Friday, May 17, 2019


A common question I hear from many who disciple is, "do those who reject Christ in life get a second chance after death?" The larger, hidden question behind that is, "what is it like after death?" Here are some verses from Holy Scripture that may help:

Psalm 6:4-5:
Return, O Lord, rescue my soul;
Save me because of Your lovingkindness.
For there is no mention of You in death;
In Sheol who will give You thanks?

It seems, for the lost, God doesn't even come to their minds. Why?

Psalm 88:10-12:
Will You perform wonders for the dead?
Will the departed spirits rise and praise You?
Will Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave,
Your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Will Your wonders be made known in the darkness?
And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

The implied answer to all these questions is, "no." God is not there. In fact it's the place from where God has banished himself, as well as all the good things he provides. Note, also, the term, "Land of Forgetfulness." There does not seem to be any thinking about God in the grave. No "missing" him.

Psalm 115:17-18:
The dead do not praise the Lord,
Nor do any who go down into silence;
But as for us, we will bless the Lord
From this time forth and forever.
Praise the Lord!

Verse 18 shows that the Psalmist is not talking about all who die in verse 17. We have a distinction between the lost and the saved. Note that the lost go down into "silence." This seems important. The lost don't remember God, nor can they articulate anything. The land of the dead is a land of silence. This makes sense, since all good things come from God, communication is good, and so without God, there can be only silence.

Here are a couple other places that refer to silence in the death of the lost:

“He keeps the feet of His godly ones,
But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness;
For not by might shall a man prevail. (1 Samuel 2:9)

If the Lord had not been my help,
My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. (Psalm 94:17)

Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us some more about the destination of the lost:

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.

We take for granted the good things that God gives everyone on earth: things like activity, planning, knowledge, wisdom. None of that exist for the lost in the land of forgetfulness.

Ok, let's rise out of this hole of darkness and see what eternal life is like for those who are in Christ. First, there is some forgetfulness, but what we forget is not God. Here are some verses from Isaiah 65:

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.

The sin and pain of earthly life are forgotten.

“But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing
And her people for gladness.

There is a rejoicing forever. Rejoicing involves sound.

“I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people;
And there will no longer be heard in her
The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.

The sound will not involve pain or sin but joy and gladness.

“They will build houses and inhabit them;
They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
“They will not build and another inhabit,
They will not plant and another eat;
For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people,
And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.

For those alive in Christ, there is activity and planning, there is wisdom and knowledge.  All good things come from God, and being in the presence of God will accrue only good things.

Now, we tend to go to the final chapters of Revelation for a description of heaven, but I want to look at a different description of heaven, from Luke 15. The parables of the lost sheep, coin, and son, are usually analyzed for their salvation content, but look at the details of everlasting life:

And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:6-7)

1. Friends and neighbors together.
2. Rejoicing.
3. Speaking (and singing).
4. Celebrating.
5. Joy.

And why is there so much rejoicing and joyous noise? Because the Lord found another lost person, and that is the whole focus of heavenly life: the lost found, and not just found but kept forever.

“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)

1. Friends and neighbors together.
2. Rejoicing.
3. Speaking (and singing).
4. Celebrating.
5. Joy.

Look at the last one:

But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:22-23)

Once again, we have a joyous celebration over a lost soul found. Also, the very soul is honored as a king. But...

“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. (Luke 15:25-28)

In Christ, there is music and dancing. But the lost are not willing to go in. They are jealous of the ones the Lord has found and refuse to be a friend and neighbor. The Lord even comes out and pleads with the lost, but they will not repent.

And that is the answer to the question. The seeking of the Father happens throughout this life.  The pleading occurs over and over. Second chances, third, fourth, four hundred. Ultimately the found are brought into honor and glory in the presence of God and friends and neighbors. And the lost banish themselves to silence.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Snakes and Stones

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:7-12)

1. Sin makes us ask selfishly. We actually ask for snakes and stones. Our parents used to deny us snakes and stones, because they knew they were bad things, but now they are happy to give us snakes and stones.

2. So, when we don't receive from God, we were probably asking for things that seemed like bread and fish but were actually snakes and stones. God knows all things, and he withheld the bad thing that we wanted.

3. So the problem of sin turns the Golden Rule on its head: we treat others badly, because we treat ourselves badly. We don't seek out God's kingdom and his righteousness.  When it is offered to us, we reject it. God, however, knows what is good for us in the long run, and so he disciplines us with temporal suffering. Suffering helps us tell the difference between bread and stones, and fish and snakes.

4. What are good things? Psalm 84 tells us that the Lord is the source of
a. Light,
b. Protection,
c. Grace,
d. Eternal Life, and
e. The destruction of sin forever.

5. What is a good thing? James 1:17 tells us that every good thing
a. is perfect,
b. is a gift from above,
c. is from the Father of Lights, and
d. is without shadow or blemish.

6. How can this be? Because there is only one good thing, and that is God himself.  Here is the Luke variant of the Matthew passage:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13)

Notice what is read as "good gifts" in Matthew is read as "the Holy Spirit" here. The Holy Spirit, the down payment of eternal life, is given to us on this earth, in this life. The Spirit guides us in distinguishing between bread and stones, fish and snakes, eggs and scorpions.

7. Look at Romans 8:26-39:

a. The Spirit shows us the difference between bread and stones, between fish and snakes.
b. The Spirit asks, seeks, knocks on our behalf.
c. God knew beforehand whom he was to give his Spirit.
d. He predestined us to have his Spirit.
e. The Spirit calls us awake from the dead.
f. The Spirit justifies us.
g. Finally, the Spirit glorifies us (eternal life + destruction of sin).

How do we know that God has done this? Because he gave us the life of his Son first. This historical event, this sacrifice of the Son for the forgiveness of sins: if we can put our faith in that, we can certainly put our faith in the "easier" act of God that he predestined us to receive his Spirit.

In conclusion, the rest of the Romans passage says it all better than I ever could:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.