The Christian Message 101 - Your Questions Answered
Who is God?
God is the Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the universe. It is written: “I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself”(44:24, Isaiah); “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth (17:24, Acts); God is “the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (6:15, 1 Timothy); “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (24:1, Psalm); “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen” (11:35-36, Romans).
God is all-knowing and all-powerful. “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: Is there anything too hard for me?” (32:27, Jeremiah). “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor” (29:11, Chronicles). “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (147:5, Psalm). “For he knows the secrets of the heart” (44:21, Psalm). “And there is no created thing hidden from before him, but everything is naked and open before the eyes of him to whom we give an account.” (4:13, Hebrews). “He knows everything” (3:20, 1 John).
God is good and holy. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty: the whole earth is full of his glory” (6:3, Isaiah). “The LORD is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works” (145:9, Psalm). “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” (1:13, Habakkuk). “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell” (5:4 Psalm). “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good” (34:7, Psalm).
Because he is good and holy, all God’s ways can be trusted and all his words and promises will come to be. “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands. They stand this day according to Your ordinances” (119: 89-91, Psalm). “God is not man, that he should lie… Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19). “God, who does not lie, promised (the hope of eternal life) before the beginning of time” (1:2, Titus). “He is the God who keeps every promise” (146:6, Psalm).
“God is love” (4:16, 1 John). “The LORD is… loving toward all he has made” (145:13, Psalm). “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (68:5, Psalm). “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love” (145:8, Psalm). “For great is your love, higher than the heavens” (108:4, Psalm). “His love endures forever” (136:1, Psalm).
Who are we?
We are God’s creation. But unlike the rest of creation, humans were made in God’s image. That makes us God’s most valued creation. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (1:27, Genesis).
Each created person is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece fully known by God. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (139:13-14, Psalm). “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (10:30, Matthew).
While we are wonderfully made, all humans possess the fallen sinful nature that resulted from man’s initial sin (see Genesis 3). From lying to cheating and stealing, from hating to hurting people verbally or physically to murdering, from greed and selfishness to callous apathy for others, from arrogance to self-exaltation, from lust to adultery to sexual abuses, we ALL sin in many ways. It is written: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (3:23, Romans). This sinful nature created a tragic situation in which we were separated from the Holy Creator who cannot look at or be in the presence of sin. Further, because God is a God of justice, and because his righteousness required a just penalty of death for sins, our sins placed us in danger of receiving the penalty of death.
Who is Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ is the remedy for our tragic situation in which we were separated from our God and in danger of eternal death due to our sins. All of us need a Savior because 1) “There is no one righteous, not even one (3:10, Romans); and 2) “the wages of sin are death” (6:23, Romans).
God loved us too much to leave us as helpless sinners, unable either to be perfect in holiness or to pay the price for our sins. Because of God’s great love for us, he designed a way for us to be freed from our sins, freed from our punishment for those sins, and free to come into and live in his presence once again. God promised to send a Savior, the Messiah, into the world.
The promised Messiah had to fill all of the many, many prophecies about him in the Word of God. He had to be from the house of Jesse (11:1, Isaiah) and the family of David (23:5, Jeremiah); He had to be born in Bethlehem (5:2, Micah); He had to be born of a virgin (7:14, Isaiah); He was to be a prophet like Moses (18:15,18,10, Deuteronomy); He was to be presented with gifts from kings (72:10-11, Psalm); He had to come out of Egypt (11:1, Hosea); He had to enter Jerusalem in triumph (9:9, Zechariah); He had to be rejected by his own people (53:1,3, Isaiah; 118:22, Psalm); He had to be betrayed by one of his followers (41:9, Psalm); He had to be tried and condemned (53:8, Isaiah); He had to be silent before his accusers (53:7, Isaiah); He had to be spat on and struck by his enemies (50:6, Isaiah); He had to be mocked and insulted (22:7,8, Psalm); He had to die by crucifixion (22:14, 16, 17, Psalm); He had to suffer with criminals (53:12, Isaiah); He had to pray for his enemies (53:12, Isaiah); He had to be given vinegar and gall (69:21, Psalm); Other people had to cast lots for his garments (22:18, Psalm); His bones were not to be broken despite the custom during crucifixion (12:46, Exodus); e He He had to die as a sacrifice for sin (53:5,6,8,10,11,12, Isaiah); He had to be raised from the dead (16:10, Psalm); And he was at last to be seated at God’s right hand (110:11, Psalm). As seen in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and the subsequent New Testament books, Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, fulfilled each of the numerous Old Testament prophesies about him!
Jesus “was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God” (4:25, Romans). Through his work on the cross, Jesus became our “bridge” to God. “Now he has reconciled you through Christ’s physical body through death, to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (1:22, Colossians). Freed from the punishment of death, we are instead offered the gift of eternal life (6:23, Romans). Receiving the gift of salvation is simple: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (10:9, Romans).
All this was an amazing act of love by God. “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (3:16, John). “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (4:10, 1 John). “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8, Romans). Jesus’ love for us is clear in his sacrifice on our behalf. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” (15:13, John).
Jesus is God’s Son, but in a beautiful mystery revealed to us - Jesus is God himself in human form! It is written: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity” (2:14, Hebrews); “He existed in the form of God” (2:6, Philippians); “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:1, 14, John); and “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body” (2:9, Colossians). Jesus stated, “I and the Father are one” (10:30, John); and just as God gave himself the name “I AM” (3:14, Exodus), so "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am'" (8:58, John).
As God himself in the flesh, Jesus is the Lord of the universe. Of Jesus it is written: “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (1:3, John). “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (1:16-17, Colossians).
Because Jesus Christ is the only perfect sacrifice, because he alone is God himself in human form, and because he is the only one who could pay our sin debt in full by dying in our place and thereby making us holy and blameless in the sight of God, Jesus Christ is the ONLY WAY to the Father. It is written: “I am the Way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6, John).
Who does God call?
God has opened the doors of salvation to EVERYONE! As prophesied (2:32, Joel), “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (10:13, Romans). “God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (10:34-35, Acts). This was his plan from the beginning - he prepared for glory “even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles… As he says in Hosea: ‘I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,’ and, ‘In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God’” (9:23-26, Romans).
Jesus Christ is the great “equalizer” – all may come to him, regardless of their pasts or mistakes, regardless of their religious upbringing or lack thereof, and regardless of their specific demographics. God wants everyone to come to him – “He is waiting in mercy for you, not wanting the destruction of any, but that all may be turned from their evil ways” (3:9, 2 Peter).
Likewise, we bring the message to EVERYONE, as instructed by God: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (28:29, Matthew). In sharing the salvation message and the good news about Jesus, we must understand that it is God who changes hearts, and we must be careful not to discriminate based on past actions, preferences, nationality, ethnicity, class, gender, and so on, for “If you show favoritism you sin” (2:9, James).
How are we made right with God?
Jesus’ sacrificial payment for all + our acceptance of this gift through faith = Right standing with God.
Jesus’ death on the cross - his suffering and perfect sacrifice of himself to fully pay for the sins of all people - is the ONLY thing that could combine with our faith to make us right with our righteous, holy and just God. Because God is both the God of love and also the God of justice, God both desired to freely love us and pardon us, yet it was also necessary that our wickedness be atoned for. To fully atone for EVERY person’s EVERY sin, the perfect, sinless Jesus died in our place. No human is righteous and perfect, so no human could sacrifice himself in any satisfactory manner; therefore, God made the sacrifice himself by coming and dying in our place – painfully giving himself, and even more painfully giving his beloved Son.
No act or acts we do ourselves can “earn” us our way to God (or into heaven). We must instead humbly accept the perfect “gift” of salvation from God himself. It is written: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ” (6:23, Romans); “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” ((2:8-9, Ephesians); and “People are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners” (4:5, Romans).
“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed…not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham” (4:16, Romans). “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (5:1-2, Romans).
What is God's Word?
God’s Word is that which is spoken by God or inspired by God’s own Spirit. “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (1:20-21, 2 Peter).
The Holy Bible combines the inspired words of God from the books of the Torah or “law” (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), other Old Testament books, the New Testament gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and subsequent New Testament books. The Holy Bible is not only the number one bestseller of all time, it is the bestseller each year and every year, vastly outselling any other books yearly and selling far more than the combined total for the other top selling books. Despite many, many attempts to outlaw and destroy the Word of God, no one has been able to eliminate the Bible and it continues to reach more and more people. It appears that just as the Word was inspired by God, so also the essential truth of the Word has been maintained for us by the working of the Spirit. Originally spoken and written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, there are now translations in a great multitude of languages. The spoken Word and the written books of the Bible are from ancient days. While Christianity is sometimes called a “young” religion, in its fullest sense Christianity has been around from the start - prophecies about Jesus (the coming Messiah or Savior) can be found throughout the Old Testament books of the Bible, and as it is written, Jesus was “with God in the beginning” (1:2, John).
The Word of God contains both literal and figurative or symbolic words, which require discernment. Some have struggled with the symbolic nature of much of the Bible. While many verses are easily understood and there exists wide agreement on their meanings amongst Christians, some verses or topics are interpreted differently. Humbly relying on the Holy Spirit as we read and study God’s Word will lead to greater and greater wisdom and knowledge. We may be given revelation about previously confusing or misunderstood passages. The Word of God is a “light” for us (119:105, Psalm). Knowing God’s Word provides us with direction and helps us avoid sinning against God (119:11, Psalm). We are instructed to “study” and to “rightly divide” or “correctly handle” the word of truth (2:15, 2 Timothy).
The words of God are flawless (30:5, Proverbs; 12:6, Psalm; 18:30, Psalm). This does not mean that we have perfectly translated versions of God’s words, or that God corrected every human thought that entered into the Spirit-inspired Word. We can see that those who were given revelations and visions had to put these Spirit-inspired truths into the limited words and knowledge of their day. So, for example, when a plane was seen in a vision long before its invention, it could not be described as a “plane” but merely as having wings or a winged creature. We should neither demand that Scripture read as if written by the very hand of God without the use of men, nor should we dismiss any Scriptures because they were written by men, as we know that the Scriptures were inspired by God himself. It is the essential truth that was provided by the Spirit in the Word. Likewise, the Spirit who inspired the Word is also able to preserve the essential truth within the Scriptures. The Word of God is eternal. It is written, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (40: 8, Isaiah); “Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (119:89, Psalm). We can put our hope in God’s Word (119:147, Psalm; 130:5, Psalm).
The Word of God is alive and filled with God’s own power. God’s Word has been changing lives for multitudes all over the world. It is written: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit” (4:12, Hebrews); “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (55:11, Isaiah).
Expressions of love and respect for the words and laws of God can be found throughout the Scriptures (e.g., 19:7-11, Psalm; 119:97, Psalm; 119:129, Psalm). The words of God have such value that our need for them is compared to our need for food. It is written: “People do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (8:3, Deuteronomy); “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (23:12, Job). Quoting Scripture, Jesus himself said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (4:4, Matthew). Demonstrating both his fulfillment of Scriptures and the great importance of the Word, Jesus relied heavily on God’s words, often quoting the Old Testament Scriptures (for example, see Matthew 4).
It has been revealed to us that Jesus Christ is the Word in the flesh. It is written, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (1:14, John). To deny the true Word of God, then, may be to deny Jesus!
Are the prophecies in the Holy Bible being fulfilled?
We’ve seen that the Word of God contains a great number of prophecies about the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Messiah Jesus Christ. All of these many prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus (see WHO IS JESUS CHRIST). Those who are still waiting for the promised Messiah or Savior are waiting for yet another to come and fulfill the extensive list of prophesies that Jesus Christ already fulfilled within the view of many, many witnesses.
In addition to the prophecies about Jesus Christ, the Word also contains numerous prophecies about God’s chosen nation Israel (the Jewish nation), including their victories, captivities, rejection of the coming Messiah (Jesus), the perseverance of a remnant, the rebuilding of their nation, and their eventual salvation. The Word contains prophecies about the rest of the human race (the Gentiles), including the rise and fall of many kingdoms and nations, and their inclusion in salvation. Within the Word, we find prophecies about a wide variety of occurrences, including: the globalization of the world; the government in the final days; the natural disasters, famines and other hardships of the last days; the great falling away from the true faith and the teachings of false prophets in the last days; the increase in wickedness and the increase in wars; modern inventions such as planes and nuclear bombs long, long before their invention; modern phenomenon such as cancer long before its discovery; the second coming of Jesus Christ and the new heavens and new earth that God will soon create.
No prophecy in the Word of God has been contradicted, no matter how unlikely or impossible some prophecies appeared before they were (or began to be) fulfilled. For instance, long-ago prophecies about globalization in the areas of government, economics and religion likely seemed nearly impossible prior to the invention and understanding of modern technology. While a few prophesies are yet waiting to be fulfilled (e.g., Jesus’ second coming), the multitude of prophecies in the Word of God are currently being or have already been fulfilled and can be verified by nonreligious documentations or writings, and even our own observations of current affairs. For example, following horrific attempts to wipe out the Jewish nation during the Holocaust, Israel experienced a rebirth as a nation in 1948, which remarkably fulfilled the “unlikely” prophesies about their rebirth in the book of Amos.
About the fulfillment of God’s words, it is written: “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you” (42: 9, Isaiah); “Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?” (44: 8, Isaiah). A careful examination of the biblical prophecies, their meanings, their fulfillments, and the verifiable nonreligious historical accounts and current affairs has led many to open their hearts to God.
Are believers required to obey the Law found in the Old Testament?
The commandments or laws found within the Old Testament were given to the Jewish people, who were required to obey them for very specific purposes. “Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (3:20, Romans). No person was able to keep all the commandments, “for there is no one righteous, not even one” (3:10, Romans, 2:14). When Jesus came, he upheld the Law and showed us the greater meaning of it, so that laws against adultery were shown to include even looking lustfully at someone (5:28, Matthew), and laws against murder were shown to include even anger toward spiritual brothers and sisters (5:22, Matthew). This demonstrated to an even greater degree that men and women are incapable of truly keeping the Law. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (5:17, Matthew). Jesus both fulfilled all the laws for us, and yet then also on our behalf paid our debt by accepting the death that was required as the wages for our sins and inequities according to the Law!
Those who had the Law, that is the Jewish nation, are no longer under that Law once they put their faith and hope in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is written: “Do you not know, brothers and sisters--for I am speaking to those who know the law--that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? …My brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God… By dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (7:1, 4-6, Romans). “Everyone who believes in Him is justified from everything that you could not be justified from through the law of Moses” (13:39, Acts).
The “old covenant” involved the Law, which God’s people were required but unable to obey. The old covenant (though glorious in righteousness) was therefore a covenant of condemnation and death. The “new covenant” was brought about by Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law and his perfect sacrifice that made us by faith righteous in God’s sight. This new covenant, which frees us from the covenant that brought condemnation and death, is a covenant of freedom and life (See 2 Corinthians 3). As written, “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (3: 6, 2 Corinthians).
“Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.” (3:19, Galatians). The law was needed in order that Jesus, the “Seed” in the promise, could come. The law was a “guardian”, as it is written: “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith” (3:24, Galatians).
What about all the “Gentiles” who never had the Law as the Jewish nation did? All the rest of us believers have only ever been those who are under grace and live by faith, and whose righteousness comes from God himself. Just as he promised throughout Old Testament Scriptures, we who are Gentiles (not of Jewish descent) have graciously been included in God’s plan of salvation – God now imparts righteousness to ALL who come to him through Jesus Christ and live by faith in him. “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (10:14, Romans).
Therefore, whether Jews or Gentiles, all believers are now to operate in the Spirit of the law, not the “letter” of the law (7:6, Romans). The Spirit of the law is love, and acting in love fulfills the Spirit of the law (13:8, Romans; 5:14, Galatians). In love, we honor God above all else; in love for others we do not murder, steal, covet, commit adultery, and so on. If, however, we slip and do violate the law of love, we have One who has already paid the price and who is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9, 1 John). To him be all glory, both now and forever more!
Does freedom in Christ mean Christians are free to sin?
Now that we have been freed from the letter of the law and strive to act according to the Spirit of the law, which is love, we have freedom in Christ. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” (3:17, 2 Corinthians). Does this freedom mean that believers are free to sin? Absolutely not – “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (6:1-2, Romans); “Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” (6:15, Romans); “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”(5:13, Galatians); “Live like free people, and do not use your freedom as an excuse for doing evil. Instead, be God's servants. Honor all people…” (2:16-17, 1 Peter); “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (6:11, Romans).
Rather than sinning because of their freedom in Jesus Christ, Christians who are acting in love according to the Spirit will be LESS likely to sin than previously, as the Spirit-inspired love within them drives them to lovingly interact with their Savior and with other people. Consequently such Christians will increasingly fulfill the spiritual law of love.
What are the responsibilities of a Christian?
The “work” of a Christian is simply to have faith and believe in God. It is written: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (6:29, John); “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone that comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (11:6, Hebrews).
The central commandment or law of God is LOVE. “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (5:13-14, Galatians). “Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law” (13:10, Romans). “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (4:8, 1 Peter). “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (22:37-39, Matthew). “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen”(4:20, 1 John). “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (5:6, Galatians). “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us” (5:1, Ephesians).
Loving God and loving others means helping people. God’s law of love leads us to help those who are hungry, poor, mistreated, sad, hurt, lonely, or in need of any kind. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (3:17-18, 1 John). “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (1:27, James).
God defends the powerless, and he calls us to do the same, standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. It is written: “‘He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord” (22:16, Jeremiah); “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (82:3-4, Psalm); “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (31:8-9, Proverbs).
Whatever we do for others, we are doing for our God who loves them in the same way that he loves us. “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done” (19:17, Proverbs). “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (25:40, Matthew).
While we take care of those with any need (the first part of “religion” that God accepts, as written in 1:27, James), how do we “keep ourselves from being polluted by the world” (and even our own natural tendencies)? We spend time with God in his presence and allow God to lead us through his Spirit. We “starve” the flesh (that part of us that wants to do evil) by avoiding those things that are or encourage anything unkind or unholy, and instead we “feed” the Spirit within us through time with God, reliance on him, fellowship with others, true worship, and so on. It is written: “bad company corrupts good character” (15:33, 1 Corinthians). Being mindful of the company we keep relates not only to the people in our lives but even media influences; the most important company to keep is God himself! In order to think and consequently act in ways fitting for a follower of Jesus Christ, it helps to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (10:5, 2 Corinthians). We are encouraged to “fix our eyes on Jesus” (12:2, Hebrews) and to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (4:18, 2 Corinthians). Ultimately, it is through the Spirit of God, who we rely on, that we may hope to keep ourselves from being polluted by this world.
God has specific plans for each of his children and it is his will that we be successful in our purposes and good works for him and his Kingdom. It is written: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (2:10, Ephesians); “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me” (138:8, Psalm); Jesus stated, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (15:8, John) and “I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you” (15:16, John). As we see in the previous Scripture, it is that which we ask in Jesus’ name and according to the will of the Father which will be done for us when we pray, and which will help us in fulfilling our purposes and good works for God.
Sharing the gospel message with others is a tremendous act of love. Despite the likelihood of rejection, various degrees of persecution, danger to our social standing and sometimes even danger to our own lives, we share the good news about Jesus with others because we love them and want them to have the same salvation and hope that we ourselves were given. “God… reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (5:18-21, 2 Corinthians). “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2:15, 2 Corinthians).
What happens when we are saved and made right with God?
“To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (1:12, John). Salvation comes with enormous benefits. Once we are declared righteous due to Jesus’ work on our behalf, we not only are allowed into God’s very presence, but we become his children, and we receive all the benefits of being a child of the King of kings. “What love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! (3:1, 1 John). “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (8:17, Romans).
As children of God with the promise of eternal life, we have the promise of new indestructible bodies. “Dear friends, now we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, as a result of seeing him as he is” (3:2, John). “We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us – bodies that will never be sick again and will never die” (8:23, Romans). “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (3:20-21, Philippians).
Having been given the gift of eternal life, we look forward to our new home and life with God. It is written: “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come” (13:14, Hebrews); “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create” (17:18, Isaiah); “And you are looking forward to the joys of heaven” (1:5, Colossians). The glorious wonders that God has planned for us upon creating the new heavens and new earth are yet to be revealed!
Upon leaving this present earth, we will have more than God’s Spirit with us, we will be with God the Father and God the Son – we will SEE him face to face! “I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (19:27, Job). No longer will we struggle within our natural states, either struggling against our own sin as we do here on earth (see 7:15-25, Romans), or striving to see with spiritual eyes – “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (13:12, 1 Corinthians). We will be with God in the fullest sense AND we will no longer face the trials and tribulations of this life. It is written of this time, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (21:3-4, Revelation).
While life on earth has great value and gives us the opportunity for “fruitful labor” that benefits others and brings eternal rewards, departing from life on earth brings personal “gain” for believers who desire to “be with Christ, which is better by far” (1:21-23, Philippians). Many Christians sooner or later come to the place where they can honestly proclaim: “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (5:8, 2 Corinthians). Death truly has been conquered!
All these incredible promises await us, and we look forward to the day when we receive our benefits in full; however, even now on earth, once saved, we receive unimaginable benefits in Christ Jesus our Lord. As Christians, we have God’s Spirit placed within us (8:11, Romans), so that God is truly with us here and now! God’s Spirit within us provides us with incomprehensible love, power, comfort, guidance, strength, peace, and joy. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (3:20-21, Ephesians).
Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God’s own Spirit. God in the form of the Father is on his heavenly throne, and God in the form of the Son (who once came as a human to live and die for us and who will someday come again for us) now sits beside God on the throne in heaven. The Holy Spirit is God in Spirit form and he is the One sent into the world to us by God himself. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are most often referred to as the Trinity within Christianity – the three forms or three persons of God.
It is through the Holy Spirit that we come to know God and that we come to salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is written: “Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again’… ‘I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit’” (3:3, 3:5, John). “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will be your teacher in all things and will put you in mind of everything I have said to you” (14:26, John). It is the Spirit who opens our spiritual eyes to the truth, as it is written, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth” (16:13, John).
“We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit Who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned... ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (2:12-14, 16, 1 Corinthians).
Just as Jesus promised, when we become believers God give us his Holy Spirit and that Spirit lives inside of us! It is written: “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (4:13, 1 John); “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you” (8:11, Romans); “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (2:22, Ephesians); “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children” (8:15, Romans). In fact, if anyone does not have the Spirit of God within him, he does not belong to God, as it is written: “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (8:9, Romans).
God gives us his Spirit not because we are good or deserving or because we obey his law, but because we BELIEVE his message of truth (3:2-5, Galatians). The Spirit seals us and gives us our guarantee of salvation and the receipt of all God has promised us. God “anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (1:21-22, 2 Corinthians; see also 5:5, 2 Corinthians).
Once we have God himself within us through the Holy Spirit and we abide in the Lord, the Spirit transforms our nature to reflect our Lord more closely. It is written: “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (5:19-23, Galatians); “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants” (5:16-17, Galatians); “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (3:17-18, 2 Corinthians).
When we act in ways contrary to the Lord’s Spirit, we grieve the Spirit within us. We are admonished: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (4:30-32, Ephesians). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh” (5:16-17, Galatians). “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (5:25, Galatians). So for example, when our nature urges us toward taking or receiving rather than giving, we submit our nature to the Spirit of God and instead give of ourselves and our resources to those who have need. In this way we have taken our own thoughts and ways “captive” and have made them “obedient to Christ” (10:5, 2 Corinthians), who said “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (20:35, Acts).
While all believers have the Spirit of God within them, the Spirit is poured out to varying degrees on or in believers, so that some believers are said to be “filled” or “full” of the Spirit (see 6:3, Acts; 6:8, Acts; 7:55, Acts). The key to receiving more of God’s Spirit may be simply to DESIRE and ASK for an outpouring of the Spirit. It is written, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (11:13, Luke), and “Now eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31).
The Holy Spirit gives believers power and abilities not previously possessed. It is written: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (1:8, Acts); “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (8:26, Romans). Throughout the Scriptures we see that upon receiving the Spirit of God, those who were fearful become bold and courageous, those without wise words speak the very words of God, those who were angry become loving, those who were weak become strong, and so on.
Spirit-filled believers will be given supernatural manifestations or “gifts” from the Holy Spirit. Gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit will differ, but all have great power and all are important. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of the knowledge of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines” (12:7-11, 1 Corinthians). So we will see some Spirit-filled Christians prophesying, some speaking in tongues, some healing, some having great faith, some speaking wisdom and knowledge, some having miraculous powers, and so on. We would not generally expect to see all these gifts in one Spirit-led Christian, or any one gift in all Spirit-filled believers. As it is written, “All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts” (12:29-31, 1 Corinthians). We will see one or more of these awesome spiritual gifts in believers filled with that Spirit.
The Spirit of God is a unifier and believers are all part of ONE Spirit and ONE “body” of Christ. It is written, “My purpose is that they may be… united in love (2:2, Colossians); “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28, Galatians). We are called to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:3, Ephesians) because “as members of one body you were called to peace” (3:15, Colossians).
Right with us wherever we go, the Holy Spirit strengthens, guides and comforts us along our way, so that the most difficult of situations can be endured with help from God himself. No matter our circumstances, now we can truly say, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (4:13, Philippians).
What or who is the Church?
Made up of believers, the “church” is the “body” of Jesus Christ. “And he is the head of the body, the church” (1:18, Colossians). “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (12:12-13, 1 Corinthians). “God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (12:24-26, 1 Corinthians). Thus unity and mutual edification and concern are essential in the church.
The numerous Christian church denominations (and Christians in general) collectively make up the Christian “church”. While many denominations have both strengths and weaknesses, a word of caution is necessary - some denominations and/or churches may stray significantly from the Word and Spirit of God. It is essential that Christians familiarize themselves with the words of God and seek guidance from the Holy Spirit, rather than solely relying on the teaching of church leaders. The truthfulness of any church’s claims may be recognized most readily by whether they follow the Word of God in Spirit and in truth, or whether they instead promote that which is contrary to the Scriptures and the Spirit. We have been warned: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (11:13-15, 2 Corinthians). If, for example, a church or individual who professes to be Christian is full of hatred and promotes violence in the name of Jesus, we recognize that this contradicts the Scriptures that we are in the day of favor and salvation (6:2, 2 Corinthians) and that as Christians we are called and enabled by the Spirit to live lives of love, mercy and forgiveness.
The multitude of today’s denominations may work against the intended unity of the “church” (the collective “body” of Christ) and may cause confusion regarding the Way of Christianity, especially for new believers. The denominations have even been misconstrued as differing religions by unbelievers, causing confusion here as well. Within the Word, we are cautioned about this divisiveness amongst the believers (see 3:4-5, 1 Corinthians). “…There are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided?” (1:11-13, 1 Corinthians).
Because the church is made up of people, all churches will have weaknesses, just as all individual Christians (and all people) have weaknesses. But despite these weaknesses, the true “church” is the “bride” of Christ, and she is loved and cleansed by Jesus Christ himself, so that she will be presented as blameless, spotless and beautiful for him.
The church of the living God is also referred to as “God’s household” and it is the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (3:15, 1 Timothy). The church or body of Christ is prepared for “works of service” by the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (4: 11-12, Ephesians). The church engages in good works and service not because such works can save them, but because it is the expression of the Spirit working within the church body, and as the body of Christ we are called to feed, cloth, minister to, and help those with any needs. The collective actions of Christians within the church will often have a much greater impact than that of individuals engaging in good works of love.
Examining what was commended and what was criticized in the Revelation churches, we see that God himself must be the “first love” of the church. We see that the church should be carrying out good deeds, should be working hard and persevering, should not tolerate wickedness or false leaders within the church, should hate evil in general, must be faithful even to the point of death, must remain true to Jesus’ name, must be loving, should serve, is to repent of wrongdoing, must “overcome” and endure patiently (see 2:1 - 3:22 , Revelation).
The earliest church may serve as an example to us in many ways, as we know from Scriptures that they were Spirit-filled. We see that fellowship, communion, prayer, worship and teaching were all central in the early church, who met together often. It is written that the believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (2:42, Acts); “They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity” (2:46, Acts).
We know that acts of love are central in the church, and the importance of meeting together as believers relates in part to the benefit of spurring “one another on toward love and good deeds” (10:24, Hebrews). Today this meeting together (whether during a church service, bible study, prayer group, fellowship opportunity or any other coming together of believers) is more essential than ever, as it is written: “Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:25 , Hebrews).
Who else is God or Savior?
Throughout the inspired Word, it is boldly declared that the Almighty God is the ONE AND ONLY GOD. It is written: “I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God” (44:6, Isaiah); “Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior” (43:11, Isaiah); “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (22:13, Revelation); “There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith” (3:30, Romans).
Likewise, it is declared in the Word that God’s Son Jesus (God himself in the flesh) is the ONLY way of salvation, the ONLY ONE who can pay for our sins and reconcile us with God the Father. “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity – the man Christ Jesus (2:5, 1 Timothy).” We see in Jesus’ own words that he boldly declared to be the one and only way to God – “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (14:6, John). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (4:12, Acts).
What then are we to make of other religions, other texts, and the popular ideas that all religions and religious thought can be unified? “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (4:1, 1 John). “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (7:15, Matthew). “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible” (24:24, Matthew). “There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute” (2:1-2, 2 Peter).
An increase in deceptive teaching, rejection of the Word of God, persecution of Christians, and a “falling away” from the true faith in these last days should come as no surprise to the believer, as it was prophesied within the Word. “Dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’ These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit” (1:17-19, Jude). “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (4:3-4, 2 Timothy).
The globalization prophesied within the Word of God and now occurring in our day has a great impact not only on government and currency, but also on religion. We see a strong movement pushing the subjectivity of truth and either a complete rejection of religion or the acceptance of ANY AND ALL religions, and consequently causing people to reject the truth of the ONE TRUE GOD AND THE ONE SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.
The fulfillment of prophecy within the Word is a powerful way to distinguish between the truth of God and the lies of the false prophets and idols. God’s words reveal his thoughts toward false idols and religions, and the importance of prophecy in revealing truth to us. It is written: “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you” (42: 8- 9, Isaiah). “This is what the LORD says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come – yes, let him foretell what will come. Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?” (44: 6-8, Isaiah).
Who are the devil and his forces?
The devil or Satan (also known as the dragon or serpent or “evil one”) is called the “deceiver” in the Word of God. It was the devil who first deceived the humans created in God’s image, deceptively leading them to disobey God and instead follow him (just as he led many angels away from God). The devil has been deceiving humans ever since. About Satan it is written: “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (8:44, John); “The devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (3:8, 1 John); “So that huge dragon – the ancient serpent, the one called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world – was thrown down to the earth, and his angels along with him” (12:9, Revelation).
We see from the Scriptures that the devil, who desired to make himself “like the Most High” (14:14, Isaiah), was once in heaven but has been cast down to earth, and he is accompanied by a great multitude of “fallen angels” and demonic forces that cause “woe” here on earth (12:12, Revelation). These evil spirits are extremely powerful and dangerous, so that even angels are cautious about them (2:11, 2 Peter), have had to fight them in a war within heaven (12:7-8, Revelation), and can be hindered by them (10:13, Daniel). The devil and his evil forces even perform “false signs and wonders” to confuse God’s creation and lead many away from the truth, causing them to worship and serve Satan through false gods and idols – “In accordance with how he works, he will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie” (2:9, 2 Thessalonians); “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (13:22, Mark; See also 24:24, Matthew).
Desiring God-status, the devil intensely hates God and all that is of God. The devil hates God’s most prized creation (all humans who are made in his image), but most especially God’s children – believers who have accepted their rights as children through Jesus’ sacrifice. The devil’s rage against God’s people intensified following the appearance and victory of Jesus. It is written: “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring – those who keep God's commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus” (12:17, Revelation). The “woman” here is God’s chosen nation of Israel, out of which came Jesus the Messiah, and her “offspring” are both Jews and Gentiles who have accepted Jesus as their Savior. Satan is “filled with fury because he knows that his time is short” (12:12, Revelation).
The devil seeks to entice all of us to sin, but then turns around and accuses us of our sins before God (12:10, Revelation). Satan “sets a trap” for people and “takes them captive to do his will” (2:26, 2 Timothy). As the great deceiver, the “god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (4:4, 2 Corinthians). Many people are deceived and used by the devil as tools, but we remember that the “enemy” is not the people themselves, but the evil forces behind the wickedness within the spiritual realm. As it is written, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” (6:12, Ephesians).
Although the evil forces are very powerful, as Christians we need not fear any of the spirits because God’s own Spirit lives inside of us. It is written, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (4:4, 1 John). Through the power of God himself, we can overcome the devil and his traps and deceptions. As it is written: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7, James); “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground” (6:13, Ephesians); “The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one” (3:3, 2 Thessalonians); “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (16:20, Romans).
What do the Scriptures say about Hell and Judgment Day?
Hell is mentioned extensively in the Scriptures and often by Jesus himself. In studying Scriptures, we can see that it is certain that Satan and his forces will be cast into hell, as it is written: "And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur" (19:20, Revelation); " ... and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever" (20:10, Revelation). We also see that people are warned about this hell that was created for Satan and his evil forces. Jesus himself said of those who have followed Satan, "Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, 'Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons'" (25:41, Matthew).
We see within the Scriptures that God “does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (3:9, 2 Peter) and he “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2:4, 1 Timothy). We trust in the mercies and love of the one who is merciful and loving (145:8, Psalm). Nevertheless to say that hell is not real or that someone need not fear hell even when that person follows Satan rather than God is to deny the truth as given to us in the Scriptures. Put simply, if a person rejects Jesus Christ and thereby insists on following Satan instead of the Truth, they may have to follow Satan straight into hell, as this is where he is heading.
Concerning hell, it is written: "They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power” (1:9, 2 Thessalonians); "Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace" (12:2, Daniel); "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life" (25:46, Matthew); "It's better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands" (9:43, Mark); "And don't forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God's judgment" (1:7, Jude); "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name" (14:11, Revelation); "The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (13:41-42, Matthew); "And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire" (20:15, Revelation); "The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God" (9:17, Psalm); "The way of life winds upward for the wise, that he may turn away from hell below" (15:24, Proverbs); "Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment…" (1:23, Jude).
We know that a day of judgment has been set – “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (9:27, Hebrews). We know that the “punishment” will not be the same for all unbelievers – “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town” (10:15, Matthew). We know that God who sees all things, understands all things, and knows all things will judge as the only truly just and fair judge. The judgment will be so comprehensive that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (12:36, Matthew).
Concerning the day of judgment it is written: “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it... And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (20:11-15, Revelation).
What about those who have put their faith and hope in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? We are those whose names will be found in the Lamb’s “book of life” and as promised we will be given eternal life. It is written, “Everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued” (12:1, Daniel); "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power..." (20:6, Revelation); "I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it" (16:18, Matthew); “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (3:5, Revelation). If not for Jesus Christ, we too would face eternal separation from God. All praise belongs to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ for his “indescribable gift” to us (9:15, 2 Corinthians). “He has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (17:31, Acts).
Believers will face “judgment”, but this will not relate to hell versus eternal life, but rather relate to eternal glory, honor, position, praise, “crowns”, and the like. It is written: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (5:10, 2 Corinthians); “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (14:10, Romans); “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God” (4:5, 1 Corinthians); “A book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name” (3:16, Malachi); “The fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames” (3:13-15, 1 Corinthians); “Look! I'm coming soon. My reward is with me, to repay all people as their actions deserve” (22:12, Revelation).
Where is God?
God the Father is on his heavenly throne. It is written: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens” (103:19, Psalm); “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (115: 3, Psalm); “I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven” (123: 1, Psalm); “Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?” (113: 5-6, Psalm).
Jesus “existed in the beginning with God” (1:2, John). When it was time, he came to us as God in the flesh (2:14, Hebrews), as Immanuel or “God with us” (1:23, Matthew). It is written that Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (2: 7, Philippians). In love and obedience, he suffered and died for us, and after being raised from the dead, he “was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (16:19, Mark). We see that Jesus continues to this day to sit on his heavenly throne and continues to be our advocate – “Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us” (8:34, Romans).
God is in heaven, but also with his people through his Holy Spirit. “For this is what the high and lofty One says – ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite’” (57:15, Isaiah). “Praise be to the LORD from Zion, to him who dwells in Jerusalem” (135:21, Psalm). “For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (1:9, Joshua).
Long ago it was prophesied that God would generously pour out his Spirit on all peoples (2:28, Joel). When Jesus was on earth but was soon to be returning to the Father in heaven, he told the believers, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (14:18-20, John). Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate or Helper, would be sent to us to guide and help us (14:16, 14:26, John; 24:49, Luke). God’s Spirit now resides INSIDE of his children. It is written: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, who you have received from God?” (6:19, 1 Corinthians; see also 3:16, 1 Corinthians).
When will Jesus return?
Just as he has declared, Jesus Christ will soon return for us. While the wait is perceived as long in our human minds, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (3:9, 2 Peter). This time Jesus will come to believers as the Savior who gives the promised eternal life. It is written: “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (9:28, Hebrews); “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (4:16-17, 1 Thessalonians).
Jesus said, “Keep watch, because you do not know the day or hour” (25:13, Matthew), and “About that day or hour no one knows” (24:26, Matthew). We see clearly from Jesus’ words that none of us will be foretold the time of his return for us; therefore, if anyone attempts to predict or prophecy about the day of his coming, we can quickly discern that this is a false prophecy. We are warned about false sightings and claims of Jesus Christ – “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (24: 6-27, Matthew).
While we don’t know the day or hour, we can see the time is getting close. Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (24:6-14, Matthew). Jesus also said, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (21:25-28, Luke).
We know from the Word and the Spirit that Jesus will soon come in victory over all things – he will come to reign here on earth. It is written: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever" (11:15, Revelation). “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (1:7-8, Revelation); “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (22:12-13, Revelation). “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life… He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (22:17,20, Revelation).
The God of the universe and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2:4, 1 Timothy). He promises in 29:13, Jeremiah: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” And in 7:7, Matthew: "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Therefore, according to his will and his promises, it is my prayer that many seekers who read the Scriptures and words presented here will come to know him who is true – the only Savior and the God of all people and nations! In Jesus’ name. Amen.