Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 1:1, NKJV)
Today is Saint Patrick’s Day, a celebration of Ireland named for Patrick, a fifth-century cleric from Roman Britain credited with bringing Christianity to the island. March 17 is regarded as the day of his death. Patrick recounted a vision led him to Ireland as a missionary. Legends and tales of shamrocks, snakes, and walking sticks becoming living trees wrap themselves about the imagery of Patrick. Never officially canonized by a Catholic pope, he is venerated by millions. And, herein is just some of the problems with “Saint” Patrick. In the New Testament, every Christian is a “saint” (holy person) as today’s verse indicates (see also, Acts 9:13, 32, 41; 26:10; 1 Cor. 1:2). God does not speak through visions now, but through Jesus Christ and His apostles (Heb. 1:1-2; Matt. 10:40). Patrick’s imaginations ought not be thought of as divine directives. (Many have made that mistake through the centuries!) And, please explain how drinking alcohol to celebrate a “saint” squares with the holiness of a “saint,” when the Bible says do not start the drinking process, much less continue it to inebriation (Eph. 5:18). The Bible does not teach us to have feast days to honor “saints” of the Catholic Church. Celebrate Ireland, but don’t confuse worldly indulgence with honoring a saint of man’s own creation.
40 Then they served it to the men to eat. Now it happened, as they were eating the stew, that they cried out and said, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. 41 So he said, “Then bring some flour.” And he put it into the pot, and said, “Serve it to the people, that they may eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot. (2 Kings 4:40–41, NKJV)
There was a famine in Israel and food was scarce. When Elisha the prophet told his servant to make a pot of stew, someone gathered unknown herbs, vines and gourds for it, “though they did not know what there were” (2 Kings 4:38-39). Elisha miraculously cleansed the poisonous stew, and they ate without harm. When we eat spiritual food we must know what it is. The doctrines and commands of men are “death in the pot” and destroy our souls by taking us away from God’s truth (Gal. 1:6-9; Col. 2:20-23; 2 Jno. 9). The wisdom of the world causes spiritual death (1 Cor. 1:21; 2:6-7; 3:19). Yes, the spiritual food we “eat” matters! Be sure you partake of the Bread of Life (Jesus) by hearing, believing and following His word (John 6:27, 35, 48-58). He has the words of eternal life (John 6:60-68).
9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. (Acts 9:9–11, NKJV)
An important question arises from the aftermath of Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-8). Saul asked, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” and was told to “go into the city, and you will be told what you must do,” to which he complied (Acts 9:6-8). Here is the question: If Saul was saved when Jesus appeared to him on the road, why did Ananias ask him, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord?” (Acts 22:16) The answer is obvious. After three days of blindness, fasting, and praying, Saul was still in need of his sins being cleansed. Although fasting, Saul’s repentance was not all he needed to be forgiven. Although praying, Saul’s prayers did not constitute “calling on the name of the Lord” to be saved. However, when his faith compelled Saul to arise and be baptized, his sins were washed away by the blood of Jesus (Rom. 6:3). This is how sinners are saved today. Not by miracles. Not by faith alone, repentance alone, prayer alone, or baptism alone. Do you have the faith to do all Jesus commands so your sins will be washed away?
14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14–15, NKJV)
Death and Hades will be overpowered and destroyed at the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:26). At the resurrection and judgment day, Christ (who has “the keys of Hades and of Death,” Rev. 1:18) will destroy death and the grave, fulfilling the prediction that “death will be swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54-55). The “lake of fire” is the “second death,” the place of eternal punishment where the devil and his cohorts “will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). Death will never claim another body. Hades will never hold another departed spirit. On the judgment day they will “die” – forever separated from the power and fear they have exerted against humanity. The “second death” has no power over those who have part in the “first resurrection,” for they share in Christ’s victory over sin and death (Rev. 20:4-6; 6:9-11). However, those who are not saved in Christ are not in the Book of Life. Their judgment will be the lake of fire, the second death. Hell is real. Hell is forever punishment, eternal separation from God and all this is good. It is outer darkness, filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30; Mk. 9:43-48). Knowing these things beforehand should compel us by faith to repent and follow Jesus completely.
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. (Revelation 20:13, NKJV)
The comprehensive nature of the final judgment (v. 12) is amplified here by elaborating the extent of the resurrection of the dead. Even the depths of the sea will not prevent its dead from coming forth at the Lord’s command (John 5:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:52). Death and Hades are pictured in John’s vision as being brought into submission at the resurrection, no longer to hold their power over humanity. Hades is not hell (the place of eternal punishment following the judgment). It is the realm of departed spirits where we go after death as we await resurrection. Hades is composed of a place of rest and a place of torments, with no crossing from one place to the other (Lk. 16:22-26; 23:43). The judgment will be the moment when every one of us will answer to God for our lives. There will be no doubt of the accuracy and legitimacy of God’s decision toward us on that day. Every knee will bow to Jesus Christ, and every soul will receive righteous judgment (Rom. 14:10-12). We have an appointment with death and with the judgment that follows our resurrection from the dead (Heb. 9:27). Be prepared. “Save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:40, ESV). Read Mark 16:15-16 and Acts 2:36-42, put your faith in Jesus, and obey Him now.
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. (Revelation 20:12, NKJV)
The final judgment will be inclusive – every human being will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). The “small and great” will stand before God to give a personal account to Him on that day. Whether nobility or commoner, rich or poor, famous or anonymous – all will be there. Our judgment will be impartial, complete, righteous, and according to truth (Rom. 2:2, 5-6, 11). That “books were opened” draws attention to the standard by which we will be judged. God’s word – revealed to humanity and recorded in inspired Scriptures – is the rule by which we will be judged (John 12:48). Another book, the “Book of Life,” will be opened to reveal the names of those who received and obeyed the commands of God, and thus have everlasting life (John 12:50). We cannot afford to live as if we are only answerable to ourselves. No one is an island devoid of moral responsibility toward God and toward others (Rom. 14:7). We are accountable to God for our heart, our words and our actions. We must attune our lives to God’s word now. We are accountable, and one day we will answer to God for our choices to obey His word or reject it.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. (Revelation 20:11, NKJV)
Often referred to as the “great white throne scene,” John’s vision of Judgment Day begins with the image of the majestic presence of God’s appointed judge seated upon His throne (2 Corinthians 5:10). His throne is “great” (signifying His mighty power of His rule) and “white” (signifying the holy purity and righteousness of His judgment, Romans 2:5). As all people of every nation are gathered before Christ’s judgment seat (according to Matthew 25:32), our material habitation (“the earth and the heaven”) will be no more. In John’s vision they have “fled away” – having served their purpose, they are dissolved from existence, no longer to be found (2 Peter 3:10-12). God has appointed a day of judgment for the world, and He has ordained Jesus as the judge (Acts 17:31). All who believe God’s word will repent of their sins and follow Jesus (Acts 17:30). None will escape the judgment of God (Romans 2:3). Therefore, the gospel persuades us to prepare for that day (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). Are you ready? If not, the gospel tells you how to get ready (2 Peter 3:9-14).