PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“If they had wanted to, they could have gone back to the good things of this world. But they didn’t want to. They were living for heaven. And now God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has made a heavenly city for them” (Heb 11:15-16 TLB).
Many human beings don’t like to talk or hear about death but whatever your attitude to it is, it will come one day. But my focus in this message is not the reality of death. There is life before death, and there is life after death – eternity. What many people prepare for is life before death. They labour to save money, build houses, make investments that they can live on and make life reasonably comfortable for themselves after retirement before death eventually comes. And there is nothing bad about that. For some people, death comes earlier than they expect while some live longer than they expect. But surely death will come whether you prepare for it or not.
You must not prepare for life before death alone. In other words, you must only prepare for how to live comfortably before death comes. You must prepare today for life after death. Not because you expect to die soon, but because this second is the only time you’re sure of. You certainly know those who’re close to you or those you know who died suddenly when nobody expected. My prayer is that you’ll live long, but you must live ready for eternity. I pray that you won’t be a victim of sudden death syndrome, but the truth is: for man, death can come, or the rapture can take place any time (1 Thess 4:13-17). But it will be more than tragic to enjoy a comfortable life before death but spend life after death (eternity) in agony.
Life is short
No matter how long you live here on earth, in this dispensation, it will be infinitesimally small compared to eternity. Life here on earth is temporary; it is transient. David understood the transient or temporary nature of life when he prayed, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered – how fleeting my life is” (Psalm 39:4 NLT). It doesn’t matter whether it is 80 or 1,000 years, your time on earth is brief. David said again in Psalm 144:3-4, “O LORD, what are mortals that you should notice us, mere humans that you should care for us? For we are like a breath of air; our days are like a passing shadow” (NLT). How long does a breath of air or shadow last? Very brief!
Listen to David again: “I am fading like a shadow at dusk; I am falling like a grasshopper that is brushed aside” (Psalm 109:23 NLT). Job 8:9 also talks about human life being like a shadow: “For we were born but yesterday and know so little. Our days on earth are as fleeting or transient as a shadow” (NLT). Life is short compared to eternity. Psalm 119:19 says, “I am here on earth for just a little while” (TEV). Eternity is endless. Where will you spend your eternity? Are you preparing for life after death?
It would have been a different thing if death is the end of everything. Unfortunately, it is not. There is life after death. That is why it is not wise to prepare for life before death while neglecting preparation for life after death. According to Billy Graham, “Life is just a schoolroom with a glorious opportunity to prepare us for eternity.” Are you preparing for eternity? The right time to prepare for life after death – eternity – is now, not after you’ve finished preparing for life before death. Nobody knows when death will come. I hope you’re not one of those who say they don’t care whatever happens after death – they only care about here and now. That won’t be a wise way to live. You may wish to learn from the regret of that rich man in Luke 16:19-31.
Eternity in Hell
In Luke 16:19-31, the Bible tells us the story of a man who lived but didn’t prepare for eternity. He lived such a comfortable life, lived in great wealth, probably thinking it would continue like that forever. He never believed that there was life after death, and he therefore did not prepare for it.
That story is often called the story of the rich man and Lazarus; but as it has been rightly said, it can also be called the story of two beggars. The first beggar was Lazarus – a beggar here on earth. The other beggar was the rich man – a beggar in Hades, the place of the dead. The rich man only prepared for life before death and lived like a king on earth. He failed to make the most important preparation – preparation for life after death. Alas, he became a beggar in the place of the dead! He wasn’t begging for any of those sumptuous meals, special delicacies or choice wine he was used to during his life before death. He was rather seriously begging for a drop of water (not a cup of water) to cool his tongue. That shows the intensity of the torments in Hades, and how seriously thirsty he was in anguish.
The man suddenly remembered his brothers who were still on earth. He pleaded that Lazarus be sent to his father’s home to warn five brothers about the place of torment he was so that they wouldn’t have to come there when they died (verses 27-28). His request was turned down once more.
The rich man and his five brothers didn’t believe all that the prophets preached about eternity, heaven and hell, God’s judgment on the sinner, and so forth. The rich man experienced torments in Hades not because of his wealth, but because he didn’t prepare for eternity with God. Anyone who is not preparing to spend eternity with God is invariably preparing to spend eternity with the devil – there is no other place.
Heb 9:27 says, “It is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment” (NLT). In Luke 13:3, Jesus said, “And you will also perish unless you turn from your evil ways and turn to God” (NLT). Jesus said a similar thing in Luke 13:5: “No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will also perish” (NLT). May you not perish in hell.
Don’t be deceived by whatever you’re enjoying now. Solomon said, “Everything is meaningless…utterly meaningless!” (Eccl 1:2 NLT) He said a similar thing again in Eccl 12:8: “All is meaningless…utterly meaningless” (NLT). Solomon was talking about life without God. God has prepared for those who will spend eternity with Him something better than whatever anyone can enjoy here on earth (Heb 10:34).
Eternity with God
God’s plan has always been that you’ll spend your eternity with Him. That was why He sent Jesus to die for you. “For God decided to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. He died for us so that we can live with him forever, whether we are dead or alive at the time of his return” (1 Thess 5:9-10 NLT). And before He finished his earthly ministry, Jesus told his disciples: “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there” (John 14:1-4 NLT). Do you want to spend your eternity with God?
What you need to do?
1. Accept Jesus as your Saviour and Lord and continue to obey his teachings. This is how to secure today a place for yourself in eternity with God. “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it” (Matt 7:13-14 NLT). Be part of those entering through the small gateway and walking the narrow road. Quit the broad highway to hell and wide gate to eternity with the devil, which many have chosen. Don’t live in a mansion here on earth and spend your eternity in hell fire. Prepare for your eternal home, too. Hell is a place where the worm never dies and the fire never goes out (Mark 9:48). God didn’t design it for you. People only go there when they reject God’s Gift to the world, Jesus Christ.
Rev 21:8 says, “But cowards who turn away from me, and unbelievers, and the corrupt, and murderers, and the immoral, and those who practice witchcraft, and idol worshipers, and all liars — their doom is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death” (NLT). If you’re born twice (born naturally and born again spiritually) you’ll die once and resurrect to live in eternity with God. But if you’re born once (naturally without being born again spiritually) you’ll die twice (die physically and be cast into the lake that burns with fire and sulfur which is the second death). Anyone whose name is not found recorded in the Book of Life will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15). To insist that you’ll believe there is hell only after you’ve seen it will be foolish because it will be too late then. Get your name registered in the Book of Life today by committing your heart to Jesus. “If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead” (William Law).
2. Be heavenly-minded. That means you must live with heaven in your mind. The implication is that your choices and decisions will be influenced by heaven. You will live for heaven and will avoid worldly things. The Bible says of the patriarchs, “If they had wanted to, they could have gone back to the good things of this world. But they didn’t want to. They were living for heaven. And now God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has made a heavenly city for them” (Heb 11:15-16, TLB). You can’t love the world and love the Lord at the same time (1 John 2:15). You can’t serve two masters (Matt 6:24, Luke 16:13).
Don’t be concerned about the things of this world alone. Think about the things in heaven. Col 3:2-4 says, “Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory” (NLT).
3. Don’t be entangled with the things of this world. Don’t become a slave to your money, wealth, career or business. Don’t let your possession go to your head. Hold to it lightly, not tightly. You are a stranger and pilgrim here on earth (Heb 11:13; 1Peter 2:11). “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior” (Phil 3:20 NLT).
Hear what 1 Cor 7:31 says: “Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away” (NLT). This world is fading away, along with everything it craves, but if you do the will of God, you’ll live forever (1 John 2:17). That means you’ll spend your eternity with God. Eternity for sinners means eternal damnation. “He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power when he comes to receive glory and praise from his holy people. And you will be among those praising him on that day, for you believed what we testified about him” (2 Thess 1:7-10 NLT). Don’t live for this temporary world; live for eternity.
4. Don’t be selfish. Though this is associated with the things of this world, I’ve decided to address it separately. Don’t be like that rich fool in Luke 12:16-21 who was selfish making plans for himself without plans of sharing his bountiful harvest from his farm with anyone – he wasn’t rich towards God. He stored up the harvest for himself alone. Don’t amass wealth for yourself here on earth. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34). Be generous to God, Kingdom projects, others, especially the poor and the needy. Don’t be stingy. “The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Prov 11:25 NLT). God is the one who gives you power to get wealth (Deut 8:18). Therefore, be a good steward. “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can” (John Wesley).
5. Be controlled by the Spirit of God. Listen to and follow the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit. Remember that you were born by the Spirit – if you’re born again (John 3:5-8) “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Rom 8:14 NLT). Rom 8:6-7 says, “If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace” (NLT). If you’re controlled by the Spirit of God, you’ll live a holy life; and without holiness, no man shall see the Lord (Heb 12:14).
6. Remain faithful to Jesus. As a blood-bought child of God, don’t become complacent or lukewarm like the church at Laodicea. Jesus said to that church, “But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Rev 3:16 NLT) Only those who endure to the end shall be saved (Matt 10:22, 24:13; Mark 13:13). Don’t let your ‘enjoyment’ of your temporary stay here on earth make you lose eternity with God.
Conclusion: Do you know there are “better things waiting for you in eternity”? (Heb 10:34 NLT) If you do, you should not allow anything that will make you forfeit them. John Wesley said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.” That should be a guiding principle for you too.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus. I urge you to take the following steps:*Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church in your area where you will be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things becoming all God wants you to be. I’ll be glad to hear from you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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