This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on March 25, 2016.
When the Lord appeared to John on the island of Patmos to deliver His revelation of the things that were soon to take place, He identified Himself in a powerful way. In Rev. 1:17-18 Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” In the midst of this brief statement is the bedrock of Christian faith. Our Lord was dead, but now is alive forever more! This essential truth sets Christianity apart from every other religious belief. Our founder is alive and will never die again!
This was the argument that Paul made to validate our hope of eternal life. In Rom. 6:8-11 he said, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
When Paul wrote his first letter to the church in Corinth, he told them that the gospel was the death, burial, and the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4). His death was necessary in order to atone for our sins. Without His shed blood, God’s justice could not be satisfied. However, a dead Savior is no Savior at all. Our Lord had to come back from the dead in order to complete His exaltation as “Lord of Lord and King of Kings”. He did this on the third day, according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:4), and now He is the master of death and of Hades (Rev. 1:18).
Because our Savior lives, we have hope in life as well as in eternity. We have hope because He is alive to mediate between us and our Father in heaven (1 Tim. 2:5). We have hope because He lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25). We have hope because He holds us in His hands and no one can snatch us away from Him (Jn. 10:28). We have hope because He reigns over His kingdom and will continue to reign until He hands over the kingdom to God the Father at the last day (1 Cor. 15:24-26).
Because our Savior lives, we also have obligations in life. Since we know our Savior lives, we must live for Him in everything we do. In Rom. 12:1-2 Paul said we must present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice in order to prove what the will of God is. In Col. 3:22-24 Paul said we must do everything we do as though we were doing it for the Lord, because it is He whom we serve. Because He lives, we must let our light shine so that others will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Mt. 5:16).
A prominent theologian of the last century said that Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Christ. If the Lord did not come back from the dead on the third day, then we have no reason to believe in him. As Paul said, “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). If, however, He was raised from the dead, then we must believe in Him. To refuse to do so would be foolish, for one day our living Lord will call all the dead from the tombs for judgment (Jn. 5:28-29).
Therefore, let us rejoice in the fact that our Savior and Lord lives. Let us live in such a way that honors our living Lord and thereby secures eternal life for us. Let us look with joy at the empty tomb. And let us sing with heartfelt sincerity, “Because He lives I can face tomorrow, Because He lives all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living just because He lives.”
One of our favorite hymns is entitled, This World Is Not My Home. It is an uplifting song that makes our hearts soar as we sing its words. The theme of the song is the joyous anticipation we have of the time when we will enter the heavenly city to live with our God and Father for eternity. That theme is summarized in the line that precedes the chorus: “And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
As we sing this song, we are not expressing displeasure with the place God created for us to live. The world that He created was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). It was, in fact, perfectly prepared for humans to inhabit, but it was never intended to be our final destination. God’s plan from before the beginning of the world was to redeem a people for Himself to live with Him in heaven. How people live while upon the earth determines who among them will receive this great reward.
Those who are Christians should understand this better than any others. When we obey the gospel by being baptized into Christ, we commit ourselves to walk through the small gate that opens onto the narrow way that leads to life (Mt. 7:14). We have been purchased by the cleansing blood of Christ to be His slaves, and we are not our own (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Our citizenship is no longer upon the earth, but is instead in heaven, where our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Phil. 3:20; Rev. 20:11-15).
Nevertheless, we are residents of the earth and must live on it and within its many constraints until our time here is done. This reality often poses challenges for us, as it has for Christians since the church began. In the first century some in the city of Thessalonica were so anxious for the Lord to return, and so ready to be freed from the bounds of earth, that they stopped taking care of their physical responsibilities. In 2 Th. 3:6-13 Paul chastised them for what he called their unruly and undisciplined behavior. The point then, and now, is that we must take care of all our physical responsibilities on earth, even as we anticipate going home to be with the Lord.
Another of the challenges that we face as residents of the earth is the presence of suffering and pain. Too many times our lives are marked by sickness, disease, and death. Too often we suffer the pain of the actions of sinful people around us. Nearly every day we may wonder why God allows our hearts to be broken by the things that happen in life.
There are at least two reasons for these things. One is the fact that sin exists on the earth. From the time of Adam and Eve we have been afflicted by its presence, either because of our own sinful conduct, or because of the sins of others. Sickness, disease, natural disasters, and man-made mayhem of all kinds are the results of sin being present in the world. God is not responsible for these things, and He will hold the guilty accountable at judgment (Ex. 34:7).
The second reason for these things is to constantly remind us that we must not fall in love with this world. In 1 Jn. 2:15-17 John tells us that all that is in the world (that is, the sinful things) is not from the Father, and if we love the world, the Father is not in us. John also said that all that is in the world is passing away. What he means by this is that it will one day be destroyed at God’s command (2 Pet. 3:10-13). Only those who have done the will of God will live forever.
We are going to suffer while we are here on the earth, but that suffering will not compare to the glory awaiting us in heaven (Rom. 8:18). Christians know this because this world is not our home.
In recent years much ado has been made by alarmists who claim that mankind is destroying the earth. On the one extreme are those who believe mankind must essentially give up all modern technology and conveniences, and curtail population growth in order to save the earth. On the other extreme are those who live in constant fear that mankind will destroy the planet in a nuclear holocaust. In either case the underlying belief is that mankind will indeed one day destroy itself and the world on which we live.
Such beliefs and fears are the product of ignoring a simple truth of scripture. That truth is that the world’s destiny rests solely in the hands of God. The Bible begins with the magnificent statement, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The record of Genesis 1 continues with a description of how God turned nothing into a perfect home for the man and woman He created on the sixth day of creation week. The plants, animals, and Adam and Eve, were created full grown and able to reproduce (Gen. 1:12, 22, 28). God spoke it all into existence in six days, and at the end of that time the scripture says, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and morning, the sixth day” (Gen. 1:31).
God created the world as a place for mankind to live in preparation for eternal life with Him. By His own command mankind is supposed to multiply and fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28). This means everything on earth is for our use as we live here. This does not mean we should be wasteful or wantonly destructive of our beautiful home, but it means that it is not inherently wrong to use these resources for the betterment of our lives.
If we believe in God and in His word, we know that this planet will not run out of resources to sustain human life. If we believe in God and in His word, we know that mankind will never destroy the earth. We know this because the scriptures tell us the ultimate fate of the world is in God’s hands, not ours. In 2 Pet. 3:5-7 the scripture says that the ancient world was formed out of water and by water by the word of God. That world was also destroyed by water at the command of God. Peter then says that the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire by the same word of God (2 Pet. 3:10-13). This world is indeed going to end, but it will only end when God commands it to end.
The simple truth is that we cannot destroy the earth. Even with all the nuclear weapons we might ever create, or with all the billions who might populate it, we do not have the power or the authority to do so. Only God has this power, and only God has the authority, to destroy the world. Only He, who made it all at the beginning, can make it all go away at the end.
In the beginning was God, and at the end is God. All of earth’s history is bookended by this fundamental truth. It is this truth that gives us our only hope for eternity.
The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the strangest books in the Old Testament. It is included in the section of scripture that we call Wisdom Literature, and is generally agreed to have been the work of King Solomon. The aspect of this book that makes it seem so strange to us is the author’s attitude about life. Ecclesiastes is gloomy and dark, and is characterized by the statement, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2). This gloomy perspective is difficult for us to fathom, especially considering its source.
Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. He was also one of the wealthiest kings who ever lived. By most standards we would consider him to have had it made. He ruled a stable nation that held the upper hand against all its enemies. He was favored by God as the son of David and the ruler of God’s people. The many blessings that had been poured out on him were the sign of God’s approval resting upon him.
But the Solomon who wrote Ecclesiastes was not the humble man who had asked God for an understanding heart to judge His people (1 Kgs. 3:9). As he aged Solomon violated God’s command to not marry foreign women. In 1 Kgs. 11:4 the scripture says that when Solomon was old his foreign wives turned him away from God. He worshiped and served the despicable gods of the pagan nations, and even built high places as sites to worship them.
This is why Ecclesiastes is so gloomy. As Solomon wrote this book he was reflecting on the dissatisfaction that had engulfed him due to his rebellion against God. At this point in his life he saw nothing good in his future, and with good reason. While he was estranged from God Solomon had no hope and he correctly observed that everything he had done up to that point was vanity. All his labor, all his wealth, all his wisdom, all his majesty as a king was literally like dust in the wind. He realized that he would soon die and all that he had acquired would fall into another man’s hands.
This is the simple truth about human endeavor undertaken apart from an obedient relationship with God. Unless one’s life is devoted to God’s will, all is vanity. One can amass great wealth or power, but if he is not obedient to God, it is all for nothing. Like the rich fool in Lk. 12:16-21, Solomon was not rich toward God, and he could see the futility of his situation.
Fortunately, Solomon learned his lesson before it was too late. At the end of Ecclesiastes, he said, “The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Eccl. 12:13). If one reverences God and obeys all He commanded, then his life’s pursuits will not be in vain. He will have the satisfaction of having accomplished God’s eternal purpose in his own life, and in the lives of his family, no matter how much or how little of the world’s goods he might amass. The greater satisfaction, however, will be in knowing that his name is written in the book of life, and a home in heaven awaits him. Nothing about this kind of life is vain.