This Year Thou Shalt Die
The theme of this message is found in a single verse of Scripture in which we find the statement, “this year thou shalt die.”
I will give you the setting of this verse in a moment and then speak to the subject of death for a few minutes.
The statement, “this year thou shalt die,” is taken from the book of Jeremiah and was the word of the Lord to a man named Hananiah who opposed the ministry of Jeremiah.
As you may recall, Jeremiah is known as the “weeping prophet” because of his fervent pleas to his people to repent before the certain judgment of God came upon them. Jeremiah spoke a word of warning to the people from the Lord. The message was simple enough. The Lord sent his word through Jeremiah warning the people to turn from disobedience and rebellion and to amend their ways. If they did so, then they would avert the impending judgment of God upon Jerusalem and the temple.
However, if they would not repent, then the word from the Lord was clear. The unthinkable would happen. The city which the people thought God would never remove and the temple which the people thought God would never judge, would in fact fall to the enemy.
Hananiah brought a different “word from the Lord.” He contradicted Jeremiah and spoke a word to the people that did not come from the Lord. Consequently, Jeremiah said to Hananiah, “The Lord has not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the Lord.”
Confirming His true word through Jeremiah, in the seventh month of that year Hananiah died.
If you will be patient with me, I simply want to lift this statement from the text and talk to you about it for a few minutes. We are in a new year, but suppose this year is the last year of your life. In fact, what was true of this man will one day be true for all men--this year thou shalt die.
We Christians do not shy away from the subject of death. We know as Paul said, "to die is gain" for a believer. Christians possess assurance of salvation, an inner knowing that at death we will be home with the Lord. Those who know Christ possess eternal life and as Jesus repeatedly promises they shall never perish.
However, there is a lost world around us avoiding the subject of death at all cost. And worse, many come to very wrong conclusions about death. Such is the case of the man I am about to quote.
This man exemplifies the thinking of a great many people in our world. He lives only for this world and sadly has his own ideas about death. I must say, there is only one authority on the subject of death. His name is Jesus. Failure to listen to him leaves you with nothing but a deceptive sedative to calm your mind when the year of your death arrives.
Listen as I quote the thoughts of this very lost man. He has plenty of money. He has some goals for the new year, but like so many he has no hope beyond the grave. He writes quote:
I woke up this morning in pain again. I injured my shoulder wrestling a few weeks ago, and it doesn't seem to be healing. Certainly not as fast as it would have healed when I was in my 30s.
This is one of the many things that happen to you when you reach 60. But it's hardly the worst. The worst is that you can't avoid thinking about death. People you know - colleagues, friends and family members - are seriously sick or dying.
Again, I am quoting this gentleman:
Right now, I see death as a hateful thief - ready to rob me of the time I need to accomplish the goals I have yet to accomplish.
There is so much still to do: books to write, movies to make, business to conduct and places to see. But most of all there are relationships I owe time to.
A reader recently wrote asking me why, when discussing how I spend my day, I don't talk about the time I spend with my family and friends. The main reason is that I don't feel I should be dragging them into public view without their permission. But another reason is that I write mostly about what I've learned... and I haven't learned how to do a very good job of spending time with them.
When I think about making good use of the time I have left, it's clear to me that working on my personal relationships should be my top priority.
So why don't I do that now?
I once read a book called The Denial of Death. I don't remember much about it, but I do remember what I took away from it: It's frightening to consciously recognize our mortality - to be fully aware that one day we will cease to exist. The fear of death is so great, in fact, that the reality of death must be suppressed from our consciousness, so we can go forward.
In other words, we deny death in order to be able to live fully.
Now let me pause here and interject something. We Christians do not live like that. We do not live our lives in bondage to the fear of death. I trust you will listen to this man’s words in the interest of understanding how the world runs from the subject of death. Furthermore, I trust you can see how those who have no hope of everlasting life live exclusively for the here and now. Truly their hope is in this world. What a contrast to a true believer whose hope is laid up in heaven. Now quoting again:
I think this is true. Especially for the young. But as we age, it becomes more difficult to keep death out of our thoughts. And eventually, we come to a crossroad where we must decide: Should I continue to deny death, to "rage against the dying of the light"? Or should I learn to accept the fact that we are all dead men on leave and learn to live, as Thomas Ken said, "that I may dread the grave as little as my bed"?
I think we can do both. We can continue living our lives fully and purposefully - even embrace long-term goals - while gradually allowing the reality of death to sit comfortably in our psyches.
Here are four steps you can take today to get yourself on that track:
1. Spend 15 minutes by yourself thinking about mortality.
Take a walk. Find a peaceful place. Breathe slowly. Look around. Recognize that one day - sooner than you can believe - you will not exist anymore. You will not be around to breathe the clean air, feel the sun on your skin and see the things you find beautiful. You will not be around to hear the sound of your lover's sigh, your children's voices and your best friend's laughter.
Try to get, as clearly as you can, a sense of your own mortality. Try to stop, if only for a few moments, a fundamental aspect of consciousness - the denial of death.
Use that recognition to get to the next step.
2. Visualize your own funeral. Imagine that four people stand up to speak about you. One is your spouse or significant other. Another one is a child or parent. Another is a friend. And the fourth is someone involved in your career. What would they be saying about you if you died tomorrow? Be honest.
I must pause here and interject again: why does it matter if you cease to exist at the moment of death?
3. If there is a difference between what you think those four people would say about you and what you'd like them to say, you've got some work to do.
4. Make a commitment to respect the time you have. That means living in such a way that you honor your core life goals as well as other important but nonessential life goals. The best way to do this is to make your core life goals a priority. That means attending to them during that first precious hour of your working day, before you get to all your other daily obligations.
Don't think you can put off working on your core goals until sometime in the future. Use your newly acquired ability to face your mortality to motivate you. Get the most important things done first. (unquote)
This man is a classic example of what Jesus warns about in Matthew 6:33. The most important things are not connected to this temporal world, rather they are connected to preparation for the next. Jesus says to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. The most important things are not your core goals for this life, but preparation for the next!
This man is an investment advisor. He is worldly wise and probably can offer some sound advice on how to navigate the world of investing. But he is out of his league when it comes to the subject of death. His philosophy is dangerous, misleading, and amounts to pure spiritual blindness. He is godless and the goals he sets are not motivated with a desire to glorify God.
Did you notice this man did not quote the Lord Jesus Christ? In fact, he never mentions God at all and sadly says twice when a man dies, he ceases to exist. This is folly at its very height. This man is in grave danger of losing his soul. In some measure he has gained the world but will soon go out to meet the God so willfully rejected from his heart.
Like so many, are you running from the subject of death? Or like this man, are you coming to grips with a false idea about death?
Here is what the Bible teaches about death:
- Death is an enemy, an intruder into God’s very good creation.
- Death has passed upon all men for all have sinned.
- It is appointed unto all men to die, but after this the judgment.
- Jesus clearly teaches those who die in their sins upon death enter hell; while those who repent and believe upon him enter the joy of the Lord
- Through death, Jesus has destroyed him who held the power of death, that is, the devil. No one needs to subject themselves to a lifetime of slavery to the fear of death. Jesus Christ will set you free from that fear if you turn to him. Gloriously, those who believe upon Jesus pass from death unto life. Furthermore, our salvation includes the resurrection of our body. So, we may boldly say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Indeed, “thanks be unto God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
If this year thou shalt die, are you ready?
I started today by introducing you to a man named Hananiah. He was severely rebuked by Jeremiah because he made the people to trust in a lie. My friends, our world is filled with many voices and they are not speaking the Word of the Lord, rather they are causing many to trust in a false hope. There is only one way to have real hope. You must listen to His word.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the sole authority on the subject of death. He says if you refuse to believe upon him you will die in your sins and cannot come where he is. Said another way, apart from faith in Christ we must face the wrath of God expressed in the place called hell.
Life is but a vapor that appears for a short while and then fades into eternal ages to come. Will you spend eternity with Christ, or will you perish everlastingly in a place separated from the presence of the Lord?
Bow your head right now and call upon the Lord. Give your heart and life to Christ and pass today from death into life (John 5:24). I trust you will be of serious mind.
- The Last Enemy to be Destroyed
(Please read John 11:1-36 for the background of this sermon . . . I shared these thoughts during Memorial Day weekend, but the truth contained in the message is much needed as day by day many are left grieving the loss of a loved one. For those who know the Lord Jesus Christ we can find great comfort and hope in the midst of our sorrows. Let the truth of God's Word comfort you today).
In the background of our Memorial Day activities pictures of sacrifice are blurred and nearly forgotten. Perhaps the small American flags that often form long lines roll after roll in our cemeteries will at least for a moment grip our heart with humble gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice many made to hold back the evil seeking to oppress human freedom.
Each time we stand at the grave of a fallen soldier or the grave of a beloved family member the experience reminds us something is simply not right in our world. The strife that leads to war and death plagues the world till this very hour. Furthermore, the enemy called death is not contented to simply wreck havoc through war, but by and by invades each family taking those held so dear.
Such was the case with Mary and Martha. Their beloved brother Lazarus fell sick and succumbed to death. Heartbroken these two sisters proceeded with a funeral wondering in their thoughts as to why Jesus did not come upon their request.
In some measure we all experience the same emotions displayed by Mary and Martha in their hour of loss. As they talked to Jesus upon his arrival in Bethany both said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”
How many times has the human heart cried out, “Lord, if you had answered my prayer my husband, my wife, my child, my loved one, my friend, would not have died.” Or how many times has grief of mind compelled us to lift our eyes toward heaven with the question—why?
There is an underlying truth we must come to grips with in order to find the comfort and hope needed to face a world filled with death and dying. I would say it this way: Death, introduced by man’s sin and now the great enemy of mankind, is the last enemy to be destroyed.
We need to understand the present order of things will not continue. Just as a day once existed without the presence of death upon the earth, a future day is coming when the enemy called death will once for all be banished from the earth.
Today all things in the creation are subject to decay and decline. However, there is a day coming when God will make all things new. The curse of sin and death will never touch this new creation. Death will once for all be swallowed up in victory.
However, between now and then the whole creation groans being burdened. Indeed, what an enemy death is! Today this enemy marches on seemingly unhindered. I say seemingly because in spite of the continued presence of this enemy in the world the resurrection of Christ stripped death of its' sting and gave birth to a living hope.
Entering into Bethany Jesus encountered a community taken back by the loss of a dear loved one and friend. The grief was widespread. The Bible says, “Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her.” He was moved by their sorrow. Touched by their grief the Bible says Jesus groaned in his spirit and was deeply moved. He was so moved the Bible says Jesus wept.
I am glad to know our God in the person of Jesus the Christ understands what it is to stand at a graveside and weep! It is comforting to know God has come near to us in the person of his Son. He has shared our earthly experience. He is not a God aloft from the feelings of our infirmities.
It is important to understand while God allows the present realities that test mankind, he is not immune himself. At the heart of God’s plan for mankind lies his own suffering in the person of his only begotten Son. At times the cup from which we drink may be bitter, but no one has ever drunk from a cup of suffering like that the Father gave to his own Son.
As some watched Jesus weep that day they said, “See how much he loved him.”
Indeed, Jesus loved Lazarus, but do you know how much he loves you? Christ cares about your broken heart. He weeps with you. He is touched by your grief and he wants you to understand he is going to do something about it. The case of Lazarus as recorded here for our comfort and instruction is nothing more than a preview of what is to come.
Yes, today there is death and weeping. Today we experience separation.
However, this is not the end of the story. He who is the resurrection and the life said to Mary and the others, “Where have you laid him?”
They proceeded to bring Jesus to the grave. It was a cave and a stone lay upon it. He then told them to take away the stone. Martha immediately became concerned since Lazarus lay dead four days and by then his body was so decomposed it surely was in a most disturbing condition.
After Jesus encouraged her, some of those present proceeded to take away the stone. At that point Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank thee that thou has heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”
And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”
I am sure upon hearing those words everyone at that grave site watched the opening of the cave with anxious anticipation. Perhaps they heard a stir from inside the cave as Lazarus slowly stood and began the slow walk out of the tomb wrapped in the restraining grave clothes.
After a few moments that probably seemed like an eternity, suddenly a gasp of astonishment swept those present as a man wrapped in grave clothes came into view walking toward them!
Jesus said to the crowd, “Loose him, and let him go.”
My friends, do you think that was a mighty miracle? Well, Jesus says elsewhere
marvel not at this for the day is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and come forth!
Christ himself is the firstfruit, that is, Jesus first rose from the dead securing our salvation. Afterward they that are Christ’s will be raised at his coming. Paul said, “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep (or be physically dead), but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory!”
My friend, do you understand the grave is not the end of the story? Do you understand that Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life?
Do you understand he experienced death upon the cross as our sin bearer to deliver us from the power sin holds to separate us from the Father? Do you understand he rose from the dead because the power of sin is defeated and his sacrifice on our behalf is accepted by the Father?
Thus, the Bible says God raised Jesus from the dead for our justification. Said another way, the resurrection of Christ from the dead is God’s declaration he accepts faith in his Son as the means by which he frees mankind from the guilt of sin. Praise his name!
Now I have another question: Do you understand those who confess Christ and trust him as their Savior are partakers in his resurrection?
As Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead (this can speak of the spiritual condition in sin and also the reality that believers still face physical death), yet shall he live (Christ gives eternal life to those who believe upon him and promises the resurrection of the body).
And whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die (this is not a reference to physical death, rather it is the Savior’s oft repeated promise that those who trust in him will never perish in the second death).”
Are you trusting Christ as your Savior? If so, you are now raised in Christ spiritually speaking. Already you are passed from death unto life. However, our salvation also includes the redemption of the body.
One day if the Lord tarries, someone will lay my body in an old dusty grave somewhere. But the songwriter has it right: Ain’t no grave going to hold my body down!
When the Lord Jesus returns for his church our great Creator/Redeemer will command death to give up our body and out of the dust of the ground he will shape us a new glorified body like unto his own glorified body. Yes, one day the Lord Jesus will descend from heaven with a loud voice saying, “Come forth.” His authoritative, creative shout will compel death to loose our bodies as we are clothed upon with immortality!
Thank God he must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death!
"Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"
- How is it That You Do Not Discern
I intend to touch upon several topics today that should not be ignored. We need to discern “this time” or the days we are currently living in.
During our Lord’s earthly ministry he pointed out to the generation of that day not to ignore the signs of the times (Matt. 16:1-4). Jesus expected that generation to recognize he was in their presence. It was a unique time in which the Son of God appeared.
They had the sign of his birth. At least two prominent events occurred with Herod in the mix of both. First, the wise men from the east stirred all of Jerusalem with their arrival in search of the one born King of the Jews.
And second, how could anyone in that generation forget the atrocity perpetrated on many of their families at the hand of a power hungry King Herod who ordered their babies to be butchered in effort to destroy the Christ child.
They had the sign of his brief appearance at the temple in Jerusalem at age 12. The young Messiah astonished the rulers of the Jews with his knowledge of the Scriptures both answering questions and putting forth questions to them which demonstrated wisdom well beyond his years. The Bible says all that heard him were astonished at his answers.
But his full appearance to the nation awaited one John the Baptist. Some 18 years later the ministry of John the Baptist began. He was the predicted forerunner of the Messiah. What a sign John was in his day.
Any spiritual minded Jew of that generation should have discerned the time based solely on the ministry of John the Baptist. John captured the attention of the whole nation and boldly proclaimed while he was not the Messiah he would soon identify him for Israel and the world.
Upon baptizing Jesus and declaring him to be the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world our Lord’s ministry officially began.
The Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove and then led him into the wilderness where he was tested by Satan for 40 days and night. Upon defeating the personal attacks of Satan the Bible says Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee.
Thus began the work of the Savior. During the following 3½ years the entire ministry of Jesus served as a sign to Israel and the world. His mighty works bore testimony to his claim to be the Son of God.
Now let’s look at our text:
54 And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. 55 And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. 56 Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
Please take note of our Lord’s question in verse 56. Jesus asked them, “How is it that ye do not discern this time.”
Clearly Jesus expected his generation to recognize the significance of the days in which they lived. Sadly, they persisted in unbelief and eventually had part in his crucifixion.
I believe our Lord’s question could very well apply to our generation today. In light of what is going on in our world Jesus could ask of us, “How is it that ye do not discern this time?”
One of the central messages of the Bible is the doctrine of the Second Coming. The Second Coming will be in two phases. Phase one is the unannounced rapture of the church described in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15.
The second phase will be the fulfillment of the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 24. Daniel’s prophecy lays out a definitive seven year period of history determined upon the Jews.
When will the events leading up to the glorious appearing of Jesus in great power occur? While we are not permitted by Scripture to set definite dates for the rapture can we not discern the times in which we live? Can we not discern this time?
Consider the following things that characterize our time and give testimony to the possible soon return of Jesus for his church and his subsequent dealings with Israel and the world.
First, we come to what Dr. Tim Lahaye referred to as the “super sign.” He was speaking of the return of the nation of Israel to their homeland in a state of unbelief.
The regathering of Israel in unbelief is an astounding development in our world. Do you realize that Israel’s national posture makes it possible for scores of end time prophecies to literally be fulfilled just as the prophets and the Revelation predict?
This is truly an amazing development in our lifetime and suggests that the Lord is preparing to fulfill the 70th week of Daniel’s ancient prophecy. The rapture precedes the Lord’s dealings with Israel in fulfillment of Daniel’s famous prophecy.
Consequently, while we cannot know the exact time of our Lord’s return for the church, we can conclude that the event is approaching rapidly in light of this super sign! Do you see the point?
Shouldn’t Israel’s regathering enable us to discern this time?
By the way, Israel will celebrate the 70th anniversary of her national rebirth this year of 2018.
Closely related to the sign of Israel’s return to a national status is the sign of the city of Jerusalem. As you all know our current President stirred up a hornet’s nest with his recent announcement that the U.S. is moving its embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the city as the capital of Israel.
Zechariah’s prophecy that the Lord would make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people in the region and that he would make the city a burdensome stone for all people is coming to pass right before our eyes.
100 years ago no one could see this coming. The land of Israel lay barren and unfruitful with not one point of controversy surrounding the city. Perhaps many mocked Zechariah at such a prediction, but no one should doubt it now.
The controversy surrounding the city of Jerusalem is a definite indication we are headed straight for the time of Jacob’s trouble and the fulfillment of scores of Bible prophecies related to the end time.
My friend, can you discern this time? Are you ready if Christ returns today?
Next, I call your attention to a very interesting characteristic of our time that again points to the Lord’s return.
I am referring to what the late Dr. Tim Lahaye referred to as “Capital and Labor Conflicts.” James chapter five indicates that in the last days the concentration of wealth in the hands of those who oppress the greater population will become an acute problem.
While an obvious disparity has always existed between the rich and the poor, the issue here seems to be the loss of personal freedom and the opportunity for advancement of any kind due to the inordinate greed of those who control this world system.
Closely related to the prediction made by James is the prophecy of the book of Revelation predicting the rise of commercial Babylon under the antichrist with very limited freedom for most. In fact, the world will be compelled to receive a mark on their forehead or their hand in order to buy or sell.
We certainly recognize the ease in which this prophecy can now be fulfilled. The technology exists for a world ruler to require all to receive a mark that amounts to an implant capable of tracking one’s every economic move. Think about that.
Just 30 years ago that was impossible, but not today. How is it that we cannot discern this unique time we now find our self in?
By the way, just to illustrate how the disparity between the rich and the average citizen is growing wider by the year consider the following from a leading financial advisor (quote):
Today the richest 10% of America owns 75% of the nation's wealth... a level we have not seen since the 1930s.
This is what's driving the anger, the radical politics, and the growing racism in our society. You see, while the rich are getting richer, everyone else is losing ground. (The data) shows how for most Americans, real wages have been stagnant or falling for decades... The middle class—the most politically and economically stable part of our society—is disappearing.
The foundation of the middle class in America was a long history of consistently rising wages. For millions of Americans, life got a little better, year after year, as the value of their wages increased and our economy grew into the world's largest.
But this is no longer happening. Low income earners now make LESS in real terms than they did in 1980! And middle income earners make just 6% more than they made back in 1980. That's an increase of just 0.00172% a year!
No wonder people are so angry and stressed.
They've been going to work, year after year, but instead of earning more over time, they've actually been earning less, in terms of what their wages can buy.
Despite the boom in the U.S. economy and financial assets over the past 30 years—which boosted the wealth and incomes of the wealthiest Americans like never before—average Americans are actually worse off than they were decades ago.
And so, they've been forced to borrow more and more money simply to keep up.
You can see that in the data—But I bet you don't even need to see the data. Just think about your friends and people you know, and how much more debt these folks have to take on, just to keep their heads above water.
It used to be that most Americans didn't hold debt, outside of a mortgage on their first home. But after almost 40 years of declining real wages, Americans now have to go into serious amounts of debt for just about everything they buy.
Americans now have more than $1.5 trillion in college debt, for example.
And it's not just college loans that have soared.
Americans also have more than $1 trillion in credit card debt, and more than $1 trillion in auto loan debt—all record highs.
It's gotten so bad, 73% of Americans now die with debt... with an average total of more than $60,000!
Being in debt is an incredibly stressful way to live. You're in a hole and there is simply no way out. So it's no surprise that deaths by drugs and poisoning for the bottom 60% of American's population have doubled since the year 2000... and suicide rates have doubled as well over the same period.
This is incredibly sad—and it's unfathomable that this is happening in the greatest country on earth.
Unfortunately, the problem is going to get much, much worse.
You see, tens of millions of people in America are desperate. They have no way out. And sooner or later this hopelessness and desperation are going to lead to violent and radical politics. (unquote)
Well, you can chew on that data and draw your own conclusions. But what is happening in America is happening around the world. Wealth is now concentrated in the hands of the few relative to world population in an unprecedented way.
Did you know the three richest men in America possess a combined wealth in excess of the combined wealth of 160 million Americans?
Listen to the words of James 5 and see if you think his words fit this time more so than any period of history since he penned them . . . (James 5:1-8).
1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. 6 Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
I could go on for some time showing why we should discern the fact Jesus is coming soon. And please remember this, although his coming is the blessed hope of the believer it will also usher in the judgment of God on a world that simply will not obey the gospel.
In spite of hearing the gospel and in spite of the convicting work of the Spirit of God most people are behaving just as they did in the days of Noah. Unconcerned, not watching, or blatantly mocking the idea that Jesus will ever return.
I close with the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 . . .
42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; 49 and shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 50 the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
51 and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
How can you not discern this time?
If you are unprepared to meet the Lord it is time now to get ready.
- Facing Eternity with Certainty
Living with Full Assurance
It is the greatest tragedy of all for one to face death without the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from a genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ you are not prepared to enter eternity.
Furthermore, you need a settled faith; a fully persuaded heart that possesses the full assurance heaven is your eternal home the moment you leave this life.
Sadly people of all ages are leaving this life day by day unprepared to meet the Lord. Recently we were once again reminded that death can come when least expected.
I am thinking of the story I heard on the news of a dear lady who died when a tree fell on her car as she was driving down a particular road. Stormy weather developed one afternoon near her home and caused the accident.
This dear lady had no idea she was only minutes away from eternity. She was here one moment and gone the next. I do not know anything about her except for the tragic circumstances that took her life. I hope she was ready to meet the Lord.
In reality there is but a step between each of us and death. Are you ready to enter eternity should the day of death come for you today? You need to live each day with a settled peace in your heart that heaven is your home should death suddenly usher you into eternity. You need the full assurance of salvation in your heart and you can absolutely have it! What do I mean by the phrase “full assurance?” Here is a simple definition:
Full assurance is the settled, inner conviction a believer possesses eternal life and will never perish. Such assurance brings the joy of knowing moment by moment the believer belongs to the Lord and at the moment of death is immediately home in the presence of the Lord.
Full assurance is experienced as a believer comes to a proper understanding of the salvation provided by the Lord Jesus Christ as taught in his holy word.
Of all the religions and spiritual movements in our world it is Biblical Christianity that stands alone with the clear promise of eternal life for all who believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
I challenge you to find any religion or spiritual movement that offers its followers the same promise of eternal life offered by the Lord Jesus Christ. You will search in vain. It is Jesus Christ alone who has the words of eternal life.
Yet, in spite of our Lords very clear promises many who profess to be Christians have nothing but a “hope so” dead religion. Why is this so? The root of the problem is not difficult to discern. Many who call themselves Christians have an anemic understanding of the gospel of Christ.
Two reasons come to mind for this sorry state of affairs. First, preachers (regardless of their personality and style) are not feeding the flocks. The business of every minister is to “preach the word.” Of course, if the preacher standing in the pulpit fills his sermons with a bunch of fluffy, empty rhetoric and never teaches the truth of Scripture, then the people will suffer.
And secondly, the average professing Christian does not study the Word of God. You need to couple solid Bible preaching with a personal devotional life. You need to take the initiative to learn to the promises of Christ. You need to fill your troubled mind with the truth of Scripture until your doubts are settled and peace comes to your soul.
But alas my friends many who attend Christian churches of various stripes are contented to drift toward eternity with the pitiful attitude that says, “Well when I die I hope I go to heaven. I’m not really sure, but I hope I am good enough to go to heaven.” How foolish! It is likely that most Catholics, protestants, evangelicals, Baptists, etc. who are drifting toward eternity with no real assurance are lost.
While it is possible to be saved and lack proper assurance the fact is most who only hope they are going to heaven lack a real relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not born again.
Watch your step my friend! You may be religious but very lost.
Now I ask you again: Are you a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? Is your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? When did you make that decision? When did you experience the call of God to turn to Christ? Real assurance begins with a real relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am glad to tell you on the authority of God’s Word that all who honestly trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior are saved. Such honest believers need to go on to the full assurance of salvation. Unfortunately however, many honest believers are living inner lives of doubt, fear, and apprehension concerning acceptance by God. Constant struggles concerning assurance of salvation leave many believers weak and feeling quite defeated.
If this is your condition let me give you a word of encouragement: the Spirit of the Lord intends to lead you into the full assurance of your salvation. He does not want you weak, in doubt, tormented by fear, and uncertain about your salvation.
The Spirit of God will quicken the promises of His word, bring you to a full understanding of the work of Christ on your behalf, and crush the doubts troubling your soul if you make it your business to seek a settled faith based solely upon the truth of His unchanging word.
Let me emphasize an important point closely related to what I just said. You must embrace the following statement or you will never possess the full assurance of salvation. Listen closely: the truth of Scripture has the power to develop in you a personal, inner knowing you are accepted by God on the merits of Christ alone and thus kept by the power of God.
Such assurance leaves no doubt heaven is one’s home at the moment of physical death. I trust you are hungry and thirsty to experience this full assurance deep in your own heart. One thing is for sure, full assurance is not possible if you are indifferent about your own soul and do not want to know you are saved and going to heaven at the moment of death.
If the truth be told a great many inside the professed church are so in love with this world they rarely think much about leaving it all behind for a home in heaven. Their heart (that is their affection) is not focused on heaven. How will you ever possess assurance of eternal life and a home in heaven when you really are not looking forward to going there? Are you a Christian at all?
The example of the Apostle Paul certainly casts light upon this matter. Paul said he had a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better. Is such a desire alive and well in your own heart?
And please do not miss this point: Paul’s express desire to depart to be with Christ speaks of a man fully persuaded heaven was his home at the moment of death.
Can you understand that? Clearly the Holy Spirit is teaching us we can be fully persuaded and possess the full assurance of our salvation.
Now I ask you: should death cast its irrevocable summons upon you and but hours separate you from eternity will you face that final fleeting season of temporal life as did the Apostle Paul?
As I said in a previous sermon the phrase full assurance is Bible terminology. Let’s review this again. The phrase occurs in the New Testament three different times. In Colossians 2:2 the apostle Paul expresses his deep desire believers would come to a “full assurance of understanding.” The apostle desires that our “hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.”
The phrase “unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding” speaks of the inward wealth a believer possesses who develops settled, deep convictions based upon a full knowledge of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The phrase full assurance is also found in Hebrews chapter ten. In verse twenty-two of the chapter we find this instruction: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Please note again the use of the phrase full assurance. The believer is not to approach the Lord with doubt and uncertainty. Rather he is to draw near to God with the settled conviction God accepts him and thus he has the privilege of coming boldly into His presence.
And finally, the phrase is found in Hebrews chapter six. In this chapter we read, “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Note again the use of the phrase full assurance.
In this passage it is connected to the hope of the believer. In the New Testament the word hope is used to communicate the settled fact believers are destined to possess all they already know is theirs in Christ. Burning in our souls should be a confident expectation we will inherit the promises!
We hope for that we see not and with patience wait for it. All that Christ promises his redeemed is in the bank of heaven and at the moment of physical death I am going to cash in every promise he ever made to me! All that I hope for will be settled up when I die. No wonder Paul said, “To die is gain!”
Like the children of Israel one day the Lord is going to part the waters of that old Jordan river for each of those he has freed from bondage to sin and death and he will lead us into a heavenly promised land flowing with milk and honey. Are you possessed by the full assurance of hope today? What a glorious hope we have in Christ!
Hear me today: the full assurance of hope implies it is the believer’s privilege to complete his pilgrimage here with the full expectation of an inheritance in heaven once the journey is complete!
In closing I want to emphasize again this most important point. The fact the Bible clearly speaks of the full assurance of salvation it follows that the idea no one can face eternity with certainty is misguided and tragic. You can know for sure when you die heaven is your home. As a matter of fact, this is the most important issue in life and you simply must not face eternity with a cloud of doubt over your soul.
Contrary to those who claim otherwise, God’s word has the power to bring every believer to a full assurance of salvation. Such assurance enables the believer to face eternity with certainty!
Do you possess the full assurance of your salvation?
As I have preached many times, the reason most people have no assurance of salvation lies in the fact they have no relationship to Christ at all. If you have never surrendered your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ then you are lost. You need the Lord.
Long ago King David on his death bed told his son Solomon, “I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man.”
Like David, we too will one day go “the way of all the earth.” Death is coming and it will open the door to your eternal home. Are you ready?
How We Know Jesus Christ Rose from the Dead
It is no secret the entire Christian faith is built upon the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The claims of Jesus Christ to be the Son of God depend upon his bodily resurrection from the dead.
Furthermore, the truthfulness of all Jesus taught hinges upon his bodily resurrection from the dead. If he did not rise again as he promised he is a fraud. His word cannot be trusted and worse yet we are still in our sins.
But this question has far reaching implications for the rest of the world as well. If Christ did rise again, then the question of world religions is over.
After all, if Jesus conquered death validating his unique standing as the God-man he is in truth Lord of all.
If Christ rose again, then all are accountable to him.
If Christ rose again, then all are compelled to worship him and confess he is both Lord and Savior of the world. Failure to do so will result in eternal loss.
We come then for a brief examination of this most important question: Did Jesus Christ rise from the dead?
The Testimony of the Empty Tomb
In an attempt to explain away the resurrection some people claim Jesus never really died. However, the gospels make it very clear Pilate would not release the body of Jesus for burial until his death was confirmed.
In fact, the centurion in charge was called before Pilate to confirm Jesus was dead. Only then would Pilate grant permission for Joseph of Arimathaea to take the body for burial.
Furthermore, the day following the burial of Jesus Matthew’s gospel records the following:
“The chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.
Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch (guard): go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.”
It is a historical fact that Jesus died at the hands of Pontius Pilate and was taken from the cross with Pilate’s permission by those who prepared his body for burial. It is a fact his grave site was secured by Pilate lest anyone tamper with his grave.
The Scripture continues in Matthew’s gospel with these words:
“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week . . . there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it . . . and for fear of him the guards did shake, and became as dead men.”
Those guards wasted no time scurrying away from the tomb with some reporting their eyewitness account to the chief priests.
In short order women arrived at the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. And to the surprise of the first women arriving early that morning the great stone covering the entrance to the tomb was rolled away.
The Scripture says, “And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: ye seek Jesus of Narareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.”
Again in Luke’s gospel it says those who entered the sepulcher “found not the body of the Lord Jesus” (Luke 24:3).
Right here is the greatest evidence of the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. His tomb is empty!
Later when the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of Jesus all the enemies of Christianity needed to do to silence them was produce the dead body of Jesus. But they could not!
So how could the enemies of Christ explain the empty tomb? The empty tomb was clearly there for all of Jerusalem to see. And just how would they attempt to counter the eyewitness testimony of those who confirmed his resurrection?
The only explanation they could devise was the pathetic idea the disciples stole the body. They actually spread that lie. And sadly they placed a horrible stumbling block before many who refused to accept the reality Jesus arose from the dead.
But my friend, a simple examination of the circumstances should dispel that idea completely.
In order to steal the body of Jesus from the tomb the disciples first needed to over-power a band of rugged Roman soldiers guarding the tomb.
Next, they would need to move the huge stone from the entrance of the tomb.
Next, once actually inside the tomb in order to mimic a resurrection they would take the dead body and carry the corpse to some other location.
Of course, they would do so with the full knowledge that as soon as the Roman authorities caught up with them the death penalty was a certainty. All of that for a dead man! No, no my friend! The disciples did not steal the body of Jesus.
In addition to the fact they did not steal the body of Jesus, it should be clearly noted the disciple’s state of mind precluded any attempt at such an outlandish idea. The death of Christ in public humiliation crushed the spirit of these men. They were confused and disillusioned.
They thought Jesus to be the promised messiah and now he was dead. All their hopes were dashed to pieces. Afraid and uncertain as to what the future held for them they hid from the authorities for fear of their own lives.
Again, they had neither the motivation nor the means to steal the body of Jesus. Upon examination of the false assertion the disciples stole the body of Jesus we conclude such a suggestion is totally untenable. Simply stated the disciples could not and did not steal the dead body of Jesus from that tomb.
Rather, the real explanation for the empty tomb lies in the reality the Spirit of God visited that tomb and raised Jesus from the dead!
When news of the resurrection came to Peter and John they both ran to the tomb. And when John arrived he looked into the tomb and saw the empty grave clothes.
But when Peter got there he went all the way into the sepulcher and not only saw the empty grave clothes, but he also saw the napkin once placed around the head of Jesus not lying with the linen clothes. Instead it was wrapped together in a place by itself.
Think about the implication of what they saw. The body of Jesus was gone and mysteriously the cloth used to wrap his head was neatly folded and laid aside from the other grave clothes.
Can’t you see the picture Scripture is painting for us? Here is what clearly happened. The power of God visited that tomb and the dead body of Jesus was quickened and raised from the dead.
The risen Christ proceeded to neatly fold the napkin once about his head. Obviously the only way that napkin could be found in such a condition required someone inside the tomb to fold it and lay it apart from the other linen clothes. The only one who could do so would be Jesus himself.
The testimony of the empty tomb includes the picture of these mysterious empty grave clothes and the neatly folded napkin. Both declare a bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
After this necessary "house cleaning" on the part of Jesus, with a mighty earthquake the angel of the Lord rolled away the stone and the glorified Christ walked out of the tomb!
His Enemies Could Not Produce His Dead Body
Next, it should be pointed out that the enemies of Christ actually confirm the resurrection.
As mentioned above, to dispel the resurrection all the enemies of Christ need do was produce his dead body. If there was no resurrection surely those who painstakingly secured the tomb to prevent such a rumor from ever occurring in the first place would follow-up on misguided claims of a resurrection in order to fully embarrass those claiming Jesus rose from the dead.
In so doing the discovery of the dead remains of Jesus would forever squelch the preposterous self-proclamations of the Nazarene to be “the resurrection and the life.”
However, those who participated in the crucifixion of Christ and had the most invested in completely destroying his memory could not disprove the resurrection. They could not produce his dead body.
Remember, all of Jerusalem was aware of the death of Jesus. As well, it had to be common knowledge Joseph of Arimathaea, a well known prominent Jew, buried him in his own new sepulcher.
No doubt many in the city visited Joseph’s tomb for themselves and discovered it was empty. No doubt they soon heard the false report instigated by the Pharisees that the disciples came and stole the body.
But the informed among the population knew the tomb was guarded by the Roman authorities. Surely they logically wrestled with the question as to how the disciples could steal the body from the tomb.
And if they did steal the body, why is no one tracking them down and recovering the dead remains to disprove the whole idea of a resurrection?
In spite of the lie fabricated to hide the reality of the resurrection, the enemies of Christ could not overcome the fact of the empty tomb. Nothing they put forth could provide a satisfactory explanation.
Soon they would be engaged by the bold preaching of eyewitnesses testifying to the world they saw the resurrected Christ. These passionate men were the same ones who watched him die and who just a few weeks earlier were hiding in fear of their lives.
Mark this down: the enemies of Christ could not produce his dead body and Jerusalem’s well informed knew this to be the case. Their inability to produce the dead body of Jesus serves as a powerful confirmation of his resurrection!
By the Testimony of the Roman Soldiers Guarding the Tomb
Matthew’s gospel states that “there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it . . . And for fear of him the keepers (guards) did shake, and became as dead men . . . behold, some of the watch (guard) came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done” (Matt. 28:2, 4, 11).
Please note there was no doubt among the soldiers as to what happened at the grave site. They felt the earthquake. They saw the stone rolled away. They most likely heard the report to the woman, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matt. 28:5-6).
These seasoned Roman soldiers became as dead men in the face of this experience! And at least some of them went immediately to the chief priests and elders to report the empty tomb.
In light of this report the only option available to the enemies of Christ was an attempt to hide the truth from the general population. How wicked! How devious! How akin to their father the devil to instigate a lie in an effort to cover the truth. But understand this: those Roman soldiers actually testified to the empty tomb!
By the Testimony of the Jewish Rulers Who Sought to Oppress the Truth
As previously noted the Jewish rulers could not produce the dead body of Jesus. In fact, they knew in light of the testimony of the Roman soldiers at the tomb that they could never produce the dead body of Jesus. Their actions to facilitate a cover-up actually bear testimony to the reality of the resurrection.
Sadly Matthew reports that this fabricated lie was “reported among the Jews until this day.” At the time Matthew recorded his gospel this lie still circulated among the Jewish community. Perhaps this lie remains a stumbling block for some until this very day.
But know this: this lie was only needed because they had no other way to deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
By the Eyewitness Accounts of Those Who Saw and Talked with the Risen Christ
How do we know Jesus Christ rose from the dead? We know because of the overwhelming testimony of eyewitnesses. Hundreds of people saw Jesus alive from the dead (1 Cor. 15:6).
The bodily resurrection of Jesus was confirmed by those who saw him and touched him and talked with him after the resurrection. The apostles in particular were called to be witnesses to the world of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Hear the testimony of these men. The apostle John said, “. . . we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father . . . that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled . . . for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us; that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you…”
The apostle Peter said, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty . . .”
As well, the book of Acts declares: “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”
All these men possessed the same conviction. The Jesus they walked with for three and one-half years, the Jesus they communed with at the last supper, the Jesus they forsook, the Jesus they saw beaten and humiliated, the Jesus they saw die in shame, the Jesus they knew to be buried in a rich man’s tomb WAS NOW ALIVE! THEY KNEW HE CONQUERED DEATH!
Thomas expressed their conviction best. When he saw the risen Lord I believe he bowed at the feet of Jesus and said, “My Lord and my God.” Remember, Thomas is famous for his skepticism. He did not immediately embrace the truth of the resurrection.
Even though the others testified to him of the risen Christ he refused to believe until he could see the Lord for himself. A week later, Jesus confronted Thomas and invited him to touch the scars in his body—and not to doubt but to believe.
Upon seeing the Lord I believe he bowed at his feet as he proclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” His doubts were over. He went on to serve as an apostle and an eyewitness to the resurrection. The eyewitness testimony of the apostles, along with that of hundreds of others who also saw the risen Christ, should be enough to convince anyone he arose from the dead!
For a helpful timeline of the appearances of the risen Christ visit Answers in Genesis: https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/resurrection/the-sequence-of-christs-post-resurrection-appearances/
It should be noted the apostles went on to confirm the resurrection with many mighty works in the name of Jesus. Their testimony and those works bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, the apostles ultimately died as martyrs in testimony to the overwhelming conviction Jesus rose from the dead. They could not deny what they knew to be true. They could not deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It should also be noted that the Christian church cannot be explained apart from the bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead. The existence of the church for nearly twenty centuries bears testimony to the risen Christ who prophesied he would build his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.
And finally, we have the testimony of the written Word of God. The record God gives of His Son in Holy Scripture is emphatic. Jesus rose from the dead!
The resurrection of Christ is central to the whole New Testament which ends with the message of the future Revelation of the risen Christ at his second coming.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is beyond doubt. Only those bent upon persisting in willful unbelief deny the resurrection of Christ. However, it is possible for all to come to a place of repentance through the witness of the Spirit of God.
I plead with you to listen to the call of God in your own heart. The risen Christ offers you the gift of eternal life through the witness of the gospel. Will you confess him as your Lord and Savior?
Thomas did so and his testimony should help all of us believe. While he saw Christ and believed Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
The gospel of John goes on to say, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:28-31).
God requires all men to respond in faith to his Word. This is incumbent upon all men everywhere. God has commanded all to repent and place personal faith in his Son for salvation upon hearing his Word. Have you done so?
Here is God’s promise to all who will believe upon the resurrected Christ:
“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God HATH RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD, THOU SHALT BE SAVED.”
If you have never done so, please make that decision right now. With an honest heart simply confess the Lord in a prayer like this:
Dear Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. I accept your death on the cross as the full payment for all of my sin. Right now I trust you alone to forgive me and to save me. I believe you died for me and you rose from the dead for me. Right now I invite you to come into my heart as I confess you as my Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord Jesus for loving me and saving me.”
Amen! May the Lord fill you with the joy of His salvation is my prayer.
- Drifting Toward Eternal Ruin
- With the passing of another year each one of us are a step closer to eternity. The passing of each year reminds us in a very stark way that life indeed is like a vapor that appears for just a little time and then vanishes away.
While those who know the Lord Jesus are heading toward home, those outside of Christ are drifting toward eternal ruin.
I believe the Son of God. I believe every word he spoke concerning the dangers of eternal loss. Jesus said plainly, “. . . fear God who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
The Lord Jesus warns repeatedly of the danger of eternal loss. Jesus clearly teaches that hell is a place of eternal, conscious existence apart from the presence of the Lord.
For example he says of the lost, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46).
Again Jesus says at his return, “And the Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
John the Baptist warned that Jesus would “. . . thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
The fire of a real hell is the expression of God’s holy passion against all sin, ungodliness, and the rebellion of those who refuse to repent and receive the mercy and grace available through his Son.
In fact, it will be the Son of God who purges his floor and separates the wheat from the chaff. The Lord Jesus will “burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
The word unquenchable means that the fires of hell will burn forever. They cannot be extinguished. As the eternal ages roll on and on the anguish and groans of the lost will be unrelenting. Those in the lost condition will find no rest for the soul.
Furthermore Jesus says, “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”
I ask you, what is it that keeps you from repentance? What sin do you love more than Christ? . . . What have you cast your eye on? . . . What possesses your heart in the place of the Savior?
Better that you pluck out your eye so to speak and live without it than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Cast aside whatever has captivated your heart and turn to Christ. Don’t weigh the cost . . . Pluck it out!
You say, but preacher if I turn to Christ I will be leaving behind my livelihood. So be it! Christ has something far better. Like Moses of old you should esteem reproach for Christ greater riches than the treasure in Egypt.
Moses discerned properly that whatever he lost in this temporal world as a result of following Christ could not be compared to the reward of following Christ! Many need to wake up to the same reality before it is too late.
Again, what is it that is keeping you from confessing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? I know this much: it is some kind of sin . . . it is love of this world . . . it is some misguided loyalty to a false spirituality. Indeed, these are the common denominators that bind men in willful unbelief.
But will you turn before it is too late?
Jesus said to a certain crowd, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40). Again Jesus said, “I am the bread of life . . . I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat this bread, he shall live forever” (John 6:35, 51).
Today many of you are drifting toward eternal ruin, but you can turn. You can come to Christ and believe upon him. You can repent. You can turn in your heart from sin and turn to Christ. And when you humble your heart he will save you!
Jesus says if you will come to him, he will under no circumstance “cast you out.” Jesus Christ came to save you from the lost condition. He did not come to condemn you. Rather, he came to deliver you from the lost condition. He came to seek and to save those who are lost.
Another year has passed. Yet many of you are still in your sins. You are neglecting your soul. There is but a step between you and death, yet you resist the call of God. You are in great danger.
Jesus says that those who die in their sins cannot come to heaven (John 8:21). In the same passage of Scripture Jesus said, “ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”
Clearly, Jesus did not teach that everyone is going to heaven. However, he does offer the gift of eternal life to all who will come to him and believe upon him.
But what does it mean to “believe upon Jesus.” In the verse I just quoted Jesus says you must believe that he is the promised Messiah—Immanuel, God come in the flesh, the Son of Man and the Son of God. His words were, “if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”
This is essential. No one is free to redefine the person of Christ. A great many people to this very day embrace the idea expressed in this question: Who is Jesus to you? How subtle. How dangerous. As though we are all free to make of Jesus whatever fits our own worldview.
Have you ever heard a math teacher say, “What is 2 + 2 to you?”
Perhaps some would say, 2+2=5 for them. Perhaps another would say, 2+2=9. And I could go on. Of course, you immediately understand the folly of such reasoning. 2+2=4. Period!
Strangely, when it comes to the person of Christ many, who should know better, feel at liberty to deny his unique person as the Son of God. They want a Jesus who is not the Lord. They want a Jesus who is not the only way to heaven by virtue of his atoning death on the cross and bodily resurrection from the dead.
Such people may be busy creating their own brand of spirituality, but they are going to die in their sins and where Jesus is they cannot come! They are lost.
I believe Jesus is the Lord. True Christians confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus Christ! True Christians are not busy denying the deity of Christ and the Lordship of Christ. True Christians know he is the way, the truth, and the life.
On the other hand, those who refuse to believe that he is the unique Son of God are yet in their sins. Tragically, such people are living with a false hope. And with the passing of another year they are one step closer to a place Jesus describes as outer darkness.
Three times in Matthew’s gospel Jesus uses the phrase, outer darkness. For example he says, “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30).
Outer darkness speaks of separation from the Kingdom of God. It speaks of being on the outside looking in. It speaks of the lost condition. It speaks of separation from God. It speaks of hopelessness.
Somewhere beyond the reach of the new heavens and the new earth where God will dwell in eternity with the redeemed, there is a place of “outer darkness.”
It is God’s eternal penitentiary. It is beyond the reach of God’s grace. The light never shines there. It is the place of the second death. Sadly, as 2017 begins to unfold the slow drift toward eternal ruin continues for a vast sea of humanity.
I need to remind you that no one has an excuse for rebellion against God. No one has an excuse for resisting the witness of God. While it is true that all go astray, it is also true that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.
In Titus chapter two we find these words,
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:11-15).
I believe in order to end up lost in eternity the unbeliever must actually resist the Holy Spirit. Jesus once wept over Jerusalem with these words,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke 13:34).
Think about what Jesus is saying. Look at his heart. He speaks of Jerusalem but his mind is on both the city and all his people according to the flesh. He deeply desired to gather the Jewish people to himself, but they would not.
In other words, they resisted his call. They resisted his invitation to come. In effect they were resisting the Holy Spirit.
You may recall the Spirit-filled preaching of a deacon in the early church by the name of Stephen. He was full of faith and power, and did great wonders among the people. But his enemies did not appreciate his powerful presentation of Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Son of God and Savior of the world.
So they stirred a great crowd against him and brought him before the council of local leaders to have him punished. However, he preached boldly to them and at the end of his sermon he made this powerful indictment against the crowd:
He said, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:51-53).
When the crowd heard those words they were cut to the heart and proceeded to abuse Stephen and stone him to death!
But notice the discernment of Stephen. He said they were guilty of “resisting the Holy Ghost.” Likewise, many in our day are guilty of doing the same thing. May I ask you a question: are you guilty of resisting the Holy Spirit?
The call of God is real. The work of the Spirit is real. Don’t ever doubt this. Men and women are without excuse. In one way or other those who end up lost are guilty of resisting the Lord. He called, but they would not come.
Are you drifting toward eternal ruin? If you die in 2017 are you ready for eternity? There is only one way to be ready: you must repent and give your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Death certainly is no respecter of person. It claims the famous, the wealthy, the unknown, the poor. Some who left this life in 2016 include:
Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds
But where are these souls right now? I am not the final judge of anyone, nor are you. But Jesus Christ is the Judge. Jesus said,
“For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which has sent him” (John 5:22-23).
This much I know. Any man or woman who leaves this life without Jesus Christ is lost. But I also know this. Jesus knows his sheep and gives them eternal life. He said,
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (John 10:27-28a).
What about you? Are you drifting toward eternal ruin? Isn’t it time to come to Christ? He is calling today.
If You Are Wrong About Jesus--
Nothing Else Matters
The Bible could not be clearer. There is only one true God and he sent His Son into the world for our salvation. Eternal life is wrapped up in a personal relationship to the one true, living God through His only begotten Son—the Lord Jesus Christ.
Of course the truthfulness of our text should make a careful study of Holy Scripture and a pursuit of the knowledge of God through His word imperative. If eternal life is at stake, if one’s eternal well being is at stake, if the lack of a personal relationship to Christ leaves you totally unprepared for what lies beyond the last human experience we call death, then no stone should be left unturned until you know him in the free pardon of your sin.
Our text makes it abundantly clear that no one possesses eternal life until they know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior . . . Do you know Jesus Christ as Savior? Do you bow before him as Lord? Do you confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus and do you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead? Do you fully trust the death of the divine Son of God for your salvation? Or do you refuse to bow the knee? Do you explain away Holy Scripture? Do you refuse to accept the record God gives of His own dear Son?
My friend, eternity beacons. Soon the old Jordan River will cast its waters at your feet. Soon this brief life must give way to eternal ages. Soon either the glories of heaven will unfold with endless day or the groans of a devil’s hell will encompass your soul in endless night.
Jesus Christ says there are two distinct roads traveled by the masses of humanity. Many are traveling the broad road that leads to destruction and everlasting ruin. He says others are travelling the narrow road that leads to life. Which road are you travelling?
I implore you today. Do not deceive yourself. Apart from a personal relationship to Jesus Christ death is to be feared as the doorway to hopeless, endless separation from the presence of the Lord! Christ is the door by which you must enter to be saved. If you attempt to go another way Christ himself condemns you as nothing more than a thief and a robber (John 10:1). His language is meant to illustrate the futility of pursuing acceptance with the Father by any other means than his own precious blood. Indeed, the way of the cross leads home. There is no other way to possess eternal life. You must know the only true God and His Son Jesus Christ whom he sent. You must come through the door!
But alas my friends, false spirituality abounds as Satan blinds the eyes of those who do not believe. Satan is busy casting doubt upon the Word of God and if you become complicit with him the enemy of your soul will most certainly drag you down to hell. But Christ is calling you today. The Spirit of God is calling you through the message of our text. Hear the Word of God: this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
It is quite obvious from this passage and the whole of Scripture that the true God is represented in history by His Son. God had a Son! The number of false spiritualities that deny this cardinal truth are too numerous to mention and I am sure you can think of more than one movement in our world that denies the Son. How tragic this is! Those caught up in these various movements are travelling the broad road. Their soul is in great danger. They are but a heartbeat away from the regions of the damned.
Sadly all those who perish in the everlasting burnings of the just and holy wrath of Almighty God have themselves to blame. The true Light that lighteth every man who comes into the world has appeared to all with an invitation to flee the wrath to come. That invitation is real. The pleadings of the Spirit of God in the human heart are real. But many turn away. Many resist the Holy Ghost and through neglect, or pride, or willful unbelief harden themselves until there is no more call of God.
Beware my friends. The day will soon be past. The brief hour of invitation to forsake your Egypt and suffer affliction with the people of God—in place of the pleasures of sin for a season—will soon be over. Today if you hear his voice do not harden your heart. It is time to turn. Hear the text carefully. God sent Jesus into the world. God had a Son and any spirituality that says otherwise is dangerous. False spirituality is the means by which Satan is devouring multitudes. Don’t make the mistake of turning away from the Light. When the light of the gospel comes to your darkened soul it is time to turn. It is time to repent.
I warn you today: do not follow those who have popularized what amounts to the spirit of antichrist. Any doctrine that denies Jesus as the unique, only begotten Son of God, God come in the flesh for our salvation, is from the spirit of antichrist. The Word of God teaches us to “try” or test the spirits to discern whether the spirit is of God, or if it is a lying, deceptive spirit.
In order to discern what is of God we must examine what various religions, teachers, and movements say about Jesus. Remember, Satan manifests the spirit of antichrist as an “angel of light.” This is exactly why false spirituality is so dangerous. It often appears to be genuine and good. But if the teaching of a religion or some popular movement denies that Jesus is the eternal Word come in the flesh for our salvation, then it is of the spirit of antichrist. Those who deny the Lord are tragically lost regardless of their sincerity or zeal. (Cf. John 1:1, 14 and 1 John 4:1-6). Again, if you are wrong about the person of Christ nothing else matters. He is God’s unique Son, the Lord from glory, God come in the flesh for our salvation. To deny him means eternal loss!
One tragic example of the manifestation of the spirit of antichrist is very vivid to me. It is the example of a dear man who died less than a year ago. He is in eternity. And while I am not his final judge, unless he changed his mind about Jesus he has no hope. He sold millions of books that are to this day deceiving others and leading them away from the only hope of eternal life—the Lord Jesus Christ. He described Jesus Christ as a “self-actualized person.” He urged people not to be Christians, but Christ-like. He said, “I don’t think that Jesus was teaching Christianity, Jesus was teaching kindness, love, concern, and peace.”
You know, I was once in a math class and I didn’t think 2+2 was 4. Of course, my math teacher corrected me and it didn’t matter what my opinion was about it. Likewise, it doesn’t matter what the opinion of false teachers are. What matters is what Jesus said! Only the foolish could read the words of Christ and deny that he was the Son of God come for their salvation. Be careful my friend. Your soul is at stake. Interestingly Oprah Winfrey tweeted following the passing of this man: “It was a pleasure to talk to (this man) about life’s big questions. He always had big answers. RIP. You brought the Light.”
Excuse me, but that man and no other man is the Light. Jesus Christ alone is the Light of the world! Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
Jesus Christ not only taught Christianity, he is Christianity! Jesus Christ emphatically declares himself to be the Son of God who came to give his life a ransom for all. He dogmatically says in our text that eternal life is to be found nowhere but in him. He dogmatically declares that he reveals the only true God who sent him to be the Savior of the world.
These are dangerous days in which the spirit of antichrist is dressed up in modern garb and goes undetected by the undiscerning. Indeed, the wicked are waxing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. You have been warned. It is time to confess that Jesus is the Lord come from heaven for your salvation. He is Emmanuel, God with us! He is the eternal Word who left his Father’s side to tabernacle amongst us in the person of Jesus the Christ.
He proceeded to humble himself in the form of a servant and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. He endured the cross, despising the shame and is now set down at the right hand of God the Father expecting that his enemies be made his footstool! His precious blood has provided a covering for the sin of the world and today you can come to the foot of the cross and trust his death on your behalf for your salvation. He is risen from the dead with the promise of eternal life for all who will believe upon him.
Will you come to him? Will you confess him as the Lord from heaven? Will you accept his death and resurrection for your salvation?
Eternal life hinges upon that decision.
If you are wrong about Jesus, then nothing else matters. If you should gain the whole world but lose your soul all is eternally lost. What think ye of Christ, whose Son is he? Is he the Son of God? If you answer with the atheists and conclude that he was just a man—if he existed at all—then you will perish. It matters not that you climbed the corporate ladder or ascended to the heights of academia, or lived in positions of power while here on earth. You must go out to face Christ, whom you rejected as Savior.
If you answer with the pantheists and occultists that Jesus was just another ascended master and that you too can be a Christ, then you will realize all too late that your willful unbelief blinded your mind to the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One day the living Christ, the Lord from glory, will pronounce upon you those dreadful words, “Depart from me ye worker of iniquity, I never knew you.”
And to our Jewish community and our Muslim community we say with genuine compassion that you both stand in great danger. You both deny that God had a Son. In some context you both say you respect Holy Scripture, at least in part. But you have ignored or willfully turned away from Scripture. You would do well to humbly come back to Scripture with an open heart. You would do well to pray humbly that God would reveal to you the truth concerning His Son. As Jesus Christ says, “search the Scriptures, for they are they that testify of me.”
Now I close with our text again . . .
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power (authority) over all flesh (all mankind), that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. (John17:1-5).
I pray you will receive God’s word today. Invite Jesus Christ into your heart and place your faith in him as your only hope of heaven.