Almost every headline, television news report and radio bulletin these days proclaims one essential truth: The modern world is in chaos, and no one has a realistic solution. Wherever you look today, there are storm clouds of anger and outrage. There is violence, abuse and unhappiness swirling about us. There is crime and unrest in the inner city. The whole world is crying out for some word of hope, but all we hear is the babble of wishful thinkers and charlatans. Psychologists, educators, social scientists, physicians and media wizards of every stripe offer pronouncements and speculations, but even the best ideas generally collapse under closer scrutiny. So far, our modern secular society has produced no positive answers; yet we continue to reach out in hope.
Actually, there is still good reason to hope. There is still time. For with society’s failure comes the chance to repent and seek renewal. If we recognize the failures of living without God and turn from our foolishness and disobedience, we may yet be able to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Today’s headlines are God’s warning to a sinful world. The television news flashes are a shadow of His loving hand at work, pushing for the world’s redemption. The radio bulletins are a reminder that in spite of our compulsive determination to ruin the earth and destroy God’s program of salvation, He has not given up on us completely. Until that day when God’s final judgment affixes each of us into place for eternity, there is a chance to begin again. Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7, NIV). That is the last best hope for this world. Ultimately it is our only hope.
At the risk of eternal peril, we must not fail to recognize the warning of future judgment in the Book of Revelation. We can still heed the rolling thunder, flee the rising storm and humble ourselves before Almighty God while there is yet time. Jesus warned us of this reality, saying, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, NKJV). If we truly fear the ultimate Judge of all mankind, we must turn from our sin and be renewed through faith in Christ.
This is the reality: Death is universal and total in every generation. The generation in which we are now living will soon be dead, and another generation will follow. For many intellectual unbelievers, life is meaningless and hopeless. They do not know where they came from, why they are here or where they are going. They stumble on in the cosmic darkness. Those of us who have put our trust and faith in Christ know where we have come from, the purpose of our existence and the glorious future toward which we are headed. This makes life more than worth living. It gives us a hope for the future.
I cannot help but be reminded of the statement that Paul made as a great comfort to all those who believe in Jesus Christ. He said, “Christ Jesus … brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10, NIV). That is a wonderful comfort to those of us who believe. But it’s one of the most terrifying verses in the Bible for the unbeliever, because it means that if you have never repented of your sins and received Christ by faith, you are doomed.
Thank God that the power of the great enemy of mankind–death–has been broken. The last enemy to be destroyed or nullified is death (1 Corinthians 15:26). That is what Jesus Christ did on the Cross. God raised Him from the dead. Paul exclaimed: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55, NIV). By the death and resurrection of Christ we can read with joy and certainty, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18, NIV).
For the unbeliever, however, death is solemn and terrible. The unbeliever goes immediately to await the Great White Throne Judgment. One cannot read the Bible and miss the references to hell. They are unmistakable in the teachings of Christ Himself. For each time He spoke of heaven, He spoke several times of hell. To be in hell is to be out of the presence of God forever.
Jesus used these three words to describe hell. First, “fire.” “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29, NIV). Jesus used this symbol over and over. I believe that it means a thirst for God that is never quenched. The second word is “darkness.” The Scripture teaches that God is light (1 John 1:5). Hell will be the opposite for those who are outside of Christ, for they “will be thrown outside, into the darkness” (Matthew 8:12, NIV). Those who have rejected Christ will be separated from this light and subsist in eternal darkness. The third word is “death.” God is life. Therefore hell is separation from the life of God. God takes no delight in people going to hell. He never meant that anyone would ever go to hell. He created hell for the devil and his angels.
But if we persist in going the devil’s way, we are going to end up there. The Scripture says that God’s desire is that all should be saved. The death of Christ was a judgment. God laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). He bore our judgment. We cannot be saved by our good works. Only Christ can save us, because on the Cross He took our place and bore the punishment we deserve for our sins. All we have to do is put our trust in Him.
But we have a responsibility to accept His free gift of salvation. We are not automatically saved just because Christ died for us. You personally must make your decision for Christ, and if you refuse to do so, you are, in a sense, already making a decision–the decision to reject Him and turn your back on His salvation.
For the true believer in Christ, one who has repented of sin and has been born from above, the judgment is past. There will be no hell. There will be no eternal death. Christ died for our sins, and by His death He destroyed eternal death. In Christ, we no longer regard death as the king of terrors. Paul wrote, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23, NIV). Why? Was it because he had suffered so much? No. He was ready because half a lifetime earlier he had met Christ on the Damascus road. In 1 John 3:14 we read that we have already “passed from death to life.” You can have eternal life now. Physical death is a mere transition from life on earth with Christ to eternal life in heaven with Christ.
An unbeliever only sees a hopeless end to life. But the Christian sees an endless hope. I do not look forward to the prospect of dying, but I do look forward to death itself. It will be a glorious release. It will be the fulfillment of everything I have ever longed for. The Scripture says, “In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11, KJV).
You can have peace in your heart and assurance of salvation if you will humbly acknowledge yourself as a sinner in God’s sight, ask for His forgiveness by the blood of Christ shed on the Cross, and trust in Jesus, God’s Son, as your Savior and Lord. Christ died to do all this.
You do not have to do some wonderful thing to be saved. All you have to do is to accept the wonderful thing Christ has done for you. I invite you to bow your head right now and ask Christ to forgive you and come into your heart. God has promised, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God” (John 1:12, NIV). This can be your experience today as you turn in faith to Christ and give your life to Him. Don’t let another day go by without committing your life to Christ.