THE GOSPEL MESSAGE
Continuing from where we left off at Part three…
Q.: Can someone on his death bed, on death row, or facing immanent physical death receive the assurance of salvation and a home in Heaven?
A: The answer to this question is found in the often misunderstood lessons that Jesus taught in the parable of Matt. 20.
In this parable, there was a landowner who hired separate groups of laborers at different times during the course of the day. At the end of the day, each group received one denarius from the landowner. The denarius was in that day and age considered a full day’s pay for a full day’s work.
The ones who had spent all day in the vineyard grumbled when they saw that the ones who only were in the vineyard for an hour received the same one denarius as did they.
In response, the land owner pointed out to the grumblers that they received exactly what had been promised. Furthermore, the grumblers were told that he (the landowner) could give to anyone, any thing, in any amount, that which belonged to him.
Human viewpoint would argue that the one who labored all day in the hot sun earned more than the ones who only there for an hour. But what human viewpoint does not understand is that salvation is not received on the basis of how much labor one does in an attempt to earn it (Eph. 2: 9).
In the spiritual realm, eternal life is an irrevocable (Romans 11: 29) gift that is God’s to give. Gifts are not earned or deserved. God has chosen to give this gift in full to everyone one who chooses to make a one-time decision to believe in a presentation of the Gospel Message (John 3: 16).
God provides both the opportunity (Acts 16: 14/Romans 10: 14) and the ability for one to understand (Romans 8: 7) the Gospel Message when it is presented to him. Without this enabling, the Gospel Message sounds like foolishness in the minds of an unsaved soul (1Cor. 1: 23).
When, where, how, and by what means each soul is to be presented with the Gospel Message is in the hands of God. These presentations can take place at any time, in any place, in any set of circumstances that God chooses to use once the soul has reached the age or stage of moral accountability.
The decision to believe or disbelieve the Gospel Message is in the hands of one to whom it is presented. No one knows when he/she had received his/her last opportunity.
Each soul’s chosen response to the Gospel Message is what determines where he/she will be spending all of eternity.
No matter when in the course of one's lifetime that one is born again, all born again believers are forever and equally saved.
This point (Matt. 16: 30) is what Jesus closed with when He used this parable to teach on salvation.
The “last” (those who were saved towards or at the end of their time here on Earth) were/are just as “saved” as the “first” (those who were born again early or earlier during their time here on Earth), and vise versa.
The issues of how (with or without rewards/privileges) each born again believer will experience Heaven is another subject for another day.
A saved soul can decide at any time to get back on track and move forward in the post salvation spiritual life, but the time(s) that God provides any given soul to be saved is in the hands of God. Thus we have the warning of (Heb. 3: 7).
Without the enabling power (John 15: 5) of God the Holy Spirit opening up (Acts 16: 14) the inherently hostile (Romans 8: 7) hardened heart of a spiritually dead unbeliever is inclined (Gen. 6: 5) to reject the presentation of the Gospel Message.
Physical death can come upon anyone at anytime without warning. Some global statistics report that as many as 150,000 deaths a day, with their departure being the last thing that was on their minds or on the minds of many knew them. The “Intake Center” in Heaven is a busy place, and Matt. 7: 14 suggest that the Intake Center in the Torments of Hades is even busier!
The Gospel Message informs the unbeliever of the need (John 3: 5) to be saved, and then how (John 3: 18) to be saved. One’s chosen response (John 3: 18) to the Gospel Message is the only thing that determines where he/she will be spending all of eternity; be it in Heaven or in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15).
Rather or not the born again believers in Heaven will experience eternity with (1Cor. 3: 14) or without reward (1Cor. 3: 15) and privileges (Rev. 2/Rev. 3) is another study for another day. It will do one no good to know all about the rewards and privileges of Heaven if he/she is going to be spending all of eternity in the lake f fire.
There are a couple of verses (John 3: 16 and John 3: 18) in the Gospel of John that do a good job of summing up the Gospel Message in just a few short words.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3: 16 NASB)." He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3: 18 NASB)."
To perish can mean to die, but the type of death being spoken of here is spiritual death.
Here on Earth, there are many distractions (health, finances, family, friends, jobs, careers, hobbies, etc.) that make it relatively easy for our hostile nature (Romans 8:7) to ignore or think less of the status of our spirit. But in eternity, when all these earthly distraction are gone, God and the things of God will be all that one will have.
Both Heaven and Hell were created by God to serve divine purposes!
The same God that is preparing a place for all born again believers to be with Him (John 14: 3), is the same God that has prepared a lake of fire for the devil (Rev. 20: 10), his forces of evil (Eph. 6: 12), and all unbelieving souls of the human race (Rev. 20: 15)!
With the enabling power (John 15: 5) of God the Holy Spirit, receiving salvation is relatively easy for us.
But never lose sight of the fact that providing the means of salvation was anything but easy for the Lord Jesus Christ. Prior to His incarnation (taking on human form) He, as God the Son, had always been in Heaven along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
In order to fulfill His part in the plan of salvation, He had to leave Heaven and take on the same type of humanity (void of the sin nature) that Adam had prior to the Fall of Man.
Except when called for (to perform various miracles) called for in the plan of God, He had to suspend the benefits and the use of His deity. Trying to have Jesus use the power and benefits of His deity other than when it was called for was what was behind the temptation to turn the stone into bread (Matt. 4: 3).
The atoning Work that He accomplished on the cross was accomplished with the self-imposed limitations of His humanity.
In the limitations of His humanity, He could have, but did not, sin. If sin had not been a possibility, there would have been no temptation. One cannot be tempted to do what one could not do in the first place..
(Heb. 4: 15) teach that He was tempted in all ways that we are, but without having committed sin.
In order to retain the status of the (John 1) Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ had to keep from all SIN throughout His entire 30-33 years, here on Earth before reaching the cross. This was quite an accomplishment when one realizes that He do not do so with the power of His deity (than could not sin), but within the limitations of His humanity that could have, but didn’t (Heb. 4: 15).
Had He not maintained the integrity of the sinless humanity that He received at birth, He would have self-disqualified Himself as the unblemished Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world (John 1: 29).
As indisputable as His physical suffering was leading up to and while one the cross, His greatest agony was the hours of spiritual death (separated from God the Father) that He spent in OUR collective and individual place.
It was during those hours that EVERY sin of EVERY soul that had ever been born or would be born throughout the course of human history was poured out on His suffering humanity, as the shedding of His blood atoned for our sin. He felt the weight of the entire world's sin debt crushing (Isa. 53: 5) His humanity.
We all know what it’s like to feel guilty, imagine feeling the guilt of the entire human race.
If He had not done so, and if His atoning Work had not been accepted to satisfy the justice of God, we would still be headed for the Hell that we all deserve. No amount of "religious" activity, good deeds, or good behavior would or ever could satisfy the justice of God.
When our Lord cried out, "My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?" He was NOT asking God the Father a question. The Lord Jesus Christ knew that this was reason He took on the form of Humanity and came to Earth to die on the cross. He tried to make this clear to His disciples before they arrived in Jerusalem (Matt. 20: 18/Mark 10:33/Luke 24: 7).
Even His closest disciples did not yet understand the Gospel Message!
When crying out with these words, He was reciting the 22nd Psalm. The 22nd Psalm contains prophesies (in amazing detail) that were written some 1,000 years before they were fulfilled on the cross.
It is likely that you have heard or have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel Message before today. If have and have believed, you already are born again believer. If so, my prayer for you is that you will advance in the post salvation spiritual life and share the Gospel Message with others. You are holding the keys to gates of Heaven.
If this was your moment of truth in that God has opened your heart to hear the Gospel (Acts 16: 14), my prayer for you is that you will choose to respond by believing (placing your FULL trust and confidence) in the Gospel Message, and be born again.
This completes our study of the Gospel Message.