The question of life after death has occupied the thoughts of man for all of history. Just the fact that you are now reading this text bears witness to the fact that this most universal of all questions has occupied your thoughts as well.
Dear friend, allow us to share with you what God’s Word has to teach us about this subject. The Bible (both Old and New Testaments) gives us abundant evidence that man was created by God to live eternally. The sense of eternity is universal; a general belief in man’s mortal present but immortal future can be found in all cultures throughout the world. The question is, then, ‘What happens when I die?’
Most people today believe that if, generally speaking, they are a good person then they will go to Heaven. In other words, if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, or, as long as they sincerely try to live a good life, then God will accept them.
There is actually some truth to this. If a person dies and truly is a good and righteous person, then he is assured of an eternity in Heaven. There’s just one problem, though: the Bible makes it quite clear that there are no inherently good people. Romans 3:10 states, “There is none righteous, no not one.”
We know, we know. It sounds very brash and harsh to claim that there are no good people to be found anywhere. After all, one may wonder, ‘What about people like Mother Theresa, Gandhi, or Billy Graham? Weren’t they good people? Well, by human standards we would be the first to answer that question with a resounding Yes. Though we would disagree with some of them on some theological issues, we would say that all of them were, or are, humble people who consistently placed others above themselves. History will look kindly on all of these individuals as being selfless people with high moral standards and personal integrity.
The problem, though, lies in the fact that God does not judge us by man’s standards, He judges us by His. What exactly are those standards? They are, very simply, the 10 Commandments. If a man could live by all of the 10 Commandments perfectly throughout his life, then he would indeed be a good person by God’s standards and be assured of eternity in Heaven. I invite you to look with me at the 10 Commandments and as we progress, evaluate yourself to see if you measure up to God’s standards.
The Ten Commandments
1. You shall have no other gods before Me
This commandment is not only an injunction not to worship other deities before the true God, Yahweh. It also means that nothing in our lives should ever take priority over God and His will. Has there ever been a time in your life in which something or someone was, even for a moment, more important to you than God? Has God always been your top priority and greatest love?
2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
If you are reading this, you probably do not have a statue of Buddha or of some other pagan god sitting somewhere in your home that you worship. In the clear, right? Well, not so fast. If you believe things about God that are not supported by Scripture (for example, that God will accept you as long as you ‘try to be a good person’) then you are not worshiping the true God. You have made a god out of your own image. This is called idolatry and is a serious sin.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
God takes His good name very seriously. Have you ever misused God’s name in a vulgar or even flippant way? This is called blasphemy.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy
Though we should love and serve God every day, He has set aside one day a week for special worship of and service to Him. Has there ever been a Sabbath day in which you slept in or maybe went fishing or to a ballgame instead of going to church?
5. Honor your father and your mother
Have you ever disobeyed or dishonored your parents? Have you ever lied to them (and thereby broke two commandments at once)?
6. You shall not murder
Most of us have not actually killed another person. Off the hook, right? Well, the Bible teaches that “Whoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). Have you ever hated another individual?
7. You shall not commit adultery
Like many of the Ten Commandments, this one encapsulates more than one might expect just at face value. Jesus said, “whoever looketh upon a woman with lust has committed adultery with her in his heart.” Have you ever looked at a woman with lust? If you are a lady, have you ever done this toward a man?
8. You shall not steal
Have you ever stolen anything regardless of its value?
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
Who among us has not lied?
10. You shall not covet
This means that we should not desire any possession of another individual whether it be his home, vehicle, boat, wife, social status, prestige – anything.
So, how did you do? If you are anything like us, you probably did not do too well. If you are really honest with yourself, you will find that at one time or another you have broken most, if not all, of God’s commandments. Even if we break only one, it is the same as breaking them all (James 2:10). By God’s standards, then, we are all liars, thieves, idolaters, blasphemers, and adulterers. We have all at one time or another dishonored our parents, disregarded the Sabbath, coveted another’s possessions, and not put God first in our lives. So you see, by God’s standards, we are not as good as we might have imagined. The fact of the matter is, we are all sinners (Romans 3:23).
The Consequences of Sin
Almost all people to whom we have shared the Gospel will in fact admit they are sinners upon hearing and understanding the 10 Commandments, but many fail to recognize the gravity of their sin. Some believe that God will just overlook their sin. Others have this notion that God will grade on a curve and reward them because they are not as bad as a, say, Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot. Friend, if this is your idea of God, let us say that we love you enough to tell you that you are wrong – dead wrong. All sin, no matter how insignificant it may seem to us, is an affront to a holy God. The Bible teaches that “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). This death is a spiritual death and results in eternal separation from God. Please understand, dear one, that this eternal death is not just missing out on Heaven, it is eternal conscious suffering in a very real place the Bible calls Hell. Sin has eternal consequences because it is committed against an eternal God. Once a person enters Hell, there are no second chances, his fate is eternally and tragically sealed.
The Good News
The word “Gospel” means “good news.” The Good News of the Gospel is that God does not want you to go to Hell and loves you enough to have provided a Way of escape. His name is Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the living God. Jesus came to earth as fully God and fully man and was the only One to have ever lived a perfect, sinless life. Jesus then willingly laid down His life for us by dying on a Roman cross. He was crucified to pay the penalty of your sins and ours. He became the offering for our sins and therefore satisfied the demands of God’s justice.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us – Romans 5:8
Then, on the morning of the third day, something amazing happened. God raised Jesus from the dead. All four gospels bear witness to this miraculous event. Jesus was raised and showed Himself very much alive to the disciples and apostles and to more than five hundred at once (1 Corinthians 15:3-7). The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most well-attested event in all of ancient history and testifies to the deity of Jesus. The resurrection sets Jesus apart from all other “religious leaders” who came before Him or since.
By being raise from the dead, Jesus has gained victory over sin, death and Hell. He is alive today and stands ready to forgive anyone of his sins who will confess with his mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in his heart that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). Jesus and Jesus alone can forgive one of his sins and secure for him escape from Hell and an eternity in Heaven. That is the Good News.
According to the Word of God, dear friend, what you decide about Jesus will determine where you spend eternity. No one can earn his salvation by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). If we could somehow earn God’s favor, then the cross is empty and meaningless. We are forgiven of our sins when we first realize that we are sinners and in need of saving. Then, for the one who believes the Good News and is willing to repent of his sins and trust Jesus as Savior and Lord, salvation is freely given.
Are you ready to forsake your sins and surrender completely to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Please do not come to Jesus seeking happiness, peace, or some purpose-filled life. Come to Jesus seeking forgiveness of your sins. Come to Him because He alone can deliver you from the judgment that must come to anyone who dies without Him.
Friend, if you come to Christ, please do not expect that your life will all of the sudden be wonderful and without problems. Jesus did not promise anyone this. To the contrary, Jesus promised those who follow Him that they would face trials, persecutions, and be hated by some – maybe even by one’s own family. No, Jesus does not promise an easy life, financial prosperity, or physical healing (contrary to what some preachers would have you believe). He does promise you, though, the greatest gift of all: forgiveness of sins and eternal life. When the inevitable trials of life do come, He will grant His sufficient grace and strength made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He will grant His peace that surpasses all human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). This peace and strength comes from knowing that we are forgiven of our sins and that our eternity is secure.
If you have read all of this and are being convicted by the Holy Spirit of God that you need to surrender to Jesus Christ and trust Him as Savior and Lord, we would invite you to do that now. Go to Jesus and ask Him to forgive you and save you. He stands ready to receive you unto Himself and wash your scarlet sins white as snow.
If you have any questions about any of the things you read here or you’d like to talk, we would love to talk to you personally! It’s always a privilege when we can tell someone about what it means to have a genuine relationship with Jesus and answer questions they may have. Please feel free to send us an email or call the church office at 818.776.1500 and we will get back to you as soon as we can!