet of this verse is about temporal consequence and not eternal. They were baptized believers in Jesus, who through their disobedience lost fellowship with Him. By repenting and obeying, they would not gain eternal life, but regain fellowship (which they had lost) with Him who purchased eternal life for them on the Cross (Heb 1:3; Heb 10:14).
In closing, dear brothers and sisters, I would like to repeat something that I have said many times. Eternal salvation is by grace and grace alone, but if you want to fellowship with Him (who saved you by His grace) on this side of glory, it will require you to do what He says (John 2:5). Amen!