Vol. 3, No. 10
Flippantly she said regarding eternity, "I don't want to go to heaven, because none of my friends will be there!" Nothing my mother has ever said is more memorable (and lamentable) than her stated resignation to spend eternity in a devil's hell. Unfortunately, from what I have been able to observe, and glean from the Bible, the dear woman who bore me, nursed me and reared me in this world, seems determined to act out her self-fulfilling prophecy.
No, not one of either my wife's or my parents, brothers or sisters affectionately embraces the Gospel of Christ. Once my grandfather, who is now deceased, literally covered his ears against the Truth. Our folks and their friends worked hard, lived hard, played hard and died hard -- outside of Christ. Though not acknowledged in this life, Jesus will not be ignored in eternity (Romans 14:11-12; Revelation 1:7).
Aside from the myriad of souls who delude themselves with a false hope of heaven (Matthew 7:21-23; Romans 10:2-3), besides perhaps billions now living who may have never even heard of Jesus (Romans 10:13-17), vast multitudes who ought to know better have no aspiration of going to heaven. Included in that number are many erring Christians (Romans 10:16, 18).
A few years ago, I was called to a city several hours distant from my home to visit a preacher friend of mine. I became painfully aware that (1) he had ceased to preach, (2) he moved out and left his wife and son, (3) he abandoned the church, too, and (4) he preferred the companionship of another woman.
I intercepted him between his factory job and the commencement of his after-hours employment as a pinsetter at a bowling alley. Later, we were able to talk under the awkward circumstance and heavy noise of crashing bowling balls and pins. There was absolutely nothing that I could say to my friend of which he was not already aware. Further, this dear Christian brother resigned himself to hell. He also realized his actions virtually guaranteed that his non-Christian son would never obey the Gospel.
It is hurtful to know that one's family members refuse the Christ and the Gospel he brought; even our Lord felt the pain of rejection as the Christ by his earthly family (John 7:5). Often the children of God are among the least able to convert their own families (Matthew 10:21; Mark 6:4). For many the price of loyalty to God is the sacrifice of earthly, family relationships (Matthew 19: 27-30). Thankfully, the joy of heaven somehow will overpower such grief (Revelation 21:4). Faithful and caring Christians must let themselves off the proverbial and emotional hook regarding unconverted family members (Romans 10:1).
It is a devil's lie that one cannot sin so as to be lost after becoming a Christian. Apostasy with its attendant condemnation is an ever-present danger -- for both individual Christians (1 Peter 5:8; 2 Peter 2:20-22) and congregations (Acts 20:28-30; Revelation 2-3). It is right to attempt to rescue fallen brethren (James 5:19-20), howbeit with carefulness to avoid the same sins (Jude 23). Much to our disappointment, though, not every Christian can be recovered (2 Timothy 4:10).
Even if we may have contributed to the demise of a brother (Acts 8:1-3; 26:10-11), beyond repentance (Acts 8:22) and redeeming the remaining time (Ephesians 5:16; 1 Corinthians 15:10), we may be able to do little more to undo some wrong. Individual accountability (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12-15) and a promised avenue of escape for every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13) somewhat mitigate one's culpability for the sins of others.
For sure, there is no gladness in the loss of family and friends. Instead, I rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). Forgive us our sins, dear Lord, and come quickly (Revelation 22:20).
Dear Reader, are you outside of Christ and have you resigned yourself to a devil's hell? Or, are you a Christian, but through sinful devices have nevertheless consigned yourself to eternal torment? Who are you influencing against Christ? Whoever you are, wherever you find yourself spiritually, take courage with the knowledge that each of us can triumph over sin and its bitter reward. Heavenly bliss awaits every weary, loyal pilgrim. Let's make this journey together!
Joshua 6:1-5 is a remarkable passage, but with which a comedian could doubtless secure a few laughs. Picture this in your mind. The king of Jericho and the mighty men of war are inside the fortified city walls, while the Israelites are on the outside of the locked city gates (verses 1-2). The Lord says to Joshua, “See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour” (verse 2). The comedian would make a funny face, laugh and say something like, “Yah, Sure!” Then the Lord says:
"And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him” (Joshua 6:3-5).
The comedian responds, “Yah, right! Now, what's the real plan?" After a little pause and surveying the face of the Lord, the comedian scoffs, “You're serious aren't you? Man, you're crazy! I'm outa here."
God made several similar promises regarding the conquest of Palestine. God promised the Trans-Jordan to Israel (Deuteronomy 2:24). Here also God said, "I have given into thine hand.” God promised Canaan to Israel. "And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it” (Numbers 33:53). The second time Israel prepared to conquer Ai, God said, "I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land" (Joshua 8:1). Near the end of his life, Joshua evaluated the conquests of Israel and verified that God had given Israel everything he promised the nation (Joshua 21:45; 23:14). God's promises to Israel regarding Palestine were fulfilled because God fought for them (Deuteronomy 3:22; Joshua 24:12).
For the children of God, the context of Joshua 6:1-5 should be a great source of comfort and reassurance that God and his people will prevail ultimately against all obstacles in this life. The Lord spoke of the conquest of Jericho as though it had already occurred. He said, "I have given into thine hand Jericho . . ." Yet, obviously the children of God were required to participate in the conquest of Jericho for the Lord to keep his promise. Likewise, today God promises victory through Jesus to anyone who becomes a child of God and remains faithful.
This victory in Jesus is as certain as if final victory has already been received. Especially Christians realize a victory over the relentless grip of death. The prophet Isaiah prophesied that the Lord would be victorious over death (Isaiah 25:8). The apostle Paul wrote concerning the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy through the person of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54-58). Paul cited the awareness of this victory over death as sufficient motive to freely and fully devote oneself to unwavering service for Christ.
Another victory is reserved exclusively for Christians. Only Christians today can achieve a victory over the obstacles of sin in the world. That victory is possible through faith. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). The Book of Revelation is a testimony to the Christian's ultimate victory over Satan and his sinful devices (Revelation 15:2).
The Christian's confidence regarding victory in Christ is partly attributable to the assurance that the children of God have a reservation in the eternal heaven. The Christian inheritance is reserved in heaven (1 Peter 1:4-12). "To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). The inheritance is that final and everlasting salvation attained at the throne of God (verses 5, 9). The Old Testament prophets were not afforded a clear view of the unfolding of that salvation as we are, but they served nevertheless toward that end, for themselves and us (verses 10, 12).
Unrighteous souls also have an eternal reservation of a different kind. From patriarchal times, man has been aware that destruction is reserved for the wicked. The following acknowledgment is found in the Book of Job, probably the oldest biblical book: "That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath” (Job 21:30). Among the condemned will be the angels that sinned: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).
"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:4-9).
Sinful mankind will spend eternity in darkness with those angels (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13).
The biblical guarantee of a heavenly crown awaiting every faithful Christian contributes to the confidence in the victory in Christ. In this life, a crown represents a number of positive circumstances. For centuries, nations have crowned kings and queens to symbolize the esteem in which they hold their rulers. Winning contestants in competitive sports have often been crowned to commemorate their achievements. Crowns are still bestowed today from pageants to county fairs to give recognition.
Faithful Christians have a promise of a crown to be bestowed by God. Among other references, Scripture calls it “a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8). Sometimes it is called “a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10; James 1:12). The apostle Peter said Jesus will give Christians “a crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4).
Perception of victory in Christ is bolstered further by biblical promises of an everlasting reward for each child of God. This reward will be awarded in heaven by Jesus Christ. "Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:24). “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Revelation 22:12). Jesus said that the reward is great and causes gladness. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12).
The reward that faithful children of God anticipate is commensurate with the degree of one's successful activity (1 Corinthians 9:16-17).
“If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:14-15).
“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (2 John 8).
However, though the reward is certain because God promised it, the reward can be taken away. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Exodus 32:33). "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5). The heavenly reward is conditional upon faithfulness unto the end (Hebrews 3:14; 6:11).
Final victory, our eternal reservation, a heavenly crown and an everlasting reward are conditional on one's faithfulness. God's part in the redemption of mankind is constant and as sure as when he told Joshua "I have given into thine hand Jericho.” “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). Man's part is variable, depending on his efforts to comply with the divine plan.
"Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
Redemption from past sins and the legitimate hope of spending eternity in heaven is conditional upon obedience of the Gospel (Romans 1:5, 15-16; 16:26; 1 John 1:7). For the unimmersed, this means that one's obedience is demonstrated in hearing God's Word and believing (Romans 10:17), professing Christ (Romans 10:9-10), then repenting and being baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Baptism or immersion in water to take away sins (Acts 22:16) is the point at which one is saved (1 Peter 3:20-21). Through baptism, one is symbolically placed into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3-5) where the blood of Jesus was shed (John 19:34). Erring Christians must repent as privately or as publicly as their sins are known, and pray to God for forgiveness (Acts 8:22). Dear Reader, do you enjoy victory in Christ, or are you either yet not a Christian or perhaps a Christian but unfaithful?