When shadows fall
I received news yesterday of the death of a dear friend. This week’s column is not a tribute to her, but we will investigate that subject no one wants to discuss – death. There is the old joke about “death and taxes” while it seems that somewhere on this planet that somehow, someone has escaped paying taxes, we all know the reality of death – it will happen to all of us.
No one knows the amount of time we have on this earth. Both my sister and the best man at my wedding died in their twenties, and I have a Great Aunt who is over the century mark.
Death is a war we all must face. Ecclesiastes 8:8, “There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.”
Death is an appointment we all will make. Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
When I was younger, death scared the life out of me. I did not know about an afterlife. I thought death would be the end of it all; I would no longer think, feel, be. The thought of that petrified me.
If there is a religion out there that does not believe in the afterlife, I do not know about it. Even some atheists believe the soul of a person continues to exist in some form or another.
Some religions believe in reincarnation – our soul returning to earth in one life form or another. Others believe we remain here; this is the explanation of “ghost” Some believe in Heaven and hell; some have faith in the existence of Heaven but do not believe in a place of eternal punishment.
What does the Bible say?
Without getting into a whole lot of detail, the word "heaven" appears in 551 Bible verses, and the word “hell” occurs in fifty-four Bible verses. Other names and phrases in Scripture also describe the two places. With so many mentions of the two locations, the Bible is clear; we will go to one or the other after death.
The question then is not if there is an afterlife. The question is – Where will you spend it?
God does not grade us by comparison. When you stand before God, He will not say, “Well, you made your mistakes, but you were not as bad as a lot of other people; come on into heaven.”
He does not have particular sins that automatically send us to hell. God will not say, “Well, your record looks pretty good. You are not a murderer, rapist, or child molester; come on through the pearly gates.”
Faith in what Jesus did on the cross for your salvation is the condition to enter Heaven and avoid hell. We are on our way to hell until faith takes hold. John 3:18, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
We cannot work our way into Heaven through good works. God’s grace is applied when we have faith. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Romans 3:28 is also very clear on the subject, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
We are all sinners. Christ was the Father’s sacrifice for our sins. That is why Jesus is called “The Lamb of God.”
Again, it is not the good things we have done or the bad things we have not done. We are all sinners because we are all guilty of something. Sin requires a blood sacrifice (Hebrews 9:22), and the only sacrifice God will accept is the blood of His Son (Acts 4:12).
Many will scoff at this column, but the Bible does state that the purpose of the Scripture is so that we may have faith and know that we have a home in Heaven. 1 John 5:13, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
I believe my friend is in Heaven today. On the day after your death, your loved ones will relive the memories and times shared with you. Where will you be?
Preacher Johnson is Pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in northern Parke County, Indiana. Webpage: www.preacherspoint.wordprss.com; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; address: 410 S. Jefferson St. Rockville IN 47872; all Bible references KJV.