About a year ago I was visiting a museum in New York City and I found myself totally engrossed in the image of a sculpture, a small pieta of Jesus, laying in repose after the crucifixion, with an angel on each side – one in mourning for our Lord’s death, the other raising a hand to signal the coming resurrection. As I stood in silence staring at this sculpture before me, I was moved to tears as this one image brought it all to the forefront of my mind – “yes, this is Christ, in death, yet still in life with the coming resurrection.” The most complete visualization of hope – knowing that through his great suffering and ultimate sacrifice of his life for ours, He will conquer sin and death once and for all, so that we may live in grace, redeemed in the eyes of God.
Pieta in terracotta by Soldani, 1715 The artist depicts the crucified Christ, the angel to the left reflects sorrow and extends a hand in similar repose to the nail-scarred hand of Jesus. The angel to the right offers a kiss and represents the hope of the resurrection to come.
Today we live with more uncertainty and fear in an unsettled world filled with anger and seemingly without hope – who could even imagine a society in total lock-down as a deadly virus runs rampant across the entire globe – and the recent protests and civil unrest related to race relations and the police. Many are wondering, is this the end times that the Bible warns about? Jesus told his disciples in Matthew Chapter 24 verses 3 through 8, And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” And Jesus answered and said unto them, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
Certainly, many things we see today could be a signal that we have indeed entered into the “beginning of sorrows” that Jesus referenced. Just as our own lives will one day end, we don’t dwell on it, but our own mortality is inevitable. We as believers also know the end of times will come, as foretold in the Bible, according to God’s plans and no man knows the date or hour, only the Father in heaven. Based on that, I can’t say “the end is near” or whether or not we are truly entering the “beginning of sorrows” – but given the signs that Jesus referenced, I do feel that we are nearing that time. So how does that relate to mankind right here and now? To the reader, maybe you aren’t sure about your own condition, spiritually or otherwise, and maybe you would like to know more – I encourage you to read on as we continue with our discussion of death and life.
Every person has the opportunity to reconcile with God through our savior Jesus Christ, but it is not out of fear that we should seek redemption, but from a place of surrender as we acknowledge our own separation from God, our sins and transgressions, and then accept the free gift of salvation through Christ. God does not blame us for existing within this fallen world, but because God is perfection, He can not dwell with us unless we are redeemed within this lost existence – which is why He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to sacrifice his very life so that we could be made new. This ultimate sacrifice by God towards mankind is the free gift that brings us into that close relationship with our Creator that was intended from the beginning. This is the only way to redemption, as pointed out by our Lord in John Chapter 14, verse 6, Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Plain and simple, Jesus is the answer to that age-old question that we all face – is this brief period of time that we spend on this earth all that there is? What happens after we take our final breath – do we simply return to the earth as human debris buried and eventually forgotten – or is there more? Most people spend their time avoiding that question or they work it out in their own mind, creating their own version of a god – usually it goes like this – “I believe in a higher being that loves us and when we die we go on to a better place.” This is a dangerous approach to a serious question – one that impacts our eternal life beyond this brief period on earth – but for so many, it helps settle the issue or it provides some form of relief so they don’t have to get down into the weeds of spiritual life. Honestly, to a certain degree, I get it – many people that I speak with about faith and religion are so put off by the modern-day church in America that they would rather spend their time anywhere else than in a seat on Sunday morning surrounded by all these nicely dressed do-gooders. I can’t say that I blame them – the church in the last seventy or so years has become more of a club than an outreach to the masses and the message of eternal life, the “Good News” of the Gospel regarding Jesus has been lost in the shuffle. Television preachers to a great extent have watered down or totally taken the message off course to suit their own desires leaving many wondering why waste their time. Overall I do not think that our modern-day churches are going to receive the warm welcome by our savior that is expected – collectively so many have dropped the ball. I could write all day on the topic, in fact, I would encourage you to read our message Death of the Church – Comfort Zone Christianity which goes much deeper into this sad spiritual decline from within our church of today. So why should we even bother with these issues? Because we are eternal beings, created by God, and we seek answers because we know there is more, we feel that void in our own lives that can’t be filled with material things or busy careers – we hunger for that fulfilling relationship with God whether we realize it or not. In this journey of discovery, we need to be careful and heed the warnings of the apostle Paul in his writings to Timothy (2 Timothy chapter 3) – where he speaks of those that will create their own form of religion and will hold to a “form of godliness” but will deny the power of God. Paul warns to avoid such people and beliefs, for the dangers this represents goes far beyond the simple idea of settling the debate internally – it puts those very people at risk of losing everything in eternity. We see this all around us and far too often in my experiences I hear from people that have not accepted Jesus into their hearts express a “form of godliness” through their own ideas of what a creator or higher being represents to them. My response to that is to ask a simple question – what do you truly believe and what is that based upon? Have you taken the time to just stop and consider what path you are taking – have you reconciled with God? We are given the gift of salvation, eternal life through Jesus, not by our own works or good deeds, but because God loves us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That’s the message of hope – you are of great value in the sight of God, our creator. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or how you’ve lived your life, either good or bad or indifferent – God’s love is there for you – this free gift of eternal life that through Christ bridges that gap that stands between us and our heavenly Father. Simply through your one step of faith, believing that Christ died for you and was resurrected by God, that relationship with our creator is fulfilled. Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Have you ever just sat down and thought it over – what do you believe?
Jesus says in Revelation chapter 3, verse 20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him…”
Think about it in this context, Jesus chose 12 disciples as his first followers while he walked this earth. They saw miracles upon miracles, the blind made to see, the lame healed to walk again, even the dead returned to life. One of the boldest among them, Peter, even having seen these miracles first hand, denied three times that he ever knew Jesus as the soldiers arrested Christ and lead him away to his crucifixion. We know now that Peter went on to be that “rock” that Jesus had described of him, “upon which I will build my church,” but in those days leading up to the cross, Peter cowered in fear for his own life. But what happened to bring about such change in Peter following the crucifixion? What changed in him, so much so, that he went on to establish the early church and lead thousands to know and accept Christ as Lord and savior? Peter saw the resurrected Christ – on that third day following the cross, Jesus was risen! It was through this miracle of the resurrection that Peter was changed forever – to stand firm in his faith, to preach the good news of the Gospel, to lead the new church even when the Roman Emperor Nero had him arrested. Peter could have saved his own life at this point by once again cowering in fear and denying Christ – but Peter knew the truth, he witnessed first hand the death on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. This faith would not fail, Peter stood firm and declared Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, even to the point of his own death by crucifixion. By accounts in the public record, Peter did not feel worthy of death in the same manner as his savior, Jesus, and he requested to be crucified inverted as a final act of submission and respect to his Lord.
That is what we, as believers, celebrate at Easter – the confirmation of God’s eternal plan to rescue mankind from the clutches of our enemy, Satan, through the death and the life of our savior, Jesus Christ. It confirms “the way, the truth and the life” of which Jesus described himself. This truth continues to this very day as we annually celebrate the Resurrection, for through Him we are saved to eternal life. Do you know Christ? Have you made that profession of faith described in Romans Chapter 10 verse 9,“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” I tell you right now, you can have peace, you can be released from a life of fear and uncertainty – all you have to do is take that first step of faith and accept the truth – Jesus is the true Son of God, he gave his life as a ransom payment for your sins. All you have to do is believe – it’s that simple. You don’t have to do anything else, in fact, you can’t do anything to earn this gift from our loving God. The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 2 verse 21, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
You see, if we could earn our way to salvation, if we could uphold the laws or through any other manner of living gain a pass into heaven, then it would mean all the suffering and sacrifice of our savior Jesus Christ on that old rugged cross was for nothing. Our good deeds should come as a result of our salvation, not as a way to earn God’s favor.
So once again, I ask you, do you know Jesus? We sincerely want you to take that step of faith and accept the free gift of salvation through your professed belief in Christ right now…today. Please don’t let this moment pass, you may never have this opportunity again. Remember this, in the eyes of God, our creator, you have great value – God wants you to take this step of faith and accept his gift to you. Salvation. It is here for you today. Or you can put it off, tell yourself you’re not ready or you’ll think about it later…you can go back to living in a world filled with turmoil, wondering if these signs point to the “beginning of sorrows.” Remember, once we reach that point, truly the end is near. Don’t wait, don’t live another day without facing the question and settling the answer once and for all. Nothing would be worse than one day to discover, your time has passed and you never settled the issue with God.
If you wish to know more or want to speak with us about salvation – please reach out through this link – I want to know more about Jesus and salvation
We also encourage you to read from these messages that will take you through the simple steps of salvation and even includes a sample prayer asking Christ into your heart. This is what our ministry is all about, sharing the good news with everyone, so that you might take that step of faith and accept Jesus Christ as your savior.
Thank you for reading our message of hope and faith, we hope it speaks to your heart. Please contact us if you’ve made that step of faith or if you have prayer requests or want to know more about this message. We are here for you.
John Frey – Director and senior editor, Life Beyond Horizons Ministry