The Bible Answers the “Big Questions”

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The Bible Answers the “Big Questions”

James R. Aist

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

There are a number of “big questions” that mankind has been struggling with since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden for sinning against God. All too often, the answers to these questions seem unknowable, especially when God is left out of consideration. This article focuses on answers to some of these “big questions” that I have discovered through careful study of the Bible. You may or may not find these answers to be as convincing and satisfying as I do, but the Bible does have answers nonetheless.

The article is structured so as to first introduce you to each of the questions I am addressing here, and then to provide hyperlinks that will connect you to the pertinent article(s) that will provide the answer(s). Let’s get started, shall we?

  1. What is man? This may seem at first to be a silly question with an obvious answer, but, for our purposes, it’s a good place to start. All of the other “big questions” arise because of our unique nature and existence. For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.
  2. For what purpose did God create us? Before God created Adam, He had already created the earth, with all of its plants and animals, and the angels. Something must have motivated Him to conclude His works of creation with…us. But what was it? For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.
  3. What is the righteousness that God requires? Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden for sinning against God, and this separation from God continues to this day in all who are born into this world. But God has provided a way for us to be reconciled to Himself by becoming righteous ourselves, despite our sins. How can this be? For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.
  4. Who goes to hell? All of mankind have sinned and fallen short of the righteousness that God requires. God has provided a way for mankind to be reconciled to Himself, but what happens to those who do not follow this way? For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.
  5. Why is evil and suffering so pervasive in this present world? The Garden of Eden into which Adam was originally placed was an environment free of evil and suffering. Why isn’t our world still like that? For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.
  6. Why is God allowing Satan to tempt us during this Age of Grace? Those of us who have been “born again” are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, so why hasn’t God already put an end to Satan’s permission to tempt us to sin? For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.
  7. What is Jesus waiting for? Jesus promised that He would come again to the earth to destroy His enemies and rule the earth with His saints. That was about 2,000 years ago, and He still hasn’t come back. So, what exactly is He waiting for? For a biblical answer to this question, click HERE.

As you can see, I have not tried to answer all of the “big questions”, but I hope that you have been blessed by what the Bible says about these seven. Perhaps you can discover on your own what the Bible has to say about your “big questions.” Happy hunting!

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

God and Liesel

God and Liesel

James R. Aist

I will give thanks to You, O Lord, with my whole heart;
I will declare all Your marvelous works.
(Psalm 9:1)

The purpose of my writing this article is to give glory to God for “great things He has done” (1 Chronicles 17:19). It is an article about how God was at work in the life of my younger daughter, Liesel, as I know it. It is incomplete, of course, because I can only relate what I know of it first-hand. If you take the time to read it through, you will find that God was at work and revealed Himself in amazing ways to save her, and, in the end, to welcome her home to be with Him forever. I believe that you will find a blessing or two in it for yourself.

Liesel was a beautiful, musically talented, athletic, sweet and endearing little girl with a special sense of humor. I called her my “Lee-Lee Bell.” She had already professed her faith in Jesus at an early age, before she was 10 years old: in a Sunday School class, she told the teacher that she had accepted Jesus. Then, when Liesel was 10 years old, I had the precious opportunity to lead her in a prayer to receive Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Here’s what happened. Near the end of a sermon at church on a Sunday morning, Liesel leaned over and asked me, “When did you make your decision for Jesus?” I replied “When I was 8 years old.” “Is it too late for me to do it?” she asked. I replied, “No, you can do it any time before you die. Do you want to do it now?” After further discussion, we agreed that I would help her do it at home, after church. So, after we had lunch, I asked her if now was a good time, and she said it was. So, that’s when we prayed, and Liesel confirmed, by her profession of faith in Jesus, what God had been doing! And she said, “This is the biggest day of my life!” Unfortunately, in the ensuing years, as Liesel passed through her teens, she became unsure of her faith in Jesus. But, like the one sheep that had gone astray (Luke 15:3-6), Liesel belonged to Jesus, and God was not done with her.

The following encounter that I had with God is not only pertinent, but essential, to the rest of the story. I was attending the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International Men’s Advance at Lake George in upstate New York. One day when they were immersion baptizing in the lake, I stepped forward to be immersed by Pastor Don Yarborough. We had never met, and he knew nothing about me. As I approached him in the water, he just stared at me straight in the eye with a blank look, and kept staring. I thought to myself, “That’s strange; he doesn’t seem to even see me coming.” Finally, as I drew near to him, he reached out his hand to me, we shook hands and I introduced myself. Then he said that something very unusual had just happened; it had happened only once before in his ~20 years of baptizing people. He said that as I was approaching him in the water, he received a prophecy for me, in the form of several Bible passages from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. They all had to do with the head of the household being saved and all of his family with him. He then proceeded to share with me all five of those Bible verses. When he had finished with that, he gave me the interpretation of the message: God wants me to stand on and hold fast to these promises, which he is confirming to me and my children. Wow! Through this prophecy, God had just told me that all of my children will be saved! Needless to say, I was a “happy camper” the rest of that afternoon. But, I didn’t say anything to any of my children about this glorious promise at the time.

In August of 1996, Liesel had just turned 19, and it was time for her annual visit with me in Ithaca, NY, from her home in Norman, OK. As was my custom, I brought up the matter of her current position regarding her faith in Jesus, and we talked about that for a while. It was clear that she had a good understanding of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ was all about, but she said that she didn’t want to profess faith in Jesus again unless she was absolutely sure of it. I was OK with that. Now, I had not yet said anything to Liesel about God’s promise to save all of my children. Nevertheless, she looked at me and somehow knew to ask this amazing question: “Daddy, have you ever received any indication from God as to whether or not I will someday become a Christian?” Well, this question blew my mind. I was so overwhelmed by it that, for a few seconds, I was unable to respond. How did she even know to ask me such a thing at that time? I had to conclude that God must have given her that question, and so I haltingly, but eagerly, proceeded to tell her about God’s promise to save all of my children. When I finished, Liesel was visibly pleased and very encouraged by this good news. God had revealed in miraculous ways that He was going to finish the good work that He had begun in Liesel when she was a young child! That was one of the most amazing days of my life.

So, Liesel returned to Norman, and several months went by with just the usual “visits” by phone and e-mail; she did not reveal to me whether or not she had accepted Jesus (again). The only evidence I had at that point that God would save Liesel was His promise that He would save all of my children. Liesel was now 20 years old, and it was late April of 1997. That’s when I got a phone call from the hospital in Norman with the shocking news that Liesel had been struck by a car while walking across an intersection. She was in critical condition with little hope of surviving severe head injuries. She was in a coma, and we were told to get to the hospital as soon as possible. So, we flew to Norman fearing for her life and not having any tangible evidence that Liesel was, in fact, saved. That was the first day of what I refer to as the “week from hell.”

I will spare you the details of her death, but that week I lost my “Lee-Lee Bell.” However, I do want to share with you a spiritual experience I had in the hospital as she was dying. The first three days when we arrived at the hospital, we would go immediately into her room and pray for either her full recovery or no recovery; I could not even imagine how we could cope with her living year after year as, in effect, a vegetable. But the fourth day, something happened to me that I had not experienced before and have not experienced since: we entered her room as usual, and I immediately tried to pray for her as before, but I could not. I kept trying to pray, but something prevented me from even beginning to pray. So, I asked my wife, Janet, to come in and pray for me to be released from whatever was hindering me from praying, to no avail; I still was unable to pray this time. At first, I was confused and perplexed by this strange experience, but before long it dawned on me that, perhaps, the Holy Spirit would not let me pray for Liesel’s recovery this time because her spirit had departed her body since I last prayed. Her mother, Sheila, remarked that she also sensed that Liesel’s spirit was no longer present. That’s when I knew that I had received God’s answer to my prayers for recovery, a very final and heartbreaking “No.”

Next, I will share with you three independent testimonies that week that assured me that God did, indeed, save Liesel. The first of these three testimonies was shared with me in the hospital by her Christian co-worker, Rocky, who used to talk with her privately during work breaks and witnessed to her frequently about Jesus. Rocky told us that, not more than a couple of days before her accident, Liesel had confided in him that she does believe in Jesus. That was a very encouraging testimony, indeed! But, God did not leave it at that. At God’s direction, I testified at the funeral of Liesel’s faith in Jesus, based in part on Rocky’s account. Then, as we were driving to the cemetery after the funeral service, Liesel’s boy friend, Joe, who was riding in the seat behind me, spoke up and told me that, after hearing about Rocky’s testimony, he wanted to tell me that a friend of his (not Rocky) had told him 2-3 weeks earlier that Liesel said she believes in Jesus. Moreover, Joe had just found a letter that Liesel had recently written to Jesus asking Him to help her with a problem. (She would not pray for help to a God that she did not believe in!) Upon hearing that, I was ecstatic and knew full well that when Liesel died, she was believing in Jesus; I now had three independent and credible witnesses to that effect! God not only kept His promise to save Liesel, but He also provided me tangible evidences of it. To God be the glory for demonstrating that He was at work making good on His promise to save my children, by saving Liesel!

But, hang on, there are two glorious and powerful sequels to this story. The first sequel occurred during the first week after our return to Ithaca after burying my daughter. I was so stunned and emotionally numb from the events of the “week from hell” that I couldn’t even go to work. I just sat around in my recliner all day trying to process what had just happened. Now, I had never asked God why He had allowed anything bad that happened in my life, but this bad thing seemed too awful to cope with. So, one day as I sat in my recliner rehearsing the details of the past week, I began to wonder why God had not healed Liesel instead of calling her home. I was about to ask God “Why?” when suddenly the Holy Spirit stopped me from saying it. Then, God said to me, “You don’t need to know why, because you know Me well enough to know that I had a good reason.” I was astonished. On the one hand, I was pleased that God had brought me far enough with Him that I didn’t really need to know why. But on the other hand, I still wanted to know. I had a sense that God might reveal this to me as time went on, but so far, I have not heard a clear word from God about it. I can only rejoice in the knowledge that God called Liesel home when she was professing her faith in Jesus. And, that’s good enough for me!

And now, here’s the second sequel. Roughly two months after the “week from hell”, I received a letter from the mother of one of Liesel’s friends in Norman. She had been praying for the salvation of Liesel and her circle of friends for some years and was delighted to hear of Liesel’s salvation during my testimony at the funeral. But, she wanted me to know what happened as a result of my testimony about Liesel’s faith in Christ. Several of Liesel’s circle of friends had also gotten saved. Another repented and returned to church, becoming a Sunday School teacher. And, in his class, a separated married couple was reconciled. And that’s all in just a few months. Wow! I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to hear of this good news. It gave me a sense that at least Liesel’s sudden and tragic death had led to everlasting blessings for a number of her friends. Now, brace yourself for what came next. As I was basking in this truly amazing good news, God asked me a simple question: “If you had known that Liesel’s death would lead to the salvation of some of her friends, would you have been willing to give her up, so that the others would be saved?” Well, this question caught me up short. Lying about it was not an option, but the truth was painfully convicting: “No, I would not have been willing to give Liesel up for the others!” I replied sadly. Then God said, “Well, that’s exactly what I did for you, isn’t it?” (Please pause and let that sink in.) I have never felt more grateful to Jesus for paying the price for my sins than I did at that moment.

With time, I began to focus less on the loss of my daughter and more on the unspeakable blessing it was that she was with me for 20 years. And I am comforted to know for sure that when the time comes for me to go home to be with Jesus, I will find Liesel there to greet me (Matthew 10:32). That will be a glorious reunion, a time of celebration with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:7-9).

(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)

 

 

Who Goes to Heaven, Who Goes to Hell?

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Who Goes to Heaven, Who Goes to Hell?

James R. Aist

Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called the “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” in the flesh by human hands, were at that time apart from Christ, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. – Ephesians 2:11-12

Introduction

“Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” This quotation from C. S. Lewis is a good synopsis of what this article is about. Jesus Christ made it clear that He is the only way to God/heaven (John 14:6), and this claim is reiterated elsewhere in the New Testament. But, is this true only of those who actually hear or read about Jesus and believe in Him? Lewis, making use of a rhetorical question, declares that such a limited scope of salvation would be a “frightfully unfair” thing for God to do, clearly implying that He must not have done it. He then postulates that God must have made secret arrangements for the others, because to exclude them without giving them a chance to accept Christ’s offer of salvation would be unfair. Finally, to complete his hypothetical scenario, Lewis posits that people can be saved through Christ without even knowing of Him, by means of His presumed, secret “arrangements about the other people.”

To most evangelical Christians, such claims may seem like wishful thinking at best, but the fact is that some mainline Christian denominations and several popular TV preachers and evangelists agree with Lewis on these points. For this reason, I will attempt to break this teaching down into its component parts and then test each part against the biblical witness. Is Lewis’s view a sound, biblical teaching about salvation, or is it nothing more than a transparent attempt to explain away something sobering about God that he cannot bring himself to believe?

What Does the Bible Say?

In order to discover what the Bible says about these things, we must first understand that when the Bible speaks of “God” or “Lord”, it is speaking of the one true God, the one God who created the entire universe, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and Him alone. This is “the God of the Bible.” There is no other God, only false gods. And we must also understand that, although the New Testament books were becoming available to be read to the people, word of mouth was the only widely available method of communication in New Testament times. Nowadays, reading the Gospel and believing it is the functional equivalent of hearing the Gospel preached and believing it; both result in salvation.

That said, let’s take a look at a few New Testament Scriptures that speak most directly about this matter, beginning with John 3:16-18: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned. But he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Here, Jesus says that those who do not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God will go to hell, whereas those who do believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God will go to heaven. Jesus made it very clear that He was speaking specifically of the God of the Bible and of himself. This passage, then, sets the stage for the issue in question: Is it possible for a person to believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God without ever having heard of the God of the Bible and of His Son, Jesus Christ? Certainly, there is not even a hint in this passage to suggest such a thing; it’s about actually hearing and believing.

Next, let’s consider 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10: “It is a righteous matter with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They shall be punished with eternal destruction, isolated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at by all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.” Here, the Apostle Paul identifies two conditions of people who go to hell: 1) they do not know the God of the Bible; and 2) they do not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Note that these same two conditions of those who go to hell were implied in John 3:16-18, as discussed above. And Paul adds that those who believed did so precisely because of their spoken testimony directly to them. This brings us closer to the “proof passages”, which I consider next.

First, let’s take a look at Romans 2:12-16: “As many as have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and as many as have sinned under the law will be judged by the law,  for the hearers of the law are not justified before God, but the doers of the law will be justified.  For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, not having the law, are a law unto themselves,  who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, while their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them,  in the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Jesus Christ.” Here, Paul is explaining that Gentiles will have no excuse on judgment day for their sinful ways, because, even without the Judaic Law, they show the work of that Law written in their hearts and are a law unto themselves, which law they do not obey.  Furthermore, such Gentiles are “…apart from Christ, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:11-12).” They are “without hope” because they are “apart from Christ.” Therefore, it is only through faith in Jesus Christ that such men can be saved. Next, let’s consider how one may obtain this faith in Jesus Christ.

In Romans 10:13-15, Paul wrote:  “For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”  How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” Now, to fully grasp the impact of what Paul is saying here, it is necessary to recognize that this passage is a series of rhetorical questions, designed to make a series of corresponding statements, as follows: They cannot call on Him in whom they have not believed; and they cannot believe in Him of whom they have not heard; and they cannot hear without a preacher; and they cannot preach unless they are sent. In other words, the only way that a person can believe in the God of the Bible and in His Son, Jesus Christ, is by hearing the Gospel preached to them. And so Paul concludes, in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Think about it for a moment. These are exclusionary conclusions, not leaving any “wiggle room” for any other means by which saving faith in Jesus Christ may be obtained. It comes only by actually and literally hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached.

Paul again addresses this issue directly and, here, in considerable detail. In Ephesians 1:13 with 2:11-13, Paul writes “In Him you also, after hearing the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and after believing in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit…Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called the “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” in the flesh by human hands, were at that time apart from Christ, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were formerly far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” In other words, Gentiles (everyone except Jews) are without the God of the Bible, without Jesus Christ, and, when taken in context, without hope of any means of escaping hell unless and until someone tells them about God and His salvation through Jesus Christ, as Paul did for the (Gentile) Ephesians. Again, this leaves no “wiggle room” for any other means by which saving faith in Jesus Christ may be obtained. It comes only by actually and literally hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached. Thus, Ephesians 1:13 with 2:11-13 is the key passage proving, biblically, that the only way for anyone to be saved is to literally hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and believe it; all others are “without hope.” Now, we do “know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him”, and that God did not make any special “arrangements about the other people.”

And finally, in John 5:24, Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death into life.” Jesus could have simply said “Whoever believes in Him who sent me…”, as in John 3:16. But here, Jesus adds more detail to the process by adding “…whoever hears my words and believes in Him who sent me…” Clearly, then, Jesus Himself taught that one must hear (or read) the Gospel in order to believe in Him  and have eternal life; there is no other way for anyone to be saved, no special accommodation for the “others” who never hear of or believe in the God of the Bible and His Son, Jesus. How do we know for sure? Both Paul and Jesus said so.

To summarize, the Bible clearly teaches us that only those who actually and literally hear (or read) the Gospel of Jesus Christ and believe it, will spend their eternity in heaven with God. More specifically, the Bible teaches that there is no other way for Jesus to save anyone, including any and all – past, present and future – who never even hear of the God of the Bible and of His Son, Jesus Christ. And where will all of these “other people” spend their eternity? According to the Bible, they are “without hope” of salvation by any other means and “They shall be punished with eternal destruction, isolated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day…” (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

But What about the Old Testament Saints?

The Old Testament saints (e.g., Adam, Noah, Job, Abraham and David) lived and died before Jesus was even born, so did they, too, go to hell because they didn’t have an opportunity to hear the Gospel preached and believe in Jesus? No, not at all! God made special provision for them to know about Jesus during their lifetime, to hear Him preach to them after their death, to accept Him as their Savior and to be resurrected from their graves. They were saved in the same manner as we are. Let’s take a look at the biblical witness:

1) Because of the Old Testament biblical witness (Messianic prophecies), these saints looked ahead to the time when the Messiah would be revealed in the flesh, and so they already believed in the Coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, when they died (Hebrews 11:24-25 & 39; Galatians 3:8,16 & 29; John 8:56);

2) Jesus, himself, preached the Gospel to these dead saints in Paradise (also referred to as “Abraham’s Bosom”), between His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead (1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Peter 3:18-20; 1 Peter 4:5-6; Ephesians 4: 8-10; Hebrews 11:39; Luke 16:22; and Luke 23:43);

3) These dead saints believed Jesus’ preaching and were saved (1 Peter 1:10-12, 1 Peter 3:18-20, 1 Peter 4:5-6);

4) Apparently, these Jewish saints will be resurrected between the end of the battle of Armageddon and the beginning of the One Thousand Year Reign (Daniel 12:1-3 with 11).

Note that God made special provision for the salvation of only these Old Testament saints and not for their contemporaries who did not know of the God of the Bible and of His Son, Jesus Christ. Note also that this special provision involved the actual preaching of the Gospel directly to them and their believing in Jesus the Messiah as a result of it. However, this provision is for only Jews who actually believed, or now believe, that  Jesus is the promised Messiah, and we know that most Jews since Jesus’ time have not believed and were/are not saved. We may conclude, therefore, that the biblical witness indicates clearly  that God did not make any special provision for the “other people”, who were, therefore, without any hope of escaping hell, as Paul clearly taught (Ephesians 1:13 with 2:11-13).

Does this Mean that God is Unfair?

No, God is not being unfair (Romans 9:18-24)! If God were to treat everyone “fairly”, then all would go to hell, because all have sinned and are condemned already (Romans 3:23; John 3:18). This is the “law of sin and death” (Romans 6:23; Romans 8:2). Not having an opportunity to hear and believe the Gospel merely leaves people on the pathway to hell; it does not put them on the pathway to hell. Furthermore, God does not owe it to anybody to save them; it is only by the grace of God that any are saved. So, we don’t really want to be treated according to what we deserve (i.e., fairly), but according to the grace and mercy of God. In this regard, see also the discussion of Romans 2:12-16, above.

God’s Sovereign Right to Bless and Curse as He Sees Fit

Only God can determine whom He will save and whom he will not save; that’s His sovereign right, as revealed by the biblical witness:

Exodus 33:19.I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (Note that the converse is clearly implied: God will not be gracious to and show mercy on whom He will not.); and

In Romans 9:18-24, Paul writes, “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and He hardens whom He wills.”You will then say to me, “Why does He yet find fault? For who can resist His will?” Rather, O man, who are you to answer back to God? Shall the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does the potter not have power over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, willing to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He previously prepared for glory, even us, whom He has called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?” (Note that this passage concludes with another rhetorical question, which, when written as the implied statement, goes something like this: God created, and predestined for hell, some to show His wrath and make known His power, in order to make known to all the extent of the riches of His glory and mercy on those He created and predestined for heaven.)

God blesses whom He chooses to bless, and He curses whom He chooses to curse. Therefore, it’s not ours to judge God because He chooses to let some people die in their sins and go to hell, while choosing others to be forgiven and inherit eternal life. God alone has that prerogative: “Salvation belongs to our Lord” (Psalm 3:8 and Revelation 7:10). In fact, God does not intend to save everyone; if He did, then everyone would be saved, because God does whatever He pleases (Psalms 115:3, Psalms 135:6, Isaiah 46:10, Daniel 4:35, Ephesians 1:11). We can see this fact illustrated by Jesus in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13): in verses 11-12, Jesus said, “Afterward, the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us.’ “But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’” The door to salvation/heaven had been shut, even though there were those begging and pleading at the door to be let in. But the door was not opened for them, because Jesus did not know them [ i.e., they were not of His flock, as in John 10:14, 27 “I know my sheep/them”]. If this seems like a “hard saying” to us, then maybe we need to reassess our understanding of the full nature of the sovereignty of the God of the Bible. When we accuse God of being unfair in this matter, are we not setting ourselves up as God’s judges? That, my friends, is the height of arrogance (Job 40:2; Job 40:8; Romans 11:34), and God will not look kindly on it. God, and God alone, is responsible for how He deals with each individual; He has not delegated that responsibility to us. Ours is only to learn how God deals with sinners, believe it, accept it, and make sure that, insofar as it depends on us, we are not among those who reject the Gospel and die in our sins.

Conclusions:

1. According to the Bible, anyone  (past, present or future) who does not hear or read the Gospel of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their personal Lord and Savior (believe in Him in their heart and confess Him with their mouth) will spend their eternity in hell, without exception (including those who have never had an opportunity to hear, understand and believe the Gospel).

2. According to the Bible, anyone (past, present or future) who does hear or read the Gospel of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their personal Lord and Savior (believe in Him in their heart and confess Him with their mouth) will spend their eternity with God in heaven;

3. According to the Bible, the Old Testament saints looked ahead to the day of Jesus the Messiah, whom they believed was to come, and therefore believed in Him before He actually came to earth bodily. Jesus himself preached directly to them in Paradise, they believed Him, and for this reason, they are saved. The Bible does not record or imply that any such special provision was made for anyone who did not know the God of the Bible and His Son, Jesus; and

4. According to the Bible, God blesses whom He chooses to bless, and He curses whom He chooses to curse. Therefore, it’s not ours to judge God because He chooses to let some people die in their sins and go to hell, while choosing others to be forgiven and inherit eternal life. God alone has that prerogative: “Salvation belongs to our Lord” (Psalm 3:8 and Revelation 7:10). Ours is only to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and continually give Him thanks and praise for His abundant grace and mercy toward us.

(To read more of my biblical teachings, click HERE)

A Sinless Life and a Sacrificial Death: The Works of Jesus

Jesus H. ChristA Sinless Life and a Sacrificial Death: The Works of Jesus

 James R. Aist

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:27-29)

Introduction

Salvation is free to us, but it cost Jesus His life. Is there a special relationship of the life that Jesus lived to the death that He died? It seems to me that, in the Christian church, we put major and primary emphasis on the fact that Jesus suffered and then died on a cruel cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And, that’s as it should be, for, apart from that, none of us would have any valid hope of escaping an eternity in hell and spending our forever with God in heaven. But, lately, I have been pondering the fact that Jesus managed to live for 21 years as a morally responsible adult in a terribly fallen world – a world not all that different from ours today, where sin and evil abound – without even once committing a sin. So, one day an interesting question occurred to me: Which was the more difficult thing that Jesus did for us: being tempted in every way as we are for 21 years without sinning, or dying on the cross to pay for our sins? Let’s take a few moments to explore the two aspects of this question a little further and see where it leads us.

The Sinless Life of Jesus

The Bible says that Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are, but was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not convinced that I have been able to live even one day without sinning! So, it’s hard for me to imagine how hard it must have been for Jesus, who was fully man (and fully God), to live 21 years (that’s 7,665 straight days) without sinning even once, when He was being tempted in every way as I have been. Add to that the facts that 1) Jesus was hated and hunted by His own people, and 2) as the Son of God, He was tempted in three ways that neither you nor I even could be tempted (Matthew 4:1-11), and it’s easy to see that His sin-free life was truly remarkable and extraordinary.

The Sacrificial Death of Jesus

After Jesus was arrested, He was shamelessly and publicly mocked and brutally beaten before He was convicted of a capital crime and taken away to be put to death on a cross (John 19:1-3). Much has been said and written about the intense pain and agony inflicted by the beating and the cruel invention referred to as “crucifixion” (click HERE). Now, a literal lamb that was led to slaughter in those days had no idea what awaited him, and his demise was relatively quick and painless. But Jesus, the very human Lamb of God, would have been well aware of the kinds and intensity of pain and agony inflicted by crucifixion, as the Jews were given many opportunities by the Romans to witness this public display of punishment, as a means to dissuade other would-be law-breakers. Yet He willingly subjected Himself to this slow and unspeakably painful and undeserved death, in order to pay the price for our sins. The difficulty of actually bringing oneself to submit to such a cruel and painful death cannot be overstated.

So, His Life or His Death: Which Was the More Difficult Accomplishment?

By this time you may be thinking that, perhaps, I have posed a moot question, and you would be right. But I did so to make a couple of critical points. First, we should be quick to remember and appreciate the difficulty of the sinless life that Jesus lived, and not just the difficulty of His willfully enduring death on a cross for our sake. And second, let us remember that both His sinless life and His sacrificial death were necessary in order for Him be the Savior of the world. If Jesus had committed even one sin during those 21 years, then His death on a cross would have been payment for His own sin, not ours. That would have left us with no hope of escaping hell and qualifying for heaven. In other words, Jesus’ sinless life wasn’t just an amazing accomplishment that we all can and should admire from a distance; it was an absolute necessity in God’s one-and-only plan for our salvation that powerfully impacts our lives “up close and personal”, forever.

As the saying goes, “He lived the life we could not live to pay the ransom we could not pay.”

Addendum

Some would say that the most difficult thing that Jesus did for us was to allow the full  weight of the evil of all of our sins to fall upon His shoulders, and that’s why He said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). Still others suggest that it was the separation from His Father that was the worst part of it all, causing Him to cry out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). In any case, we know that all of these things had to happen in order for His salvation to be complete and effective. And finally, what we can be absolutely sure of is this: in Jesus, we have a truly awesome Redeemer!

(For more articles on biblical teachings, click HERE)