According to the Bible, man is a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Death is no respecter of persons and at the moment of death there is the separation of the body and the soul- ‘…the body without the spirit is dead…’ (James 2:26) So at death the body is dead but the soul lives on. At that point the eternal destiny of the soul is determined. ‘And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.’ (Hebrews 9:27) “There is a particular judgement which is immediately after death; by virtue of which, the souls of men are condemned to their proper state of happiness or woe.” (John Gill)
The thief who put his trust in Christ went to paradise (Luke 23:43) and those disobedient to the gospel go to ‘prison’ (1 Peter 3:19). In Luke 16 the Lord Jesus relates the account of two men who died. ‘And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments…’ (Luke 16:22-23)
So the message of the Bible is clear- those who trust in Christ as their Saviour go to be with Him in heaven which is ‘far better’. Those who die in their sin, without forgiveness, receive what we all deserve- the due punishment for sin, the torment of hell.
There are numerous reasons for and benefits from the death of Christ. We are told explicitly that He came to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10v45). Sin brings man into bondage and a price must be paid for freedom. His death is called a propitiation (Rom 3v25). That means that His death appeased or removed the wrath of God. The Lord taught that: ‘…he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.’ (John 3:36) We are told that He died that we might be forgiven. (Eph.1v7) We are told He died under the curse of the law. We are guilty of breaking God law, summarised in the Ten Commandments, and as such are guilty under the law. But ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.’ (Galatians 3:13) We are told that He died to reconcile us to the Father. Sin separates us from fellowship with God but we ‘…who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.’ (Ephesians 2:13)
Putting it simply we are told that His name is Jesus for He will save His people from their sin (Matt1v21). Thus Christ died to save us from every effect of sin: guilt, wrath, bondage, separation from God.
Without hesitation, Yes! The Psalm assures us “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven” (Psalm 32:1). The question is not “Can I be forgiven?”, but rather “How can I be forgiven?”, and the answer is clear.
Guilt is that feeling that we have broken something and/or offended someone, and we are debtors because of this. Forgiveness is the sense that the debt is no longer held against us.
The guilt and estrangement we all feel in the depths of our being comes from the fact that our sins have broken God’s Law, and are offensive to Him. Our iniquities have separated between us and our God. (Isaiah 59:2) We feel the debt of this in terms of the fear of a Final Judgement Day (Hebrews 9:27), and the Eternal Punishment in Hell which will certainly follow. (Psalm 9:27)
Acknowledging this, many seek to outweigh their “bad deeds” with “good works” – but they never find real forgiveness. Such is impossible because Bible is clear that salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:9)
How then can we be forgiven? “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Only the Saviour’s blood, spilled at the Cross, can purge our lives of every sin (past, present and future), remove our guilt, offensiveness and estrangement to God, and give us lasting peace and forgiveness. Only “through faith in His blood” (Romans 3:25) alone, and repentance from our sin, is that purging made efficient in us.
Look around and you will notice a strange contradiction: this world is beautiful but broken! Stunning as the creation is, it is also vicious and unforgiving: our “whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain…”. (Romans 8:22)
Look within yourself and the same contradiction exists. Humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:14), and yet “born unto trouble…”. (Job 5:7) We are dying, guilt-ridden and often openly evil individuals, who cannot even live up to the standards we set for ourselves.
The Bible asserts that “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23) – not just the final act, but every cause and trouble that precedes it. Though trivialized by many, Adam’s sin condemned the whole creation into bondage, and himself and us to pain in this life, and eternal punishment in the next. Only the Biblical explanation of a perfect creation AND a corrupting sin can adequately explain the beauty AND brokenness we see all around and the feelings of guilt and failure we experience within.
The Good News is that “once in the end of the world hath he (Jesus Christ) appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26) At Calvary, Jesus Christ paid the price in His own blood to deliver all who trust in Him from the eternal penalty, guilt, habits and finally the presence of sin, and also to restore the Creation. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord…” (Romans 6:23) – a gift that must be accepted personally by faith and repentance.
The Apostle John wrote his first epistle to help the readers to ‘… know that [they] have eternal life…’ (1 John 5:13) Thus it is clear that a sinner can have eternal life and also know they have eternal life. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, not simply to make it possible. Thus all who call unto Him for mercy and forgiveness are actually saved. ‘For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Romans 10:13) Our hope of heaven is sure because of the perfect work of Christ in living and dying for us. What’s more the child of God experiences the work of the Holy Spirit, enabling them to obey the Lord’s commands. Thus ‘…hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.’ (1 John 2:3)They also enjoy the witness of the Spirit: ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God’ (Romans 8:16) Therefore it is possible to know that Christ is your Saviour, that God is your God and that heaven is your home.
Today it seems that one of the most taboo religious subjects is that of sin! The whole concept of sin has been trivialised, mocked, dismissed as old fashioned, and often rejected. Because of this, there is a real lack of understanding as to what sin is! How do you describe sin? What does it mean to you? Do you see sin as a simple case of “stuffing up?” Or do you view sin only as those terrible and evil deeds that are carried in news bulletins – those awful events or actions that make your skin crawl. Do you believe that sin, no matter what kind, is something that you just do not do?
With people having such a wide variety of beliefs about what sin is, it’s no wonder that many people decide not to think about it, and just get on with, “doing the best they can.” Of course this does not actually do away with the issue of sin. So what is it? And why should you be concerned about it?
The dictionary describes sin as anything from, “a lapse misdeed misbehaviour going astray” all the way up to “evil” and “wickedness.” This goes some way towards enlightening us about the scope of sin. Perhaps the simplest and most straightforward explanation for sin is found in the Bible.
In the New Testament book of First John, chapter 3 and verse 4 we there learn that, “sin is the transgression of the law.” The word “sin” as translated here means “to miss” or “to fail to hit the mark,” thus “to err from a rule or law.” Sin has also been described as, “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of the law of God.” So we see now that sin has something to do with a mark that must be hit, a rule that must be kept, and the transgression of the law.
What is the rule that must be kept? What is the mark that must be hit? What is the law that must not be transgressed? Well, God has given a law or standard that must be kept perfectly always hitting the mark never missing, never transgressing in everything you do, in everything you say, and in everything you think. The New Testament book of Galatians (chapter 3 verse 24) tells us, “…the law was our school master to bring us to Christ.” Here we see that we have been given a teacher, (the Law) and that teacher brings us to the Lord Jesus Christ.
You may ask how can the Law be a teacher that brings us to Christ? Well you see the purpose of the Law is to make us ask questions such as:
- “Have I any other gods before the true and Living God?”
- “Are there any objects of my own making that I worship? Have I created a god that suits me? A god who is without wrath and does not punish sin?”
- “Have I cursed using God’s name?”
- “How do I keep His day of rest?”
It also makes us wonder:
- “Do I honour my father and mother?”
- “Have I ever killed?”
- “Committed adultery?”
- “Have I stolen?”
- “Borne false witness?”
- “Have I jealously coveted what someone else has?”
Remember God is holy – that is perfect – completely without sin. And He cannot stand sin. We learn from the book of Isaiah chapter 59 verse 2, “… your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you … .” We also know from the Word of God that, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, and that, “all our righteousness [good works] are as filthy rags in His sight.”
Have you ever thought about sin like this before? That we break the law by doing what we should not do, and not doing what we should do. The Law is a teacher, and has asked you questions. And if you answer these questions honestly, they will show you how you actually stand before God – as someone who has missed the mark! However this teacher does not only show what we have done, it also brings us to the One who did not sin the One who paid the penalty we deserved the One who died for sin on the cross at Calvary. We are brought to none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
Remember what we are told of Christ in Matthew’s gospel (chapter 20 verse 28) that He [Jesus] came, “to give His life a ransom for many.” And at the commencement of Matthew’s gospel, chapter 1 verse 21, we learn there, “For He shall save His people from their sins.” Sin has separated us from God. But through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, a way has been made for us to be saved from our sin and its consequences. Our responsibility is to accept His offer of mercy by faith, repenting of our sin.
You can know Him as your Saviour and have the sin issue dealt with.
Perhaps you are one of the many people who are curious about who Jesus is. Is he the son of God? Is he eternal? Is He alive today? Jesus is described in various ways in the Bible and He is called by many wonderful names:
- He is the “Advocate” – the one who pleads our case (1 John 2:1)
- He is the “the Lamb of God” who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
- He is the “resurrection and the life” (John 11:25)
- “The rose of Sharon” (Song of Solomon 2:1)
- “The Alpha and Omega” (Revelation 22:13)
- “The lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5)
- “The Author and the Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2)
- He is the “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3)
- The “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15)
- He is “altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:16)
- And He is “the Word” (John 1:1).
The last of these titles is found at the beginning of John’s gospel, and it is this title that we will take a closer look at.
John begins with these words:
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
- The same was in the beginning with God.
- All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made.
- In him was life and the life was the light of men”
John’s Gospel commences at break neck speed, as we are instantly given essential information. We learn that Jesus is “the Word,” or in the original Greek, the “Logos.” This brings us to the main theme of the book – The Word becoming flesh.
This introduction is very significant, because it takes us back into eternity, before time began, and it is here that we are introduced to the Lord Jesus Christ – the Word, or Logos, that existed before the creation of the heavens and the earth, indeed from all eternity. The Word was and is part of the Trinity, as it is so succinctly put: “these three [that is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost] are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory although distinguished by their personal properties.”
As John wrote under the inspiration of God, he wanted the reader to grasp that ‘the Word’ that is Jesus, is eternal – and eternally God the Son! This may seem like a hard starting point, but John realises the importance of understanding exactly who Jesus is! He tells us that, “the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John draws a very large and important line in the sand, declaring that Jesus is God!
Many people do not care about this as a fact. Others treat it with hostility and great antagonism, and would dearly love to rub this line out!
Perhaps you’ve never enquired about who Jesus is until now. You fear that friends or loved ones will laugh at you, if they knew you were contemplating such a subject. Or you don’t ask these questions because your mind is already made up. Or you don’t ask because you know deep within your conscience, that Jesus is exactly who John tell us He is – The Word who became flesh.
From the other gospels we learn about how Jesus was conceived Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem their unsuccessful quest to find a room at the inn and how Jesus was born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. We also hear of the shepherds who left their flocks, and the wise men who travelled from afar to worship Him. We have before us an idyllic scene containing cute animals standing around in a spotless stable. It is a sentimental view suited for Christmas cards. But it does not make us stop and consider what actually took place.
John tells us that, “… the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us …” (verse 14).
“[The Lord Jesus] Christ the Son of God became man…taking to Himself a true body, and a reasonable soul [that is one that has power to think or reason], being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin” [WCF L.C. Answer 37].
“… The eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever” [WCF Shorter Catechism: Answer 21].
Jesus came to this earth with an express purpose, to die on the cross of Calvary. There He gave His life a ransom or payment for sin.
Another name of Jesus is found in Acts 10:42. There we are told that He is, “the Judge of quick and dead.”
How will you stand before God – with your sin dealt with? Or still unrepentant of your sin?
A word you hear over and over again in church circles is the word, “gospel.” We hear about gospel tracts or pamphlets, gospel services, gospel missions, gospel ministers etc!
When we turn to the Bible we are told to, “repent … and believe the gospel” and the Apostle Paul was “separated unto the gospel” and he was not “ashamed of the gospel of Christ.”
There are also some very descriptive terms used in the Bible to illustrate the nature of the gospel. There is:
- “the gospel of peace”
- “the glorious gospel”
- “the everlasting gospel”
- “the gospel of … salvation”
The word gospel therefore is very much part of the Christian vocabulary. And it is also a word you may have heard – perhaps through a preacher or friend talking to you.
So what does it mean? And why is it so important?
In the New Testament the Greek word means “good news” or “glad tidings.” So we know instantly that this is an extremely positive word! The Apostle Paul, writing to a group of believers in Corinth said, “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you … .” It is interesting to note that the word “preached” here means to have “declared good news.” By this double usage, Paul is at pains to emphasise the importance of the good news that the people are to hear. You see, the gospel is a matter of fact, not a matter of opinion.
The events that make up the gospel really happened, but of course they are also accompanied with vitally important spiritual application.
If we continue on with what was said to these believers in Corinth, we can see what the gospel consisted of: in Paul’s first letter to these believers in Corinth, chapter 15 verse 3 we learn, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures … He was buried, and … He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
So Jesus died and He rose again. These are not matters of interpretation, rather they are matters of fact – accompanied with tremendous implications.
Paul goes on to tell us that after Jesus’ resurrection He, “was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James then of all the apostles.” Paul is at pains to reinforce to the church that what they believe is true and not some fabrication. This was important because those who believed in Jesus were being told that what they did believe was false!
If we take Paul’s phrase “… Christ died for our sins …,” we can begin to understand the purpose behind it. This means that Jesus did not die as some kind of martyr, but He died on account of our sins.
He died in our place
He died that we may live
He willingly took the punishment that was due to us because of our sin!
Remember that, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” But Jesus who is “holy, harmless, undefiled” was the only One who could satisfy God’s divine justice and His offering was acceptable in God’s sight as payment for sin because He only was perfectly sinless. His sacrifice was complete and did not need to be repeated.
He rose again from the dead, and even now is seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father, “making intercession” [or praying] for those who have asked Him to forgive their sins. His rising again shows that God the Father was satisfied that the penalty of sin had been paid. This teaching was foundational not only for those believers in this specific place at that specific time – but for all people in every place and age!
Can you now appreciate why the word “gospel” is so important? Do you know the gospel – not only in an intellectual way?
But have you accepted the meaning of this message? You must confess your sins to God and ask Him to forgive you. The glad tidings and the good news of the gospel tell us, “him that cometh to Me [that is the Lord Jesus Christ], I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
Have you ever heard the expression: “saved” or “being saved” or even “getting saved?” If so, have you ever considered what the word “saved” means? Where does the word come from? What was its origin? Or, what do we need to be saved from?
The word “saved” means in the original Greek: “to save, to keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction.” This is very much a Bible word. Thus we can learn a lot about its meaning by turning to the Word of God.
Jesus used the term when speaking to people one to one, and when He was teaching crowds of people, who had come to hear Him.
A great example of the use of this term can be found, when on a certain occasion Jesus and His disciples were on board a boat together. During the course of their journey a great storm arose!
As the waves crashed over the sides of the vessel, the disciples were now in terror of their lives. They believed they would be drowned. Yet in the midst of all these terrifying events, Jesus slept peacefully in the boat! The men on board could take the condition no longer, and we learn from Matthew 8:25 that His, “disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.”
These men, some of whom had lots of experience at sea, were petrified. They feared for their lives and they knew that they needed to be “rescued,” “delivered,” “saved” from the great and imminent dangers by which they were now encompassed.
They came to Jesus for rescue and that is exactly what He did for them! The Son of God who created the world has power over everything, and He told the wind and the waves to “Be still,” “and there was a great calm.”
Had we walked in the shoes of the people in that boat, would we too not have sought for rescue from such a perilous situation?
Jesus also used the word during the course of His ministry. Late one evening a very religious man came to speak to Jesus. His name was Nicodemus. He was extremely influential in the religious circles of his day, so coming to speak with Jesus had to be done secretly.
In the course of the conversation between these two men, Jesus told Nicodemus something very important: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Jesus told Nicodemus that it is through God’s “Son” the Lord Jesus Christ that people can “rescued,” “delivered,” “saved,” and that simple yet profound message was the one that was left in Nicodemus’ ears as he left this meeting.
On another occasion Jesus was teaching and as He so often did, He used an illustration. He told the people, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9). The people were clearly informed the only door to salvation, and the only way of entrance, was, and still is through Christ. There is no talk of doors, just “the door.”
Jesus tells the people that the spiritual results from entering through Him was that they would be “saved,” “rescued,” “delivered,” and He was the only way to come.
Just like those disciples on the boat, all people are in a perilous situation not of physical destruction but spiritual destruction. And we need to be saved, rescued or delivered, from the severe consequences of our sin.
The men on the boat realised Jesus was the only hope of rescue and they called upon Him. When you realise that you need spiritual rescue then you too must call upon the Lord Jesus Christ – repent of your sin and put your faith and trust in Him.
What is so special about the Bible? Is it any different to any other book? Is the Bible full of myth or is it a message from God? Can we believe the Bible? To answer that question, we need to call several witnesses to the stand.
1. The Testimony of Scripture
It may be thought that Scripture is an odd evidence to cite as proof that we can trust Scripture, but it is a common practice in a court of law to allow the accused to testify on their behalf. Of course their testimony must be corroborated by other evidence – and we will do that with the Scripture’s testimony to itself.
The Bible repeatedly claims that it is the Word of God.
- Words like “And God said” (cf. Genesis 1), “Thus saith the Lord” (or equivalents) appear virtually everywhere.
- Hugh D. Brown claims that within the 187 chapters of the Pentateuch (Genesis -Deuteronomy), there are “501 distinct assertions of supernatural authority” – an average of 3 claims per chapter.
I like to think of two texts of Scripture which explain how the Bible came to be- often called ‘Gibraltar Texts on Bible Inspiration.’
2 Peter 1:21: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
The word “moved” in 2 Peter 1:21 is translated “driven” when it is used to describe how a ship was carried along in a storm (Acts 27:17).
Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains: “The great claim that is made is this, that these men were taken hold of by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came upon them and took hold of them and gave them a message, carried them along, drove them along as they wrote and put it down on record.”
Therefore, when these men laid down their ink quills, on those pieces of papyrus were the words of Moses, David, Isaiah, John, Paul and Peter as the result of their having been driven (or borne) along by God the Holy Ghost (cf. 2 Samuel 23:2).
God is the real Author of Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16 : “All scripture is given by inspiration of God …” More literally, that statement reads, “Every part of the sacred writings is breathed out by God.” We therefore believe that every book in the Bible (in its original languages) is inspired of God, every chapter of every book, every line and every word. Significantly, Christ Himself considered the Scripture to be the Word of God (Matthew 5:18; 4:4,7&10, John 10:35). The testimony of Scripture is clear it testifies that it is the very Word of God.
Other evidence includes:
2. The Testimony of History
The testimony of history is that the Bible is a unique and supernaturally enduring book. There have always been sceptics – people like the French infidel Voltaire, who have predicted the demise of Christianity and the Bible. He boasted around 1750 that in 100 years Christianity would be swept from existence and that the only places you would be able to find a copy of the Bible then would be in museums or second-hand bookstores. Fact is, 200 years after Voltaire’s death, the Bible remains the world’s best-selling book.
a – Consider THE CONTINUITY (or UNITY) of the Bible
Though it was written over a 1500-year span, in many different places, by over 40 authors from every walk of life, in three languages – in spite of its diversity in every respect – there is a harmony and continuity from the beginning to the end. The Bible agrees with itself!
From Genesis to Revelation there is one main subject throughout – God’s redemption of sinful man. This unity cannot be explained except by a supernatural superintendence.
b – The Bible is also unique in that it is the best attested document in termsof its RELIABILITY
There is massive evidence that the Bible has been reliably and accurately transmitted over the years. Second place to the Bible in terms of the number of ancient copies which supports the accuracy of its text is Homer’s ‘Iliad’ (643 manuscripts). However, there are more than 24,000 manuscript copies of various portions of the New Testament in existence.
No other ancient document even begins to approach such numbers and attestation. And as for the Old Testament, the Jews are famous for their extreme care in transcribing it. The fact that the text of both the Old Testament and the New has been transmitted so accurately is nothing short of miraculous. God has preserved His Word.
c – History also shows that the Bible is unique in its factual ACCURACY
The Bible has come under attack from many over the years who thought that it was full of errors. So-called ‘intellectual’ Bible scholars have criticised and dissected it. For example, they claimed that the first five books of the Bible could not have been written by Moses because the “assured results of higher criticism” had proved that writing did not exist in his time. Then an ancient tablet was discovered with some wedge-shaped characters on it – a well developed written language detailing laws known as ‘The Code of Hammurabi.’ It was found that it predated Moses by at least 300 years!
Again the “assured results of higher criticism” declared that there were no Hittites at the time of Abraham, since there were no records of them apart from the Old Testament. Today, due to the results of archaeology, there are hundreds of references indicating more than 1200 years of Hittite civilisation.
3. The Testimony Of Fulfilled Prophecy
One example of a dramatic prophecy centres on King Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28; 45:11). More than 100 years before Cyrus was born, and at a time when Jerusalem was fully built and its entire temple was standing (it would be more than 100 years later when that the city and temple would be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., thus necessitating its rebuilding), the prophet Isaiah (writing around 700 B.C.), predicted Cyrus by name as the king who would say that Jerusalem shall be built and the temple foundation shall be laid.
Even more amazing are the Bible’s prophecies regarding a greater king thanCyrus – Christ Himself. It has been calculated that there are more than 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that refer to Christ, and that 29 of them were fulfilled in the final 24 hours of His life. Take some examples:
|OT Reference||Prophecy||NT Reference|
|Zechariah 13:7||Deserted by His disciples||Mark 14:50|
|Psalm 35:11||Falsely accused||Matthew 26:60|
|Isaiah 50:6||Brutally beaten||Matthew 26:67|
|Isaiah 53:7||No retaliation from Christ||Matthew 27:14|
|Isaiah 53:12||Executed with criminals||Matthew 27:38; Luke 23:32|
|Psalm 22:16; Zec. 12:10||Hands and feet pierced||John 19:34|
|Psalm 34:20||Bones unbroken||John 19:33|
|Psalm 22:18||Clothes gambled for||John 19:23&24|
There is no other way to account for the tremendous accuracy of fulfilment than to state that this is yet another evidence of the divine inspiration of the Bible.
4. The Testimony of Science
Many Christians have been brow-beaten into believing the Bible is full of scientific error. The truth is, the Bible has frequently spoken of scientific facts thousands of years before the ‘experts’ have discovered them.
‘Science Catches Up With Scripture’ is a headline that could be written time and time again. Consider the following facts:
- It is generally regarded that Columbus (1451-1506) was among the first toestablish the fact that the earth is round – yet over 2200 years before Columbus’ discovery …Isaiah 40:22.
- Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) added to our understanding of the earth whenhe defined the law of gravity in the C17th – but more than 3000 years before Newton was born …Job 26:7.
- It was quite recently discovered that the moon has an effect on plant life – yet the Bible shows that almost 3500 years ago this fact was known …Deuteronomy 33:13&14.
- Dr. William Harvey (1578-1657) was the first scientist to discover that the life of the flesh is in the blood – but Moses was able to tell us that some 3000 years before …Leviticus 17:11.
Little wonder Sir John F.W. Herschel, a famous English astronomer, said, “All human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more and more strongly the truth contained in the sacred Scriptures”!
5. The Testmony of Changed Lives
The Word of God has, for generations, proved itself to be effective to the conversion and comfort of the heart of man (Psalm 119:9&50; Romans 10:17; 15:4) – further proof of the inspiration and authority of Scripture.
Can we believe the Bible? The testimony of Scripture, History, Fulfilled Prophecy, Science, and Changed Lives all demonstrate that we most certainly can – and should! Without the Bible, you have no foundation for life – and no hope beyond the grave (cf. Matthew 7:24-27).
Many people live today as if God does not exist. Their lives tell us they do not care whether there is a God or not: they live without reference to Him; they live as though God had died!
In the 1960s a host of articles and books appeared, announcing that “God was dead.” The media fuelled the controversy. These reports have turned out rather premature. The church cannot be described as a redundant organisation stuck with the corpse of God on its hands: anyone with first-hand experience of the living God cannot think of Him as dead!
Others do not merely live as if God did not exist; they boldly say He does not. A recent survey, conducted by Harris Interactive in America, reveals that while 79% of Americans believe there is a God, only 66% are absolutely certain of it; 9% do not believe in God and 12% are not sure.
To those who say:
- “I don’t believe in God – and that’s the end of the matter!”
We must caution that merely believing something to be true or false does not make it so. If God does not exist, no amount of belief will produce Him – but if He does exist, no amount of unbelief will dispose of Him!
- “I only believe what I can see – and there can’t be a God, because I can’t see God,”
We must point out that there many things in everyday life that we cannot see, and yet we do not question their existence (e.g. air, wind, electricity).
Hebrews 11:3&6 teaches that accepting God exists is a matter of faith – but it is not a blind or blinkered faith that tells us there is a God; rather it is a reasoned faith, a substantial faith, for there are many evidences for the existence of God in the wonderful world around us – and in the wonderful works within us.
Reasons for belief in the existence of God
1. The Construction of the Universe
How did this world come about? Is it the result of cosmic accidents, or an explosion people have dubbed, ‘The Big Bang’?
These theories that profess to explain the origin of the universe share a common characteristic; they do not hang around too long.
Before the ‘Big Bang’ theory came the ‘steady state’ theory, and the production line of modern atheistical thought will come up with something else when the shockwaves of this Big Bang theory have rippled away into nowhere.
Anything will do – just as long as men are not asked to accept the fact of an Almighty, Intelligent, Gracious Creator!
A biologist once commented that the likelihood of this world being produced by chance is about as statistically possible as that of an explosion in a printing factory producing the complete works of William Shakespeare.
No matter where we look in this world, we are confronted with the facts of intricate and intelligent DESIGN. And, like to admit it or not, where you have such intricate, intelligent design, you have, of necessity, A DESIGNER!
If conditions on this earth had been the slightest bit different (i.e. had we been closer/ further away from the sun), life would have been impossible. Our environment shows the signs of meticulous design.
We should also consider:
- the moving of the stars and planets, which are so ordered and precise that Greenwich mean time is worked out from them;
- the structure of freezing that allows fish to breathe under the ice;
- a bat’s radar – working with ultrasound echoes to distinguish objects just 3/10ths of a millimetre apart ‑about the width of a pen line on paper;
- a bird’s migratory ability;
- a caterpillar’s metamorphosis;
- the ability of the whole body to function – including such intricate wonders as DNA, the human brain and the human eye;
- the strange world of bacteria.
All of these follow patterns which totally defy the idea that they might have all come about through chance and coincidence over a long period of time!
Creation demonstrates that God is a person of immense intelligence and will and power (cf. Psalm 19:1-3; Romans 1:19&20).
2. The Constitution of Man
The Bible tells us that men are aware of God’s Being because He has stamped His image upon man’s soul and written His law in his conscience (Romans 2:14&15).
A – Man has the ability to reason… intelligence
Our minds are similar to a computer. A computer is programmed to analyse various pieces of information, and, having analysed that information, to arrive at some conclusions about it. The accuracy of the outcome is determined by the way in which the computer is programmed. But when we talk about “having confidence in the ability of the computer to handle data,” we are really saying that we have confidence in the computer programme -and, ultimately, in the ability of the programmer to write the programme! There is a greater intelligence at work behind the operation of that computer/computer programme.
In the same manner, it is fair to assume that underlying our reason is someone else’s reason. This does not prove that God exists – but it points to God as the one who has given to us the faculty of reason.
B – Man has a moral regulator… conscience
All of us make moral judgements. We choose between what is right and what is wrong. Where do those moral signals come from? They cannot be dismissed as compliance with the law of the land, as many countries have laws which permit blatant immorality and evil.
Our ideas of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ come from a wonderful ‘little gadget’ ticking away inside us, like a radar system locking onto evil and telling you of its approach – conscience. Robert Dabney said: “This faculty is a most ingenious spiritual contrivance, adjusted to a Beneficent end: the promotion of virtuous acts, and repression of wicked.”
That inner law strongly suggests a Law-giver; man’s conscience is a plain indicator both of God’s existence and of His moral concern (cf. Romans 1:18).
C – Man has a desire to worship… reverence
Every nation on the globe testifies to this, for every tribe and race of man since the dawn of creation has tried to find God – to worship some Being greater than themselves (cf. Acts 17:23).
Is it not reasonable to suppose that this drive for worship within us was placed in our hearts by God Himself? By the stroke of his Creator, man is a religious being.
Each of these facts makes more sense if God exists than if He does not. Taken together, the Constitution of Man makes the case for God’s existence utterly compelling!
3. The Content of the Bible
The Bible does not set out to prove the existence of God: it treats His existence as an absolute, indisputable fact.
Think of how the Bible begins; Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” That statement does not prove God exists; it presupposes God exists, and announces that He is the sovereign Creator of all things. However, it is not enough to have the light of creation, and of God consciousness, and even the light of the written Word of God. The knowledge of God by which sinners are saved and receive eternal life comes through Christ (John 1:1-3, 14, 16-18; 17:3; Hebrews 1:1-3).
The Lord Jesus Christ is centre of the Bible. It is utterly impossible for sinners to know God apart from God’s revelation of Himself in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, His dear Son. He is the sum of all God’s purposes – the fulfilment of all the types and pictures of Holy Scripture – and the message of all the prophets. If we want to know who God is, what God is, what God has done, and what God requires of men; if we want to know the way to God, we must look to and study the words, works, ways, and person of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6; 9).
Responsibilities for belief in the existence of God
A – Find out who He is!
B – Find out what He has done!
Come, sinner, behold what Jesus has done, Behold how He suffered for thee! They crucified Him, God’s innocent Son, Forsaken, He died on the tree!
From heaven He came, He loved you – He died; Such love as His never was known; Behold, on the Cross, your King crucified, To make you an heir to His throne!
C – Find out what He requires of you!
His commands are that you Repent of sin and Rely on His sacrifice (Mark 1:15)
Does God exist? … Absolutely. Eternally. Powerfully. The key question is: what are you going to do about it?
George Barna’s survey of religious beliefs in America discovered that 85% of people think they will go to heaven when they die.
However, our Lord urges caution on this subject in Matthew 7:21-23 by saying that not everyone who thinks they are going to heaven when they die is actually going. Knowing what Jesus said brings up two very important questions:
Question #1: If you were to die today would you go to heaven?
If you answered “yes”, then that brings up question 2.
Question #2: If you were to die today, WHY should you get in heaven?
What does it take to go to heaven when you die? Is it enough to live a good, moral, ethical life? Now, it is certainly better to live that way than to be an immoral and unethical person. But is it enough? Is being good good enough?
Ephesians 2:8-9 gives us a straightforward answer – “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.” From this statement we note that it is possible for someone to believe they will go to heaven when they die – and yet find themselves clinging to a false hope.
Therefore we need to consider:
- A ‘Salvation’ based on what is false
- A Salvation based on what is free
- A Salvation based on faith
A ‘SALVATION’ BASED ON WHAT IS FALSE
George Barna found that 57% of Americans believe that salvation is an outcome to be earned through their good character or behaviour – that “if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their lives, they will earn a place in heaven.”
Salvation is not a human achievement
Salvation is “not of ourselves.”
Man is able to do some amazing things. His achievements in the fields of science and technology are nothing short of amazing. Man can send a spacecraft to Mars – and put together a little remote control buggy picks up rocks, analyses them, and then sends the data back to earth. He can create a satellite that from 450 miles out in space takes pictures of a person on earth comparable with our less-than-20-feet-away ‘offerings.’ Not too many years ago the world was amazed to learn that Scottish researchers had cloned a sheep named ‘Dolly’ from the udder cell of a 6-year-old ewe. Give him enough time and enough resources and there is little that man cannot do. But there is one thing that man cannot do – irrespective of how long time stands and how much money he has – and that is achieve his own salvation.
Salvation is NOT a human achievement; it is “not of ourselves.”
Salvation is not by human accomplishments
Again, Ephesians 2:8 has its finger on the pulse of this subject when it declares, “… Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
The thought that, if we are good enough and do enough we will get into heaven when we die, is pretty much the philosophy of the frog that fell into a large milk can. It tried hard to leap out but found it was trapped. With nothing else to do, it just kept paddling and paddling, until it had finally churned a pat of butter – and, hey presto! – saved itself by leaping from this self-made launching pad.
It is amazing how many people entertain this very philosophy about Christianity. It can be summed up in statements like:
- “I’m not perfect, but I’m doing the best I can”
- “I try to do what’s right and consider myself a pretty good person”
- “There are plenty of persons worse than me”
- “I think I’ve done more good than I’ve done wrong; I should be okay.”
This is diametrically opposed to what the Bible teaches about true salvation, plus it reveals a terrible misunderstanding of the nature and importance of spiritual and eternal things. Sin should not be treated so lightly that some good works of ours are enough to neutralise it. According to the verses leading up to our text, we were born with a sin-blasted and contaminated nature (Ephesians 2:1-4). We are described as dead, disobedient, depraved, and doomed. It will take more than a few surface polishings to clean up this degree of mess! Nothing short of a spiritual transformation is required. In an attempt to address this, some redirect their good works into a spiritual arena. They substitute religious ceremonies for ordinary good works. Baptism, confirmation, communion, etc., are all wheeled out in an effort to please God. But these are merely other forms of good works – and, due to the false sense of security they give, religious works are the most subtle and damning of all.
All works, even religious works, FALL WELL SHORT of God’s perfect standard. Good works do not save man’s soul (Galatians 2:16; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5). The highest good works can rise to in comparison with God’s perfect standard is the level of “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6)! You can be a good church member and live a religious life; a grand citizen and live a reputable life; a great companion and live a reliable life – but you cannot be good enough and you cannot do enough to be saved. Salvation is most decidedly NOT by works.
A SALVATION BASED ON WHAT IS FREE!
Our text reveals that salvation is not that something that we do, but it is something that has been done for us. The Lord Jesus Christ has graciously purchased salvation. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are ye saved.”
The word “grace” speaks of that which is undeserved yet has been provided for us. Being saved by grace means that Jesus has done all that is necessary for salvation. One preacher has defined grace using an acrostic:
When our Lord exclaimed on Calvary, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He was saying, “I have purchased salvation for men. I have paid sins’ debt.” There is nothing to work or pay for – because all the work has already been done for us! God gloriously presents salvation. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that salvation is “the gift of God.” Salvation is something purchased by Jesus and presented by God. Salvation is freely offered to men (cf. Romans 6:23).
Though some people expect to receive it in exchange for something that they can offer, the truth is that God’s salvation can only be obtained as a free gift. Which means … We gratefully possess salvation. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith.” All that is left is for us to accept what Jesus has purchased and what God has presented.
A SALVATION BASED ON FAITH
But what is faith? Faith is not merely intellectual knowledge: I need more than my mind filled with tidy facts about Jesus; I must embrace Him with my heart. Nor should true faith be confused with mere sentiment either. Many people equate faith with feelings – ‘warm glows,’ nostalgic and fond memories. But faith is much deeper, more solid, than that.
I. Faith means accepting Christ as a gift (John 1:12).
Just as we receive a present, offer thanks, but do not pay for it (the moment payment is made it ceases to be a gift), so faith simply reaches out an empty hand and takes Christ as Saviour.
II. Faith means receiving Christ as a guest (Revelation 3:20).
Just as we would never dream of keeping a guest standing on the doorstep, we invite Christ into our hearts to transform us.
III. FAITH MEANS COMING TO CHRIST AS A PAUPER (John 6:37).
As the prodigal son came to his father – with nothing – in rags – just as he was – and threw himself on the mercy of his father, so we approach Christ.
IV. FAITH MEANS TRUSTING CHRIST AS A SAVIOUR (Matthew 14:30).
As a drowning man makes a grab for the lifebelt that is thrown to him, so we must rest our weight on Christ and His work. The answer to our question, “Is being good good enough?” is clearly this: Being good is not good enough to get anyone into heaven. Everyone who reaches heaven gets there by only one way:
By acknowledging they are nothing other than guilty sinners who have no hope of gaining God’s favour no matter how many ‘good works’ they do;
And by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ as our only Saviour, our only Righteousness, and our only pardon for sin. Am I good enough for heaven? No!
But is Christ good enough for me to get to heaven? That is a completely different question – and the answer is a resounding “yes!”
“There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin; HE ONLY could unlock the gate of heaven,And let us in.”
Robert Ingersoll, an agnostic, began one of his lectures with the words, “I’m going to prove conclusively that hell is a wild dream of some theologians who invented it to terrify credulous people.” A man in the audience, heavily under the influence of alcohol, stood to his feet and said, “Make it strong, Bob! There’s a lot of us poor fellows depending on you. If you are wrong, we are all lost. Prove it clearly and plainly!” He could not, of course.
The Bible record leaves no doubt about the certainty of hell. This doctrine of future punishment stretches from one end of it to the other – from the flaming sword guarding the entrance to Eden in Genesis 3 after the judgment upon Adam and Eve, to the promise of plagues and exclusion from heaven of all those who would tamper with the Word of God in Revelation 22.
The Old Testament teaches it. The New Testament teaches it. Future punishment frequently appears in the sermons of Christ: in fact, Jesus spoke more of hell than He did of heaven (a truth many conveniently ignore)!
What kind of place is hell? Have we any definite information regarding its character? Are there any solid, concrete facts about it? The Bible clearly reveals:
- The Equality of Hell
- The Extremity of Hell
- The Eternity of Hell
- The Escape from Hell!
THE EQUALITY OF HELL
Hell is a place where justice is done! “Where is the justice in it all?!” is a cry familiar to earth. Now God is a God of justice – we believe that. He will render to every man according to his deeds. He has promised that the wicked shall not go unpunished (Proverbs 11:21). He has warned, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23) – and if that sin is not going to catch up with men here, causing them to pay the full penalty for it, then it is obvious that it is going to be hereafter. If full justice is not administered in this life (and it is quite clear that this is not the arena for the full administration of justice), it must be administered in another.
Asaph the psalmist found that to be the case. Psalm 73 records his story:
- His envy at the ease and prosperity of the wicked man’s life (vs.3,5&7);
- His frustration that, despite a godly life, trials had dogged him (vs.13&14);
- But verses 16-19 show that he eventually sees the justice of God lurking for the sinner -and what crushing justice it was!
Said Anne of Austria, the Queen of France, to her belligerent enemy, Cardinal Richelieu, “My lord Cardinal, there is one fact which you seemed to have forgotten. God is a sure paymaster. He may not pay at the end of every week or month or year; but I charge you, remember that He pays in the end.”
Quite simply, all sin must – and shall – be punished. And that is the purpose of hell. Hell is a real place – a place of divine retribution for sins committed in this life (cf. Revelation 21:8, 1 Corinthians 6:9&10, Ephesians 5:5).
THE EXTREMITY OF HELL
Hell is described by our Lord as a place and condition of unspeakable and unalleviated torment, misery and woe. He uses two main figures to set forth this truth – outer darkness and unquenchable fire.
1. The figure of OUTER DARKNESS occurs three times in Matthew alone (Matthew 8:11&12; 22:13; 25:30).
These references have interesting settings – one was the feast in the kingdom of heaven; another was a wedding feast on earth: the man who enters without the wedding garment is cast out of the lighted banqueting hall into outer darkness.
To the Oriental mind these words conjured up a very vivid picture. The book, ‘Strange Manners And Customs Of Bible Lands’ explains:
“Ancient banquets were usually held at night, in rooms that were brilliantly lighted, and anybody who was excluded from the feast was said to be cast out of the lighted room into the outer darkness of the night. This expression “outer darkness” takes on new meaning when it is realised what a dread the Oriental has for the darkness of the night. In the east a lamp is usually kept burning all night in the home. To sleep in the dark as the Westerner usually does would be a terrible experience for the Oriental.”
Because of the fear of the darkness, the Saviour could have chosen no more appropriate words than “outer darkness” to represent the future punishment of the unrighteous. When these words were used by our Lord, He used them to give some idea of THE PRIVATIVE ASPECTS of the punishment of the wicked; that is, the things that are taken from them as a result of their sin. Instead of the banqueting house – the place of light, warmth, life, joy, fellowship and delight; the very opposite condition of “outer darkness” – cold, foreboding, exposed to the elements – would be endured.
2. The second figure our Lord uses to show that hell is a place and condition of torment, misery and woe, is the FURNACE OF FIRE (Matthew 13:49&50; 25:41; 18:8). Just as the concept of outer darkness signifies the privative judgments of hell, (that which the wicked shall be taken away from), so FIRE speaks of the awfulness of the PUNITIVE judgment of hell (that which they shall be given over to).
This is active punishment. Fire has always been the symbol of the active movement of the wrath of God. For instance, the judgments on: Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), those who murmured against Moses (Numbers 11), Achan (Joshua 7), unrepentant sinners at the ending of time (Revelation 14:10&11).
What will THE RESULT of “outer darkness” and “the furnace of fire” be? In each of the three passages in Matthew, outer darkness will lead to “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The same result is mentioned for the furnace of fire (Matthew 13:42&50). It should be noted that our Lord uses the definite article in these cases: it is “THE weeping and THE gnashing of teeth” – emphasising that the agonies of hell are the true weeping and the true gnashing; anything that has caused weeping or gnashing of teeth here on earth is but a preview to the terror of the damned in the awful day of God’s wrath. On one occasion, Jesus hoisted the ‘asbestos shutters’ that hide outer darkness and furnace of fire from our view, and revealed a scene of torment and misery the like of which the eye of man never gazed on before (cf. Luke 16:19-26).
THE ETERNITY OF HELL
How long is heaven? Forever and ever! The same words which are used to express the eternality of heaven are also used with reference to the ‘length of time’ spent in hell. If heaven is eternal, so also is hell (Matthew 25:46, cf. also Mark 9:48, Matthew 25:41, 2 Thessalonians 1:8&9, Revelation 14:11).
Many people dispute the eternal duration of hell, pointing to the fact that the Bible uses words like “second death,” “perish,” and “destruction” to describe the state of lost souls in hell, and concluding that these terms add up to annihilation. However, these words do not imply non-existence or a ceasing to be, but rather “ruin” – uselessness for the purpose for which they were created. Insurance companies often declare a wrecked car as a ‘write-off.’ Anyone looking at that car can see that, though it has been destroyed, it has not ceased to be: it still exists. But it has been rendered useless. We speak of fruit and vegetables (and rubber) as “perishable,” but we do not mean that they have ceased to exist; only that they have gone bad and are wholly unfit for use.
Thomas Watson made the grim point: “Thus it is in hell; they would die, but they cannot. The wicked shall be always dying but never dead; the smoke of the furnace ascends for ever and ever. Oh! who can endure thus to be ever upon the rack? This word ‘ever’ breaks the heart. Wicked men now think the Sabbaths long, and think a prayer long; but oh! how long will it be to lie in hell for ever and ever?”
THE ESCAPE OF HELL
God does not want you to go to hell. In His great love and mercy He has provided a ransom for the sin of your soul; Job 33:24: “Then He is gracious unto him, and saith, ‘Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom’.” That ransom, of course, was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He came down from glory to grief; He took your guilt upon Himself and paid the full price of the penalty of the laws you had broken, so that you, by turning from your sin and trusting only in Him, you might receive salvation and enter heaven. This is the whole reason for Calvary! However, if you neglect or reject such great provision as Calvary, then you alone are to blame for ending up in the terrors and tortures of hell. Just as you cannot escape starvation if you neglect food, so you will never escape damnation if you neglect the salvation of your eternal soul.
Hell is a real place – a place:
- Of divine retribution for sins committed in this life
- Where both soul and body will suffer the punishment of sin
- Of unspeakable and unalleviated torment, misery and woe;
- Of endless, eternal, unceasing punishment for sin.
Call upon Christ Jesus for His salvation today!