Author: Vincent Anane Denteh (Rev.)
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…” (Eccl. 3:1, 2, RSV).
This question is necessary because our perceptions influence our actions and behaviour, particularly our lifestyle in this world and how we relate to God.
Thus examining the following old riddle and drawing inferences from it can help us to put into perspective what is required of us to do with our lives now:
“What is that animal which in the morning walks on four legs, at noon on two and in the evening on three?”
The riddle refers to human beings. We are the only creation of God who, as babies, crawl on two legs and two hands (all fours). As we grow up we walk upright on two legs while at old age we walk on two legs and are supported by a walking stick (three legs).
There are many significant lessons in this riddle for all of us. Those of us who will have the grace of God to live long in this world will one day get to the last stage of this riddle – that is, walking on three legs.
But what happens to us after this stage is a crucial issue that every living person in this world has to consider. What is our final destination after this stage? Death (if Christ tarries) and the final journey to eternity shall be the next incidents.
However, every information about the origin of humankind, his nature, and where he would spend eternity is provided in the Holy Scriptures as can be seen in Ecclesiastes 3:19:
“Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.”
Biblical Description of the Destiny of Humankind
Heaven and hell are the two different types of destinies stated in the Bible for humankind. Those who obey God’s Word in this world will spend eternity with Him in heaven while those who reject the Word of God and His Son Jesus Christ will be with Satan in eternal damnation in hell (Rom. 8:1-3).
These two places cannot be occupied by one person simultaneously, nor can one avoid both of them and live on a neutral ground in eternity. Citizenship in any one of them will depend on the kind of lifestyle and the type of faith one professes on this earth. Christians will join Jesus Christ in heaven while unbelievers of the gospel will join Satan and his agents in hell.
How will that situation be determined? The answer is in Hebrews 9:27: “… it is appointed for man to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). The inference from this is that God will judge our deeds in the world when we die.
The apostle John’s description of the Judgment Day events gives us the details of how the situation on that day will be:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:12-15, NKJV).
The implication of all the passages we have examined is that there is no impunity in matters concerning the judgment of God, but there is good news for some people in this world. While the verdict will go against those who refuse to accept Christ in their lifetime in this world, the same verdict will exonerate the righteous children of God – Christians.
The Desire of God
God desires that every person spends eternity with Him in heaven. But this does not come on a silver platter. True repentance for one’s sin and renouncing it in order to be discipled for Christ are the prerequisites for entering the kingdom of God. That is why He gave us His only begotten Son to atone for our sins by His death on Calvary and those who believe in Him will not perish (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 2:2).
God is still looking up to embrace as many as would accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and personal Saviour and that has been clearly stated in John 1:12: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (NASB).
Means of Salvation
Accepting Jesus into a person’s life is the only way he can go to heaven. The Bible describes Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through Him (Jn. 14:6). However, repentance of sin and expression of faith in Jesus Christ are the twin-pronged approach for everlasting life in Christ.
Dear beloved, to have your sins forgiven, you need to repent of and frankly denounce all your sins. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).
This implies that if you accept Christ all your sins committed in the past, irrespective of their gravity, would no more have any negative effect on you because Jesus has wiped them off (Ac. 17:30; Rom. 3:25).
You have now been ushered into a new lease of life in Him. Your old nature with its disgraceful marks has been rendered powerless and you are now laced with a new and a glorious nature: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17, RSV cf. 1 Pet. 2:24, 25).
The Benefits of True Repentance
True repentance pertaining to Christianity should be able to take you to another level – which is faith in Christ. This calls for total submission of your will and whole life to Jesus Christ as you make a serious and consistent effort to live by His word as His disciple. Being in Christ consistently implies that your salvation is intact as the Bible says in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (RSV).
With this freedom from the bondage of sin by Jesus, you are urged to “…walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4, RSV). So far, it has become very obvious that no one is above repentance. Without it no one can be accepted into the Lord’s kingdom. Again, no sin is so serious that it cannot be forgiven by God (Isa.1:18). Once the sinner turns to Him in genuine repentance and confession, his sins are forgiven.
Preparation towards Death, the Judgment of God, and Eternal “Rest”
Another point established in our discussion is that none of us will live forever on this earth. We are in transit and our time of departure is inevitable and fast approaching. Death is our necessary end as individuals and as the clock ticks every day, our time on earth is running out. When that time comes, no excuses or other human methods can save anybody.
This affirms the biblical statement that there is a time to be born and a time to die (Eccl. 3:2) and afterwards a time to face the judgment of God (Heb. 9:27). When a person passes through all these processes his final destination is either hell or heaven, depending on his relationship with God during his lifetime in this world. While there is “Rest in Peace” for the children of God going to heaven (Matt. 25:46), their colleagues bound for eternity in hell will be restless because of the horrific nature of that place:
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8, KJV cf. Matt. 13:50; Rev. 20:14, 15).
Since accepting Christ is the only way to avoid eternal condemnation to hell, you should seek earnestly to be His faithful disciple as long as you live in this world. That would enable you to have eternal life and live forever with God in heaven. Jesus needs you and your family (Ac. 16:31) so do not hesitate to respond to His call!