The place with the sign Too Late over the door

We are continuing to meditate on the topic of eternity, and for the next few days specifically thinking about what the Holy Scriptures say about that awful place called Hell. Some would say that there is no place called Hell and we are not brought to account before the Judge of the living and the dead. Let me ask you a question: If you were standing in line to board an aircraft, and coming off the plane you see an old friend who was the pilot. What if he were to tell you that there was only a one in six chance that the plane would get you to your destination, would you take the chance? Do you believe that there is a one in six chance that God is telling you the truth of a place called hell? Will you take the chance or respond today to the gospel? To believe in heaven but not in hell is to declare that there were times when Jesus was telling the truth and times when He was lying. Thomas Brooks wrote, “God has but one hell, and that is for those to whom sin has been commonly a heaven in this world.” Although it is hard for me to write about such things as hell, the love of Christ compels me to reach you before you are called to eternity at the end of your life. I do not want you, dear reader, to ever see that place where some say written over the gate are the words, TOO LATE.

While we wait for the return of Christ, our mission as Christians is to rescue people from Satan’s control in order that they should not be separated from God for eternity and sent to a place called Hell. Every man, woman and child are deeply loved by God who does not want any to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). But what if they don’t? What if they die without coming to know Christ? What if they are unresponsive to God’s message of love and good news? At the Second Coming of Christ, He will separate the sheep (believers) from the goats (non-believers), and Jesus said twice that the punishment will be for eternity:

 41Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life  (Matthew 25:41-46. Emphasis mine).

The Lord talked often about Hell, and He devoted several of His parables to the subject of heaven, hell, eternal judgment, and eternal rewards. If it were important for Him to tell His disciples about such things, then we need to give serious attention to the subject of eternity and what the Bible teaches about heaven and hell. We must also remember that Satan is a deceiver, the father of lies, and is called an angel of light. Some of the near-death stories we shared yesterday may glorify God, and they could be true. However, our faith rests in God and in His Word. Satan seeks to counterfeit true accounts that give glory to God in order to dupe some into believing that all roads lead to God. We can only trust the Scriptures.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

Have You Prepared to Meet God?

My wife, Sandy, and I took her parents to Scotland on vacation while we were living in England. When it started to get dark one evening, we had to look for a hotel along the road. We passed some black-painted wrought iron gate with a sign over it saying, Black Barony Hotel. We couldn’t see the buildings from the gate, so we decided to check it out. Because of the time of day, and the wrought iron gates, we started to joke among the four of us, saying that we were going to the tower of terror and that it would probably be a haunted castle. The road kept winding around through trees, giving us more time to imagine what this place was going to be like! We wondered if they might have a butler who looked like “Igor” from the movie Young Frankenstein. I pictured Marty Feldman’s face greeting us at the door.

As we came through the trees, sure enough it was a castle—a very large castle without a single car in the parking lot! As we got out of the car, a man with a severe hunchback approached us from the door. He actually did have one wandering eye as well, though he looked nothing like Marty Feldman. To cap it off, over the door were these words in large letters; Prepare to Meet Your God, Amos 4:12, words found in Scripture. It gets better! The man who met us at the door told us that we were the only people that were staying in the hotel that night; 75 other rooms were empty. Evidently, they had a tour party that had cancelled at the last minute! Sandy and I slept that night in a four-poster bed in which King James had once slept. (Yes, THAT King James, as in the King James Bible.) This was a claim to fame for the hotel. It was a terrible bed, by the way, with a big dip in the middle. I am sure it could not have been the same mattress, but it felt like it could have been around since the 1600s! We found out later that the Bible verse above the door was for soldiers that had used the hotel to stay while they were training for war to prepare them to face eternity if they were lost in battle.

It is a good thing to prepare now to meet your God on that day. That sign stuck in my mind: “Prepare to Meet Thy God.” Over the next three or four days, we will look at preparing for death and judgment and how it will affect each one of us. We may not want to think of that time, but Scripture tells us that we will all need to give an account at the end of our lives when God determines that our time has come.

Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:12).

Death is a subject that most people try to avoid. J. Kirby Anderson got it right when he said, “Death is the most universal and most democratic of all human functions. It strikes people at any time with little respect for age, class, creed, or color.”[1] Death has a 100% success rate, and yet the majority of people still refuse to discuss or think about the topic. Woody Allen’s often-quoted remark is, “I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

As much as we try to avoid it, death does not go away. All of us must face it without exception. It does not matter how much money you have, or what kind of insurance you carry. It is simply a matter of time. None of us knows how much time is ahead for us. The remarkable thing about it is that, even though we know we cannot escape it, many of us will do anything to avoid thinking about it, and many people will do little to prepare for it. An article in the Boston Globe some while ago listed the well-known people that had died in that particular year, saying that they had gone to join “the great majority.” Death, we might say, is the great certainty, and those who have died are the great majority.

An epitaph on a tombstone reads, “Stop, as you pass by, as you are now so once was I, as I am now you will surely be, so prepare yourself to follow me!” One person scrawled underneath, “To follow you, I’m not content until I know the way you went!” The passerby was right. It’s important to know where one is going at death, but when we are pointed in the right direction, we should prepare ourselves for what lies beyond. We’ll carry on this thought tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study Preparing for Death. Keith Thomas

[1] J. Kirby Anderson, Life, Death and Beyond (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980), p.9.

Why Did Christ Die Brutally?

Why was it so necessary for Christ to die such a brutal and violent death? Surely God could have planned an easier death for His Son? The answer, I believe, is this: only a violent death could have exposed sin in the way it so sorely needed revealing. One preacher said, “Could Jesus have exposed sin in all of its foul horror if He had died in His bed, or by accident, or by disease?” It is one of the tragedies of human life that we fail to recognize the sinfulness of sin. God’s plan was for Christ to die as a substitute for all those who would put their faith in Christ’s death as their own death, thereby showing the sinfulness of sin and the just punishment placed upon it. Out of God’s love for man, He came in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, to take man’s place and bestow mercy and grace upon us. Another example of this kind of substitutionary legality is found in history:

During a war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French Army by a kind of lottery system. When someone’s name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. On one occasion, the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, “I was shot and killed two years ago.” At first the officials question his sanity, but he insisted that was indeed the case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been killed in action. “How can that be?” they questioned. “You are alive now!” He explained that when his name first came up, a close friend said to him, “you have a large family, but I am not married and nobody is dependent on me. I’ll take your name and address and go in your place.” And that is indeed what the record showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another.[1]

In the viewpoint of God, when Christ died, He died as a substitute to release you from the legal claims that Satan had against you because of your sin. Christ died for you and as you. God sees Christ as taking your place just as the one man went to war in another’s place.  When Christ died, God sees you as having died too:

20Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules (Colossians 2:20).

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-3).

The Lord Jesus, through His death, burial and resurrection came to give us His life. We received physical life from our forefather, Adam, but Christ came to give us the life of God, and this life is imparted to us when we wholeheartedly put our faith and trust in Him. When we believe, our sins are washed away and the Spirit of God baptizes us into the spiritual organism of the Body of Christ. The life of God flows into each of us that are connected to Him by faith. God loves you and wants to invite you to abandon your sin and walk the rest of your life in freedom from the bondage of sin. Will you give Him your life? Pray a simple prayer from your heart asking Him to forgive your sin and come into your life. Receive the gift of God—salvation in Christ.

Keith Thomas

[1] 1500 illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Edited by Michael P. Green, Printed by Baker Book House, Page 360.

My Father’s House Has Many Rooms

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

It was the night of the Last Supper, before Jesus was to be crucified. Jesus had just told his followers that He was going to be leaving them through the door of death. As Christ looked around the table at His disciples, His heart went out to them. When our hearts are troubled, stressed, fearful and uncertain, when it seems as if our world is caving in—we are to remember what Jesus said here in this passage: “my Father’s house has many rooms” (John 14:2). No matter what is going on in your mind and heart, no matter how broken you are, no matter what you are going through, there is a place in the Father’s house for you. He’s saying it to Peter and the disciples, but He is also saying it to us.  Deep down within the very soul of each person born into this world is a yearning for a better place:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

It is said that Professor T. H. Huxley, the famous agnostic (who, by the way, invented the term “agnostic” and applied it to himself), reversed his views prior to his death and came to believe in God and a future life. As he lay dying (so his nurse reported), he raised himself on his elbows and gazed into the distance as if surveying some invisible scene, then dropped back on his pillow and murmured: “So it was true! So it was true!”[1]

Yes, it is true. In the Father’s house there are many rooms. Perhaps you have read the King James Version, which translates the Greek word monai as mansions, but the term really means dwelling places or rooms. The picture is that we will live with God in His house—that His house has many rooms for us to abide with Him. For those of you that have lived with the insecurity of moving from place to place, and in dismal circumstances, take hope! We are talking about having an eternal house in the heavens where we will be at home with God forever! When Jesus said; “I am going to prepare a place for you, we should not think in terms of Jesus the carpenter building each of us a physical home. The Greek word that is translated ‘prepare’ is hetoimazō, the word that is used of an oriental custom of sending a person before kings on their journeys to level the roads and make them passable. The word was also used to describe the disciples going to prepare the Upper Room for the Passover feast (Luke 22:9, 12). The sad departure of Christ was for the way to be prepared for the disciples and us to follow Him to the Father’s house. He went ahead of us to make the way to God “passable” for us.

So that we get a picture of what heaven will be like, the scriptures tell us of a time when a heavenly city will come down from heaven to earth—a city that is prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Notice who we will be living with:

 1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “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. 4He 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” (Revelation 21:1-4).

 How wonderful it will be to live with God—the pain of this world will be dried from our eyes by the gentle touch of the Lord Himself. I think He has purposely not told us much about heaven, because many of us would want out of this world before our time. In another place Paul the apostle tells us:

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

In our wildest dreams and imaginations of heaven we cannot imagine how good it will be for those of us who walk with Christ on this earth. If your heart is troubled by the way this world is, and what you are going through, let your mind and heart be fortified with the fact that you will one day be with God Himself in His holy house. How that must have encouraged Peter, especially after he had denied Christ, that there was room for even him after he had denied his Lord. Will you be in that place with Christ? You can be! Ask Christ to come into your life and forgive your sin—receive the free gift of life—I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

If you would like to read more on this topic, this meditation was taken from the study, found on this page under the Book of John studies, John 14:1-14—Jesus the Way

Keith Thomas

[1]  Every Day With Jesus, May-June 1996 edition, Crusade for World Revival.

The Raising of Lazarus

38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39“Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:38-44).

Jesus commanded the disciples and those gathered there to roll back the stone from the entrance. Martha, still unbelieving, complained that the smell of death would be very strong since Lazarus had been dead for four days. I wonder if there was an odor coming from the tomb? There couldn’t have been an airtight seal on the door; it was only a rock-hewn door. We must ask ourselves at what point did the miracle take place? As they moved back the stone, it is highly likely that there was still the stench of death coming from the tomb. After Lazarus had come back to life, we are told that many of the Jews who were there to witness this miracle, put their faith in Him. The Lord looked up to heaven and prayed to His Father, before calling out to Lazarus with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (verse 43). If He did not refer to Lazarus by name, those Jews may have witnessed all those who were dead in the vicinity coming out of the graves, back from the dead!

Can you imagine looking at the crowd around the tomb at that moment? As we look at the faces of those who heard the commanding words of Jesus, what do you think they were thinking? It’s easy for us because we know the details. We already know the end of this story. But for them, when they heard the command of Jesus, I’m sure there were plenty who smelled death and scoffed at the thought of Lazarus coming out of that tomb. One thing is sure, when Lazarus stood at the door there were gasps of astonishment, and screams of delight. Death had been conquered! We have a Savior that conquers death and the grave!

It would have been difficult for Lazarus to stand, let alone walk due to the bandage-like wrappings that were around him. The Israelites at the time were not practitioners of Egyptian embalming techniques; the bodies were allowed to decompose. What they did do, however, was to wrap the body in aromatic spices. Merrill Tenney, in his book, The Reality of the Resurrection, tells us about the customary procedure for the burial:

The body was usually washed and straightened, and then bandaged tightly from the armpits to the ankles in strips of linen about a foot wide. Aromatic spices, often of a gummy consistency, were placed between the wrappings or folds. They served partially as a cement to glue the cloth wrappings into a solid covering. When the body was thus encased, a square piece of cloth was wrapped around the head and tied under the chin to keep the lower jaw from sagging.[1]

Afterwards, I wish John had told us more about the celebration back at Martha’s. Instead of reminiscing about the life of Lazarus, they are avidly listening to his experience of dying and being with the Lord in heaven. I wish that I could have been a “fly on the wall” at that party! I would have loved to hear their conversation, see the relief and delight of the sisters as they wept and embraced their brother, recounting the whole episode from the time they thought they had lost him for good, to the time when he came forth at Jesus’ command. I’m sure there was quite a praise party to the Lord. It will be the same for us at the resurrection of the saints, we will look upon the face of Jesus, when we too are raised from the dead. What a day that will be! I hope you are living for that day! Keith Thomas

[1] Merril C. Tenney, The Reality of the Resurrection (New York, NY: Harper and Row Publishers, 1963, Page 117.