A message by Pastor Ralph Ovadal
Most men and women would rather ignore the reality that they are even now walking through the valley of the shadow of death and they know not when their final day will come or in what form death will make his grim appearance. The Bible, the word of God, warns throughout, including in Hebrews 9:27, that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” There is a great day of judgment coming when every human being will stand before the Lord in his or her resurrected body and either be consigned to an eternal living death in hell or enter body and soul into a glorious eternity of perfect holiness, peace, and joy.
Now, you may not believe there is such a place as hell, but your disbelief does not make God a liar. The word of God is as clear as can be that hell is a literal place where condemned sinners suffer the righteous wrath of God for all eternity. On Judgment Day, their bodies will be raised up from the grave and be reunited with their souls, which had been already suffering in hell. But their bodies will not be raised up glorious and perfected as will the bodies of those who have died in Christ and who have been awaiting the resurrection in the glories of heaven. The resurrection of the Christian’s body will only increase his joy. But those in hell will only suffer the more for that reunion of body and soul.
Yet this is the perfect justice of the Lord. God in His unchangeable, immutable righteousness, God in whose holy eyes all sin is utterly hateful, has decreed “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23): that is, eternal, living death of the whole man in hell. Concerning those in hell, Jesus said, “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44). Hell is the eternal abode of the living dead, a place of literal worms and fire, yes, but a place where the inhabitants will also be tormented by the worm of conscience: the constant, searing reality of the grace and mercy of God spurned and heaven lost.
The word of God declares and the conscience warns that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin is committed by the whole man; and the whole man—body and soul—will eternally suffer the consequences and penalty of sin.
God will most assuredly uphold His own righteousness and honor on Judgment Day. “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Psalm 145:17). There is most assuredly a hell, and the word of God proves that hell is the only just sentence for sin.
Hell is what all of us deserve. But, thank God, there is also a heaven for those who have been saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Heaven is an eternal world of light and glory, holiness and happiness, peace and purity, love and fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ and all who have repented and believed on Him. Of heaven the word of God declares, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Perhaps you are thinking, “Well now, that preacher is going to try to save me.” Well, this preacher is not going to try to do what he cannot do. I cannot save you. No minister can save you. No church can save you. You cannot save yourself. You cannot be saved by good intentions or good works or religious rituals or repeating a certain prayer or simply declaring yourself a Christian.
“Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). It is a mighty work of Almighty God. It is a quickening work: that is, a spiritual, life-giving work by which the Spirit of the Lord creates a new man (or woman), now discerning spiritual things, “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13); a man which the Holy Spirit indwells and to whom the Holy Spirit bears sure witness that he is now, and forever will be, a child of God. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).
The sinner who has truly been saved “hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). He or she has been spiritually regenerated and given a new heart which is filled with love for the word of God, Christ, and His people and which sincerely longs to obey the whole word of God and to serve Christ Jesus and bring Him glory. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Those whom the Lord has made new creatures will never be perfect this side of heaven, but neither do they live in sinful defiance of the word of God. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters [including the poor, deceived Roman Catholics], nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind [homosexuals], nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
The Lord Jesus declared, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3)—yes, born again spiritually, born into the eternal kingdom of God and made an heir of salvation, one of the “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12). What inheritance is that? Briefly summed up, it is new, abundant, spiritual life, as a beloved child of God, accepted in Christ, with an assurance of sins forgiven and with a sure title to all of the spiritual blessings, gifts, graces, and glorious eternity which Christ has purchased by His obedience and shed blood for those who believe on Him.
How does God save corrupted, condemned, lost sinners? There is no other way than by and through His eternally begotten Son, Jesus Christ. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). That is, being truly God, He remained God; but in the greatest act of humiliation ever, He took to Himself also the true body and soul of a man, becoming at the same time then truly man but without a fallen sin nature and having no sin.
And why did the Son of God humble Himself in such a way and join to His Deity true humanity? Why did He become “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3)? Why did He leave the glories and bliss of heaven to walk upon this sin-corrupted earth, to live the life of a man, putting Himself under the law of God by which the whole human race has been condemned on account of sin? Why did the Lord of glory live among us, suffering from heat and cold, hunger and want, reproach and mocking, contempt, injustice, scourging, and finally crucifixion on Calvary’s cross? The word of God says, “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Christ Jesus stood in the place of sinners, as their substitute, to perfectly keep the law of God in thought, word, and deed in order to provide a perfect obedience, a perfect legal righteousness for those who would believe on Him. And on the cross, Jesus again took the place of sinners, whose sins were laid on Him and accounted as His so that He might satisfy God’s justice, offering up His own life of infinite worth on behalf of those for whom He died, all to redeem them from the curse of the law, which summed up is hell, and to purchase for them forgiveness and eternal life.
Have you read the account in the Bible of Christ’s suffering and death
on the cross, owning all of the sins of those for whom He suffered,
bearing the condemnation and shame, suffering as the wrath of God against
those sinners was poured into His soul until He cried out in anguish,
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” You and I could have
never in an eternity of suffering emptied the cup of God’s righteous
wrath which we filled by our sins. We could never have appeased His fiery
wrath and made a full end of it. But the Lord Jesus Christ, though He was
a true man, was also truly God, mighty to save and able to drink that
bitter cup until it was drained. And by His obedience and by His shed
lifeblood, the justice of God was satisfied in Christ, and the way was
made for sinners to be saved and become children of God with a sure title
to eternal life, free from the condemnation their sins earned, free from
the corruption of sin, free from the dominion of sin, free from the wrath
of God, free from the fear of death and hell, free from spiritual
blindness. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free
indeed” (John 8:36).
Have you read the account in the Bible of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross, owning all of the sins of those for whom He suffered, bearing the condemnation and shame, suffering as the wrath of God against those sinners was poured into His soul until He cried out in anguish, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” You and I could have never in an eternity of suffering emptied the cup of God’s righteous wrath which we filled by our sins. We could never have appeased His fiery wrath and made a full end of it. But the Lord Jesus Christ, though He was a true man, was also truly God, mighty to save and able to drink that bitter cup until it was drained. And by His obedience and by His shed lifeblood, the justice of God was satisfied in Christ, and the way was made for sinners to be saved and become children of God with a sure title to eternal life, free from the condemnation their sins earned, free from the corruption of sin, free from the dominion of sin, free from the wrath of God, free from the fear of death and hell, free from spiritual blindness. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Christ Jesus has suffered and died and risen from the dead; but it is only through faith in Him that sinners are washed in His blood, clothed in His righteousness, born again, and adopted as children of God. “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). The grace spoken of is God’s undeserved, unmerited kindness. Salvation is all of the Lord. Salvation is of God’s love, from His mercy, by His grace, worked by His power, on the sole basis of the obedience and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith”: that is, by resting and trusting in the obedience and blood of Jesus—believing Christ Jesus lived for you and died for you and rose again for you to save you and give you new, everlasting life as a child of God; believing it to be as Jesus said of Himself in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”: true saving faith in Jesus is the gift of God through which He quickens dead, condemned sinners to new life in Christ. True faith in Christ is not a “what have I got to lose” proposition, or a change of attitude or opinion, or a decision to adopt the Christian religion. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Having faith is an unshakable assurance; it is a living, sure, heartfelt belief in the gospel of Christ which I have shared. Faith receives, believes, and rests wholly on Christ Jesus, on His shed blood and His righteousness alone for the forgiveness of sins and new, spiritual, everlasting life as a child of God. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Salvation is a mighty, glorious work of God, a work of tender mercy, free grace, and omnipotent power. It is free, full, forever, and offered to all by the Lord who promises, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22). If you would be saved from sin, death, the grave, and the eternal wrath of God, then look unto Christ who declared, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26).
Have you been born again? Has God wrought a quickening, heavenly work in your heart by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone? Has Christ made you free? Do you have the assurance and joy that you are a “new creature,” a forgiven, beloved child of God with eternal life? If not, then “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Throw yourself upon His mercy; seek Him in His word; call upon Him in heartfelt prayer; humble yourself; confess yourself to be full of sin, rightly condemned, and helpless. Seek the Lord for faith in Christ, for forgiveness, and for new, eternal life. Take heart in His promise: “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Revelation 21:6).
A day is coming, the day of your death and after that the judgment when those who have rejected the love and mercy of God will answer to His justice. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
With all that I have shared, I cannot help but close this message with the anthem of grateful praise found in 2 Corinthians 9, verse 15: “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” Yes, thanks be unto God for Christ Jesus and salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Him alone, by the power of God alone!Ralph Ovadal is the pastor of Pilgrims Covenant Church.