Future Believers and Those Who Can Never Believe
There are two types of unbelievers in the world. First, there is the unbeliever, today, who will someday be a believer in Jesus Christ. Second, there is the unbeliever, today, who will remain an unbeliever until the day of his or her death.
The future believer is elect of God and redeemed by Christ, but he has not yet received the Holy Spirit. Because future believers have been appointed to eternal life (Acts 13:48), they will receive Christ, according to the will of God (Jn 1:12–13), on the day ordained by God, according to His predetermined plan (Acts 2:23). At the moment of the Holy Spirit’s baptism (Mt 3:11; Acts 2:38; 10:45), faith is granted by virtue of the new life born of the new, indwelling Resident (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11; 1 Cor 3:16; Gal 4:6; Phil 1:29; 2 Tim 1:14; Jas 4:5).
Jesus Christ is the Author of every believer's faith (Heb 12:2). Each believer's faith is uniquely apportioned by the One who has granted it (Rom 12:3; Phil 1:29). The Christian faith, that is, faith in Christ, has been handed down to all the saints (Jude 3), as a gift of God (Eph 2:9). The one who believes has actually been transferred to a position of faith called “in Christ.” This re-positioning is God’s doing (1 Cor 1:30; Col 1:13), resulting in a mutual indwelling (1 Jn 4:13). The Christian says, “Christ is in me (Gal 2:20) and I am in Christ (Rom 8:1; 1 Cor 1:30).”
The believer is set apart from the unbeliever by his union with Christ, who is holy (e. g. ingrafted, adoption, etc.). The believer has the indwelling Spirit of Christ; but the unbeliever does not have the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9). Without the Holy Spirit, there is no faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).
Now, faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word preached in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit (Rom 10:17; 1 Cor 2:4). The Spirit and the Word give life (Jn 6:63) — new, abundant, and eternal — to those appointed by God. What about those people who are not appointed by God unto salvation? What characteristics distinguish the people who remain in unbelief their whole lives? Was it even possible for the one who died in his trespasses and sins to have believed in Jesus?
The name given to the one who never believes in Jesus is “reprobate.” Just as God’s elect are determined by divine predestination before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4–5), so the reprobate are determined at the same time and in the same way. By God’s gracious choice, the remnant elect have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life before creation (Rev 13:8; 17:8; 21:27). By God’s sovereign choice, the multitudes of reprobate have their names blotted out of the book of life before the foundation of the world (Ps 69:28; Rev 3:5).
Therefore, when the reprobate is conceived, physically in his or her body of sin (Ps 51:5), it is with a dead soul that will never be made spiritually alive (Prv 16:4; Eph 2:1–3; Rom 9:22). At the appointed day of the reprobate’s death (of the physical body), his soul departs to the judgment (Heb 9:27).
The characteristic life of the reprobate is marked by his hatred of God (Rom 1:30), having no love for God in his heart (Jn 5:42). He has no love for God because God did not first love him (1 Jn 4:19). In fact, God’s hatred for those who do iniquity (Ps 5:5; 11:5), and His daily anger (Ps 7:11), manifests when His wrath is executed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom 1:18). Despite being a witness to various forms of God’s just judgment, and God’s Word of warning, the natural man loves darkness for his deeds are evil (Gen 6:5; Jn 3:19).
Unbelief is simply a suppression of the truth (Rom 1:18). Having no gratitude for all that God does to sustain the reprobate’s physical life in this world (Rom 1:21), he obviously has zero appreciation for the things of God’s Spirit (1 Cor 2:14). Central to the things of the Spirit is the Word of God (Jn 6:63; 17:17; Eph 6:17; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20–21), which finds no place in the reprobate, either (Jn 8:47). It is the god of this world, Satan, who blinds the reprobate from seeing the truth of the Gospel (2 Cor 4:4).
It is the love of God the Father (1 Jn 3:1), poured out in the hearts of the elect, redeemed (Rom 5:5, 8) that designates them to be children of God (Eph 1:5; 1 Jn 3:10). The natural man without God, the reprobate, having not the Spirit (Rom 8:9), is designated to be a child of the devil (1 Jn 3:10). Children of the devil mimic their father, who was a liar and a murderer from the beginning (Jn 8:44). The devil is the ruler of the kingdom of this world (Jn 12:30; 14:31; 16:11) and this world cannot receive the Spirit of truth (Jn 14:17).
Without the Spirit of truth, the world does not have the Word of truth, so it cannot hear or see Jesus, who is the truth (Jn 14:6). This is the reason unbelievers lack faith. Jesus taught the reprobate in His midst that the reason they do not believe is that they do not belong to Christ (Jn 10:26). This means they were not given to God the Son by God the Father (Jn 6:37; 17:2, 6, 24), nor did the Son purchase them with His precious blood (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pet 1:19), when He laid down His life for His beloved church, His bride (Eph 5:25), the sheep of His pasture (Ps 95:7; 100:3; Jn 10:11, 15).
The reprobate were created by God to be the objects of His justice. Justice brings glory to God (Jer 4:2). All things in God’s eternal good pleasure are designed to bring Him glory (Rom 11:36; 1 Pet 4:11). Even God’s design for the wicked reprobate fulfills His will and achieves glory.
Justice is satisfied for the elect by Christ’s atoning sacrifice, as a fulfillment for the Law of sacrifice that does accept a substitute (Lev 16). The result is God’s mercy issuing the forgiveness of sins to those under Christ’s shed blood (Rom 9:15; Heb 9:22), according to the covenant of grace (Mt 26:28; Eph 1:7).
Justice is satisfied for the reprobate by Christ’s sentence of the guilty sinner to eternal punishment in the fiery hell of the lake of fire (Mt 25:41, 46; Jn 5:28–29; Judge 7; Rev 20:14–15). Obviously, there is no substitute sacrifice for the reprobate, and so there is no shed blood of an unblemished Lamb, and without that there is no forgiveness of sins.
Without God in the world means there is no grace to grant faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). The terrifying expectation of judgment belongs to the reprobate who is not good, not righteous, and does not seek after God for salvation (Rom 3:10–12; Heb 10:27) — a salvation that is only scoffed at by him and other unbelievers.
The Gospel is preached to all, both elect and reprobate (Mt 24:14; Mk 16:15). The call to repent is issued to all (Acts 17:30), but this is where saints and sinners are separated by the presence or absence of the Holy Spirit. Everything else in the Christian’s life is the product of the Holy Spirit’s work in sanctification (Rom 15:16; 1 Cor 6:11; 1 Thess 4:3, 7; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). The vessel of mercy is being prepared for glory (Rom 9:23). The Spirit-less vessel of wrath is being prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22).
No man or angel can change the eternal decree of God. God has done great things, in order to display all of His attributes, which bring Him glory. Yes, all these things are glorious in His estimate. The elect, redeemed, regenerate, believer agrees. God, His attributes, and His works are foolishness to the reprobate, and that is exactly the way God designed it. To Him be the glory. And all God’s people said, “Amen!” Did you?
Spokane Valley, Washington
May 13, 2022