A Roman Catholic I believe to be truly saved made an interesting observation.
And he was right. Satan, his demon helpers and an eternity of suffering in Hell are unpopular topics in our modern society. Such themes run counter to the do-your-own-thing values of Gen-X and Gen-Y, who grew up believing that if it feels good it must be good. Of course not everyone born in the 50's and later is on the fast track to Gehenna, but a lot are.
Precious few churches that I am aware of are willing to mention Satan and Hell, much less teach on them. Doing so might so upset the folks sleeping in the pews that they may not be generous when the offering is taken up. The Catholic Church does teach on these unpopular themes, to its credit, but then it dilutes the seriousness of its message by providing escape clauses and golden parachutes in its doctrine. Oh, yeah. Baptists will talk to you about Satan and his soon-to-be eternal abode, but sometimes their message gets so loaded with emotionalism that potential hearers are repulsed. And there are others willing to open these virtually forbidden topics.
The Catholic Church teaches about Hell and damnation. Paragraph 1035 of its Catechism makes clear that Hell is a place of eternal torment; a place where one is eternally separated from God, which is the greatest punishment of all. Catholicism pretends to control the God-given grace that is the only means to escape the torments of Hell and instead be eternally united with God. It doesn't, of course, but perhaps a billion souls are wearing the chains that are the price Rome demands for the false hope she provides.
The Scriptures teach that the wages of sin is death, spiritual death (Romans 6:23). All of Adam's progeny bear the stain of his original sin; all are born alive to the world but dead in spirit. And the dead can do nothing to bring themselves to life. Only God can do that, by His unmerited gift of grace. Those to whom He gives this gift are saved by faith alone in Christ alone and not by anything they can do. We are regenerated, born again, and justified before God. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us and we will live eternally in the pure light of God's love. When we stumble, and we often do, Our Father might chastise us (Hebrews 12), but He will never disown us or cease to love us as His children, brethren of Christ by holy adoption. We will never know the torments of Hell.
This is the message that evangelicals, and most other Christian groups, teach -- if they teach on it at all. Some bring the message in love and out of concern for the lost. Some write the message on the face of a sledgehammer and go at the lost as though attacking a hostile force. God, the Holy Spirit, works within the soul of those whom He has elected to eternal life and convicts them of their sin and of their great need of God's mercy.
Who gets saved? Those whom God calls. No amount of biblical argument or pleading, and no amount of spiritual assault on the lost, will bring a single soul to God -- unless God determined that soul would be saved. When the Holy Spirit convicts, He draws the lost to God's loving breast and those He convicts are all those who rightly are called the Elect of God. Not one of these will be lost.
The Roman way is different from God's way. Oh! The Catholic Catechism talks of election, predestination and perseverance and gives lip service to God's call, but declares that she alone controls the flow of grace. In other words, God saves, but He must do it through the RCC. Rome's salvation is a process involving training, works and what she calls sacraments. There is no immediate sinner's response when the Holy Spirit quickens, though there are escape clauses, which I will identify in a moment. Those who seek salvation the Roman way must submit to extensive training until some Catholic authority determines that they are `ready' to be saved. Then follow rituals involving exorcism, benediction, washing and anointing. Somewhere along the way, according to the RCC, the catechumen's sins are forgiven and he is regenerated (born again). Momentarily at least, he is free of all stain of sin. He is saved, Roman style.
This Catholic version of salvation is a sometime thing, however, and is liable to being lost with every breath the 'saved' Catholic takes. He might sin by act or by omission. He might sin in his heart or through lustful eyes -- just as the true believer.
Catholicism teaches, as does true Christianity, that any sin, no matter how small interferes with one's relationship with God. Catholicism teaches that ‘great’ sin essentially breaks that relationship and dooms the sinner to an eternity without the "Beatific Vision," unless it is confessed to a priest who grants forgiveness.
The escape clauses Catholicism offers to those who are nice people and live good lives highlighted by good works and such, though they die outside the Catholic Church's embrace are flexible. Some might be considered to have been saved by the baptism of desire, or perhaps the baptism of blood. And there is always the sacrament of Extreme Unction, or Last Rites. Why, even a non-Catholic non-priest might enable Catholic salvation by giving a dying person, or one very recently dead, a form of baptism. These are the escape clauses.
The Golden Parachute of Catholicism is only available to Catholic faithful who die with unredeemed ‘daily’ sin on their souls and the lingering stains of forgiven ‘serious’ sin. Catholic faithful, living and dead, might hasten the departure of such suffering souls from the torments of Purgatory through prayer and indulgences. What's the message? Make sure you have plenty of friends and family left behind when you die so they might do what is necessary to obtain indulgences to be assigned to your Purgatory account.
The true believer knows that his sin is offensive to the Father, Who might chastise, but never abandon, His children. The true believer acknowledges his sins to God Himself, and repents of them and the damaged relationship between Heavenly Father and earthbound child is fully restored.
What about the true believer who dies not having acknowledged (confessed) all his sins to the Father? He goes directly to his eternal home in Glory, for all his sins were atoned for on the cross by Jesus Christ. There is no stain left to cleanse; his garments are washed white as wool in the Blood of the Lamb.
And when those who trust in Catholicism's version of salvation die? If at the moment of death there remain upon their souls the effects of unconfessed ‘serious’ (mortal) sin they also go to their eternal home to eternally bear the torments of Hell. Nothing can be done for them.
Should the only sins on the escutcheon of the departed Catholic be so-called ‘daily’ (venial) sins that were not `worked' off by good works, prayers, etc., then he is disqualified from immediate admission into the "Beatific Vision," for nothing impure can enter into the presence of the most holy God. And so he must sojourn in that special Catholic place called Purgatory, where he will suffer sufficient torment to purify his imperfect soul, after which he will enter into the "Beatific Vision."
Unborn babies and others who are not considered accountable for their sins but who nevertheless bear the stain of Adam's sin, are disqualified from entering Catholic Heaven, but are considered to have done nothing to merit the torments of Hell or even Purgatory, and so they spend eternity in a place on the edge of Heaven that Catholicism calls Limbo. They are happy and content, but denied the "Beatific Vision."
Yes, Gertrude, there really is a Heaven and a Hell, but Purgatory and Limbo are figments of magisterial imagination. There are not two Heavens, one for Catholics with admission restrictions that require one's ticket to be punched by the Catholic Church, and one for true believers who have need of nothing beyond God's grace to be admitted. There is no Catholic Heaven patrolled by an army of demigods called saints led by Catholicism's Marian Queen of Hosts. That place, that fictional place, is really the gateway to Hell and all who seek to go there will one day find themselves simmering in the unquenchable fires of Gehenna, along with their true master, Satan, and all his demon companions.
I pray no one believe my words simply because I have posted them here. Open the Bible, the primary source of God’s teachings on salvation that Catholicism has reduced to little more than a quaint antique record. Read what God has said through inspired writers--Romans 9 is a good place to start. If you prefer to read in the Old Testament, I find there is much to think about in the words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 12.
There is a place on the Web to hear a spoken message entitled Hell's Best Kept Secret. This is not one of those fire and brimstone/send more money messages. It is a quiet, reasoned teaching and one that I believe everyone who considers himself to be Christian would benefit from hearing. The latest version of Real Player is needed to hear the 55-minute message. If you don't have it, there is a link that will take one to where it may be downloaded without cost. The free version is at the bottom of the page, but not invisible. The software installation is stone-ax simple.
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