You May Not Die Again

It is appointed for men to die once.         Hebrews 9:27

When Hebrews talks about death here in chapter nine, it focuses on Jesus’ death and sacrifice and how believers can escape death through Him.

Jesus says that when we believe in Him, we have eternal life (John 3:36).  When a Christian dies, then, he keeps right on living — actually more than ever.

As far as our bodies which do the dying are concerned, they begin dying from day one.  What we call life is in reality a continuous death: old cells are constantly being replaced by new ones.  The bodies we have at age sixteen are quite different from the ones with which we were born; by age sixty our bodies have changed and replaced themselves a great many times.  What we call death is simply the complete exchange of our perishable bodies for new, eternal ones.

No wonder Paul becomes excited about this and says that it is better to depart and be with the Lord (Philippians 1:23).  He writes: “We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house [not a tent} not made with hands, eternal in the heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Jesus offers the best comfort when He says, “Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26).  Christians will live forever because the living Christ lives within them.

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Our God Is One

The Holy Spirit also bears witness to us.      Hebrews 10:15

It seems strange that so “spiritual” a book as Hebrews should contain so little reference to the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps we think this, however, because we often mistake God to be three individual Gods.  Such a crude conception of God is tritheism — the belief that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are separate.

The Bible tells us that there is one God — and that He became a man.  That man is Jesus Christ. When He completed His work on earth, Jesus promised not to abandon His followers but to be with them to the close of the age (Matthew 28:20).  And His presence among His followers was realized when the Holy Spirit came to live within the church (Acts 2).

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit comes from the Father and the Son and is often called the Spirit of Christ.  Paul uses this term repeatedly.  In 2 Corinthians 3:17 we read: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

It is absurd to say that we are making too much of the Holy Spirit nowadays.  When we think about the Holy Spirit, Jesus says, we are worshiping Him (Jesus), and whoever honors Jesus honors God.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then, are one.  To this, Jesus adds that even we are one with Him (John 17:20-26).

The Man of Mystery

He is without father or mother or genealogy….but resembling the Son of God.    Hebrews 7:3

One of the most intriguing characters in Scripture is Melchizedek.  He entered Abraham’s life for a brief moment and then disappeared (Genesis 14:18-20).  Hebrews says that he had no parents or genealogy.  In this respect, Melchizedek was a type of Christ.  Christ had a genealogy, but He could stand apart from it because His birth was miraculous.

The first thing we should learn from the story of Melchizedek is that salvation in the Old Testament included more than a few favored Israelites.  Melchizedek was not an Israelite.

This is not to say that there is more than one way of salvation than through Jesus Christ.  But who are we to tell God how he has to save any of us through the Savior? Hebrews insists that Jesus is king of the universe, not just king of the Jews.  Everyone who is saved is saved by Him; anyone who refuses light from the Light of the World is lost.

The story of Melchizedek reminds us that salvation does not depend on one’s background or genealogy.  We cannot inherit salvation.  As it has been said: “God has no grandchildren.”  Each of us is called to personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Jesus, we can become prophets, priests, and kings who serve God no matter what our background may be.

Faith is a Fact

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.    Hebrews 11:1

Every one of us wants assurance, security.  God wants us to have that, too.  The trouble is, we often put our faith in the wrong thing.

No sensible person doubts that Jesus died and rose again, but doubt does arise when someone wonders whether Christ died for him or her personally.

Sometimes people try to assure themselves of salvation by believing that they believe Christ died for them.  In other words, they believe they are saved because they have faith in Christ.  When you examine their belief closely, however, you discover that they have put their trust in their own faith.

What we must believe is that, when Christ died and rose again, we were in Him just as He is in us today.  When you believe you are in Christ, you are putting your faith in a historical fact that cannot be undone.  Paul abounded in assurance because he could say, “God reveals His Son in me” (see Galatians 1:16) and “I know who I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 1:12).

Eugenia Price says that our faith lies in God’s commitment to us, not in ours to Him.  Does any loved husband say that he believes his wife loves him?  He believes in her, and she in him, because they are one.

 

The Purging Fire

If it bears thorns and thistles….its end is to be burned.       Hebrews 6:8

One of the differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants is that Protestants do not believe their souls go to a place of purging after death.  Even so, we cannot disregard the Bible’s teaching about the purifying fire that will touch every believer.  Paul speaks the most plainly on this subject when he talks about our investments of time and talent being burned on the last day (see I Corinthians 3:13-15).

Hebrews refers to this in connection with those who become converted and are baptized but who do not go on and live productive lives.  They become “worthless and near to being cursed” (6:8).

Hebrews refers again to Christian living under the familiar picture of a new race (12:1).  It is not enough simply to “finish the course”; most of us can walk a marathon.  Paul says that we must run to become a winner (see I Corinthians 9:24-27).  He even tells us that sometimes he had to force himself to Christian duty, lest after preaching to others he disqualify himself by not following his own instruction.

Much of our lifelong work efforts, even of the church, will go up in the final conflagration.  The Holy Spirit patties with fire, let us remember, and those who want His baptism must be willing to have a lot that they love thrown into the flames.

Perfect Through Suffering

He learned obedience through what he suffered and [was] made perfect.       Hebrews 5:8, 9

The Christian race is not a smooth, flat track race.  It is more of a steeplechase which has several hurdles and a water barrier to clear.  As believers made their way through life, some go through deep water, some go over monstrous rocks, and some go through terrifying, dark valleys.

The only way to achieve victory in this life is “in Christ.”  Jesus sets the pace for us, and He is our pioneer as well as our coach.  It is Christ within us who has endured the course, and He enables us to run successfully.  But during painful or troublesome times, we may be tempted to say, “Is this any way for God to treat His children?”  The book of Hebrews answers: “If you are left without discipline …. you are illegitimate children” (12:8).  We can always find strength in Christ.  He understands our difficulty when saboteurs like Satan put hurdles in our way, because He has endured the same thing.

The race is not identical for every runner.  Some of us see more than our share of mud and mountains.  And come of us cheat, like the Boston Marathoner who took a subway across town.

Believers, however, race as a team.  When one member of Christ’s body suffers, every teammate suffers.  But when one wins, they all do.

Soul Versus Spirit

The word of God …. [pierces] to the division of soul and spirit.      Hebrews 4:12

People have long disagreed as to whether human beings are just body and soul or body, soul, and spirit.

Whatever the case, there is clearly a difference between what is related to the human soul and what is truly spiritual.  More important, the Bible doesn’t begin to make the distinction between body and soul that we do.  The word it uses for flesh is psych, and the “sins of the flesh” are mental/emotional things such as anger, jealousy, hatred, and selfish ambition.

What we are to remember is that some of the “spiritual” things we do can in fact be fleshly and sensual.  Listening to Handel’s Messiah may be just as sensual and fleshly as drinking beer in front of the television set.  I have often attended this oratorio myself to experience sensual enjoyment — I wasn’t always worshiping God.  And in worship services, the “inspiration” we get from stirring songs or rousing sermons can be just as sensual and self-centered as the inspiration we get from a football game.

Our so-called service to God and others can also be very fleshly, motivated by mere habit, duty, esteem, or any other selfish action.  Studying the Word of God, however, can help us understand ourselves and why we do things.  Those who live close to God through His Word live in truly spiritual service.