This is the fifth, but it is not quite the final post in a series of posts that proposes to answer the following question.
Can you name a single thing Jesus said which was genuinely new, original, or useful?
We had The Presentation Of The Question in part 1. If you wish to understand why we are considering this question and how we intend to answer it, please visit part 1.
With respect to the question above, here we will examine the following.
Why Is The Result Important?
Of Death And A Second Chance
Eternity or Just Today?
Is this life all there is? What if God came down one day and told us that this life was God’s greatest gift, and there is no Heaven or Hell, would it still be good to be Christian and follow the same belief system? Well, without the promise of eternal life, Christianity is not the same belief system. Being a Christian would be futile.
1 Corinthians 15:12-19 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless;you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
To understand the difference, it helps to read an old story, Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was a warrior king who became friends with a wild man, Enkidu, created by the gods. When Gilgamesh and Enkidu became too brash in the behavior (at least from the viewpoint of the gods), the gods killed Enkidu, and that frightened Gilgamesh.
In the second half of the epic, Gilgamesh’s distress at Enkidu’s death causes him to undertake a long and perilous journey to discover the secret of eternal life. He eventually learns that “Life, which you look for, you will never find. For when the gods created man, they let death be his share, and life withheld in their own hands”. However, because of his great building projects, his account of Siduri‘s advice, and what the immortal man Utnapishtim told him about the Great Flood, Gilgamesh’s fame survived his death. His story has been translated into many languages, and in recent years has featured in works of popular fiction. (from here)
When we are young and healthy, when we have not lost someone close to us, we can make light of danger and death. We know too little to understand the prospect of oblivion, that all is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11), is more than most can take. So it is that Gilgamesh and his people had to learn the “wisdom” of living fatalistically, accepting death as their inevitable, unavoidable fate.
To Be Born Again
Fortunately, God gives those who love him eternal life. Unfortunately, we also have the possibility of hell, and because of our sinfulness, we have earned hell. So we need to be saved.
What does it mean to be “saved”?
‘Saved’ in its most basic definition is simply ‘safe from hell,’ and ‘set for heaven.’ I haven’t lost any readers yet, for all would agree, but the contentions arise when we speak of the terms. (from here)
Because we want to believe we have something to do with our salvation, because we don’t want to believe in hell, because we have trouble understanding what is hell and what is heaven, for innumerable reasons we make this matter of salvation complicated. So, yes, there is contention. Nonetheless, we can have salvation.
Salvation is in three tenses: past, present, and future. ‘Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures.’ How then in the counsels of heaven, could any person of sane spiritual mind ever think they could come into judgement for their sins?
Alas they cannot, and thank God that they have been taken away, and the burial and the approval of resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ attest that God is satisfied. This is the message of grace and the message of the gospel. This is simply the good news, that the vilest of humanity can be clothed with the righteousness of God, made whole and pronounced ‘clean.’ (from here)
Yet the question remains: how can I be saved?
This simple, yet profound, question is the most important question that can be asked.“How can I be saved?”deals with where we will spend eternity after our lives in this world are over. There is no more important issue than our eternal destiny. Thankfully, the Bible is abundantly clear on how a person can be saved. The Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Paul and Silas responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). (from here)
That sounds simple, but in practice it is not. To put our trust in another, even God, is actually quite difficult. Further, we have to obey Jesus’ commands, and He wants us to love each other as we love ourselves. Jesus calls upon us to love sacrificially (John 13:34), but most of us find it far easier to love ourselves. To change so much, we must be born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:1-21).
To be continued. Part 5B will include the following:
- What does it means to be a Christian? This section will also address the issue Matthew raised here.
- What does the Bible say about life after death?