Introduction – Setting The Stage
Romans 3:23 – [A]ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (NIV 1984).
Romans 6:23 – [T]he wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (NIV 1984).
Wages – A payment in return (www.the free dictionary.com).
Gift – Something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation (www.merriam-webster.com).
Hebrews 9:27 – [M]an is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away [save from] the sins of many people (NIV 1984).
Save – To deliver from sin.
Savior – A person [Jesus Christ] who helps people achieve salvation, or saves them from something [Hell] (https://en.wikipedia.org).
Jesus Christ – The only name that has the power to save (www.urbandictionary.com).
Acts 4:12 – It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead …Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (NIV 1984).
Hell – Hell is the final destiny of unbelievers and is variously described as a furnace of fire, eternal fire, eternal punishment (Matthew 13:42, 50; 25:41, 46); outer darkness, the place of weeping and torment (Matthew 8:12); eternal sin (Mark 3:29); the wrath of God (Romans 2:5); everlasting separation from the Lord, never to see the glory of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:9); the bottomless pit (Revelation 9:1, 11); continuous torment (Revelation 14:10, 11); the lake of fire, the second death (Revelation 21:8); a place for the devil and his demons (Matthew 25:41).
Connecting The Dots
“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” (Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789).
I do not know about our country (see “Whatever Happened To In God We Trust), and taxes have been with us for a very long time with no signs of ever going away. But even the “ungodly” will agree on the certainty that death comes to all (Hebrews 9:27, above). There does not appear to be any difference of opinion about that (with the possible exception of the Rapture – a topic for another time). There is, of course, differences of opinion as to whether a person can experience a second death (Revelation 21:8).
As is the case with most, if not all, differences of opinions, there can only be one truth. And if the Christian Bible is the truth, then betting that there is no second death is a very huge wager. If the Christian Bible is not true, betting that there is no second death is a fairly small wager.
Let us presuppose that the Christian Bible is correct (which just happens to be my “opinion”). Because all of us have sinned against God (Romans 3:23), we have all earned (wages) the sentence of death (Romans 6:23). Our physical bodies will cease to function. But, if we all die, what is this gift (unearned favor) of eternal life all about? Is that not a contradiction (all will die, some will have eternal life)? Well, if the cessation of our physical being was the end of all (that big wager that many prefer to believe) it would be a contradiction and the gift would make no sense at all. But we were made in God’s image (see Genesis 1:26 – remember, we are presupposing that the Bible is true). That means we have a spiritual dimension that transcends our physical dimension. We have a soul that continues to exist even though our physical dimension dies.
After the first death (the physical death) that is everyone’s destiny, man faces judgment (Hebrews 9:27, from above). This is a judgment of the soul. The primary issue of this judgment is whether or not the individual will experience the second death (the Spiritual dimension). Of course, if the second death simply means that the soul also ceases to exist (annihilation – as some believe), that too is a small wager. Sure, you would miss out on eternal life of the soul (in heaven, with God – also a topic for another time), but at least there is no other punishment.
Of course, the Bible says that the second death is not cessation of the existence of the soul. The second death is eternal separation from God and eternal torment in the Lake of Fire (Hell). Now, one might argue that such an eternal consequence for a lifetime of sin (or any sin for matter) is mighty ungodly of the Almighty. But remember, man sinned against God. The Bible also teaches that man cannot atone (make amends) for that sin no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem to us. But even if inconsequential to us, it is very consequential to the one who gave us life, and that is what really matters.
This puts man in a pickle. All (no exceptions) have sinned and are facing not only the death of the body but the second death for an eternity in Hell. And there is nothing we can do about, absent God’s forgiveness. Something, if He was like us, that He did not have to extend to anyone at all. But His love for His creation was so great that He was compelled to save us from this horrible consequence. Jesus died on the cross (and rose from the dead – physical and spiritual) to pay for something we earned (second death) and offer to us the gift of something we could never earn (eternal life). That is why He is called Savior. That is why He can be the only Savior (see “What Ever Became Of The Way, The Truth And The Life?”). But like any gift, we have to accept it.
What Are You Going To Believe
By the Numbers – Roughly seven-in-ten (72%) Americans say they believe in heaven — defined as a place “where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded.” But at the same time, 58% of U.S. adults also believe in hell — a place “where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished.” (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/10/most-americans-believe-in-heaven-and-hell/)
Of course, it is not surprising that more people would believe in Heaven than would believe in Hell. But whether or not we believe (our opinion) that either of them are real or not will not change the reality (the Truth) that either of them are real or not. Is that something you would want to bet (the “big wager”) your eternal life on?
The Second Big Wager – If, as we have presupposed, there is a Heaven and there is a Hell, what does it mean to have “led good lives” or to have “led bad lives?” How good is good enough? At what point does the scale tip away from Hell to Heaven? And whose scale is being used anyway? Whose standard would we have to measure up to? Are there not multiple paths to God?
Buddha called himself a teacher. Mohammed called himself a teacher and a prophet. Jesus called himself a teacher, a prophet and a savior. In other words, he came to rescue us from something that we could not rescue ourselves from. Only Jesus diagnosed the human race as “enslaved to the guilt and power of sin, in desperate need of a Savior.” The other religions in effect say: “Pull your life together.” Only Christ says: “Grab the life-rope of the cross.” Other religions say, “Do this. Do that.” Christ says, “Done.” (http://commonground.co.za/?resources=is-jesus-the-only-way-to-god)
Once again it boils down to what you believe versus what is truth. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV 1984).
Bottom Line – Either there is a Hell of eternal punishment or there is not. Either Jesus is the only way to avoid Hell or He is not? Only you can decide for yourself. Today (“as long as it is called today”) is the day of salvation. Now is the time to place your “bet,” before the window closes. Do you really want to bet your eternal life?