|Vol. 13 No. 4 April 2011||
We hear so often how short and unpredictable life is. We need to understand that the only requirement for death is that we be alive. We forget or fail to realize that God holds every breath we take in His hands. In the ESV, Psalm 39:5 reads, “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!”
There is a most sorrowful and disconcerting experience for the faithful child of God. That experience is to be subjected to the funeral or memorial service of a person who was unprepared to meet God! Nothing can be more disturbing as you reflect on the lost condition of that person!
The feeling that parallels that agony is to watch and hear those attending these services who are fully convinced the deceased is in the bosom of Abraham!
In every sense of biblical faithfulness, those who are members of the Lord’s church understand exactly what the Bible says on the subject of how to get and stay saved. One of the most alarming passages of Scripture that addresses who will ultimately be in heaven is Revelation 21:27. It reads, “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Diligent students of God’s Word do not misunderstand a passage this plain.
Another passage that is penetrating to the core of our spiritual being is Revelation 22:14-15. John says, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” Diligent students of God’s Word do not misunderstand a passage this plain.
With those two passages in mind, how do we get our names written in a Book that is in heaven? No question could be more important or crucial to our spiritual survival in getting prepared to leave this world! In Philippians 4:2, referring to names written in heaven, Paul implores two sisters in the church Euodia and Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord. In verse 3, he says, “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.”
Are we currently laboring in the Gospel with our brothers and sisters in Christ? In 1 Corinthians 15:58, Paul admonishes us saying, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” How are we doing with God’s expectations in that verse? Do we draw strength and courage from the numerous faithful ones named in Hebrews 11? John said in Revelation 14:13, “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” We die in the Lord when we die having lived faithfully in His kingdom.
There are perhaps at least two questions that deserve our attention as we all are headed for the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ. The first question being do we know what the Gospel is? That question is answered in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. Paul says, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He arose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” The Gospel is the good news regarding the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He says of Himself in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
The second question is have we obeyed the Gospel, thereby seeking to labor in it? Do we know what it means to “obey the gospel?” To obey the Gospel, a person must hear the message about Christ; one must believe that message about Christ; one must repent of his sins; one must confess Christ as Lord; and one must be baptized for the remission of sins. There are numerous Scriptures that teach these divine truths. A reading of Acts 2 and Romans 6 will suffice for the purpose of reference in this article.
Perhaps there are also two statements that warrant our attention as we are headed for the judgment. First, we must know why it is that we need to obey God. A very plain, three-fold answer was given to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 5:33. Moses commanded them saying, “You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.” This message is repeated in various ways before this passage and after in virtually countless others throughout the pages of God’s Word.
Second, once a person has submitted to God through obedience to the Gospel, he must remain faithful to His commandments until he dies! Jesus told four of the apostles on one occasion the signs of the close of the age. In Mark 13:13, He declared to Peter, Andrew, James and John, “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” The race that has been set before us is a marathon — not a sprint! For many people, God’s standard and expectation of lifelong obedience to Him and service to others, somehow gets lost in the quest for this earthly life, its liberties and the pursuit of their own ideas of happiness.
There are untold millions who have never obeyed the simple plan for God’s redemption of mankind, yet they believe they will go to heaven when they die! They do not have an inkling that they are going to be eternally separated from God, never to enjoy anymore His loving kindness, tender mercies and longsuffering. They have been told that God is a God of love, and He is never going to do anything to hurt anybody. That statement, idea and notion is not found in the Bible anywhere! There is no belief that could have more tragic and eternal consequences!
How does this state of becoming weighed in the balances and found wanting happen? Why does this happen? Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:13-14. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Jesus tells us as plainly as it is possible for a human being to be told that the majority of the human race is going to be lost! We can hardly grasp that eternal truth even though it comes from the lips of Jesus Christ. However, the account of the flood in the days of Noah should arrest our attention to that fact!
What can be done to avoid being in the category of the many who will be lost? We must be born again. John 3:1-21 is God’s revelation of the new birth that every human being must undergo to see God’s face in peace. Jesus in talking to Nicodemus in John 3:3, 5 said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” What is Jesus saying? In order for anyone to be saved, he or she must be spiritually born into the kingdom of God! It has been said if we are born twice, we will die only once, but if we are born only once, we will die twice. The first death is physical. The second death is spiritual — eternal separation from God.
Speaking of the second death, John writes in Revelation 20:13-15, “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 21:8 says, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
It is imperative to our spiritual understanding and survival that we realize sin is the debt we all owe to God! We have only one of two ways to pay that debt. (1) Accept the price that Jesus Christ paid on Calvary’s cross when He died for our sins by obeying the Gospel and living faithful, obedient lives until we die. (2) Pay for our own sins in hell forever! God has left that choice up to us! Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:56-57, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
What can we do to avoid or at least lessen the sting of these disquieting and unsettling funeral or memorial experiences? Seize, capitalize and follow through on every opportunity to reach out to a lost or erring soul! We do not want to hear anyone that we knew on the Day of Judgment saying in the words from the song, “You met me day by day and knew I was astray, yet you never mentioned Him to me.” If relationships demand that we attend these distressing funerals or memorials, we want to be in attendance with no feelings of guilt. The only way those guilty feelings can be avoided, is to know within our hearts that we did and said what we could to them when the opportunities were in front of us. We need to be able to honestly say we planted the seed of God’s Word by our words and by our deeds. They saw Christ living in us!
We must follow Paul’s admonition in 2 Timothy 2:24-26, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
Our good brother in the faith Perry Cotham wrote a book entitled, Beyond the Sunset. In chapter 25 of that book there is one of several subheadings. One asked the question, “What Time Is It?” Brother Cotham says, “Since life is like ‘a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away’ (James 4:14), salvation through Christ becomes the most urgent message of the hour. Dying to sin [emphasis mine] in order that one might not die in sin [emphasis mine] now represents one’s most serious need. It is not surprising, then, that Jesus urged His disciples to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:3). One of the beauties of Christianity is the fact that it offers the best that is here, plus the promise of an eternal glorious hereafter in heaven.”
Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. Make no mistake about it, no one is going to accidentally or carelessly stumble into heaven! If we are there, we will know exactly how it is that we got there. If we are there, it will be from a lifetime of intention, planning, forethought, devotion and humility before the living God!