“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Down deep in the human heart there is a fear of death that Satan uses to keep us enslaved. Don’t miss the point. Satan has no power to kill you or anyone else. He can’t do anything without God’s permission. But he plays upon our fear of death to keep us in the chains of sin. That’s why the Bible says the sting of death is sin (1 Corinthians 15:56). When the unsaved die, they die with their sins still upon them, like a heavy burden, a vast weight bearing them down to hell. They die miserable, angry, frustrated, and fearful because they don’t know what to do with their sins.
What a difference it makes to die having your sins forgiven. How many times have I heard Christians say when a loved one dies, “What do people do who don’t know the Lord?” Death is hard enough to face if you are a Christian, but it is intolerable without the Lord. And yet every day countless thousands march into eternity with the leaden weight of sin hanging around their necks.
A friend who watched a loved one die said it succinctly in just two words: “Death stinks.” Yes, it does, which is why the Bible says death is the last enemy that shall be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). Some people claim that death is a “natural” part of life. This is certainly true in the sense that death comes to all of us due to this fallen world. Where sin exists, death is indeed “natural.” But that is only part of the biblical picture. Death reigns because of Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12-14). Now through Jesus Christ we have his infallible Word that “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26). Like most pastors I have quoted those verses often during funeral services. I like to do it when the dead person is in the casket right in front of me. After all, that’s when the full impact of Jesus’ words really hits home. Do we believe Jesus or not? John Stott comments that for the Christian, death has become a “trivial episode,” a minor inconvenience and nothing more. If we know Jesus, death is like closing our eyes and one moment later opening them in heaven.
Unbelievers don’t have that privilege nor do they understand our confidence as we enter death’s door. For them death is the end—or so they think. For us it is the next step in our eternal life with God.
Lord Jesus, you are the Lord of Life! Death has no power over you. Because you live, we too shall live. Set us free from fear so that we can live boldly and love freely because nothing can ever separate us from you. Amen.
"He is not ashamed to call them brothers" (Hebrews 2:11).
Suppose a man went outside one night and looked at the stars. Could he know there is a God? If he went to the Grand Canyon and saw its incomparable beauty and then traveled to Yosemite and saw its splendor, if he visited the mighty Niagara Falls, could he be sure there is a God? The answer is yes. If a man looked at nature and saw the intricate design and pattern of creation, he could know for certain this didn’t happen by chance. By careful study, a man could conclude there must be a God.
How much could he know about God simply by studying nature? He would know about his wisdom, power, and infinite creative ability. But no man could discover the love of God simply by studying the bombardier beetle or analyzing the antelope. He would never know if God cared about him. A God of the stars, moon and sun would be great and powerful, but he would never be personal.
That explains why Jesus came to earth. Because we share a common humanity with Jesus, he is not ashamed to call us brothers. God came down to where we live and became one of us. He didn’t shout “I love you,” and he didn’t mail us a letter we couldn’t read. He took on our nature, was born just as we are born, lived as we live, and died as we die. When He says, “I love you,” we understand him because in Jesus Christ God has become one of us.
Lord Jesus, you did not hesitate to demote yourself so that you could become our true Brother. Thank you for making the long journey so that one day when our journey is over, we will see you face to face. Amen.
"For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering" (Hebrews 2:10).
This verse sums up the whole earthly life of Jesus. He was made "perfect through suffering.” But wasn’t Jesus perfect when he was born in the manger? Didn’t he live a sinless life? Wasn’t his death the death of an innocent man? Yes. He was morally perfect. That is one kind of perfection.
But there is another kind of perfection or completion. It comes only by experience. Jesus entered fully into the sufferings of this world and emerged victorious over them. He was made complete in his experience on the earth by the things he suffered. That is why he is called the "founder" of our salvation. He came and suffered on this sin-cursed planet so that by virtue of his sinless life and death, he might blaze the trail for us back to God.
But the trail leading to the cross is marked with suffering, with tears, with rejection. When you follow Jesus, the road to glory goes by way of the cross.
This explains so much that happens to us. What is God doing in your life and in mine? He is putting us through the Curriculum of Grace in the School of Suffering. School starts the moment we trust Christ and ends the day we die. We pass the test and win our degree by keeping our eyes on Jesus. He’s the valedictorian of the class. He never failed a test. He blazed the trail through the School of Suffering so that we could follow in his path.
There is glory at the end of the Christian life, but it only comes by way of suffering. Keep your eyes on Jesus who blazed the trail for us.
Our Father, may we never forget that every trial has a divine purpose. Help us to keep looking to Jesus as he leads us on to glory. Amen.
“Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).
Everything of this world is shakable. Buildings crumble into dust, companies declare bankruptcy, our degrees fade into illegibility, our houses age and creak and crumble, our cars rust out, and worst of all, our bodies eventually wear out. But the kingdom of God lasts forever. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he said that she would give birth to a Son who would “rule over the house of his father Jacob, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).
God desires to establish a kingdom on earth that will last forever. That kingdom will be made up of men and women who have decided to live by God’s eternal values. Therefore, the whole human race may be divided into two groups—those who decide to live by earthly values and those who decide to live by kingdom values. The difference is this: living by earthly values produces earthly rewards that pay off quicker and disappear faster; living by kingdom values produces kingdom rewards. They don’t usually come as quickly, but they last forever.
You can live for this world or you can live for the kingdom of God. The choice is yours.
Jesus has a kingdom.
He is building it in human hearts around the world.
Someday he will return and visibly reign on the earth.
That kingdom will never end.
There are some men and women who are not like everyone else. They have been gripped with the thought that the kingdom of God is the greatest thing in the world, and that one thought has revolutionized their lives and reoriented their values. Kingdom issues are at stake. That’s the only possible explanation for the way they live.
His kingdom will never end. Why would you follow anyone else?
Sovereign Lord, you are the solid rock beneath our feet in our turning world. We trust in you, and we will not be moved. When the kingdoms of this earth have crumbled to dust, your words will still be true. Amen.