As Christians, we are commanded to be baptized as a response to our faith in Christ. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). And He [Jesus] said to them, “‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned’” (Mark 16:15, 16).
The word baptize literally means “to dip or immerse.” The act of going under water during baptism, symbolizes being buried in death. It is a symbol of our dying to our old life and resurrecting in our new life (Romans 6:1-4). It demonstrates an outward sign of an inward change. We see baptism as a public testimony of our faith in Christ. Some say that water baptism is necessary for salvation: that’s not really true. In Scripture we only see those who were already believers being baptized. It’s important to remember that salvation is based upon what Christ has done, not on what we can earn (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since it is only for believers who profess faith in Christ, it would exclude infants since they can’t make their own profession.
The Holy Spirit is our Helper. There are three ways in which we experience Him in our lives. The first is called the with experience. This speaks of the Holy Spirit coming along side of us to convict us of our sin and to help us come to the LORD. The second is the in experience, which refers to the Holy Spirit dwelling in a believer when he accepts Him as his Lord and Savior. These first two experiences are mentioned in John 14:16-17. The third aspect is the upon experience that signifies the empowering of the believer for Christian service. In doing so, the power of God’s Spirit will flow through us and touch the lives of those around us. Jesus describes this outpouring of the Holy Spirit in John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” The reference to the upon experience is found in Acts 1:8 which says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This act of the Holy Spirit empowering the believer is what is known as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The cross has always signified death. In ancient times, the cross was used as a means of execution for criminals. It was a way of torturing a person by inflicting the severest pain, and causing them to feel the deepest shame. The convicted person was first physically punished by being beaten and whipped. He was then crucified on a cross, where he was left to die a slow and painful death usually from suffocation. That’s why Jesus’ dying on the cross for our sins is so amazing. He offered Himself to be crucified for the sins of the whole world. He died on the cross so we wouldn’t have to. Being born into sin, already guilty, it should have been us up there on the cross. It was an unworthy exchange: our guilty lives, for His guiltless one, yet God did it because He loves us. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). And so now, we are made free from spiritual death having “…no condemnation in Christ” (Romans 8:1).
Many ask, ‘If God is so good and loving, why does He allow evil’? This is a flawed premise since it implies that we are in a position to say what is good and what is not good about God. We ourselves do not know what good is naturally, for we are not basically good. How then can we judge God?
Still, the question of evil persists, and we often hear the question “why?” in the aftermath of some tragedy. Remember, when God created the world, He created it perfectly. That includes His creation of man. Yet, this “perfect” man was also given the freedom of choice, or an ability to choose. When Adam chose to disobey God, sin, death and suffering became an inevitable part of life. Romans 5:12 states, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (NLB). The evil in this world is a result of that original sin.
You may say, “Wait a minute, I didn’t choose to sin. Adam did.” Yet, the Bible teaches that we all have sinned (Romans 3:23). We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. We have a natural bent in us to do what is wrong. James 4:1 says that there is a “whole army of evil desires at war within you.” At the same time, God gave us absolutes to live our lives by–standards that are found in the Bible. When we make choices that are contrary to those absolutes and standards, evil is the result.
C. S. Lewis put this question in proper perspective. He observed that it is idle for us to speculate about the origin of evil. The problem we all face is the fact of evil. The only solution to the fact of evil is God’s solution, Jesus Christ [Paul Little, How to Give Away Your Faith (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1966), p. 72]. Once you surrender your life to Jesus Christ, you enter into the master plan that God has for you. For that reason, you can be assured of the promise in His Word, that “everything works together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLB).
Sometimes what appears horribly evil and tragic can result in something good. Consider Joseph’s assessment of his brother’s wicked act of selling him into slavery. Understanding that God had allowed this to happen so that he could be a man of power in Egypt, Joseph said, “God turned to good what you [my brothers] meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20 NLB).
We may not always understand the “why’s” of a certain tragedy, but we know the “Who” that will carry us through it. He promises, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God . . .” (Isaiah 43:2-3a NIV).
Jesus Himself described heaven as paradise when speaking to the thief on the cross; “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). He also assures us in this verse that upon our death we are immediately in the presence of God. The original word for heaven means “high or lofty”, or “that which is above”, which designates where heaven is located. In heaven, there will be no more pain, suffering or tears for God will make all things new; “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). The Book of Revelation has many descriptions of heaven; including the throne room in Revelation 4, “… and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald” (Revelation 4:2-3); Jesus at the throne in Revelation 5:2-7 and the angels worship of God in Revelation 5:8-14. Following the final judgment, the Great White Throne Judgment, there will be a new heaven and new earth, as the current heaven and earth are destroyed by fire (Revelation 21, 2 Peter 3:10-13). Also described is the New Jerusalem, the final dwelling place that Christ has prepared for us in which we have personal, intimate fellowship with Him throughout eternity. The main point is that heaven is the place where we will live in the immediate presence of God eternally.
God doesn’t send anyone to hell. It was never His design to send people to hell. It breaks the heart of God to see people, made in His image, make the deliberate choice to go to hell. Hell was not made for people; it was made for the angelic being, Satan, who rebelled against God. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus says the everlasting fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. Scripture also teaches, “[God] is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). That is why God sent Jesus to die on the cross in our place–to bridge the gap between sinful people and a Holy God. The gates of hell are locked from the inside. If you end up in hell, you will practically have to climb over Jesus to get there.
Are you saying that if a person does not believe in Jesus Christ, they are going to hell? Jesus Christ Himself said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NKJV). If humankind could have reached God any other way, Jesus would not have had to die. His voluntary death on the cross makes this fact even more compelling.
Christians are not superior to any other person. A person who believes Jesus Christ is the only Son of God and proclaims that truth is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.
Although the Bible does not give us a detailed description of hell, the Bible does tell us some truths about it. First, the Bible describes hell as a place that has been prepared for the devil and his angels in the center of the earth. Although hell was prepared for the devil, God has also set hell aside for those that have chosen to reject Christ as their Lord and Savior. Matthew 25:41 says, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ ” Second, Scripture tells us that hell is only a temporary dwelling place for the wicked who await the final judgment; a place of torment, “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame’ ” (Luke 16:22-24). After the final judgment, hell will be cast into the Lake of Fire. “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. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:13-14). Third, is the fact that those who go there will never die, but live in torment forever and ever, eternally separated from God. The Gospel of Mark says, “where their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44, 46, 48).
“Don’t all roads lead to God?” people often ask. “If a person is sincere in his or her beliefs, won’t he or she get to heaven?” If you allow that all beliefs are true, then by what standards do you live? All belief systems cannot be true, because they cancel each other out. If you take time to look at what each religion teaches, you’ll find that only Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on a cross for our sins, that He paid that debt in our place, and that if we will turn from our sin and follow Him, we can be forgiven and know that we will go to heaven.
What did you try? Did you go to a church? Did you read the Bible? Did you ask Christ into your life? Did you trust in what Jesus claimed? Did you examine the claims of Christ? Most people know the Ten Commandments and the things that “thou shalt not” do. But the Bible also commands us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mark 12:30 NKJV). If you are not doing that, you are falling short in God’s eyes. Christ is real. Many facts substantiate that truth (Even Satan professed Jesus’ deity). And we shall come face to face with Him on the Judgment Day (Revelation 20:11-12).