PREPARING FOR THE JOURNEY
There is an old tombstone in an Indiana cemetery, with the following epitaph: “Pause, stranger, when you pass me by: As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be. So prepare for death and follow me.” An anonymous passerby etched these additional words on the tombstone: “To follow you I’m not content until I know which way you went.”
Can we really know in advance where we’re going when we die? The Bible states in 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” We can know for sure that we have eternal life and will go to heaven when we die. Do you?
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
God created us to love, worship, and communicate with Him forever. When our first parents Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they fractured their relationship. This event affected humanity because we inherited a sin nature. Now, all of us are guilty of breaking God’s law. Let’s run a quick test. Have you ever lied? Stolen? Been angry with someone? Lusted? Said the Lord’s name in vain? Dishonored your parents? If you are honest, you will admit your failure to keep these commandments because the Bible says all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s standards.
Sin has consequences. Those who continue living a life of rebellion towards God and refuse to seek reconciliation and forgiveness will be punished in Hell forever. But God has provided a solution for our sin. “Although the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” Jesus Christ, the God-Man, loved us so much that he became a man to deliver us from our sin (John 3:16). He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might receive the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Imagine that you robbed a bank and got caught by the police. You stand before the judge and he says, “You are guilty before the law of the land. You will serve the remainder of your life in prison for the consequences of your actions.” As you sit there in shame and fear, a stranger stands up and proclaims, “Wait a minute Judge.” First, whatever amount of money this person stole, I will pay it back two-fold. Second, if you won’t let this individual go free, I will gladly take their place. The judge replies alarmingly, “You are an innocent man. What would lead you to do something this absurd?” The stranger replies: “Because I care for this man, even more than my own life.”
This is the same radical love that Christ showed to you when He died on the cross for your sins. Even though you deserve to go to Hell for the wrong you have done, Jesus willingly obeyed the Father and died in your place. Because of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and his perfect life of obedience, God freely offered forgiveness and exchanged it with the full weight of God’s wrath.
That’s why salvation is found in no one else but Jesus. He is the only one worthy to pay the penalty for our sins demanded by God’s holiness (Revelation 5:4-5). Only when our sins are dealt with in Christ can we enter heaven. We cannot pay our own way.
There is no amount of good works or religious acts that we can do to earn God’s favor. It is only by grace that we are saved. When we confess this to God, turn from our sin, and get water baptized (Acts 2:38, 22:16 Rom. 6:4-6, 1 Pet. 3:21), God is faithful and just to forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).”
Where in Indiana is the cemetery where this epitaph can be found? I’m in Indiana and would like to go see it.
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Great question. Randy Alcorn wrote the illustration in his book “Heaven” which was written in 2004, but he never mentions the city. Only that it’s a cemetery in Indiana. Then another source comes from the Berean Society. A pastor wrote a sermon and made the same comment about this story.
I dug even deeper and found that no one really knows where that gravestone is. I am glad you brought this to my attention because I never went to a primary source. I got that idea from a secondary source. I will keep searching and hope to have an answer someday. Let me know if you find out as well. Blessings!
“What Is The Good News Of Jesus?”
You didn’t actually address this question in the article. What was the message that Jesus went around preaching to the folks in Galilee?
Please have a go. And give examples from the synoptic gospels.
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Paul, thank you for the response! I did mention John 3:16, which is part of the synoptic gospels. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. If I were to edit this article further, I probably would have spoken more about the Kingdom of heaven. This verse in particular: From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near (Matt. 4:17).
This theme, however, is interwoven from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus heralds the kingdom of heaven, but this is just part of the whole story: I have written another blog entitled: The 4 Major Themes of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration if you would like to talk more specifically about the “good news of Jesus.” If I am mistaken, how would you describe the good news of Jesus? What passages would you use? Blessings!
The synoptic gospels are Matthew, Mark and Luke (not John).
So can you detail what the gospel message of Jesus was?
The kingdom of heaven as I mentioned before. What do you believe the gospel message was according to Jesus?
Why did God make sin more poweful than Jesus? He made sin come to me because I exist, but made Jesus come to me only if I hear the right words, adopt the right creed, get baptized, and live in terror of hell for the rest of my life.
Also, why do you use “death” as euphemism for “eternal life in hell?” isn’t that kinda duplicitous?
Hello Gordon. Thanks for your questions. First, God does not make sin come to us as if we are all determined to disobedience by mere existence; this itself is a form of fatal determinism and a creed of Calvinism – total depravity, not what Jesus taught.
Secondly, James 1:13 says God does not tempt anyone but each of us are enticed by our own selfish inclinations. He has given humans freedom of the will, and while He is “sovereign” and ultimately knows our “decisions” due to omniscience, God is not coercing us into making those decisions.
Therefore, as morally free creatures, we are responsible for the consequences of breaking the cosmic rules (moral absolutes vs moral relativism is a topic for a future conversation if you are open to it).
Unfortunately, we are all inclined to sin and stand guilty before God for lying, coveting, and failing to fulfill the greatest command in Scripture: Love God and love neighbor. It’s evident that all of us could be more kind and generous to one another.
Following God is not about a list of rules, adopting the right creed, or even getting baptized; it’s about knowing the living God and being reconciled to Him. For example, there are laws where you can’t go through a red light, and that’s because the law is there to “protect citizens from injury.” In the same way, God has designed rules in His universe to keep us safe and in holy communion.
Finally, I don’t have a concrete answer on the nature of Hell, whether it is finite or eternal. I know Jesus spoke on the subject frequently, and He desires that no one perish but all come to repentance and faith in Him.
Moreover, I don’t think that a person who rejects God now will change their mind in the afterlife. Invictus encapsulates this very idea. He said, “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
It is my hope and prayer that you continue asking questions with a healthy skepticism. God loves you and created you with a wonderful purpose. I really appreciate your willingness to comment on my blog. I wish you the best. Blessings!
I know this is from two years ago but I appreciate the healthy discourse here. The questions are great and I appreciate your responses, Chad! This helps me to better articulate what is already in my heart.
Thanks for sharing! I appreciate your encouraging words.