Q & R – “Freed Will” and Ultimate Redemption – Bradley Jersak

Question

If we believe that in the end, every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2) and that Christ meant it when he said, “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32), what becomes of free will? Doesn’t our response to the gospel need to be uncoerced?

Response

     I believe the question of free will is very important. So important that God (a) never removes our capacity to say YES or NO, even after death. This means that even those who die apart from faith in Christ will still have the opportunity to say their YES, even at the final judgment (their personal ‘Valley of Decision’ – Joel 3:14). However, while I believe that God will never coerce a YES out of anyone, I would add two decisive factors to that statement:
     1. First, I believe that every NO toward perfect love in this life comes from a deception or delusion that is generated by the world, the flesh, or the devil (whatever that is). At the final judgment, when we see Christ face to face, every deception, distraction, trauma, or experience that led us to say NO in this life will be removed. For the very first time, our completely free response will come from a ‘healed will‘ that does what it was originally designed to do: i.e., to freely and willingly respond to perfect love. I call this a ‘freed will‘ decision that is entirely predictable. And I would regard every NO to God as the bad fruit of a will in bondage. But God could not condemn anyone to hell for making a decision out of bondage. That’s why, at the final judgment, Jesus foresees every ‘freed will‘ offering their uninhibited and completely uncoerced YES to his love.
     2. Second, the above is not dogma. It is a speculation on my part, just as the annihilationists and even the hardened infernalists’ responses are largely guesses based on our various interpretations of Scripture. That said, a clincher for me is the simple two-fold question that sets aside every why and every how and simply asks, “Does the NT foresee a forthcoming judgment? [YES] And does the NT foresee the salvation of all?” [YES – e.g., Phil. 2, Romans 5, 1 Cor. 15, etc.]
     Today, many of my friends who cannot affirm ultimate redemption very much share my rejection of ‘eternal conscious torment’ and we do agree on our hope for the salvation of all. For some of them, ‘hope’ includes the possibility that some will use their freedom to finally and forever say NO to grace. As for me, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” — i.e., my hope is not doubtful or wishful. My Hope is a Person who Scripture rightly calls “the Savior of all men.”
     For more on this, see my book, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut, available through Wipf & Stock or any of the online retail sites.
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Brad Jersak

Brad Jersak

Brad Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC. He serves as a reader and monastery preacher at All Saints of North America Orthodox Monastery. Read More