3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3–4, NKJV).
We must keep our eyes open and our lives illuminated by the light of the gospel lest Satan (the “god of this age”) blind us with his deceptions, and we perish in sin and darkness. He has already blinded unbelievers with his lies. The devil is real and active in this world, seeking his prey (Job 1:7; 2:2; 1 Pet. 5:8). Man has long ago mythologized Satan, turning him into merely a personification of evil. Sufficiently fictionalized and caricatured, the devil is undoubtedly pleased with being discounted as the figment of human imagination. For example, the Satanic Temple, sees “Satan as a metaphor for fighting religious tyranny and oppression” (Tarkus Claypool, from “An After School Satan Club could be coming to your kid’s elementary school,” The Washington Post, 2016). (See “After School Satan Club” for more.) Satan (“adversary”) is opposed to God and man (Gen. 3:4-5; Job 1:6-12; Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Pet. 5:8). The devil (“accuser”) is a liar who deceives the whole world (John 8:44; Rev. 12:9). We can resist his enticements in faith (James 1:12-14; 1 Cor. 10:13; Heb. 4:14-16). Jesus Christ has destroyed the works of the devil (sin and death, 1 John 3:8; 1 Cor. 15:54-57). Christians overcome Satan in Christ by the blood of the Lamb, the word of God, and self-denial (Rev. 12:10-11). God crushes Satan under the feet of His faithful ones who walk in “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (Rom. 16:19-20; 2 Cor. 4:4).
19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them (Deuteronomy 30:19–20, NKJV).
Why do people take their life? The reasons vary, of course, but one underlying cause is the sense of hopelessness. Suicide often follows the deluded belief there is no way out except death. Teen suicide increased dramatically during the Covid pandemic (Big Rise in Suicide Attempts by U.S. Teen Girls During Pandemic, U.S. News and World Report, June 11, 2021). What a tragedy. Human life is valuable; it is a gift from God (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7; Ps. 8:5). Even as God set life before Israel, He sets the blessings of life before us. Sadly, self-murder ends every opportunity to be blessed and to be a blessing to others. Instead of viewing life as hopeless and helpless, seize the benefits of life by having faith in God, loving Him, and obeying His word (v. 20). Life is not hopeless. There are endless possibilities, and most importantly, eternal life, in Christ (Mark 10:26-31). Life is not helpless; God is our stronghold of security, delivering us through life’s trials (Ps. 18:1-3). Help a young person take joy in the gift of life and its purposes (Eccl. 11:9-12:1, 13). May we all “choose life” and live joyfully in the living hope of Christ (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die (John 12:31–33, NKJV).
The purpose for which He came into the world was about to be fulfilled (John 12:27). Soon, Jesus would be crucified. His obedient death would glorify His Father (John 12:28; Heb. 5:8-9). Some thought they heard thunder or an angel when the Father spoke approvingly to Jesus from heaven (John 12:28-30). Note some crucial things accomplished by Christ’s death on the cross. (1) Christ’s death judged the world. The world judged Jesus worthy of death, yet His death would judge the world guilty of sinful injustice in need of salvation (Luke 23:39-41; Matt. 27:54; Acts 2:22-23). (2) Christ’s death cast out Satan. The devil lost his grip on holding men and women captive in sin when God accepted the death of Jesus as an offering for sin (1 Cor. 15:56-57; Heb. 10:10). By His death, Jesus destroyed the power of sin used by the devil to destroy souls (1 John 3:8). (3) The crucified Christ would draw sinners to salvation. The Son of Man was lifted onto an instrument of execution to die for all who are dead in sin so that we can live in Him (John 3:14-16; Heb. 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:24). Jesus glorified the Father by obeying His will and dying on the cross. The gospel calls us to honor and glorify Jesus by hearing, receiving, and following His word (Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 3:17; Luke 6:46).
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19–20, NKJV).
James concluded his exhortation to have a mature faith by challenging the faithful to care for the spiritual well-being of their brethren. The tenor of his instruction is not a self-righteous approach toward the wandering saint but a sincere attempt to turn back the wandering Christian. James describes the wandering Christian as a sinner, in error, and dead in his sins. Yes, Christians can fall and be lost (Gal. 5:4, 7). If not, there would be no need to encourage brethren to turn this person back from the path he has taken. The standard we use to measure whether one is wandering away from the Lord is “the truth,” the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25). The wayward Christian has succumbed to the enticements “his own desires” that produce sin (James 1:14-15). Let us be invigorated not to neglect the danger and death faced by faltering brethren. With the mercy and urgency of Christ, let us attempt to pull them out of the fire, looking to ourselves, lest we also be tempted (Jude 21-23; Gal. 6:1-3).
36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:36–39, NKJV).
The Hebrew Christians faced persecution for their faith (Heb. 10:32-34). These pressures and fears tempted some to drift back into the shadows of the first covenant, presumably, to avoid persecution (cf. Gal. 6:12). But such neglect and even willful rejection of Christ exposed them to God’s vengeance (Heb. 2:1-3; 10:26-31). God delivers His people from sin’s punishment of sin by faith (Heb. 10:37-38; Hab. 2:3-4). So, these Christians were encouraged to endure the present trials of faith and not shrink back to destruction (Heb. 10:39). Endurance is accomplished by doing the will of God and therefore receiving God’s promise of eternal life (Heb. 10:36). So, they needed to continue to be faithful through their present trials of faith. “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). Again, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). May we also hear and heed the inspired exhortation given to the Hebrew saints: “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward (Heb. 10:35).”
4 Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. 5 Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah (Psalm 39:4–5, NKJV).
The circumstances of our lives can change in an instant. A dear friend was hit by a drunk driver last week. He remains in the hospital, facing a long period of recovery. Another friend had an accident yesterday and broke his neck. He survived, was rushed to surgery, and his outcome is still unknown. Illness, accidents, and death touch our lives and those we know and love practically every day. David expressed his yearning to know the quantity and end of his days. Like us, David did not know when he would die. But he wanted to know the truth about his life so he could guard himself against sin while living in hope (Ps. 39:1-3, 7-8). We yearn for the same knowledge. Like David, let us pause (Selah) and reflect on life’s uncertainty and brevity and their impact on us. (1) We are frail (v. 4). Life is fleeting. No matter how strong we are, our bodies will ultimately fail us and die. Therefore, we must lay up heavenly treasures for life beyond this flesh (2 Cor. 4:17-5:1). (2) God is the giver of life (v. 5). Life is a gift to be cherished, not squandered (Eccl. 5:18-20; James 1:17). Met us honor His will whatever life brings (Eccl. 12:13). (3) Life is short (v. 5). Our lives are brief like a vapor’s rapid disappearance (James 1:14). In comparison to God’s eternal existence, our time is “nothing” before Him. As we busy ourselves with daily activities, we must remember this life’s treasures are vain (Ps. 39:6). “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord” (Jer. 17:7).
8 “You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:8–9, NKJV).
Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23). Although “we do not yet see (horao, discern clearly, JRP) all things put under” the authority of Jesus, we see (blepo, behold, sight) many things about Him. The writer of Hebrews draws our attention to the humanity of Jesus in chapter two, having already defined and described His deity in chapter one. When we pause to look at Jesus, we see the magnificence of the Savior. (1) We see His humility to be made lower than the angels for a little while. Leaving the glory of heaven, He submitted to becoming human to be an offering for sin (Phil. 2:7-8; Heb. 10:5, 10). In Him alone was “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). (2) We see Jesus becoming human to suffer and die. The painful humiliation and injustice of the cross was an act of willful obedience on His part (Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8). (3) We see God’s grace in His death for everyone. We see the paradox of the cruel cross as God’s blessed favor is revealed in the sacrifice of His Son for us. “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). (4) We see Jesus crowned with glory and honor. Resurrected and exalted in the heavens as God’s right hand, Jesus is king on His throne and High Priest over God’s house (Heb. 1:13, 8-9; 2:17; 8:1-2). Praise God that the Son became flesh and dwelt among us, to die for us, and to blaze the trail to glory for us (Heb. 2:10).
1 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1–2, NKJV).
Christians are repeatedly warned in the Scriptures to beware of falling away from God, His grace, and the faith (Heb. 3:12-13; Gal. 5:4; 1 Tim. 4:1; James 5:19-20). Embedded in this warning in 2 Corinthians 6:1 is a call to urgency by recognizing “the accepted time” and “day of salvation” and diligently receiving and standing in God’s grace (2 Cor. 6:2). Consider the days appointed by God that urge us to respond to God’s grace in faith and be saved in Christ. (1) The day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). This day is the gospel age. Salvation is available to all who believe (John 1:12; Mark 16:15-16; Rom. 10:8-13; Acts 2:36-38). God appointed this time to believe and obey the gospel for salvation and eternal life (Gal. 4:4). (2) The day of death (Heb. 9:27). Death is the great equalizer (Eccl. 2:14; 9:2-3; 12:6-7). Jesus releases the children of God from the fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15). Death is a great incentive to be a Christian and live by faith, not fear. (3) The day of judgment (Acts 17:31; Heb. 9:27). God calls us to repent because He will “judge the world in righteousness” by His Jesus Christ. God has confirmed a day of judgment is coming by raising Jesus from the dead. Therefore, God commands us to repent (Acts 17:30). We do not know when we will die or when the day of judgment will happen. But we know “now is the day of salvation.” Believe and obey Jesus to be prepared for the day of your death and judgment (2 Cor. 5:10).
22 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it (Acts 2:22–24, NKJV).
Nothing takes God by surprise, especially not the death of Jesus. God is eternal and declares “the end from the beginning…saying, ‘My counsel shall stand’” (Isa. 46:10). His foreknowledge compels trustful obedience to Him and not carved images. God’s prophet recorded God’s purposeful foreknowledge, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isa. 42:9). Jesus was delivered to death “by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (v. 23). From eternity past, God planned to save sinners by sacrificing His Son (Eph. 1:4-7). His prophets foretold a suffering Servant whom God would crown with glory and honor (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The sacrifice of Jesus fully expressed God’s love and grace toward us sinners (1 John 4:10; Rom. 5:6-11). Following His resurrection, Jesus said everything in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms concerning Him was fulfilled (Luke 24:44-45; Acts 13:32-33). The apostles witnessed these things and preached the good news of salvation to the world (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8). God planned to save us from sin. Now, He calls on us to believe and obey His Son to receive the gift He planned and fulfilled (Acts 2:36-41; 4:12; Heb. 5:8-9).
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2, NKJV).
How healthy is your soul? Would you be in good physical health if it matched your spiritual health? In this age of Covid, we are inundated with information and misinformation about being healthy, safe, and protected. Prudent measures for good physical health are important (1 Tim. 5:23; Luke 10:34). Exercise helps slow the rate of decay of our death-destined bodies (1 Tim. 4:8). But the gospel compels us to look at the health of our souls as more essential (1 Tim. 4:7-8). It is the remedy to our sin and death; salvation in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 5:24-25; Rom. 1:16; 6:23). A cure for Covid would be a worldwide bestseller. Yet, the cure for sin is cast aside by countless souls rushing headlong toward eternal death. Why is that? Why are people more afraid of their physical death than their eternal death (Matt. 10:28)? Because they do not believe God and the words of His Son, Jesus. Why is the death of God’s saints precious in His sight (Ps. 116:15)? Because they are the ones who “take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord,” serving God faithfully all their days (Ps. 116:13-14, 16-19). With Ananias, we ask, “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 remedy for your sins is available through the sacrifice of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:17-19; 2:24; Rom. 6:3-4; Eph. 2:1-10). Believe and obey Jesus and be saved from sin and death (Rom. 6:17-18; Heb. 5:8-9).