Sometime ago I was with a woman who, after accepting Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, hurried to her family to share the wonderful news about being saved! Instead of being supported, she was jokingly asked, "Saved from what?" Millions consider salvation to be a joke, and tragically, one day the so-called "joke" will be on all those who don't believe.
When death silences our body, and our casket is lowered into the dark, dank grave, we will not cease to exist. "? There is a natural body (suited to life on earth), and there is a spiritual body (suited for eternal life)". (I Corinthians 15:44) Since each of us is a sinner (Romans 3:23) in urgent need of being saved, it's critical that we comprehend the horrifying ramifications of being unsaved, and the immediate need for salvation (II Corinthians 6:2b).
Physical death is the portal into eternity's only two destinations: Heaven, the beginning of everlasting happiness (saved), or Hell (and ultimately the Lake of Fire) and never-ending damnation (unsaved). "?the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice. And shall come forth; they that have done good (accepted Jesus), unto the resurrection of life: and they that have done evil (rejected Jesus) unto the resurrection of damnation." (John 5:28-29) Furthermore, it's imperative to understand that God created us with a free will, giving us absolute control over our eternal destination. We have a choice! "He that believeth on the Son (a choice) hath everlasting life (Heaven): and he that believeth not the Son (a choice) shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him (Hell/Lake of Fire)." (John 3:36) "He that believeth on him (choice) is not condemned; but he that believeth not (choice) is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18)
John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress, wrote, "Fools make a mock of sin, will not believe;??They know not that it is the very spell (influence) of sin, to make them laugh themselves to Hell?". The unsaved can joke about Jesus'' death and resurrection, ignore sin and scoff at the existence of afterlife but when their bodies succumb to death, there will be no laughter, no second chances. At the instant of one's demise, whether saved or unsaved, a person's freely chosen destination will be final; realized throughout all eternity. Because there is no other destination: no purgatory (Romans 8:1), no nirvana, reincarnation (Hebrews 9:27) or annihilation (Luke 16:19-31), our journey will be instantaneous and nonstop; directly to Heaven or straight to Hell (Matthew 25:46).
And Hell awaits if we are striving for salvation through good works, kind deeds, church affiliation, religiosity, morality, tithing or baptism. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12) "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: It is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) Why refuse God's gift? Why reject Jesus?
We wouldn't hesitate to reach out to a person rescuing us from treacherous waters or think twice about grabbing onto someone pulling us from a blazing inferno. Why, then, do we hesitate to grab the Hand of Jesus? He is the Only One who can save us from drowning in our sin, rescue us from the firestorm of Hell, and deliver us from the ever-lasting Lake of Fire (Revelations 21:8).
He suffered so we wouldn't have to! Gasping for breath as His body struggled for air, blood oozing down His face, nailed hands and feet holding Him against the rugged cross, Jesus suffered cruel torment and brutal death because He was "?not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (II Peter 3:9b) Jesus Christ willingly shed His precious blood in order to rescue you and me from eternal damnation. "?without shedding of blood is no remission (forgiveness)." (Hebrews 9:22b) Jesus Christ is our propitiation (atoning sacrifice) presented to God to satisfy our sin debt! "Who (Jesus) was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again (resurrection) for our justification (pardon)." (Romans 4:25)
Don't snicker at salvation. It won't be a laughing matter if we find ourselves in the hands of an angry God! (Psalm 90:11) His wrath will wipe the smirk from every unbeliever's face, to be replaced with "wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:42) as the Lake's everlasting flames of torment relentlessly prove ?"salvation was no joke".
We must be saved. With genuine faith we must believe in the only source of salvation-Jesus Christ. "For whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13) Saved from what? From the everlasting penalty of sin - eternal punishment. (Revelations 20:11-15)
Ask yourself, where is the humor in suffering throughout all eternity?
Nancy Hamilton is an author of Christian books and a member of Souls Harbor Baptist Church. She can be reached at website wordsontheword.com and by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Christy Hudson at 376-5446 or email@example.com. Or, if a Thoughts of Faith column is written at the writer's convenience and sent to The Times, it will run the first available date.