Imagine you are in a queue at the Last Judgement. What happens next?
What we need to believe is that death can really be defeated in our own lives. We need to be able to approach that final judgement with confidence. Paul is in mocking mode when he said:
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55)
Jesus defeated death through dying on the cross and rising again on the third day.
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. (Romans 6:9)
By doing so he has cleared a path for us to know – without a shred of doubt – that death is defeated for us, too – it cannot hold us.
“… just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. (Romans 5:21)
“… but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”. (2 Timothy 1:10)
Remember, death came about through Adam’s sin and it has still operated in the same way ever since.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Familiar words, of course, but have they ever really sunk in? We must now again remind ourselves what Jesus achieved for us.
“Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)
So sin and death have no hold on us any more, as long as we have belief, faith in what Jesus has accomplished for us. The way we are indoctrinated by society gives the impression that what Jesus did was the easy bit and that the hard bit is for us to actually believe in it! In other words, the thinking goes something like this: do you honestly expect me to take time and effort to understand your fanciful superstitious worldview that we no longer need to believe in, because we are living in more enlightened, scientific times?
How tragic is that? That is the sad consequence of allowing the Spirit of the age, the rise of rationalism and the rejection of a spiritual element, to inform our thinking processes. It gives rise to two contrasting situations:
“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; (Romans 8:6)
What controls your mind? Where do you want to be? There’s no argument, if the truth be told. Don’t we all want life and peace? The trouble is that the truth is not often told. And why is this? That’s where we’re going next.
It’s all about Heaven and Hell really, but that’s where it gets tricky. Let me put it this way …
Imagine you are in a queue at the final judgement with a fair smattering of saints from all ages. Parallel to you a few feet away is a second queue, containing the unbelieving, the immoral, the idolaters and the liars from all ages (we’ll leave out the murderers, the vile and the magicians for now). This is how things could pan out as a voice calls over to you from the other queue:
John (ex-office worker from Putney): I knew you, didn’t you work in accounts?
You: Yes, I did. It’s John, isn’t it? Nice to …
John: Nice? Nice! What’s nice about being in a queue with this lot? Look at them! And, by the way, why are you in a different queue?
You: Because I am … was … a Christian.
John: Mmm. So how did that qualify you?
You: I believed in Jesus Christ and what he did for me.
John: Just believing in that … got you in the queue?
You: Yes. It’s as simple as that.
John(after a pause): Then why didn’t you tell me?
You (after a longer pause): Didn’t I?
John: No … in fact I didn’t think your religion was such a big deal.
You: Why would you say that?
John: Because you behaved just like one of us …
You(emphatic): No I didn’t! Anyway, don’t confuse my tolerant attitude with my accepting of all the … bad behaviour.
John: I’m sure I’ve seen you drunk …
You: OK. Just once … and it was a leaving do … mmmm, maybe twice. But certainly not every week like the rest of you …
John: … and you laughed at our jokes, even the … y’know, dodgy ones … and I never heard you complain when we had a go at Holy Hayley. Now we all knew she was one of your lot … a right pain she was!
Jack (ex-clerk at the same firm, around 80 years earlier): Shameful!
You: Pardon me?
Jack: Me, I’m a sinner and I know it, that’s what got me here.
John: Sin? What’s that got to do with anything?
Jack: It’s shameful that this fellow doesn’t know why he’s here, in this queue, with the likes of me. At least I know why I’m here.
John: And why’s that?
Jack: Because I was … an unrepentant sinner. I could have done something about it … but I chose not to.
John: What do you mean … unrepentant sinner?
Jack: I denied Christ and lived my life by my own rules.
John: How so?
Jack: I indulged in carnal lusts …
John: We’ve all done that, haven’t we?
Jack: … I blasphemed the Lord’s name …
Jack: … I stole things. Small items of office equipment, but still stealing …
John: And who didn’t do that?!
Jack: But there seems to be a difference … between you and me …
John: Pray tell, friend.
Jack: I knew I was doing wrong … and you didn’t, because nobody told you … because he (points at you) didn’t tell you! Shameful!
John: If I knew that at the time, and that it would bring me here, with you, I’m sure I would have done something about it … or perhaps not … who knows?
Jack: At least I knew I was doing wrong. I was able to choose. No-one to blame but myself.
John: So, what you’re saying is that the blame was not all mine, if I didn’t know I was doing wrong.
You: Hold on, hold on. We all have responsibility for our own actions.
John: But … you could have said … something. Did you really want your mates to condemn themselves? Surely you could have said something … ?
Surely you could have said something? Surely we could all say something … more.
For the previous article in this series, click here.
For the next article in this series, click here.
To find out about MY NEW BOOK, "Hope", click here.
You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.