Engaging the Culture
11/11/15 at 03:43 PM 29 Comments

Does the “Greatest Story” Have a Happy Ending?

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I like happy endings. Most people do.

That’s why great stories usually end with the guy getting the girl . . . the hero defeating his foe . . . the adventurer succeeding in his quest.

Sure, there are tragic elements along the way. The guy loses the girl . . . for a while. The usurping foe overpowers the hero . . . for a time. The adventurer gets thwarted in his quest . . . until he overcomes all odds and achieves his goal. In the end, good triumphs over evil and all is well.

Will that happen in the greatest story ever told -- the story of the Creation, Fall and Redemption of mankind?

When the last page is read and the book is closed, will the Hero in this story ultimately succeed or fail in His quest to “seek and save what was lost?”

Does this story have a happy ending . . . or is the greatest story actually a tragedy?

It Wasn’t Always a Tragedy

For the first 500 years of the Christian Church, most Christians believed that God would ultimately redeem all of His creation. The story had a happy ending.

St. Gregory of Nyssa – the man who was honored as Father of the Fathers and who added the phrase “I believe in the life of the world to come” to the Nicene Creed, explained the belief of many at that time.

God’s love will

 . . . always increase and develop, until the One who ‘wants all to be saved and to reach the knowledge of the truth’ has realized his will . . . until the good will of the Bridegroom is accomplished. And this good will is that all humans be saved and reach the knowledge of the truth.

Then in the sixth century, as the Church became more politicized and Scripture began to be read in its Latin translation instead of the original Greek and Hebrew, most of Christendom was told that the story ultimately ends tragically. Some are saved. But most are forever lost.

St. Augustine – the foremost spokesman for this idea in the early Church – is a case in point. He didn’t read Greek.

Unlike Gregory of Nyssa who read the New Testament in his native tongue, Augustine taught that

“. . . many more are left under punishment than are delivered from it.   

In explaining his view, he also contradicted the apostle Paul by saying that the last enemy – death – would never be abolished:

For death will not be abolished, but will be eternal, since the soul will neither be able to enjoy God and live, nor to die and escape the pains of the body.

So who was right . . . Gregory or Augustine? Does the story have a happy ending . . . or is it a tragedy?

A Happy Ending?

The God who created all things is all-powerful. The God who created all things is all-wise. It is the very nature of the God who created all things to love. And this Creator has specifically said He wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

Jesus said He came to seek and save what was lost. The Apostle Paul explained that just as God created everything and everyone in heaven and on earth through Christ, so He will ultimately reconcile to Himself everything and everyone in heaven and on earth through Christ.

At the very end of His story, God tells us that every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. The gates of the glorious city that has come down from heaven will always be open.  The fruit of the tree of life in the center of the city is always available.  Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. And at that time, there will no longer be any curse.

I really like happy endings. I think God does, too. How about you?

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