21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21–22, NKJV)
The gospel makes disciples. And, disciples need strengthening to “continue in the faith” (Col. 2:6-7). The reason for exhortation to continue in the faith is given in verse 22 – there are many tribulations through which disciples must pass to “enter the kingdom of God.” Would someone please explain why strengthening the souls of the disciples for these tribulations is necessary if their entrance into heaven is already settled? In other words, if the eternal inheritance of Christians cannot be jeopardized, then why exhort them to continue in the faith? Why the need for strength in the face of tribulations, if entrance into the eternal kingdom can never be endangered? The truth is we can become weak. It is possible for Christians to turn back to sin and no longer continue “in the faith” (2 Pet. 2:20-22; Gal. 5:7). Let us hear and heed the Spirit’s exhortation to “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11). You will face pressures as a disciple of Christ. Be brave, be strong. Your entrance into the eternal kingdom is certain as you “continue in the faith.”
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; (1 Peter 1:17, NKJV)
Christians sing the old spiritual song, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…,” reminding us our stay on earth is transitory. Life is temporary, and when we live as if it is permanent we forget key components of a life well-lived in preparation for eternity. First, we forget we are immortal beings. Created in the image of God, we are not defined by the physical realm, but by the spirit, the inner spiritual person. We call on our Father in heaven, not on lifeless gods craved by the art and design of men. We live before God, and therefore we must live with an immortal perspective. Second, we forget what we do on earth will be judged by God, fairly and impartially. God sees and knows everything about us. We will each give account of ourselves to God. That should persuade us to live in His favor right now (Rom. 14:11-12). It should cause us to dread sinning against Him. God’s judgment of our lives will be personal, fair, and impartial (2 Cor. 5:10). We are convinced by God’s goodness and severity to do His will faithfully each day (Rom. 11:22). We are choosing what our judgment will be by the way we live. Remember, this world is not our home. So, live for heaven (Matt. 6:19-21).
20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20–21, NKJV)
Citizenship identifies a person as a legal member of a nation. It qualifies that person to participate in the rights and privileges of that nation. In contrast to “the enemies of the cross of Christ” (“whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their minds on earthly things,” Phil. 3:18-19), Christians are qualified “to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12). By faith, we eagerly wait for the Savior’s return, living in hope of the glorious resurrection in anticipation of our heavenly estate (Heb. 11:14-16). Christ will subdue (subjugate, defeat) death in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Kingdom citizens will be delivered up to God the Father to dwell forever in the eternal city of God (1 Cor. 15:23-24; Rev. 21:22-27). These great assurances compel the wise and faithful of heart to answer the gospel call to be saved, to become citizens of heaven (Acts 2:37-41; Col. 1:13). Christians set their minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2). Let us live for the glory of heaven daily, not for things that end in destruction.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4, NKJV)
Hope is more than desire. It is also an expectation of things to come. A popular song says, “Everybody want to go to heaven, but nobody want to go now.” Its lyrics depict a wholly worldly value of life on earth and of the life to come. While some search for “heaven on earth,” others envision heaven as living their best moment on earth over and over. Both are illusions formed by the fantasies of human imagination. The gospel of Christ provides a singular hope that unites all who heed its call. “In Christ we have obtained an inheritance” that is “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” for Christians (Eph. 1:11; 1 Pet. 1:4-5). (Note that heaven’s inheritance is obtained “in Christ,” not in the world.) Ours is a “living hope” that combines desire and expectation “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:3). Hope in Christ is our refuge that anchors our souls through life’s storms (Heb. 6:18-19). The hope that unites Christians is “laid up for you in heaven,” and is found “in the word of the truth of the gospel” which calls us out of sin’s death into a life of grace and truth (Col. 1:5-6). The Lord Jesus Christ is “our hope,” for what He has promised, He will fulfill (1 Tim. 1:1). Our sure hope is that where Jesus is now, we will be with Him throughout eternity (Jno. 14:1-3). This is why we put your hope in Christ, not in the fleeting and false hopes of the world (Eph. 2:12-13). We urge you to also put your hope in Christ.
20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20–21, NKJV)
What have you provided for yourself and for others when your life comes to an end? The legacy we leave ought to be measurable by far more important things than silver and gold. Faith, integrity, goodness, and kindness should shape our legacy. There is nothing wrong with leaving an inheritance of properties and possessions to our descendants. But there is something very wrong with covetousness. Jesus warned, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Lk. 12:15). He made it clear that when one’s primary concern and goal is earthly possessions, those very things valued the most will always disappoint when death comes. We must be “rich toward God” and lay up heavenly treasures (Matt. 6:19-21). That begins by being saved by grace through faith in obedience to apostolic commandments (read Acts 2:37-40). It continues by living by faith, doing God’s will, and setting our mind on things above (Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:1-4). Look around you. Everything you see will be left to someone else when your spirit returns to God (Eccl. 12:7). So be sure your treasures are in heaven, not on this earth. Of what does your life consist? What will be your legacy?
1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, 2 who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. (Hebrews 3:1–2, NKJV)
We are exhorted to give careful and complete consideration to the High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. The high priest under the law of Moses was “taken from among men” and “appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Heb. 5:1). Aaron was called by God to fill this role (Heb. 5:4). By God’s oath, Christ was called by God as High Priest (Heb. 5:4-6, 10). Aaron entered a tabernacle made with human hands, there to offer animal blood for his sins and the sins of the people. But, our High Priest has entered heaven itself (the “true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man”), seated at God’s right hand (Heb. 8:1-2). He offered His own blood to God to atone for sins (Heb. 9:11-14, 23-26). By his freshly killed flesh, Jesus opened the way for sinners to have access to God’s mercy (Heb. 10:19-21). We draw near to God only because our High Priest offered His blood to God as a sacrifice for sins (Heb. 10:22). Now at God’s right hand, Jesus “always lives to make intercession” for “those who come to God through Him” (Heb. 7:25-28). Thus, Christians “come boldly to the throne of grace” and obtain mercy in our time of need (Heb. 4:16; 2:17-18). What an amazing High Priest is Christ Jesus (Heb. 7:26)!
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.