Saturday, April 20, 2019

The willing Passover Lamb

The first time we see the lamb as an offering to the Lord is in the fourth chapter of Genesis. Abel provided sheep as his offering to the Lord. The Lord accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s offering of produce from the ground. Why? Because God requires a blood sacrifice to cover sin.

God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac as a test of his love and obedience. A test that he passed with flying colors, by the way. I have no doubt that Abraham believed that even if he had sacrificed the son he dearly loved, that God would resurrect Isaac from the dead. After all, God had promised Abraham that his offspring would outnumber the sands of the sea. As Abraham and his son ascended Mount Moriah together, Isaac asked his father “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7). Abraham told Isaac that God himself would provide a lamb for a burnt offering. This proved to be a prophetic statement.

The sacrificial lamb also appeared at the first Passover, when God told Moses that every Jew should sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts so that the judgment that was about to come upon the Egyptians would pass over them (see Exodus chapter 12).
Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
Exodus 12:13
Then the Lord told Moses that this day shall be remembered every year.
So, this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.
Exodus 12:14
As you can see, the Jewish people understood the significance of the sacrificial lamb. So, the day Jesus was baptized, when John declared “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, the people in attendance should have understood that John was declaring Jesus to be their Messiah because the Jews understood that only God can take away sin.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” 
And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
John 1:29-34
Jesus is the same Lamb of God that the prophet Isaiah spoke about in Isaiah chapter 53.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
Isaiah 53:7
You see, it was God’s plan all along to provide a spotless and blameless lamb to redeem the world (1 Peter 1:19). This was God’s plan to pay the penalty for our sin. Jesus paid the debt that we owed but could never pay.

Jesus was fully aware of His Father’s plan for our redemption. He knew full well what awaited Him at Calvary. So much so that it grieved Him to the point of sweating great drops of blood. While praying to the Father on the Mount of Olives, Jesus said: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus had the free will to refuse His Father’s plan. He could have refused to pay the price for our redemption. He could have called down the armies of heaven, if need be, to save Himself from that dreadful fate. Satan would have loved nothing more because if Jesus had not been willing to be our sacrificial Lamb, then we would still be lost in our sins. If Jesus hadn’t risen on the 3rd day, then we would have no hope in our own resurrection from the dead.

I thank God that Jesus was an obedient Son. I’m thankful that He loves His Father and loves us so much that he would pay the price of redemption that we could never pay. Jesus has redeemed all who believe on His name. He has secured our forgiveness and has given us a permanent place in God's family as children of God.

We should remember and be grateful for this fact every day, but especially on Easter. I pray that you will meditate on what the Father and Jesus have done for you. The Father has given us His only begotten Son (John 3:16). He only asks that we believe on the name of the Lord, Jesus with all our heart.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The 3 tenses of salvation

Did you know that the Bible refers to salvation in the past, present, and future tense?

Past tense of salvation

A believer experiences this phase of salvation when they first believed. This occurs the moment you're saved from the penalty of sin by putting your faith in Jesus Christ.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV
When we were saved, we became a new creation. We became children of God. We didn’t have to earn it. How glad are you about that? I know I am because no one can ever earn their salvation by their own efforts. There’s no amount of good works that we could ever do to earn our way into the presence of a holy a just God.

The Apostle Paul makes this point clear in his letter to Titus:
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:5-7 NKJV
Before we were saved, we had no righteousness of our own. This means that we were not in a right relationship with God. But the moment we were saved, the righteousness of Christ was imparted to us. The righteousness of Jesus Christ was credited to our account. What’s more is that once we’re saved, we’re always saved. Forever and ever and ever!

But don’t take my word for it. Read the words of Jesus for yourself:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
John 10:27-29
Given the dire importance of the first tense of salvation, I feel it necessary to offer a note of caution. We must understand that salvation, and therefore the regeneration of our minds doesn’t come about by only knowing the gospel. Even the demons know that Jesus is the Son of God and they tremble with fear.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
James 2:19 NKJV
Rather, I’m talking about salvation that comes from putting our faith in Jesus. The kind of faith that comes from your heart. As Romans 10: 9 says “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Present tense of salvation

After we’re saved, we transition to the next tense of salvation. This is known as the sanctification process. This is the phase of our Christian life where the Holy Spirit works in us to convict us of our sins. Since we all slip up from time to time, this is a life-long process, but one we need to take very seriously.

As the Apostle Paul said to the Philippian church:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:12-13 NKJV
Before we were saved, we couldn’t stop sinning. At least not for long. But after we’re saved, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to overcome the sin in our lives. After all, Jesus wouldn’t have commanded us to “sin no more” if we weren’t able to obey that command (John 5:14).

And yet, all too often we make compromises in this area. We try to justify our sins. We try to convince ourselves (and sometimes others) that they’re not a big deal. But what did the Apostle Paul say? He said to work out our salvation (the sanctification process) with fear and trembling. In other words, this is of vital importance. Not because we might lose our salvation but because there are consequences to compromising. Or, don’t you know that God disciplines His children who practice disobedience (Hebrews 12:6)?

In addition to opening ourselves to God’s discipline when we’re disobedient, consider these reasons to take the sanctification process seriously:

  • Disobeying God’s word can cause us to lose rewards and blessings.
  • We can lose our sense of peace with God.
  • Living as a carnal Christian sets a horrible example to others (both other believers and unbelievers alike).

So how can we work out our salvation?

Here are some things that help me.

  • Listening to and reading the word of God reminds me of God’s will for my life. If we love God, we should want to get to know Him better, and that happens by submerging ourselves in His word “the Bible” (1 Peter 2:2). 
  • Then listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit convicting you of your sins and then take action. We must change our mind (repent) of our sins.
  • I also like to think about the imminent return of Jesus to receive His church. This has really motivated me to clean up my life. After all, should the Lord’s bride prepare herself and be ready for His return?

The good news is that, as a believer, we’re no longer powerless from the death-grasp of sin. Unlike the unsaved, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to resist Satan and his demons.

Past tense of salvation

Now for the really great news. Once we’re with the Lord in our glorified bodies, we’ll finally be saved from the presence of sin. No longer will we be tempted to war against God’s will. Isn’t that wonderful news?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Justifying our addictions

I’ll bet that most of us are struggling with at least one addiction, either openly or in private. You or someone you know might be addicted to alcohol, drugs, fornication, adultery, or pornography. Or even to things you might not think of as being an addiction, such as covetousness, greed, pride, anger, or bitterness.

For those of us who’ve been saved, the Holy Spirit works in us to convict us of our sins. This is the process of sanctification. But for this process to be fruitful, it requires some cooperation on our part. If we are to mature in our faith, we must choose to change our mind about our sin and turn to God. We must choose to live according to God’s will and not our own.

Jesus Is Better Than Porn

I recently had the privilege of getting to know Hugh Houston, the author of the book Jesus is Better than Porn. While the author shares his battle with and deliverance from pornography, the sound advice he provides applies to numerous other addictions.

Like Hugh, I also struggled with porn for decades. I wish I’d read his book years ago. It would have saved me a lot of guilt and wasted time. Hugh interweaves his own struggle with porn throughout the book in a conversational and easy to read way that I could relate to. I liked how it was never judgmental. Much of Hugh’s detailed story of his own struggle reminded me of exactly the kinds of issues and thought-processes that I was going through when I was wrestling with this addiction.

If you’re currently struggling with porn (or most other addictions, for that matter), I think the insights in this book will help you realize the thought processes you might not be sensitive to. Understanding these thought processes or decisions that lead up to the act of consuming porn is exactly what we need to become aware of and understand so we can take our thoughts captive in order to avoid committing the same sinful act over and over.

You might be thinking that pornography isn’t all that bad. After all, it’s not like you’re cheating on your spouse! It’s not like you’re hurting anybody, right? Wrong! Consider what Jesus said on this subject:
But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:28 NKJV
We need to look no further than the ten commandments to know that adultery is a sin.

The following section is from Chapter 11 Lies I Told Myself, from the book, Jesus is Better than Porn, republished here with the approval of the author, Hugh Houston. I love how Hugh brings to light the lies we tell ourselves when trying to justify our addictions just before we act on them.

Lies I Told Myself

Lies are illusions, mere fiction. 2 + 2 = 4 It’s a fact. If I think that I have the ability to jump off a building and fly, that lie could lead to my death. The law of gravity is the truth, an undeniable fact.

So what are some of the lies, the illusions which kept me trapped in the compulsive cycle of lust and porn for well over 30 years? I’ll list just a few of them here. Perhaps you can help me add to this list.

Lie #1: I’m going to quit. Just one more time and then I will give this up for good.
Truth: This went on for decades.

Lie #2: I know I will eventually give in so it might as well be now. I could fight the urge all day and waste the day or I could just act out now and move on with the rest of my day.
Truth: Urges pass. Feelings come and go. In order to develop new, healthy habits, I will need to overcome these destructive urges and move forward in purity, one hour at a time.

Lie # 3: Sex is my greatest need.
Truth: I could live a fulfilled life without sex. Many people have.

Lie #4: I have a higher sex drive than most people.
Truth: When I stop “feeding the beast” then my sex drive returns to “normal” levels. In fact, what is “normal” in the 21st century is not really normal because we are surrounded by provocative material in the media. In reality, a simple smile and a hug from my wife make me feel much better than looking at pictures of porn and masturbating. I’m tired of all these lies and pray that I will find my way to freedom.

Lie #5: Just a quick peek or a short impure thought is normal and natural. What I am doing isn’t really “pornography”. I’m just admiring the beauty of the female body – part of God’s creation.
Truth: God wants me to avoid all forms of lust and maintain a clean mind 24 hours a day. God condemns adultery committed in the heart.

Lie #6: They’re just pictures, not real people. Nobody is getting hurt. I’m not cheating. I’m not really lusting because I don’t want to be with them. I just want to look at them.
Truth: I am turning a person into an object to be used for my pleasure. My wife feels like she’s not good enough. She feels betrayed. I get so wrapped up in the addiction that I can’t think of anything else. Everyone is getting hurt. Objectifying a woman is dehumanizing and degrading, both for her and for me. Am I no more than my lusts and desires?

Lie #7: (now this contradicts #6) I want to stop and I’m going to stop but I can’t stop. This force that drives me to look is irresistible. I can’t help myself. I know I will eventually give in, so it might as well be now.
Truth: I always have a choice. Every time I looked, I made a decision to give in to my passions and cravings.

Lie #8: Masturbation makes me feel good and relieves tension. It will stop my craving for porn.
Truth: Nobody explodes or dies from lack of orgasm. Masturbation feels good for a few seconds but afterward, I feel worse than I did before. It’s a dismal cycle of destruction. Giving in to cravings only increase the cravings. It’s like an alcoholic saying “This harmless glass of beer will stop me from craving whiskey”.

Lie # 9: My wife doesn’t give me what I need. She isn’t available often enough and she puts everything else before my needs, blah, blah, blah. Therefore, I’m entitled to act out. What my wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
Truth: Knowing that I had been choosing my porn girlfriends over her practically killed her.

Lie #10: Everyone does it.
Truth: Yes, millions are caught up in this perversion, but that doesn’t make it normal or good. God doesn’t grade sin on a curve. How many people are addicted to drugs or tobacco? Is that something you want for yourself or your children?

Lie # 11: I am strong enough now in my recovery that I can shift my boundaries and watch movies with nudity, mindlessly surf the net, spend hours clicking links on YouTube, etc.
Truth: All of us need to avoid even a hint of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3). We need to establish strict, crisp boundaries to protect ourselves from sin. Complacency is often the first step to relapse.

Lie #12: Discussing my emotions with others will make me seem weak, and will cause my friends to like me less.
Truth: It takes courage to admit our mistakes. Seeking help is an act of wisdom. People respect those who are willing to be vulnerable and change.

Lie # 13: Porn makes me happy. It will satisfy me.
Truth: It is never satisfying. I always wanted to look at the next picture. Just one more. Using porn induces a hunger for more, More, MORE! Afterward, I feel degraded, guilty, ashamed, and emotionally walled off from the world. All alone. It’s like being in a personal prison.

Lie # 14: I’ll grow out of this porn habit. I’ll quit after I get married or after my next birthday.
Truth: I remained in this endless cycle for almost 40 years.

Lie #15: I can beat the addiction by myself.
Truth: I never did. See #14.

Lie #16: If I say this prayer with enough conviction I will be rid of this addiction forever.
Truth: Of course, there is power in prayer. God can do all things. But I have to want to change and take the steps necessary to seek change. Sanctification and spiritual growth require discipline and effort on my part.

Lie #17: I can live two lives. The porn life and the one I present to the world.
Truth: I am one person. Porn will bleed over into every corner of my life, rotting my soul and destroying everything that is good about life.

Applying this thought process to other addictions

I think you can see how this thought process can easily translate to other types of addictions. For example, instead of “Sex is my greatest need”, you might be thinking “drugs or alcohol is my greatest need” and so on. If you’re caught in the web of addiction, please take some time to evaluate your own thought processes that lead you to give in to the sinful urges that you so often act upon.

We can break out of the cycle of being a repeat offender when we become aware of temptation as soon as the thought enters our consciousness. Remember that God will not allow you to become tempted beyond what you are able to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Here’s some practical advice from the Bible:

  • Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak! (Matthew 26:41 NLT)
  • Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:2 KJV)
  • Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7 KJV)
  • Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18 NKJV)

May God give you the strength to overcome whatever struggles you are going through,

Related Resources

Book: Jesus Is Better Than Porn, by Hugh Houston
Hugh Houston's Blog: Jesus Is The Best
Blog post: Are the 10 Commandments still relevant?
Blog post: You can break free from a porn addiction

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Supplement your faith

In his second letter, the Apostle Peter wrote to the Gentile believers who were dispersed throughout what is today known as Turkey. His goal was to warn them about the false teachers who were infiltrating the churches and to instruct them how to defend themselves against their false doctrines.

Peter’s letter helps us identify false teachers by contrasting the moral behavior that every believer is expected to pursue with the immoral behavior of the false teachers.

After assuring them that God has provided everything, through Jesus Christ, that they need to live a godly life, Peter tells them how to be victorious. He instructs them to make the maximum effort to grow stronger in their faith by applying the seven Christian virtues.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith
   with goodness,
   goodness with knowledge,
   knowledge with self-control,
   self-control with endurance,
   endurance with godliness,
   godliness with brotherly affection:
   and brotherly affection with love.
2 Peter 1:5-7 CSB
Did you notice how the seven attributes in this list build on one another? To be sure, practicing these Christian virtues with endurance requires all the diligence and effort we can muster, along with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s take a closer look at these attributes.

The seven Christian attributes

Goodness: This attribute not only communicates that believers are expected to produce good fruit worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8) but also tells us that believers are to lead lives of moral excellence and virtue. The classical Greek word translated “goodness” describes the God-given ability to perform heroic deeds.

Knowledge was Peter’s primary solution to counter false teachers. An understanding of God’s word is the best defense against their heresies. False teachers are crafty. They’ll usually speak much truth from God’s word while twisting some of the scriptures they don’t like into something that pleases those with itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3). To avoid being deceived by false teachers, we must diligently study the word of God for ourselves and pursue an understanding of sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).

Self-control: To achieve moral excellence, we have to control our bodily desires. This begins with controlling our thoughts. Only when we allow ourselves to dwell on the lusts of the flesh, do we act out on them. Exercising self-control contrasts sharply with how the false teachers of the Apostle Peter’s day lived, which made it easier to identify them. It also helps us to identify the false teachers of our day.

Endurance: Peter warned believers to not only exercise self-control but to do so with endurance. This means we need to control ourselves all the time, even in the face of trials and adversity. We need perseverance—the spiritual staying power that never gives in and never gives up. We can only achieve this with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Godliness demonstrates reverence and loyalty to God. Perhaps the highest form of godliness is to obey God’s commands. Christians are obligated to follow Jesus’s example “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). I know this isn’t always easy, but take heart; God has given us the faith and grace we need to live a godly life.

These first five virtues pertain to our relationship with God. These last 2 pertain to our relationship with people.

Brotherly affection is demonstrated when we show concern for other people and care for their needs. In my own life, I’ve experienced that my love for God has given me a greater affection for other people than I had known before I was saved.

Love for other people takes brotherly affection to a new level. When we love someone, our desire is for them to experience the highest good. This is the kind of love that God has for sinners (John 3:16).

Applying the seven Christian attributes

In order to become more like Jesus, we need to pursue the seven Christian attributes with all our heart, soul, and mind. After all, as Peter describes in the following verses, there are wonderful benefits in doing so.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.
2 Peter 1:8-11 CSB
Are you making every effort to supplement your faith by pursuing these Christian attributes with all your might and with endurance? If not, I pray that you’ll reevaluate your priorities and give this the serious thought that it deserves.

May the blessing of the Lord be upon you,

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The reason we breathe

I just love this line in the song All of Creation by MercyMe because it gets to the essence of why we exist: "The reason we breathe is to sing for his glory". We were made to have a personal relationship with God. We were made to worship him.

Too many Christians seem to have the wrong attitude about worship. Sometimes it's because they know they don't sing well. Sometimes they just don't enjoy worshiping for other reasons. I'm convinced that God doesn't care how well you sing or the eloquence of your prayers. He just desires our worship.

Do you have the right attitude about worship?

Sing to the Lord a New Song. Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Psalm 149:1 (ESV)

See Also

5 Reasons People Don't Sing at Your Church

Erasing Hell

People don’t want to believe that Hell is a real place. Who can blame them? After all, we probably all have loved ones or friends who, by all indications, weren’t saved before they died. The thought that someone we deeply care about could go to a place of torment and even worse spend eternity it is hard for us to accept.

There are many popular beliefs going around today about hell. I’ve met many people, who don’t believe Hell is a real place. I’ve even met people who think they’ll get a second chance after death to work out their sins and get right with God. Some people chose to believe that Hell isn’t a real place because they can’t bring themselves to believe that God would punish people who don’t believe Jesus is who He claimed to be.

I was astounded to learn that a 2014 Pew Research poll reported that half of Evangelical Christians don’t believe in Hell. This is based on a sample size of 947 men and woman who say they believe Jesus is the son of God, and that He was crucified, and rose again on the 3rd day. How could Evangelical Christians not believe in hell? I can understand people of a different religion or people who have no religion at all not believing hell is real. But Evangelical Christians who are supposed to know the Word of God?! It turns out that a Pew Research poll seven years earlier reported about the same result.

I grew up in a Bible-believing church that taught Hell is a real place and that the unsaved would end up there forever. But today we have leaders in the church saying that Hell doesn’t exist. No wonder we have evangelical Christians who are confused. This makes me sad.

I understand that some people interpret scripture differently. But this is a doctrine we absolutely have to get right. We need to know what scripture says.
I love what Francis Chan says about the importance of this subject:
If I say there is no hell, and it turns out that there is a hell, I may lead people into the very place I convinced them did not exist! If I say there is a hell, and I’m wrong, I may persuade people to spend their lives frantically warning loved ones about a terrifying place that isn’t real! When it comes to hell, we can’t afford to be wrong.
—Francis Chan, from the book “Erasing Hell”
I think that these are the key questions that need to be answered if you want a Biblical understanding of Hell:
  • What is hell?
  • Is hell a real place?
  • Are hades, sheol, and hell the same place?
  • Do people go to hell or is it just for fallen angels?
  • Will those who go to hell suffer forever?
  • Will anyone get out of hell?

What is hell?

Over the past 2 centuries, there have been very diverse opinions about what hell is like. In his book, “Erasing Hell”, Francis Chan writes:
The question “what is hell?” has spawned many answers over the years. For Origen, hell was a place where the souls of the wicked were purified so they could find their way back to God. Dante depicted hell as a place under the earth’s surface with nine levels of suffering, where sinners were bitten by snakes, tormented by beasts, showered with icy rain, and trapped in rivers of blood or flaming tombs; some were even steeped in huge pools of human excrement. C. S. Lewis’s portrayal of hell was significantly less creepy. For Lewis, it was kind of like a dark, gloomy city, or a place where “being fades away into nonentity.” A happier portrait of hell was painted by the band AC/DC, who said that “hell ain’t a bad place to be”—it’s where all our friends are.
—Francis Chan, from the book “Erasing hell”
That’s a pretty diverse smattering of opinions. Now contrast those opinions with what Jesus taught, which, by the way, is what the Jews of His day believed about hell.
  1. Hell is a place of punishment after judgment.
  2. Hell is described in the imagery of fire and darkness, where people lament.
  3. Hell is a place of annihilation or never-ending punishment.

Is hell a real place?

Jesus talked about hell more often than He talked about heaven. He chose strong and terrifying language when He spoke about it. The reason is simply that God doesn’t want anyone to go there. Jesus referred to Hell as a place of outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That doesn’t sound like a place you’d want a loved one to go, does it? It certainly doesn’t sound like the party that the rock band, AC/DC described.

So the next time someone accuses you of trying to scare them into hell, just remember that Jesus modeled that approach for us.

In fact, there are seven passages in the new testament that record Jesus referring to hell as “a dark place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Two of them referred to people who thought they were righteous but were not. Their fate was to be thrown into hell (Matthew 8:12 and Luke 13:28). The last five passages were told as parables:
  • The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
  • The parable of the tares (Matthew 13:24-30 and verses 36-42)
  • The parable of the dragnet (Matthew 13:47-50)
  • The parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-13)
  • The parable of the faithful and evil servant (Matthew 24:45-51)
Paul referred to the fate of the wicked more than any other New Testament writer did. Though he never used the actual word hell, he did speak of death as the result of sin, whereby the wicked would perish or be destroyed by the wrath of God. Paul described the fate of the wicked with words such as perish, destroy, wrath, punish, and others more than eighty times in his thirteen letters.

Are Hades, Sheol, and Hell the same place?

Sheol, sometimes called Hades is mentioned sixty-five times in the Old Testament, and it describes the place where both the righteous and the wicked go after death. In some Bible translations, it’s referred to as the grave or the pit. It isn’t hell and it isn’t the mythical place called purgatory, either. Sheol is a place where the unsaved await judgment before they’re cast into hell. Most biblical scholars teach that the souls of the saved go to heaven immediately after death while their bodies remain in the grave until the resurrection at the rapture.
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
—Daniel 12:2

Do people go to hell or is it just for fallen angels?

Some have argued that God created hell for the fallen angels only. But the Bible teaches otherwise. After the great tribulation, the righteous people who died after the rapture, as well as the wicked people, will be resurrected from their graves to face judgment. He will separate the righteous from the wicked and place the righteous on the right and the wicked on the left (see Matthew 25:31-33). The righteous will receive their eternal inheritance. The wicked did not fare so well.

Jesus foretold what would befall the wicked:
Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels
Matthew 25:41

Will those who go to hell suffer forever or will they be destroyed?

I was surprised to learn that there’s some controversy over this question. That’s understandable because there seems to be scripture supporting both sides of this question. As I mentioned earlier, I had been taught and always believed that people who go to hell will be tormented forever. Let’s see what scripture says about it.

Scripture that speaks of eternal punishment

In Matthew 18:8, Jesus said “the wicked will be thrown into “everlasting fire”. You might assume this implies that because the fire is everlasting that the suffering will be everlasting as well. But that could be a wrong assumption.

The longest and clearest example is Jesus’ account of the judgment that follows his second coming (see Matthew 25:31–46). Verse 46 of this passage makes it clear that the wicked will suffer eternal punishment.
And these will go away into everlasting punishment,
but the righteous into eternal life.
Matthew 25:46 (NKJV)
An important thing to note about this verse is that the words “everlasting” and “eternal” are translated from the same Greek word, which means everlasting or forever. So, if believers have eternal life, then it would follow that the wicked will have eternal punishment, right?

Then Revelation 20:10 says “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever”. This seems like the silver bullet in the argument for eternal suffering.

Scripture that speaks of the destruction of the condemned

Matthew 10:28, Jesus says “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”.

Jesus also warns us to “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” (Matthew 7:13 NKJV).

The obvious question is this. If the body and soul of people are destroyed, can they still suffer?

You could go either way on this one, but even if you knew you’d be eventually destroyed (so that you have no consciousness), after a period of horrible suffering, would you risk going to hell? It seems to me that would be a foolish risk. Even if you were right, and there would eventually be an end to your suffering, just stop and think about the eternal rewards you could have enjoyed from Jesus. As if eternal life with the Lord wasn’t enough of an incentive!

Will anyone get out of hell?

Many believe that people will have to stay in a place of torment until their sins are paid and only then can they can go to heaven. Let me be clear: There’s no place on Earth or under the Earth where you can pay for your sins and then get a ticket to paradise. The only one who can pay for your sins is Jesus. And the only time you can accept His free gift of salvation is while you are still alive in your mortal body.

In the parable of Lazarus and the Rich man (Luke 16:19–31 NKJV), Jesus taught that no one will be able to cross-over from the place of torment to heaven.

Summing up

I think that we’ve seen that:
  • Sheol and Hades are two names used that refer to the grave
  • Hell is a real place and unsaved people will go there
  • No one can get out of hell and then go to heaven
The good news is that you can avoid hell altogether by accepting the free gift of Salvation. If you haven’t made a decision to follow Jesus, please do so today. If you have friends and loved ones who aren’t saved, please share the gospel with them (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and pray for them.

Much of my research on this subject came from the book “Erasing Hell” by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle. Francis is a former pastor and currently an evangelist, speaker, and author. Preston is a seminary professor who’s done a great deal of research on the topic of Hell. What’s great about the book, is that unlike other books on this subject (and there are many), Francis has taken Preston’s scholarly research and turned it into a book that’s easy to understand and read. I promise I don’t have any financial connections to this book whatsoever. I just want you to know that if you want a deeper understanding of this subject than I was able to cover here, I encourage you to read his book.

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The Rapture and the Second Coming

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Dead people don't normally do that

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very core of the Christian faith. As the Apostle, Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17). Referring to the resurrection of Jesus, Professor Gary Habermas said you have to ask yourself these two questions: “First, did Jesus die on the cross? And second, did he appear later to people? If you can establish those two things, you’ve made your case, because dead people don’t normally do that.”

In my earlier message, Did Jesus really die on the cross? I made the case that Jesus did, in fact, die on the cross. In this message, I’ll discuss the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.

The disciples and other witnesses

William Lane Craig, a foremost scholar of the resurrection said, “When you read the New Testament, there’s no doubt that the disciples sincerely believed the truth of the resurrection, which they proclaimed to their deaths.

The Apostle Paul summarized the eyewitness accounts when he wrote this to the Corinthian church:
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 rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
1 Corinthians 15:3-9 (NKJV)
What makes this evidence especially compelling is that Paul mentioned specific people and groups of people who saw the resurrected Jesus. Not only that but he made this statement at a time when anyone who cared to do so could have verified what he was telling them was true. He was virtually inviting people to check it out for themselves. They could have gone directly to James or Cephas (Peter) or any of the other Apostles. They could have asked any of the 500 brethren who were still alive. Paul was a brilliant man. He would never have made these claims if they weren’t true. He wouldn’t have put his credibility in jeopardy over a lie that could be so easily discredited.

Referring to the resurrection account in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, German historian Hans von Campenhausen said, “This account meets all the demands of historical reliability that could possibly be made of such a text. Besides, you don’t need to rely on the reference to the five hundred to make the case for the resurrection. Usually, I don’t even use it.”

Speaking in a synagogue in Antioch, the Apostle Paul boldly declared:
The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
Acts 13:27-31 (NIV)
Here's a rundown of other post-resurrection appearances of Jesus:
  • He appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:10–18)
  • Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matthew 28:1–10)
  • To Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–32)
  • To eleven disciples and others with them (Luke 24:33–49)
  • To ten disciples and others (Thomas was absent) (John 20:19–24)
  • To Thomas and the other apostles, in John 20:26–31
  • To seven disciples (John 21:1–14)
  • To the 11 disciples in Galilee (Matthew 28:16–20)
  • To the disciples at the Mount of Olives before Jesus’ ascension (Luke 24:50–52)
As prominent British theologian Michael Green said, “The appearances of Jesus are as well authenticated as anything in antiquity. There can be no rational doubt that they occurred and that the main reason why Christians became sure of the resurrection in the earliest days was just this. They could say with assurance, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ They knew it was he.”

The Apostles went to their death defending the truth

After Jesus was crucified, the disciples were discouraged and depressed. The movement was all but stopped in its tracks. That is until they met the resurrected Jesus. That’s what changed the Apostle’s lives and started the church. The book of Acts is evidence of this. They gave up their occupations to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, even though doing so offered no earthly benefit to them. In fact, most of the Apostles faced a horrible death defending what they knew to be true. The truth that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, who died on the cross, was raised to life and was seen alive by them. If it were all a lie, wouldn’t some of them have fallen away? Wouldn’t some of the Apostles have recanted a lie rather than facing a gruesome death? Of course, they would have. People will die for a lie they believe to be true. But nobody willingly dies for something they know is a lie.

And another thing: James, the brother of Jesus didn’t believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be until he met the resurrected Jesus. If James didn’t believe after all the time he had spent with Jesus before the cross, there’s only one reason he would become a believer and a leader in the Jerusalem church after Jesus was crucified. It’s because James saw the resurrected Christ.

Related resources

Bio: Dr. Gary Habermas
Book: The Case for Easter by Lee Strobel

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