toledo church of god

Life Ends What Then
LIFE ENDS: WHAT THEN?

God Has a Plan

A popular line often repeated is the triumphant “I sure like it when a plan comes together!” The opposite of this is “Murphy’s Law”: “Everything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

Which statement is typical of your life? Do you feel that nothing is dependable, especially your plans? How often do you express lack of confidence in being able to depend on anything or anybody — even yourself?

When we’re feeling secure with nothing to worry about, suddenly everything may be disrupted by loss of employment, a fire, a traffic accident, or another tragedy. Close, trusted friends disappoint us and sometimes become enemies. The instability and general lack of commitment to principles of honesty — even by governments and family members — give a sense of insecurity. Considering that not much seems certain in this life, who can we trust and what can we depend on?

We can trust God. He has a plan for everything and everyone, and His plan keeps on working: Sunrise gives way to sunset; spring follows winter; summer follows spring; fall follows summer; and winter comes again. God promised it:

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22).

According to God’s plan, plants, animals, and people reproduce their kind; no human couple need fear producing a chimpanzee! A stallion and a mare will not produce a llama! God promised it:

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beasts of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so (Genesis 1:24).

According to God’s plan, each of us will die. God makes the appointment:

It is appointed for men to die once (Hebrews 9:27).

An Appointment We Would Like to Cancel

All of us would like to cancel the appointment we have with death. In fact, most of us pursue every glimmer of hope to avoid it. But from Ponce de Leon’s pursuit of the fountain of youth to modern cryogenics, all attempts at avoiding death fail because it is appointed for all to die. Death is certain. Since the fall of man, no one has escaped this event. You can depend on dying!

We not only have failed to prevent death, but also have failed to prove scientifically whether there is a conscious existence after death. Who has returned to discuss what things are like after the body has decayed?

What happens after death? Only God has the answer. We find it in the rest of Hebrews 9:27: “But after this [death] the judgment.”

Why would we be concerned with judgment after we die? Jesus gives the reason: “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28, 29).

All the dead will be resurrected — raised alive from the grave. Some will be resurrected to receive eternal life, others to be judged. The purpose of your resurrection depends on the choices you make in life.

According to Jesus, judgment follows the resurrection. He describes the scene of judgment in the Gospel of Matthew:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. . . . Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:’ . . . Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:’ . . . And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31, 34, 41, 46).

A Puzzle

Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If this is true, we have a problem. In Matthew’s account of the Judgment, those on the King’s right hand were invited into His kingdom, while those on His left were condemned to destruction. It would seem that as sinners, all are destined for destruction. How then does anyone appear on the right hand of the King?

The apostle Paul explains this move from a position of condemnation to a position of righteousness:

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished (Romans 3:22-25, NIV).

Let’s go through that again. All have sinned, but some become righteous through redemption. Why? Because they received the righteousness of God by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul asks,

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14).

Let’s suppose you have just heard a preacher explain sin and sinners. You’re worried and wonder what to do. You can find out by looking at an example in the Bible. The apostle Peter was such a preacher. After he delivered a sermon to people who had rejected Christ, he invited them to believe on Jesus:

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:37-39, NIV).

What happens when we believe? We learn that we, too, are sinners condemned to death and must repent. Denying the truth that we have sinned will not solve the problem, but confessing our sin and believing in Jesus Christ as the answer to sin will solve it:

As many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).

But what of those who died before Christ came, before He died on the cross? The Bible answers that also. God, through His forbearance (an expression of His grace) left His people unpunished for their sins committed before Christ died, giving an opportunity for all to become righteous through the blood of Christ.

The gospel was also preached to them (Hebrews 4:2). The forbearance of God that Paul spoke of (Romans 3:25) included those who had offered animal sacrifices for their sins as instructed in the Law of Moses (Hebrews 9:15). The blood of Christ atoned for their sins also.

Two Kinds of Confession

The word confess means two things:

1. We acknowledge we are sinners, as John writes: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

2. We acknowledge Christ is our Lord — that is, we tell others we believe in and accept Him as Lord. Paul writes:

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9, 10).

Repentance

Repentance of sin is sincere sorrow for offending God through disobedience. It is an important change in attitude and forsaking of sin. Before we repent, our attitude is seen in rebellious disobedience to God; after we repent, it is seen in willing obedience. The importance of this change in attitude is shown in these two verses: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out . . .” (Acts 3:19) and “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8, NIV).

Baptism

When Peter preached to the crowd, he instructed them to follow their repentance with baptism (Acts 2:38). Baptism is described as complete immersion of the believer in water, symbolizing participation in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to live a new life (Romans 6:3, 4).

But there is other good news: “And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call” (see Acts 2:38, 39, NIV). This includes you and me; we too receive God’s gift of the Holy Spirit upon baptism.

Baptism indicates we are ending our sinful life and beginning a new life apart from sin. This is made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit, which empowers us to live a life acceptable to God.

Obedience

Obeying our Lord and living according to His commandments identify us as Christians, as the sheep who will be placed at the King’s right hand at the time of judgment. Through obedience, we express our love and adoration to God. Jesus says:

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21, NIV).

Other biblical writers affirm Jesus’ words:

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love (2 John 6, NIV).

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their chil dren’s children — with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts (Psalm 103:17, 18, NIV).

The Choice is Ours

Life ends: What then? Death. Resurrection. Judgment. Each of these is decreed for everyone. We have no choice! Death will take all of us. But we do have a choice in our destiny. We must decide whether we will be with Christ for eternity or suffer judgment and eternal destruction.

We must choose today which side we will be on: the King’s right or His left.

If we want to inherit the kingdom the Father has prepared for us, if we want to live forever, assured that there will be no more death, sorrow, fears, or pain, we must avail ourselves of God’s provision for eternal life. If we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be saved. This takes away the uncertainty of our eternal fate.

But if we do not want anything better than this life or are not interested in the wonderful things God has in store for us, we may refuse God and His Word. He will not force us to live happily ever after for eternity!

When this life ends, what then? Actually, we must decide the final answer to this question: eternal life if we accept His gift; eternal death if we reject it.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23, NIV).

Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from The New King James Version, copyright © 1982, 1983, by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.


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