1 The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. 2 He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness. (Isaiah 57:1–2, NKJV)
Because Israel’s watchmen were blind and silent, the righteous among them perished. There was no mercy in the land; sin and suffering had taken control of the land. The death of the righteous was a blessing in disguise. By death, the righteous were extracted from the impending calamity of judgment brought on by the nation’s sins. We can get so wrapped up in thinking about life here and now, that we forget the blessing death will bring. For sure, death brings sorrow of loss and separation. But Christians see it as much more. For the righteous, death gives passage away from merciless evil, to a place of rest and comfort (Luke 16:19-25). Let us view death as an exit and an entrance. Death is our exit from a sin-filled world, and our entrance into joyful peace. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). May we walk in uprightness, and see the blessedness of death’s deliverance from pain, into an abiding rest for the soul.
22 His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin. 23 He shall die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray. (Proverbs 5:22–23, NKJV)
The Bible clearly explains the effects and consequences of personal sin. The worldly mind refuses to acknowledge what sin is, and what it does to one’s soul (Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-18; 6:23). Sin is very real, even though the fleshly mind ignores it, and even redefines it to justify its wrongdoing. Sin is a snare from which no one can escape without God’s help. Its bands grow increasingly tight as one ignores God and His truth. Every sinner must listen to and follow the instruction of God to be freed from the bondage of their sin. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jno. 8:32). Do not believe the lies of the world the says sin is nothing. To practice sin is exceedingly foolish, and those who choose to go astray in it are not wise. If you are living in sin, you are headed for eternal death, a fiery punishment from which there will be no escape (2 Thessalonians. 1:8-9; Revelation 20:11-15; 21:6-8). Jesus Christ will save you from your sin and death, if you will listen to His word, believe Him and obey Him (read Luke 8:8; John 8:23-24; Acts 17:30; 22:16; Hebrews 5:8-9).
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18, NKJV)
The rock upon which Jesus built His church is not Peter; it is the confession Peter had just made: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Without this great truth, there would be no church, no “called out” body of redeemed souls who are purchased by the blood of the Son of God (Acts 20:28; Eph. 1:22-23; 25-27; Rev. 5:9-10). It is an obvious, yet neglected truth, that the church belongs to Christ. The church does not belong to you or me, or any other person. Therefore, no one has the right to alter it, abuse it, disrespect it, discount it or corrupt it with the “commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:22; Matt. 15:7-9). The death of Jesus did not prevent the building of His church. Indeed, His death and resurrection declares His great power over sin and death. The church is the result of Christ’s great victory over sin and death. So, rather than minimizing the church as an afterthought, or as a non-essential, personal choice, let us praise God for the church of Christ and the heavenly blessings Christians have in Christ (Eph. 3:10-11; 1:3). There is only one church, and that is the church we must choose; the church which Christ built. The churches of men are not, and never will be, the church of Christ.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23–25, NKJV)
Does the church of which you are a member eat the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week? In the days of the early church, every first day of the week was “as often as” the disciples ate and drank the supper (Acts 20:7). We should follow the example of the apostles, including Paul, who ate the Lord’s Supper with the Troas church on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 4:16). Why do you eat the Lord’s Supper? Jesus said it is for the express purpose of remembering Him. When Christians eat the bread, we remember His body that was put to death for us. When Christians drink the cup (the fruit of the vine, Lk. 22:18), we remember His blood that dedicated the new covenant. The Lord’s Supper is a solemn memorial of Jesus’ death. We just observed Memorial Day by remembering those who gave their lives for our freedom. How much more then, ought we to honor Jesus by following His teaching with a weekly remembrance of His death, which gives us freedom from sin.
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)
This Bible passage enjoins upon faithful Christians the task of rescuing a struggling, sinning Christian from spiritual death. It forever exposes and opposes the false teaching of “once saved, always saved.” Here, the soul that needs saving is a Christian who: (1) Has wandered from the truth. We must walk in the truth to be secure in our salvation (Jno. 10:27); (2) Needs turning back. The person is headed in the wrong, spiritual direction; His present way is “error.” You see, there really is only one way that leads to life (Jno. 14:6); (3) Has sinned. The person is “a sinner,” “in error” and in “death.” He/she is lost. You see, doctrine (teaching) affects salvation. False doctrine is error; a wandering from the truth. Wandering from the truth into error is a real danger. When it happens, the spiritually strong must become first responders, trying to save a soul from death (Gal. 6:1). In what more worthy endeavor can you participate? “He who wins souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30).
14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:14–15, NKJV)
The apostle John had just described the children of God as those who “practice righteousness,” making an application that loving one’s brother is the epitome of this righteous conduct (1 Jno. 3:10). The brethren of whom he speaks are fellow Christians. One’s passage from spiritual death into spiritual life is assured by practicing love toward fellow Christians. As Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, the Christian who hates a fellow Christian is a murderer. A heart filled with hate has death abiding in it; not eternal life. To detest and disregard our brethren assures that we “abide in death” and will not pass into eternal life. (Oh yes, a Christian can sin and lose his soul!) This is a powerful motive to love each other as He has love us, and by obeying the Lord, abide in His love (Jno. 13:34-35; 15:10).
4 The pangs of death surrounded me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. 5 The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. 6 In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. (Psalm 18:4–6, NKJV)
Songwriters Frank E. Graeff and J. Lincoln Hall wrote, “Does Jesus Care?”, which begins, “Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth or song, as the burdens press, and the cares distress, and the way grows weary and long? Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief; When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.” Death enveloped David like a noose around his neck. His only relief was the Lord, to whom he cried. God heard him, and saved him from his enemies (Psa. 18:3, 16-19). Each of us will face death at some point. Perhaps you (or a loved one) are facing it now. Christians are confident that death does not defeat our faith, because our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death! Yes, He cares when that robber of life comes with its sorrow and pain. But, Jesus gives us joyous hope beyond this land of parting and weeping – of the land of endless day and of His eternal love. Oh yes, He cares!