The gospel message is God’s plan to bring a broken world and broken people (you and me) back into a right relationship with Him. If you are reading this because you have experienced the death of a young child, know with certainty that your precious little one is now in heaven. He or she is now being held safely in the arms of Jesus. God has provided for them. The following is God’s plan for you to be reunited with your little one in Heaven.
The gospel message is centered on the life and completed work of God’s son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ (Christ means “Messiah” or “Savior”) was born into this world to destroy the barrier of sin that separates us from God. Sin is the rebellion of man against God, and all of us have chosen to rebel against Him. The consequence of sin is a physical and spiritual death. This death results in eternal separation from God. By ourselves there is nothing we can do to prevent this separation. However, God sent His son, Jesus, to bear the consequences of our sin. Jesus lived a blameless and sinless life. He paid the price of our sin, physical and spiritual death, through His death on the cross. He took our place. As a result of His actions it is now possible for us to have a right relationship with God. Three days after He died, Jesus rose from the grave. He demonstrated that He had power over even death. He promises that all who turn away from their sin and place their trust in Him do not need to fear death. They will live eternally with Him. For those of us who have experienced the death of a little one, a great reunion is planned when we place our trust in Jesus.
While we will do our best to explain God’s plan for salvation, it is our sincere hope that you do not simply take our word at face value. Instead we encourage you to search the scriptures yourself. Let God speak to you through His Word.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. ~ Genesis 1:1
The Bible teaches us that in the beginning God created all things. It teaches that plants, animals, oceans, stars, and everything else originates from God. On the final day of creation, God created man and woman. The Bible explains that God formed man from the dust of the ground. The man’s name was Adam. God placed Adam in a deep sleep. While sleeping, God removed one of Adam’s ribs and used it to create a woman. The woman was named Eve. Originally, God created the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve to live in. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden and they lived in perfect relationship with Him. In the middle of the garden, God placed two trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told Adam that he was free to eat from any tree in the garden. However, he wasn’t to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for if he did, he would die.
In addition to creating the world and humans, God also created the angels. God’s highest ranking and most prominent angel chose to rebel against Him. This angel was cast from His presence and is known as Satan, or the devil. He is also known as the serpent, the father of lies, and the destroyer. Satan approached Eve in the Garden of Eden and deceived her. Eve was deceived into eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. She also offered the fruit to Adam. Adam, fully knowing God’s will for his life, deliberately chose to disobey God and eat the fruit. It is recorded in the Bible as follows:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'” “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. ~ Genesis 3:1-6
God immediately knew what Adam had done. Adam had chosen to deliberately rebel against God. This choice ultimately resulted in a broken relationship between humanity and God.
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return…” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. ~ Genesis 3:17-19, 23
When Adam and Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit, they chose to turn their back on God. They rejected God’s perfect plan for their lives, believing that they had a better plan. As a result, God removed them from the garden, the earth was cursed (cursed is the ground because of you), death came into existence (for you are dust, and to dust you shall return), and sin separated humanity from God.
It is obvious that our world is not a perfect place. In fact, it is easy to see that much of our world is incredibly broken. News headlines are filled with stories of natural disasters, political scandals, murder, and so much more. It makes one wonder, how can the world be so messed up? The Bible tells us the reason our world is so broken is because of sin.
But what is sin? The Bible teaches us the essential nature of sin is making ourselves (or anything else) out to be God. It’s putting anything or anyone, most often ourselves, above God. It occurs when we turn away from God and follow our desires instead of His. Sin occurs whenever God’s will is violated.
Sin first entered the world when Adam and Eve ate the fruit which God had forbidden them to eat, and it has been present ever since. The Bible teaches that as a result of Adam’s sin, all have a sinful heart. In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul writes:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. ~ Romans 5:12
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ~ Romans 3:23
Another way to understand what Paul is saying is to view our hearts as having the “disease” of sin. The symptoms of our disease might be gossip, hatred, adultery, etc. However, those symptoms stem from a heart infected with the disease of sin. Our sinful heart seeks to rebel against God. The Bible tells us that ALL of us are born with sinful hearts. We are all born with a bent toward evil.
God is 100% good. He is moral, just, loving, compassionate, kind, true, merciful and without fault. When we sin, or turn our backs on God, we turn away from what is right and true. When we sin, we invite pain, sorrow, and evil into our world. We also invite it into the lives of those around us. Often times the pain and sorrow caused by sin does not appear to have any rhyme or reason as to whom it impacts. The drunk driver seems just as likely to kill a passing family in an accident as he does himself. The Bible teaches us that all evil, sorrow, and death in our world is the result of sin. Earthquakes, famines, disease, and poverty are all the result of sin. God told Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you.”
One might ask why an all loving and all powerful God would ever allow sin into this world. The answer lies in the fact that God wants to have a genuine relationship with us. If God were to eliminate the possibility of sin, or rebellion against Him, He would in essence eliminate our free will. He would be forcing us to love and honor Him, which really isn’t love at all. Just as we can’t force others to love us, God doesn’t choose to force us to love Him. Thus He gave us the ability to reject Him. This allows for the possibility of a genuine loving relationship to exist. However, given enough time, all of us have chosen to reject God.
God, our Heavenly Father, is an all-loving God. He is the true embodiment of love. He is also completely holy and completely righteous. He is morally perfect in all ways. As a result, He cannot and will not tolerate any evil or any sin. His holy and perfect character requires that judgment be brought upon all sin. The Bible tells us what the result of sin is.
For the wages of sin is death. ~ Romans 6:23
Any and all sin results in both physical and spiritual death. The consequence of living our life apart from the will of God is that we disconnect ourselves from the source of life (God). Just as a branch withers and dies when it’s cut away from the vine, we also die when we separate ourselves from God. When sin entered the world, death also entered the world. The Apostle Paul writes that even creation itself is warped and distorted under the weight of sin.
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay. ~ Romans 8:20-21
Physical death is everywhere in our world. Everything living eventually dies. All are born with the condition of sin, and as a result all will face a physical death. More importantly, sin results in a spiritual death. Spiritual death is the separation from God for all eternity. It is the removal of ourselves from everything that is right and good. Hell can rightly be defined as a place that is completely and utterly separated from God. Jesus Christ describes hell, or separation from God, as a place of torment and agony (Luke 16:22-24), a place of darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 22:13), and a place of fire (Revelation 20:15). The Apostle Paul also speaks of the fate of those (all of us) who rebel against God:
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power. ~ 2nd Thessalonians 1:8-9
Often we seek to compare ourselves against others in an attempt to win God’s favor. We might say, “I’m not as bad as Hitler.” We might also hope that if our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds we can avoid God’s judgment. However, the Bible teaches that we are not held to a worldly standard but instead to God’s perfect moral standard. A single deed, thought, or omission in rebellion of God results in our eternal separation from Him. God’s perfect morality and perfect righteousness demands that He judge the sin in our lives.
The worst part of our sin condition is that there is nothing that we can do about it. We cannot fix it. We cannot be “good enough” to earn right standing in God’s eyes. By ourselves, there is nothing we can do to avoid judgment and eternal separation from God. There is nothing we can do to avoid both physical and spiritual death. Sin is a humanly incurable disease. However, the wonderful news of the gospel is that God can do something about this problem of sin. Through the birth and death of Jesus Christ, God has provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him. Jesus Christ came into this world to save the lost. He came to pay the wages of sin. He came to conquer death itself.
God’s solution to the problem of sin is found in the person, life, and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches us that not only was Jesus the son of God, but that He was actually God himself. God loves us so much that He descended from the highest heights of heaven and wrapped himself in human flesh. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. The creator of the universe entered our world as a fragile little infant. The Apostle John states:
The Word (God) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. ~ John 1:14
The Bible tells us that if we want to know what God is like, we are to look to the identity, character, and claims of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul describes Jesus in the following way:
He is the image of the invisible God… For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. ~ Colossians 1:15, 2:9
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being ~ Hebrews 1:3
Jesus Himself said:
I and the Father are one. ~ John 10:30
While the Bible teaches that Jesus was 100% God, it also teaches that He was 100% human. As we read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life we see that He thirsted, hungered, cried, laughed, loved, grieved, bled, and even died. God entered our world so that He might undergo all of the joys and sorrows that we, His children, experience.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity. ~ Hebrews 2:14
Jesus was also tempted. He too had the choice to rebel against His Heavenly Father. However, instead of choosing rebellion, Jesus chose submission. The Bible teaches us that Jesus is the only person in all of history to live a perfect, blameless, and sinless life.
For we do not have a high priest (Jesus) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. ~ Hebrews 4:15
The Bible teaches us about the character of Jesus. By looking at Jesus we are able to know how God thinks and acts. We are able to see what God values and how he responds to different situations. As one reads through the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus, we see that He is incredibly compassionate. Jesus protects the weak and the oppressed. He is angered by injustice. He demonstrates the full power of His Godhood through the performance of miracles. He healed the sick, calmed the sea, and raised the dead amongst many other miracles. He is a friend of sinners. He condemns the self-righteous and hypocrites. He seeks to be in relationship with people. He submits to the will of His Heavenly Father. He loves sacrificially, even onto death.
We are also able to understand Jesus by the claims He makes. Jesus claims to be the only way through which we can regain a right relationship with our Heavenly Father. He claims to be the only one who can solve our problem of sin. Jesus claims to be the only source of hope in an otherwise hopeless world. He claims that only He has the power to conquer death, grant everlasting life, and restore our relationship with God. The Bible records the words of Jesus:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ~ John 14:6
“I (Jesus) am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” ~John 10:9
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” ~ John 11:25-26
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ John 10:10
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. ~ John 6:35
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” ~ Matthew 16:15-16
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” ~ Revelations 21:6
Jesus Christ is 100% God and 100% human. He demonstrated both compassion and power. He lived a perfect and sinless life. He is the only avenue through which any of us might regain a right relationship with God.
Jesus entered this world and healed countless people, displayed the attributes of God, and demonstrated perfect living. However, none of these are the primary reason Jesus came to walk among us. Instead, Jesus entered our world to provide the means for us to regain a right relationship with God. He came to destroy the barrier of sin that separates us from God. The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death. Jesus came to pay those wages. The physical and spiritual death reserved for us, as a result of our sin, was instead placed on Him. Jesus Christ entered this world to die on our behalf.
Jesus knew His purpose in life was to die for the sins of the world. Jesus was executed by crucifixion. During the lifetime of Jesus, the Roman government ruled the land. The Romans utilized crucifixion as a deterrent against all those who would rebel against their rule. Crucifixion was developed to be the most painful and tortuous manner in which one could be executed. Those sentenced to be crucified were first severely beaten and whipped. They were then forced to carry a large wooden beam to the place of their execution. Once reaching the place of crucifixion, the carried beam was fixed to a second beam, creating a cross which was laid on the ground. The person to be crucified was laid on the cross with their arms stretched wide. Large spikes were driven through his wrists into the wood. Their legs were crossed and another spike was driven through both ankles. Once the person was fixed to the cross, it was lifted up and secured in the ground. The crucified person would then hang on the cross until death overtook him. The process generally lasted several hours to several days.
As Jesus neared the end of His teaching ministry, there were many who despised Him, particularly the religious leaders of the day. Jesus had exposed them as hypocrites who were more concerned with themselves than they were with God. These religious leaders were jealous of Jesus because so many people were following Him instead of them. They began to devise ways to kill Jesus. They approached Judas, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Judas was asked to betray Jesus and deliver Him into their hands. Judas agreed.
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. ~ Matthew 26:47-56
Jesus knew this was going to happen. He knew these men were coming to arrest Him and eventually take Him to be crucified. Yet He did not resist. Jesus had the ability to call 12 legions of angels to come to His defense. This is the man who had calmed the storm, walked on water, and raised the dead. Those armed guards could pose no threat to Him. It is very important to understand that Jesus willingly chose to go to His death. Jesus was not a victim. Jesus was a willing participant so that “the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Jesus chose to go to His death because He loves you. He loves you more than you will ever be able to understand. He went so the barrier of sin separating you from God would be destroyed. He willingly chose to go to His death so that you might regain a right relationship with God. Jesus said,
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep… No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. ~ John 10:14, 18
After Jesus was arrested, He was brought before the religious leaders. The chief priests put Him on trial but could find nothing against Him. Finally they asked Him if He claimed to be the Son of God. Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say.” This infuriated the religious leaders and they accused Him of blasphemy. With that they brought Jesus before the Roman governor, Pilate, seeking His death by crucifixion. Pilate was unable to find anything against Jesus and sought to release Him. However, the chief priests riled the people against Jesus. “Crucify Him! Crucify Him,” they shouted. With that, Pilate yielded to the crowd and handed Jesus over to be crucified.
Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. ~ Matthew 27:27-36
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”… And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split… When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” ~ Matthew 27:45-46, 50-51, 54
When Jesus was crucified, He experienced both a physical death and a spiritual death. When Jesus shouted, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” our Heavenly Father turned His back on His only son. In that moment, God, who cannot tolerate sin, allowed the full judgment of the world’s sin to fall on Jesus. Jesus paid the wages of sin for us. At the same time, all of Jesus’ righteousness and perfection was credited, or transferred, to us. The Apostle Paul writes,
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
With His last breath, the gospel of John records Jesus shouting out the Greek word tetelestai. This means “it is finished,” or “paid in full.” The wages of our sin were paid. With His death on the cross, Jesus accomplished the primary purpose for His life. He destroyed the barrier of sin that separates us from God. By virtue of His taking our sin upon Himself, there is no longer anything that can keep us from God.
The death of Jesus on the cross is the ultimate love story. He loved us so much that He willingly took our place on the cross. He loves you so much that He took your place on the cross. It is proof of God’s amazing love for us. The Apostle Paul writes,
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8
The purpose of Jesus’ death on the cross, simply put, was to bring us to God. The possibility now exists for us to have a right relationship with God (where it did not exist before). The sin barrier is gone. Jesus loves you more than you will ever know, and He wants to be in a relationship with you.
The most exciting part of God’s love story is that this isn’t the end. Jesus doesn’t remain dead. Three days after His crucifixion Jesus, conquers death itself.
Throughout His ministry Jesus told His disciples that he would face death. He also told them that three days later He would rise from the grave.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. ~ Matthew 16:21
After Jesus was crucified, His body was taken from the cross and laid in a tomb. Three days later the Gospel of Luke records the following:
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'” Then they remembered his words. ~ Luke 24:1-8
Jesus kept His promise. Three days after the crucifixion, Jesus returned from the dead and exited His grave. He conquered death itself. The resurrection is the greatest miracle ever performed by Jesus. It was the crowning moment in God’s plan for our salvation. It is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. The Gospel of Luke records when Jesus returned to His disciples.
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” ~ Luke 24:36-48
What does the resurrection of Jesus mean? It means that Jesus has demonstrated that He has the power to overcome death itself. It means that He has the power to destroy the sin barrier. It means that He has the power to back up His promises. It means that He has the power to save us from death. If we put our faith and trust in Him, Jesus promises us eternal life. Jesus said:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” ~ John 11:25-26
The logical question that follows is this: Why do people who follow Jesus still die a physical death? What happens when they die? Death can be defined as the separation of the spirit from the body. The Apostle Paul tells us that the spirit of one who dies in Christ immediately enters into His presence in heaven.
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NKJ)
Those people are completely cared for and safe. While their spirit enters heaven, their body remains on earth. The Bible also describes those who have died as having fallen asleep. This description is used for two reasons. The first is because a dead person looks like they are sleeping. The second is that when someone is sleeping, they eventually wake up. Jesus Christ is referred to as the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” This is because He was the first, or primary, person to die and to be raised from the grave. He woke up. All those who follow Jesus also follow in His footsteps. They will also wake up.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:20-22
The Apostle Paul compares the resurrection of the dead to a planted seed. In order for a seed to blossom, it must first die. Only after it dies can it grow into a plant. It is the same for us. The bodies we have now are weak and mortal. They are subject to the curse of sin. But through Jesus Christ, our perishable bodies can be raised.
But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body… So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-43.
The resurrection of those who have died will occur when Jesus returns. Jesus promised His disciples that He would return a second time. The Bible continually foretells of His second coming. When He returns, He will bring with Him those who died trusting in Him. It is at this point that the resurrection of believers takes place. The spirit will be joined to the resurrected body. Followers of Jesus who are still alive on earth will immediately receive their resurrection body. They will then be with the LORD forever. The Apostle Paul describes what will happen:
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Paul tells us to encourage each other with these words for three primary reasons. The first reason is that those who place their faith in Jesus Christ need not fear death. The second reason is that there will be a reunion with those who have died in Christ. If you are reading this and you have experienced the death of a young child, this promise includes your child. The third reason is that followers of Jesus will be with Him forever. This is possible because Jesus paid the price of sin at the cross. It is possible because He rose from the grave and conquered death.
God created you. God loves you and wants to be in a true, genuine relationship with you. He loves you so much that He even gave you the ability to reject Him, and each one of us has chosen to reject God’s will for our lives. All of us have turned our back on the relationship God would have with us. All of us have invited sin into our lives. The wage of our sin is death: a physical and spiritual separation from God for all eternity. There is no human solution to the disease of sin. Left to ourselves we are hopeless.
However, while we are sinners, God continues to love us. He loves us so much that He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the wages of our sin. Jesus entered our world in order to serve our death sentence. He died on a cross. Through His sacrifice each of us now has the possibility of a right relationship with God. Because of His love, our precious little ones now stand in His presence in heaven. Three days after the crucifixion, Jesus rose from the grave and conquered death itself. He promised that those who put their faith and trust in Him no longer need to fear death, for they will also inherit eternal life. In perhaps the most well known of all Bible passages, Jesus summarizes His promise.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” ~ John 3:16-18
Through His son Jesus, God has offered us a gift of immeasurable value. He offers us the gift of salvation, meaning it is now possible to regain a right relationship with God. Salvation is only possible because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our salvation results in an eternally perfect relationship with God. It results in our entrance into heaven and fellowship with all who place their faith in Jesus Christ. It results in the unspeakably joyful reunion with our precious little ones. It is a gift where Jesus promises to come and live in our hearts, even in this world… to walk with us, to guide us, and to comfort us.
However, it is a gift. Gifts are given and not earned. God offers us this gift solely based on His mercy and grace… not because we are worthy, but because He loves us. We do not deserve this gift. We cannot contribute to the gift. We have no right to this gift. The Apostle Paul describes it this way:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9
He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. ~ Titus 3:5
When Paul says “not by works” he is telling us we cannot earn a right relationship with God. There is nothing we can “do” to earn entry into heaven. This means we can never “outweigh our bad deeds with good deeds” to gain right standing with God. It means we cannot give enough money to buy our way into heaven. Membership of a certain church or denomination does not guarantee salvation. There is no religious ceremony or act that can automatically heal our broken relationship with God. Being born into a “Christian family” does not result in inheriting our parents’ salvation. In short, we cannot be “good enough people” to regain a right relationship with God. Anyone who approaches God based on their own merits will be held accountable for their sin. It is only by the grace of Jesus Christ, through His completed work on the cross, that anyone will ever stand in a right relationship with God.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
Once again, God has given us a choice. He has given you a choice. He has presented us a gift, and as with any gift we can either choose to receive it or reject it. We can humbly and mournfully acknowledge that we are lost in our sin and are in need of a Savior. We can recognize that we need Jesus to pay the wages of our sin. We can turn to Him and away from our sin… and ask Him to be LORD of our life. Or we can reject the gift. We can say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t need it. I don’t want it. I don’t want anything to do with you. I want to be in control. I choose to be the god of my life.” It’s one or the other. There is no in-between.
Even in this, the most important of all decisions, God will not force His will on you. He will not force you to accept His free gift of salvation. He wants a true and genuine relationship with you. Jesus says that He will come to any and all who call on Him.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” ~ Revelation 3:20
However, please know this. While God is an all-loving God, who wishes that all would want to be in relationship with Him, He is also completely moral, just, righteous, and holy. He will not tolerate sin in any way, shape, or form. He will dispense justice for all sin. The wages of sin is both physical and spiritual death. This death is a complete separation from God for all eternity. The name of the place of eternal separation from God is hell. God will allow you to choose to reject Jesus Christ and His willingness to pay the price for your sin. However, in that rejection, God will instead hold you accountable for your sin on judgment day. Those who place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ will have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life. Those who reject Jesus will not have their names written in the book of life. The Bible tells us of the coming day of judgment:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. ~ Revelation 20:11-15
God does not want this judgment for you. In fact, we know that God does not want this judgment to fall on anyone (2 Peter 3:9). God loves you so much that He sent His one and only son to pay the wages of your sin. He has provided for you a way to be in a right relationship with Him. God wants you to turn to Him. Those who place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ are promised eternal life, eternal fellowship with God, and eternal fellowship with other believers. Just as hell is defined as complete separation from God, heaven can be defined as complete fellowship with God. God wants you to live with Him eternally in heaven.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. ~ Revelation 21:3-7
God loves you and wants to be in a right relationship with you. He wants you to accept His gift of salvation.
So how does one receive God’s free gift of salvation? The Apostle Paul tells us there are two simple things we must acknowledge and desire.
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame… Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ~ Romans 10: 9-11, 13
The first thing Paul tells us is that we need to acknowledge that Jesus is LORD and believe that God raised Him from the dead. This means that we want Jesus to become the LORD of our life. It means that we want to give up control and start following and being in relationship with Him. The second thing Paul tells us is that we must confess. We need to acknowledge before God that we have sinned against Him and rejected Him. We need to acknowledge that without Jesus, we are helplessly lost in sin with no means of gaining a right relationship with God.
Right now God is tugging on your heart, seeking to offer you His wonderful gift of grace and salvation. Perhaps you have gone to church your whole life, but you have never asked Jesus to be your personal Savior. Perhaps this is the first time you have ever heard of Jesus. No matter the circumstance, God is right now offering you His free gift of salvation through His son, Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us all we must do is acknowledge to God what is written above in prayer. There is no ritual or ceremony necessary to accept Jesus into your heart. There is no need for a pastor or anyone else to be present. The prayer is simply between you and your Heavenly Father.
If you have never taken the first step toward intimacy with God by embracing his son Jesus, you can do it right now. Through a simple prayer, like the one below, you can begin a new and right relationship with your Heavenly Father.
I have heard about you, but I have never truly known you for myself. I want to know you and be part of your family. So right now, I would like to receive your invitation to know you in an intimate way. I want you to come into my heart and take control of my life. I acknowledge that I am a sinner and unable to save myself. I believe that Jesus died on the cross as payment for my sins. I believe that He rose up from the dead so that I might have eternal life. Thank you for the gift of eternal life. Help me to trust you and walk with you here on earth until the day when I walk with you in heaven.
If you have truly and sincerely prayed the above prayer, God has promised to enter into genuine fellowship with you.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” ~ Revelation 3:20
The Bible tells us that there is great rejoicing going on in heaven because you have received Jesus as your personal LORD and Savior. Jesus himself said,
“I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” ~ Luke 15:10
You have also become part of God’s family. You are God’s child. In fact, the Bible tells us that you have been marked with God’s seal of ownership.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. ~ Ephesians 1:13-14
Jesus has paid the price for your sins. You no longer need to fear death and separation from God. You have inherited eternal life and will spend eternity in the presence of your Heavenly Father with the rest of His children (this includes your child who the LORD has already called to be with Him). Jesus said,
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” ~ John 5:24
If you have received Jesus Christ into your life, your walk with Him is now just beginning. As His child, he wants to deepen and strengthen His relationship with you. He wants to be included in every aspect of your life. God wants to communicate with you, and He wants you to communicate with Him. We are primarily able to communicate with God through prayer and his Word, the Bible.
The Bible is God’s most direct means of communicating with us. It is His love letter to you. God uses his Word to teach us, show us truth, console us, uplift us, prepare us for the future, and even make us laugh. By reading the Bible we are able to gain a true understanding of who God is and the purpose He has for our life. Just as our bodies need physical nourishment to stay healthy, our spirit needs spiritual nourishment to stay healthy. God provides this nourishment through His Word. Spending even a short amount of time in Scripture every day will literally change your life. If you have never read the Bible before, perhaps the best place to start is in the New Testament book of Mark. Mark is one of four gospels accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John). These accounts describe the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. From there, continue on with the book of Acts, Romans, and so on.
God also wants us to communicate back to Him. We are able to speak to God through prayer. Prayer can be silent or spoken out loud. It doesn’t need to be fancy or formal, like you may have heard in a church or other religious setting. All it needs to be is genuine. God wants you to tell Him what is on your heart… what is happening in your life. He wants you to tell Him your concerns, joys, worries, sorrows, thankfulness, excitement, and fears. There is no prayer that is too small or too big for God. Nothing is too insignificant for him. Prayer can be done in a church or while weeding your garden, by yourself or with many others. God loves you, wants to be in relationship with you, and wants you to communicate with Him.
God also calls us to be in fellowship with other believers. This often happens within a church setting. While we often think of the church as a building, it is important to remember that the Bible tells us that the church is actually the body of people who place their faith and trust in Jesus. The church isn’t a building. God calls us to fellowship with other believers so that we can support each other, learn together, worship together, and be accountable to each other. The Bible tells us that it is absolutely essential to be part of a fellowship of believers. In choosing a church, the one absolutely vital requirement is that the church preaches, teaches, and puts into practice what is taught in the Bible. The Bible is God’s foundation of truth for all aspects of life. The last thing to remember is that there is no perfect church. The church is made up of sinful people who struggle and continually make mistakes. The simple fact is that the church needs you as much as you need the church.
If you have received Jesus Christ into your heart, the Bible tells us that you are now a new creation. It tells us that you have been born again. It tells us that Jesus has taken on your sin, and you have taken on His righteousness. It tells us that Jesus will walk with us through the peaks and valleys of this life. It tells us a wonderful reunion is being prepared for you with your precious little one. It also tells us that you will spend eternity in the presence of your Heavenly Father.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16