Since eternal life is free and can never be lost, why would I want to live for the Lord?

In John 10:28-29, we discovered that believers in Jesus are secure forever because eternal life is a gift which can never be lost. But someone may say, “Since eternal life is free through believing in Jesus and cannot be lost, why would I want to live for the Lord? What is to keep me from living like the devil since I know I will go to heaven after believing in Jesus? There are several incentives for living a godly life after believing in Jesus for the gift of eternal life. We will look at four of them:

1. GRATITUDE: When a sinner believes in Christ alone for the forgiveness of his sins and the gift of eternal life, the most natural response is a heart full of thanksgiving.  The Bible says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19). When you are convinced God loves you no matter what and that His arms of grace are always open for you no matter how badly you fail or fall, you will want to do what He tells you to do out of gratitude and because you know He wants the best for you (2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:20).

For example, let’s say you are drowning in the ocean, and a man on the seashore hears your cries for help and swims out to save you from certain death. After he brings you safely back to shore, you ask him, “How can I ever thank you for saving me?” He replies, “You would have done the same thing for me,” and then he drives off on his motorcycle. Two weeks later you are driving your car down the highway and you notice the same man standing beside the road next to his motorcycle which has two flat tires. The man is frantically waving his hands to get you to stop, but you just wave at him and keep going. That, my friends, is no way to thank the man who saved you from drowning. Likewise, when we fail to live for the Lord, we are still saved, but that is no way to thank our Savior who saved us from an eternity burning in the lake of fire.

2. GOD’S DISCIPLINE: Just as an earthly father disciplines his wayward children, so God will discipline His disobedient child (Hebrews 12:5-11). It is possible for a believer to be more miserable living outside of God’s will than it would have been to remain a non-Christian. If a believer continues in sin long enough, God may even take his or her physical life (cf. I Corinthians 11:29-32). Knowing the price of sin in a Christian’s life ought to be a strong motivation for godly living. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23).

3. YOUR NEW IDENTITY: When a person believes or trusts in Christ for the gift of eternal life, God’s grace gives him a new identity or capacity to overcome sin and live for the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-20; I John 3:1-9). Romans 6:14-18 says, 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

When we become Christians, we are under a new authority. We are now under God’s grace, not the law. When we realize and submit to Christ’s rule over us, regardless of our feelings, our sinful flesh progressively loses its domination over us, and the grace of God is activated in our lives. We then obey because of our relationship with Jesus. Some immature Christians might think that living under grace means they can go on sinning. But Paul refutes this thinking. If you are living under grace, you will actually keep the law. And if you don’t keep the law, it only proves you’re not operating under the grace of God. Christians obey the standard, but the motivation isn’t the standard. The motivation is God’s grace. The more believers experience the grace of Jesus, the more he or she wants to live in way that is consistent with his or her new identity in Christ.

At this juncture, I believe it is important to talk about sanctification. Sanctification is being “set apart” or made holy to God. The Bible alludes to pre-conversion sanctification whereby the Lord sets apart the unbeliever for salvation and/or service (Jeremiah 1:5; Acts 9:15; Romans 1:1; I Corinthians 7:14; Galatians 1:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; I Peter 1:2).

For the Christian, sanctification is realized in three ways. All believers are positionally sanctified when they first believe by virtue of being in Christ (I Corinthians 1:2; 6:11; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 10:10, 14).  That is, they are completely and permanently set apart from their sin and shame, and placed into the body of Christ. God totally accepts the believer at the moment of faith in Jesus regardless of how much or little they manifest His holiness.

Christians are personally or progressively sanctified as they allow the Holy Spirit to guide their lives, and begin to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Luke 14:25-33; John 8:31-32; 15:1-8; 17:17; Romans 6:12-23; 8:1-17; Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 5:13-14; I Peter 1:15- 16; 2:1-3; 2 Peter 3:18).  Therefore, obedience to the Word of God, while not necessary for obtaining everlasting life, is the essential responsibility of each Christian to grow in the Christian life (Romans 6:12-23; Hebrews 5:13-14; 1 Corinthians 2:14–3:4). However, the Bible does not teach that this obedience will be manifested in all believers. If a believer does not yield to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in his experience, failure will result, evidenced by sinful acts or even prolonged disobedience (1 Corinthians 3:1-15; 10:1-13; Galatians 5:16-21).

Christians will be ultimately sanctified when they become completely conformed to the image of Christ in His presence (Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22; I John 3:2-3; Jude 24- 25).  There will be no more sin in their words, thoughts, actions, or motives.

For example, the apostle Paul in writing to the church at Corinth, says, “To those who are sanctified (hagiazō) in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (hagios).” (I Corinthians 1:2). Paul calls them “saints” which means, “set-apart ones” (I Corinthians 1:2). He was not referring to their behavior because they were acting very immature and disobedient (I Corinthians 1:11-6:20; 11:17-32; et al.). He was obviously talking about their identity or their position in Christ, which was sourced in their spiritual birth. Paul calls them “saints”(positional sanctification) in chapter 1 and then challenges them to act like the saints they really are (progressive sanctification) in the remaining chapters of the book.

When the Corinthians were committing sexual immorality with prostitutes he questions their knowledge about their new identity in Christ, not their salvation (I Corinthians 6:13-20). Paul describes believers’ future resurrection bodies which will be “raised in incorruption” and “put on incorruption” (ultimate sanctification) to encourage Christians to remain faithful to the Lord in the present (I Corinthians 15:42, 53). Because Christians will receive future resurrection bodies that no longer yield to sin, they are to abound in the work of the Lord now knowing He will reward them for their faithfulness in the future (I Corinthians 15:58; cf. 3:8-15; 9:24-27).

4. ETERNAL REWARDS AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST: The last book of the Bible (Revelation) provides an outline of future events (see picture) beginning with the current church age to the eternal state…

1. We are living in the Church Age which began at Pentecost (Acts2) and will end with the rapture or removal of the Church from the earth which could take place at any moment (John 14:1-3; I Cor. 15:51-52; I Thess.1:10; 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4-5). Knowing that Christ could come for us at any moment motivates Christians to live faithfully for Him so they are prepared to face Him as their Judge.

2. Soon after the Church is taken in the Rapture, seven years of Tribulation begin on the earth.  This period begins when the Beast of Revelation makes a covenant with the nation of Israel (Dan. 9:26-27). This will be an awful time of death, disease, hunger, famine, earthquakes as never seen, warfare, entire seas turned to blood, darkness, scorching of the sun and multiple other judgments (Revelation 6-19). It will end when Jesus returns to earth with His Church and Christ will destroy His enemies (Revelation 17:12-14; Revelation 19:11-21). At that time, the Antichrist and False Prophet will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20) and the Devil will be bound for a 1000 years (Revelation 20:2-3).

3.  Then Jesus will reign as King over the entire earth for a thousand years from the city of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14; Revelation 20:4-6). This period is called the Millennium which means “one thousand.”

4. At the end of the Millennium God will destroy the entire creation (2 Peter 3:10). Every person who did not believe or trust in Christ alone for the gift of salvation will stand before God as He sits on the Great White Throne to judge each unbeliever according to their works to determine the degree of their punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Satan will receive his final judgment in the Lake of Fire at this time.

5.  Then a New Heaven (Universe) and New Earth are created which are perfect and beautiful (Revelation 21-22). This will be the eternal home of believers in Jesus.

Knowing the future should motivate Christians to live for what is eternal and not what is temporary. Why? Because there is another Judgment. During the Tribulation, in heaven, Christians will give an account for all their work for Christ. While Christians will never be judged to determine their eternal destiny since they already have eternal life (John 5:24), they will face another kind of judgment to determine what if any rewards they will receive in Christ’s eternal Kingdom. In Revelation 4:4, 10-11, “the twenty-four elders” represent faithful (overcoming) believers in heaven who possess “crowns” (rewards) received at the Judgment Seat of Christ and will rule with Christ in His coming Kingdom (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10b, 2:26-27; 3:5a, 3:11, 21).  This Judgment is to motivate Christians to be faithful disciples who obey the Word of God. This is called the Judgment Seat of Christ.

God wants to reward all Christians for their faithfulness to Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”(2 Corinthians 5:9-10). Paul was motivated to live a life that pleased the Lord knowing that he would appear before Christ at the Judgment Seat in the future to determine what if any rewards he would receive (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 4:5; 9:24-27; Revelation 22:12). Every Christian must appear before the judgment seat of Christ to answer to Jesus for the “good” and “bad” things he has done since becoming a Christian. The word “bad” (kakon) means “worthless, wicked, and evil.”

Is this scary for you to think about? Certainly! Even the apostle Paul was afraid to face the Judgment Seat of Christ. He writes, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Why would Paul fear the Judgment Seat of Christ? He was afraid of the possibility that his life will be revealed as one wasted and spent in selfishness rather than in devotion and obedience to Christ. Selfish living and wasted opportunities will bring more regrets when Jesus evaluates a believer’s life than most of us care to think about. Knowing this should be sufficient  motivation for God’s people to aim to please the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).

Knowing that we can earn eternal rewards should motivate believers to live for Christ now. Christians can earn heavenly treasure (Matthew 6:19-21) by giving a cup of cold water to God’s servant (Matthew 10:42), doing a charitable deed in private (Matthew 6:3- 4), praying in private (Matthew 6:6), and fasting in private (Matthew 6:17-18).

Christians who remain faithful in their service to Christ to the end of their lives will be given rewards that include wearing special white garments (Revelation 3:4-5), ruling with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21), eating the fruit of the tree of life (Revelation 2:7), eating hidden manna (Revelation 2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Revelation 2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:14).

Christians can also earn a crown of rejoicing for making disciples (I Thessalonians 2:19), a crown of righteousness for loving the appearing of the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8), a crown of life for enduring trials and temptations until death (James 1:12), a crown of glory for faithfully shepherding others as a servant leader (I Peter 5:4), and an imperishable crown for living a disciplined life (I Corinthians 9:25).

By focusing on the Judgment Seat of Christ, Christians will develop a desire to please God rather than men. Because Christ is first in the life of a disciple and could come back at any moment, a disciple should seek to win as many people to Christ as possible and become more like the Judge who will evaluate his or her life at the Judgment Seat.

Knowing we have eternal life which can never be lost does not give Christians a license to sin or live like the devil. God did not save us to live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose from the dead on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:15). We have looked at several motivations to live for Jesus untill we go to be with Him in heaven.

I will close with some thoughts from Dave Breese in Living for Eternity said, The child of God is a creature of eternal destiny. For him no day is without consequence, and no fleeting moment can be called incidental or unimportant. The hours he spends and the decisions he makes have implications that carry on into eternity. What he does today will matter a thousand years from today.” (Larry Moyer, Free And Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997], pg. 145).

How can I trust the Lord Jesus as the True Shepherd? Part 1

“But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” John 10:2

Throughout Israel’s history, false shepherds have mistreated the people of God (Ezekiel 34:2-6). These shepherds only cared about themselves and neglected to care for the people God had placed in their care. They exploited the sheep instead of meeting their needs. Instead of gathering them safely together, they scattered God’s people, making them vulnerable to the enemies of God’s flock.

In view of Israel’s false shepherds, the Lord promised a faithful Shepherd who would care for His flock. That shepherd would be God Himself. 11 For thus says the Lord God: ‘Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,’ says the Lord God. 16 ‘I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick.’ ” (Ezekiel 34:11-16). These verses provide the background for John 10 where Jesus is introduced as the True Shepherd among the false shepherds of Israel called Pharisees.

Earlier in Matthew 9:36 we are told, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” The Pharisees misused their spiritual authority and demanded that the people follow them instead of the Lord. In other words, the Pharisees were the contemporary false shepherds of Jesus’ day. They were persuaded that Jesus was a false Messiah and so they tried to convince the people of Israel to reject Christ. Christ came to demonstrate to the nation of Israel that He was the true Shepherd that God promised to send to the nation to lead them in paths of righteousness and bring them into their long-awaited kingdom. 

In chapter nine of John, the healing grace of Jesus was contrasted with the spiritual pride of the Pharisees. We observed the Pharisees (false shepherds) mistreat the sheep of God’s fold, particularly the man born blind. Instead of rejoicing when the man born blind was healed, they were more concerned that Jesus had violated their religious rules on the Sabbath (9:15-16). The Pharisees disbelieved the former blind man’s testimony (9:18) and kept trying to discredit him by repeatedly asking him how he was healed (9:15, 19, 26). They used their power to keep the people in fear, threatening them with excommunication if they confessed Jesus to be the Christ (9:22). They reviled or verbally abused the man born blind when he asked if they wanted to become Jesus’ disciples (9:28). When they could not overcome the man’s logic and the evidence of his miraculous healing, with arrogance they said to him, “You were completely born in sin, and are you teaching us?” (9:34). By asserting that this man’s blindness was due to specific sins in his life they intended to shame him into silence and discredit his testimony. These Pharisees were not faithful shepherds over the Lord’s flock.

The Pharisees replaced rest in Jesus with demands for spiritual performance. People under a Pharisaic system today can develop a distorted image of God. Instead of viewing God as someone they can trust, they do not trust God because they have been mistreated by God’s representatives known as spiritual leaders. In John 10:1-10, we will learn over the next few days how to trust the True Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who is on our side and not against us in contrast to the self-centered shepherds called the Pharisees. I CAN TRUST THE LORD JESUS AS THE TRUE SHEPHERD BECAUSE…

HE HAS PROPHETIC CREDENTIALS (John 10:1-2). Jesus had come to the fold in the way God said His Shepherd would come. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1). The apostle John begins Jesus’ teaching with no indication of a different audience or location. The words “Mostly assuredly, I say to you” usually follow up some previous teaching by Christ. So, it is important to understand that the events in John 9 are closely connected to what happens here in John 10.

At night, the sheep were herded into “the sheepfold,” a walled enclosure or pen that was partially roofed or in a cave. The pen had stout walls about four to six feet in height and one gate which was guarded by a door keeper. The door keeper allowed authorized people to enter through the gate, but he would prohibit unauthorized people to enter lest they try to harm or steal the sheep. The person who climbs over the walls instead of using the proper entrance is identified by Jesus as “a thief and a robber.”

We can make a distinction between a “thief” and a “robber.” A “thief” steals subtly and in secret. They break into your house when you are gone or when you are asleep and steal without you knowing it. Robbers are more aggressive. They hold you up at knifepoint and force you to give up your valuables. In both cases, they do not care about you. They want to use you for their own gain. The false shepherds of Israel, the Pharisees, were both cunning like a thief and oppressive like a robber toward the sheep of God. They cared only for themselves and not for God’s people.

In contrast to the thief and robber is the shepherd. “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” (John 10:2). Notice it says he is “the shepherd,” not “a shepherd.” The True Shepherd uses the lawful method of entry into the sheepfold. He uses the gate. “The door” or gate refers to the way God said the True Shepherd would enter the sheepfold of Israel.

Jesus came to the sheepfold in the way God predicted in the Old Testament:

– The Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10).  

– The Messiah would be a descendant of David (Jeremiah 33:16-17).

– The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

– The Messiah would be born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).

– The Messiah would come to Jerusalem after sixty-nine “weeks” of years  (483 years) from the time of the rebuilding of the temple in 444 B.C. (Daniel 9:24-27).

–  The Messiah would be presented to the nation of Israel through a forerunner (Malachi 3:1).

– The Messiah would give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and cause the lame to walk to authenticate His Messianic identity (Isaiah 35:5-6).

– The Messiah would be the Prophet greater than Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15).

– The Messiah would be a light to shine on the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1-6).

There was a wealth of objective evidence which could be tested to determine if Jesus was indeed, the True Shepherd. Christ was inviting those who doubted the evidence to reconsider it. He wanted them to see if He had entered the sheepfold, the nation of Israel, the way God prophesied that He would come.

Math professor, Peter Stoner, in his book, Science Speaks, takes just eight Old Testament prophecies about Christ and asks, “What is the chance that any man might have lived from the day of these prophecies down to the present time [88 billion people later] and have fulfilled all eight?” He comes up with the answer of one in one hundred quadrillion or 10 17.

Then he helps us picture this huge number. If you take 10 17 silver dollars and spread them all over Texas, they would cover the entire state two feet deep. Mark one of the silver dollars, mix it into the whole, blindfold a man and tell him that he can go as far as he wants, but he must pick the one marked dollar. That is the same chance that Jesus could have fulfilled just eight Old Testament prophecies.” 1 The reality is that Jesus fulfilled over a hundred prophecies at His first coming!

A false shepherd could not fulfill the Old Testament Scripture to authenticate his claim to be the True Shepherd. In fact, many people have claimed to be the True Shepherd, but none of them came to the nation of Israel the way the Old Testament predicted. Only Jesus came to the nation of Israel the way God said He would come. This means that only Jesus is the True Shepherd who entered through Israel’s door as the Messiah-God!

Before you can believe that Jesus is the True Shepherd, you may need answers for your mind. The Old Testament prophesied how the True Shepherd would enter through the door of the sheepfold of Israel, and Jesus fulfilled all those prophecies. Did Mohammed, Buddha, or Confucius fulfill all of those Old Testament prophecies? Did anyone other than Jesus Christ fulfill all the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the True Shepherd to Israel? No. Not even close. The evidence for Jesus coming the way God said He would is overwhelming! The question is, “Will you accept the evidence or reject it?”

The majority of Israel’s religious leaders rejected this prophetic evidence. They knew the Scriptures, but they were not willing to come to the Messiah-God of Whom the Scriptures testified (John 5:39-40). They were unwilling to admit their sinfulness and their need for the True Shepherd Who would lay down His life for His sheep. I pray you will not make the same mistake as those leaders did because the consequences are eternal (John 3:36b; Revelation 20:10, 15).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for exposing the false shepherds in my past who cared only for themselves and not for the people they were entrusted to shepherd and point to You. Those hurtful religious experiences in my past distorted my view of You. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me through the Bible so I can begin to see You for Who You truly are. I am amazed by how many Old Testament prophecies You fulfilled at Your First Coming which indicates You came into the sheepfold the way God said You would! No other person in history can claim to fulfill all those Old Testament prophecies. Your prophetic credentials point to You as the True Shepherd, and therefore, I can trust You with my eternal life. In Your name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Peter Stoner, Science Speaks: An Evaluation of Certain Christian Evidences, (Moody Press, 1953), pp. 99-112.

Comfort instead of Chaos

During this time of chaos and uncertainty, God has drawn me back to one of the greatest sources of comfort and hope that we have as Christians. It has to do with the next event on God’s Prophetic Calendar known as the Rapture or sudden removal of Christians from the earth to meet the Lord Jesus in the air to be with Him forever (Rev. 4:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; I Thess. 1:10; 4:13-5:11).
       

When the apostle John, a member of the Church, was caught up to heaven, he saw “twenty-four elders” sitting on thrones around the throne of God. “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads” (Rev. 4:4).  These twenty-four elders represent faithful believers from the Church Age since “elders” in the New Testament are leaders of the local Church (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28;  I Tim. 4:14; 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; I Peter 5:1).
       

The fact that these elders are already sitting on “thrones,” wearing “white garments” and “crowns” indicates they have already appeared before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive their rewards (cf. I Cor. 3:8-15; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:4-5, 21; 22:12), which means the vision John describes in heaven takes place after the Rapture of the Church. This is supported further by the absence of the word “church” and any references to Christians on earth in Chapters 6-18 of Revelation, which describe the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth. The reason the Church is not mentioned in Revelation 6-18 is because it has already been removed by the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver her from “the wrath to come” as  taught by the apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 1:10.
       

The apostle Paul then explains how Jesus will deliver us from the coming wrath of the Tribulation period in I Thessalonians 4. “For if [or since] we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (I Thess. 4:14). The Rapture or Removal of the Church is just as certain as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At one point in time the death and resurrection of Christ were prophecy. But now they are history. We can believe the Rapture with equal certainty.
       

The apostle Paul expected the removal of the Church from the earth to take place while he was alive on earth and so should we. Paul wrote, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:17). The words “caught up” are from the Greek word haparzo which means “to snatch up or away suddenly.”Paul describes it like this I Corinthians 15:52“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet… the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” In the time it takes you to blink your eye, the Lord will snatch all believers in Jesus off the earth to meet Him in the air – not one will remain behind.
     

This sudden removal of all Christians from the earth is intended to comfort believers in Jesus. That’s why Paul writes, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:18). If the Rapture of the Church is at the middle or end of the seven year Tribulation period of intense and unusual suffering on earth (Rev. 6-18), there would be little comfort and encouragement in this. But the prospect of Christ coming at any moment is a much greater comfort. Jesus could come back today for His Church. Are you ready? If not, here is how you can prepare for Christ’s coming for His Church.
       

You must receive Jesus’ free gift of everlasting life to leave this earth with the Church to spend eternity with Jesus in heaven. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). You may ask “Why do I need everlasting life?” Because all people have sinned against God (Rom. 3:23) anddeserve death (Rom. 6:23) or separation from God forever in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). But Jesus Christ loved us so much He came to earth to die on a cross for all of our sins and rose from the dead, proving He is God (Rom. 1:3-4; I Cor. 15:3-6). Jesus now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone when He says,  “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). It does not matter how good or bad you have been. Jesus offers you everlasting life as a free gift if you would simply believe in Him alone for it.
       

When you believe in Jesus, He gives you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29) and He guarantees you a home in heaven when you die or when He returns, whichever occurs first (John 14:1-3). His Holy Spirit places you in the body of Christ, His Church (I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27; Ephes. 1:22-23). Christ wants to use you now to share this message of comfort and hope with those who are perishing without Him (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). 
       

Rather than focus on the chaos and social unrest of our unbelieving world which is trying to advance a cashless system and other ways to track people, let’s focus on the comfort of our Lord’s glorious coming for His Church. By doing so, we will be more motivated to share the gospel with the lost people of this world and prepared to face Jesus as our Judge at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:9-11; I John 4:17-19).

Why do some disciples or followers of Christ remain devoted to Him? Part 2

“Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  John 6:69

The second reason why some disciples remain devoted to Jesus is because THEY REACH A FULLER UNDERSTANDING OF WHO JESUS IS (John 6:68-69). After the majority of people in the crowd withdrew from Jesus to walk with Him no more (John 6:66), Jesus asked His twelve remaining disciples, “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67). Peter then replied to Jesus,68 Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68-69). This doesn’t mean the Eleven were unsure of their eternal destiny or the identity of Jesus up to this point. It simply means that Peter recognized that Jesus was giving them a fuller understanding of eternal life and His own identity. His words had filled their empty lives with eternal life and their lives would never be the same.

But eternal life included much more than going to heaven. It also included a bodily resurrection (John 11:25-26; I Corinthians 15:1-58; I Thessalonians 4:16), future events like the Tribulation and Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 6:1-20:6), eternal rewards for godly living (Matthew 16:27; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 10:35; Revelation 2:7, 17, 25-27; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7; 22:12, 14), and the importance of witnessing to those who are lost (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 8:11-13; 24:46-49; John 4:34-38; 20:21; Acts 1:8; et al.). And Jesus was so much more than they perceived Him to be when they first believed in Him (John 1-2). He had never done or said anything wrong (John 18:38; 19:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). He was the Sinless One, the Christ, the Messiah Who had performed miracles that only God could do (John 2:1-11; 4:46-54; 5:1-15; 6:1-21; 9:1-41; 11:1-45; John 20:1-29; et al.). He had fulfilled Old Testament prophecies (Matthew 1:21-23; 2:14-17, 23; 4:13-16; 8:16-17; 12:16-21; 13:34-35; 21:2-5; 26:47-56; 27:35; Mark 14:49; 15:27-28; Luke 4:16-21; 24:44-48; John 12:37-41; 15:24-25; 19:23-24, 28, 36-37; et al.). Their understanding of eternal life and the identity of Jesus had deepened as a result of obeying His commands and following Him (cf. John 14:21).

Even though the twelve disciples watched thousands of people abandon Jesus, they were going to stay with Him because no one else could meet their needs like Christ. Jesus’s words had penetrated their hearts and changed their lives (except for Judas).     

What about you? Have Jesus’s words penetrated your heart? Have you come to understand that you are a sinner and that nothing you do makes you deserving of heaven? Do you realize that Jesus died for your sins and rose again, proving that He is God? And have you trusted in Jesus as your only hope of heaven? If not, why not? What is keeping you from trusting Christ alone for eternal life?

And if you have trusted Christ alone for everlasting life, are you growing deeper in your relationship with Him? Is your understanding of eternal life and the Person of Jesus growing deeper or do you think you have learned all there is to learn about our Lord? If you are growing, you know your own failures and weaknesses, and that despite the many times you don’t understand what is happening to you, you simply cannot leave Jesus. In Christ, we have a love that never fails, a life that never ends, a peace that can never be understood, a rest that can never be disturbed, a joy that can never be diminished, a hope that never disappoints, a light that can never be darkened, a strength that cannot be depleted, a purity that can never be defiled, a security that can never be shaken, a wisdom that can never be baffled, and resources that can never be exhausted.

If you have found Jesus to be like that, where else can you go? Who else can measure up to that? You may be a new Christian or an older believer – maybe you are feeling defeated and discouraged. You may be saying to yourself, “I can’t continue as a disciple. It’s too hard. I blow it all the time. I’m going to hang it up.” My question for you is this: “Who else can you go to? Where can you find the answers and resources that you have drawn from our Lord Jesus?” This is what Peter is saying to Christ. There was nowhere else for them to go. Christ was all they had and He was all they needed!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, when much of the world walks away from You shaking their heads, there are some who are not disturbed by this because they are growing in their understanding of eternal life and who You are as a Person. When I look back at all You have shown me and done for me, the thought of leaving You now is foolishness to me. Who else could I go to because You alone have words of eternal life? No other person on earth can guarantee everlasting life to those who believe in him or her because none of them are qualified. They are broken sinners like the rest of humanity. No religion can give eternal life to its followers because they are all man-made attempts to get to God. And they all fall short of that objective. But You my Lord and my God are the REAL DEAL. You claimed to be God and You backed it up with Your miraculous works. You are alive today at the right hand of God the Father. You have conquered sin, death, and the devil and You are seated in a position of great authority and victory! I cling to Your words because they give life and hope and purpose. You have met my deepest needs and now I bow my heart before You because You are worthy of all I have. I love You, Lord Jesus. Thank You for being You! Thank You for Your amazing grace and truth. In Your name I pray. Amen.

A Look into the Future – Part 8 (Video)

This is the eighth and final video in a series about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com.  Other digital images are used with permission from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing (www.FreeBibleimages.org) and GoodSalt (www.goodsalt.com). The video scenes in this video and most of the music are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

Does Matthew 25:31-46 teach you must do good works to get to heaven?

“Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment.’” Matthew 25:45-46a

Some religious people teach that the Judgment of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) says you must give to the needy to be saved from everlasting punishment. But this understanding ignores the context of the passage (Matthew 24:1-25:46) and contradicts the clear teaching of the New Testament about salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone apart from any good works (John 1:12; 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-27; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 6:23b; 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:13; Revelation 22:17; et al.). Matthew 25:31-46 is about the judgment of people who lived during the Tribulation period after the Rapture of the Church (Matthew 25:31-32; cf. Revelation 6-19).

The “sheep and the goats” in this passage represent Gentiles (“all the nations” – 25:32) who survive the Tribulation period and will be judged by King Jesus according to their response to Jesus’ Jewish “brethren” who are the 144,000 evangelists during the last half of the Tribulation period (Matthew 25:35-40, 42-45; Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5). Since no one who takes the mark of the beast gets saved during the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 14:9-11), no unbeliever will help the Jewish evangelistic “brethren” of Christ. The Gentile believers who survive the Tribulation physically have endured faithfully for Christ (Matthew 24:13-14, 22) and helped His Jewish brethren, so they will “inherit” the kingdom or reign with Christ in His Kingdom on earth (Matthew 25:34; cf. 19:27-29; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27).

The New Testament distinguishes “entering” the kingdom from “inheriting” the kingdom. We enter the kingdom of God by faith alone in Christ alone (Matthew 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:15; John 3:5, 15-16), but we “inherit” the kingdom of God through faithful, sacrificial service and suffering for Christ (Matthew 19:27-29; Romans 8:17b; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21b; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:23-24; Hebrews 1:2, 5, 9, 13-14; 6:12, 17; 9:15; Revelation 2:25-27).

For example, entering my house is different than inheriting my house. Entrance into my house is free. But if you want to inherit or possess my house, you must pay for it. When you pay for it, then you are entitled to certain privileges or authority. When you inherit my house, you can decide how to arrange the furniture and what colors to paint on the walls. But if you just enter my house, you don’t have those privileges. The same is true in the spiritual realm. You enter the kingdom of God through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. But you will not have all the privileges or authority that come with inheriting the kingdom. You must earn those privileges through faithful service to Jesus.

The “goats” in Matthew 25:31-46 represent unbelieving Gentiles who are judged and cast into the everlasting fire of hell. The “sheep” represent faithful believing Gentiles who will enter “into eternal life” and be transformed because you cannot “inherit” or rule in the Kingdom without being a transformed believer (Matthew 25:46; cf. I Corinthians 15:50). So this passage is not teaching that salvation is given to those who help the needy. Rather it is teaching that rewards will be given to believers who faithfully endure for Christ in the Tribulation period.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, although Matthew 25:31-46 refers to people in the Tribulation period, it does apply to me now. Lord God, Your salvation from hell has always been absolutely free through faith in You alone and always will be. But in this passage, You are talking about how to earn Your inheritance rewards that grant more authority and privileges in Your coming Kingdom. Oh my precious Lord, please grant me the grace to faithfully serve You until the end of my life on earth so I may receive Your inheritance rewards in the future. With those rewards, I will be able to bring You more glory and honor in Your coming Kingdom. Thank You my Lord and my God for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

A Look into the Future – Part 6 (Video)

This is the sixth in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the Great White Throne Judgment of unbelievers.

The 3-CIRCLE ILLUSTRATION IS USED BY PERMISSION OF EVANTELL. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com.  Other digital images are used with permission from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing (www.FreeBibleimages.org) and GoodSalt (www.goodsalt.com). The music and video scene in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

A Look into the Future – Part 5 (Video)

This is the fifth in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Millennial Kingdom pictures are used by permission of GoodSalt at www.goodsalt.com. The music and video scene in this video is used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

A Look into the Future – Part 4 (Video)

This is the fourth in a series of videos about the future as recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. This video focuses on the most significant event on God’s Prophetic Calendar – the Second Coming of Christ to earth.

The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com. The music and video scene in this video is used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

What will the Beast of Revelation be like and where will he come from?

In Daniel 11:5-35, an angel described a detailed prophecy concerning almost 200 years of terrible conflict which would take place between the king of the North (the Seleucids) and the king of the South (the Ptolemies) and their successors. The “king of the north” in Daniel 11:21-35 referred to the Seleucid king named Antiochus IV Epiphanes who would persecute the Jews and make life miserable for them from 175 B.C. to 163 B.C. The details of this prophecy were fullfilled exactly as Daniel predicted 350 years earlier.

In Daniel 11:36-45 we see another “king of the North” who will make Antiochus IV Epiphanes look like a boy scout. We know that this king cannot be Antiochus IV Epiphanes because the events described in these verses were not fulfilled by him. This particular king of the North is future (11:46a). He is the “little horn” of Daniel 7. The events recorded in Daniel 11:36-45 describe the career and character of the world-ruler known otherwise as the Beast of Revelation (Revelation 13:1-8). This world-ruler will arise from the Middle East. This is what Daniel 11:36-45 tells us about him:

1. He acts independently of any authority outside of himself. “Then the king shall do according to his own will.” (Daniel 11:36a; cf. Rev. 13:2).

2. He arrogantly asserts that he is superior to all other gods, including the God of the Bible – “he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods.” (Daniel 11:36b; cf. 2 Thess. 2:3-4).

3. The duration of his lawlessness is determined by God – “and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done.” (Daniel 11:36c). This refers to the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation period when God’s wrath will be poured out upon the earth (Revelation 12:1-16:21).

4. He disregards his religious heritage. “He shall regard neither the God of his fathers.” (11:37a). This world-ruler cannot be Jewish because…

a. Daniel 7:8, 24 say that he will be the final ruler out of the revived Roman Empire, so he must be a Gentile.

b. He is from the former territory of the Seleucid kingdom which would include Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq – all countries inhabited mostly by Arabs today. It is far more likely that this king is an Arab who rebels against his Muslim heritage and rejects the Muslim god, Allah.

5. He is either an ascetic who abstains from sexual activity or he is a homosexual – “He shall regard neither the gods of his fathers nor the desire of women.” (Daniel 11:37b). He is so enthralled with Satan’s plan that he has no desire for women.

6. He sets himself up as the sole object of worship – “nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all.” (Daniel 11:37c). He will set aside all organized religions and set up a new system of worship.

7. He will worship a new god – a god of strongholds – “But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things.” (Daniel 11:38). This “god of fortresses” is Satan himself (Rev. 13:4) and he will worship Satan by offering costly gems to him. Satan will thoroughly enjoy such costly offerings because his original splendor consisted of such precious stones as these (Ezekiel 28:12b-15).

8. He will conquer many military powers through the strength of Satan and honor those who follow him. “Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain.” (Daniel 11:39).

9. After Egypt attacks him, the world-ruler invades Egypt and the Arab States. “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon.  He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape.  He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels.” (Daniel 11:40-43). Not only is Egypt defeated, but Libya and Sudan are also conquered. It is also possible that other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates are defeated by him as well.

10. Alarming news from the northeast moves the world-ruler to pitch his royal tents near the Temple Mount where he will rule the world. “But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain.” (Daniel 11:44-45a). Perhaps he will pitch his royal tents in the upper Kidron Valley to the northeast of the Temple Mount.

All of these events take place during the first 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation (cf. Revelation 6:1-11:19). Now we are ready for the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation (Daniel 12:1a; cf. Revelation 12:1-16:21) when this world-ruler will persecute Israel like never before. But this diabolical world-ruler will meet his fate along with all of his followers when King Jesus returns to earth with His church.

Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. www.revelationillustrated.com

“And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.” (Revelation 19:19-21).

As we hear and read news reports we can see how God is getting everything in place to begin the final events. What is your response to the coming of the King of kings? Do you believe in Jesus Christ for His free gift of everlasting life? If so you can know right now that you have eternal life and will live with Jesus forever in His coming Kingdom on earth. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13).

If you have Christ in your life, Jesus will deliver you from this wrath to come on earth through the removal of the church at any time (John 3:36; 14:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:11). Praise Jesus for this comforting truth!!!

Note: The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, http://www.revelationillustrated.com.