“Remember always your end, and that lost time does not return.” —Thomas à Kempis, CRSA (1380 – 1471), German-Dutch clergyman and author of “The Imitation of Christ,” one of the most popular and best known Christian devotional books.A daily devotion I received in my email today quoted Ecclesiastes 3:11 which states: “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
Eternity is not something we often think about yet it is the final destination of every human being who has ever lived and who will ever live on this planet of ours. God has not remained hidden from any of us whether we acknowledge him or not. As the apostle Paul stated in Romans 1: 16-20 (MSG):
It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.”
But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.
We live in an age that tells us repeatedly and in every way and form possible that truth is relative, and that it’s anything you want it to be. But that’s not true regardless of how many people might believe it (see an article titled “Is Truth Relative?” at this link). For example, 2+2 always equals 4, even if we would prefer it to equal 6.
Science can’t locate it. Books try to explain it. Movies try to show it. Everybody wants to know about the afterlife — Is grandma in heaven? Am I going to hell? What if nothing happens when we die?
Everybody wrestles with questions about the afterlife. Sooner or later, it touches our own lives or someone we know.
Since there is so much confusion, it can be easy to believe what’s popular or feels good. But what’s convenient should never become more important than what’s true.
Here are three common misconceptions about life after death and the truth that God wants us to understand about it:
Lie #1: There’s no heaven or hell.
This view says that after our physical bodies die, that’s it. Nothing else. Humans don’t have souls that live on after we die. Or if we do have souls, they will be destroyed rather than existing in eternity.
Truth #1: Heaven and hell exist.
Everyone spends eternity in one of these places. Jesus spoke about heaven, hell and eternity many times (John 3:13-16). The Bible describes hell as a place where those who reject Jesus will endure eternal suffering and separation from God. Heaven is a place where Jesus followers live forever with God. In heaven, everything that’s wrong with this world is set right. There are no tears, pain or death. Following Jesus is the only way to experience heaven (John 14:6).
Lie #2: Good people go to heaven, bad people go to hell.
This view says people get what they deserve. Where you spend eternity depends on how good of a person you are in life. This leaves people hopeless if they’ve lived a messy life, and it leaves well-behaved people prideful about their accomplishments.
Truth #2: Bad people go to heaven, bad people go to hell.
If where we spent eternity depended on the actions in our lives, none of us would go to heaven and all of us would go to hell. Our eternal status does not depend on anything other than our relationship with Jesus.
God’s grace is big enough for everyone. Everyone’s guilty of rebelling against what God says (Psalm 14:1-3). Because we all sin, we’re all headed toward hell. But it’s only because of Jesus that anyone’s life is changed and saved.
Lie #3: There’s a heaven but no hell.
This view, sometimes called universalism, teaches that everyone goes to heaven regardless of what they decide about Jesus. It takes God out of the picture and replaces Him with a general sense of happiness.
Truth #3: Hell exists, and God doesn’t want anyone to go there.
God’s love is far bigger than a sense of happiness. His love is so big He wants all people to be saved from their sins and know Him (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Sin hurts us and others. God would not be good if He allowed us to hurt ourselves by sinning without consequences. It would be like a young child who kept touching the hot stove while the parent did nothing to protect the child from her self-destructive behavior. God is not OK with us hurting ourselves or others. Because God is a good father, He made a way to stop the cycle of sin once and for all.
Touching a hot pot leads to burned fingers. The consequence of sin is death. When Jesus died on the cross, he took the penalty for all of our sin — past, present, and future. Because Jesus paid for our sins, we have the opportunity to enjoy a relationship with God now and for eternity. Romans 10:9 says we just have to believe.
Don’t let the afterlife become an afterthought. Saying “yes” to Jesus means spending both now and eternity with Him. (Quote source here.)
Many of us grew up in churches where we heard the message of Jesus Christ, but we might have later rejected it as adults. And many in today’s younger generations (Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z) were not raised in a religious environment since many of the Baby Boomers (e.g., their parents and grandparents) cast off their religious upbringing for a carefree life of “do whatever feels good or right to you” and raised their kids under the same influence. Of course, there was back then as there are today cultural messages galore that heavily influence all of us to shun the shackles of religiosity.
However, it’s not about religion per se… it’s about faith in God and in Jesus Christ that transcends many notions we have about what “religion” should look, feel, or act like. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day had “religion” down pat, but Jesus made it clear to them that they were completely missing the mark. However, few of them ever “got it” in the way that Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, got it (see John 3).
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not complicated. In fact, it is so simple anyone can understand it–“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). And Paul states in Romans 10:8-9, “’The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
In today’s world, words like being “saved” can bring about laughter, mocking looks, rolling eyes, or remarks like “saved from what?” And there are people who might have unpleasant memories of growing up in a church or dealing with some church folks that have caused them to shun what we call “organized religion” altogether. I have some of those same memories, too, but not enough to, as the expression goes, “throw the baby out with the bath water.” After all, the church is filled with regular, everyday people. However, there is a big difference between acting “religious” and having the faith to genuinely believe.
When the Apostle John was writing there were certain false doctrines being introduced into the church. Since then, there have been many more false teachers, each attempting to add some “new revealed truth from God” that only they have been given. Most often the result is that the purity and simplicity of the Gospel message is compromised. In other words, they try to add to the requirements of salvation.
But, the Gospel is profoundly simple. It can be summed up easily, and understood by children. One of the best summaries of the Gospel is found in 1 John 3:23: “This is [God’s] command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another.” This verse is a salvation sermon with just two points: believe on Christ, and love others.
The first point––believing on Christ–describes the proper response to the Gospel message. Simple, child-like belief in Christ saves us from the penalty of our sin. Nothing else is required. God’s will for his Son was to become our Savior. God’s will for us is to believe in him as Savior. The Gospel message is expressed as a command because Jesus deserves to be exalted and obeyed by all mankind. He fulfilled his Father’s will perfectly, and on the cross paid the penalty for sin. He then proved his power over death by his resurrection. For his obedience and work of salvation, God the Father has exalted Jesus Christ and given him a Name which is above all names.(Philippians 2:5-11)
The second point—loving others–is not a requirement for salvation, but rather the result of salvation. God’s love is in our hearts, and we extend it to others. God loves us so much that he gave his Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior (John 3:16). It was not nails that kept Christ on the cross, it was love. This kind of overwhelming love is within every child of God. Love for others is part of the new nature the Holy Spirit puts within us when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:22). Jesus himself taught that love for others is the identifying mark of a believer (John 13:35).
Don’t believe anything that adds to God’s plan of salvation. The Gospel message is to believe in Christ, and to love others. Response and result–its as simple as that. (Quote source here.)
As I was trying to decide how to continue at this point, a “ding” on my smartphone let me know a new email had arrived, and when I looked to see what it was regarding, it had to do with what I wanted to comment on. There are always folks out there who think that believing in Jesus Christ shows some kind of “mental instability” on the part of anyone who truly believes. However, Christianity has withstood the test of time as it has been around for over two thousand years, and it will continue to last long after the naysayers are gone–for example, Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) comes to mind. Hitchens wrote many books including, “The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever” (2007). Naysayers have been and always will be out there.
The road to eternity leads in two directions. I’ll end this post with the words from John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ]…
That whoever believes in him . . .
Shall not perish . . .
But have eternal life . . . .
YouTube Video: “God of Wonders” by Third Day: