Vol. 3, No. 11
One April day in 1994, a woman was jogging in Placer County, California. Suddenly, unexpectedly and without provocation, a mountain lion pounced on her from the peripheral of the trail. As they tumbled down the stony hillside together, the lion mauled her to death. What a tragic encounter with wildlife! What a hurtful empty void that tragedy must have left in the lives of her loved ones!
In view of the catastrophic consequences of being on that trail at that moment, who could imagine that such a victim would want her husband or one of her children to be the next person to follow in her footsteps that day? Surely, no one would exclaim that to choose another trail to safety would be a dishonor to the memory of the beloved but departed victim of that attack. Doubtless, she would not fault her family for choosing a trail to safety. A wife and mother would earnestly hope that her family would not fall prey to the mountain lion also.
The Bible records this thought provoking conversation between departed spirits.
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." (Luke 16:19-31).
Straight talk about hard things means that we must think about loved ones who have died. If your mother or father, brother or sister, or husband or wife did not make adequate preparation for eternity, do you really think that they want their loved ones to make the same mistake? If you were to learn from the Bible how to prepare yourself to meet God, but your loved ones did not do that, would it really be a dishonor to their memory to obey the truth?
God the Father has a role in the salvation of mankind. Through his mercy, he withholds from Christians the punishment that all souls deserve (Titus 3:5). Through God's grace, he extends to Christians redemption that no soul deserves (Ephesians 2:8). To make mercy and grace possible, God sent Jesus Christ into the world (John 3:16) by whom he draws souls to himself (John 14:6). This is the only way that sinful mankind could boldly re-establish fellowship with a sinless, holy God (Hebrews 4:16).
Jesus Christ has a role in the salvation of mankind. Jesus willingly came to earth and did the will of the Father (John 6:38). He became the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all souls (Hebrews 9:26). The blood of Jesus takes away sins (Ephesians 1:7).
The Holy Spirit has a role in the salvation of mankind. The Holy Spirit delivered divine messages from the Father to mankind (2 Peter 1:20-21). The Holy Spirit is a divine participant in baptism (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Mankind also has a role in his salvation (Philippians 2:12). We must hear God's Word whereby a Bible faith develops (Romans 10:17). God requires us to profess before men that Jesus is the Christ (Romans 10:9-10). Souls on Pentecost were told by the apostle Peter to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
Initially the saving blood of Jesus is applied to a soul when baptized into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3-5). Erring Christians can receive the cleansing blood of Jesus through penitence and prayer (Acts 8:22, 24; 1 John 1:7). Follow the footsteps of Jesus on the trail to heaven. That is what your mother and father or other loved ones who have died want you to do.
The apostle Paul wrote: ". . . behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). There is no better time to obey the Gospel and receive the forgiveness of sins than NOW. It is impossible today to do anything yesterday, for that day is gone and will not come again. Further, it is too dangerous to put off salvation until some future day; none of us can be certain that we will live beyond the present moment.
"Go to now, ye that say, today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that" (James 4:13-15).
Now is the accepted time to be saved because all men have sinned. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).
Now is the accepted time to be saved because it is possible to receive the forgiveness of sins. The Gospel message in the New Testament tells how to be saved: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16). Summarized, the Gospel reveals: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved . . ." (Mark 16:16).
Now is the accepted time to be saved because when life is over it is too late to be saved. The account of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 teaches that souls cannot change their eternal destinations after death. The rich man in this passage very much wanted to be saved and even more hoped his family would save themselves before they died.
Now is the accepted time to be saved, but, dear Reader, are you saved? You can be saved if you will: (1) Hear and (2) Believe the Word of God; "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). (3) Repent of sins; "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). (4) Profess Jesus as Christ; "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10). (5) Be baptized for the forgiveness of sins; ". . . Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins . . ." (Acts 2:38). (6) Be faithful until death; ". . . be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).