Member # 6929
We often hear about being saved, of course. But do we really understand what we’re being saved from? What does it mean to be separated from God, the source of all life and goodness, for a conscious eternity? Here is a brief story to illustrate what that might be like.
THE CITY OF SELF
It was nearly dark when the big train thundered into the city and circled to a stop facing the gates. Maney stepped out onto a bare platform with the other passengers, and almost immediately, the train roared away. The huge gates closed with an eerie silence.
In every direction, there was only a flat, dark emptiness.
“This can’t be right,” Maney thought.
Worldwide, utilizing every type of media, colorful advertisements had shown-up, featuring beautifully landscaped parks and gardens, fabulous hotels, gourmet restaurants, theaters, sports, and every conceivable pleasure. The advertisements read:
THE CITY OF SELF
Everything You Have Ever Dreamed Of
You Can Have It All!
Everyday, great gleaming black trains, with luxurious accommodations, bore hundreds to the fulfillment of their dreams. No one ever came back.
But Maney was not interested in having it all. He was interested in escaping it all. The crushing burden of debts, schedules, and endless appointments; his demanding boss, his despairing wife, and especially his son. His five year old son. Dying of cancer.
An ordinary man in his early thirties, wearing jeans, a faded button-down, and a brown leather jacket, Maney had boarded the train that morning believing it to be his last hope. He had tried. He had really tried . Now he was here, hoping to really forget.
“Come one, come all,” said a laughing voice in his ear.
Maney whirled to face a massive twenty-five year old in a white sweat suit. A bodybuilder. The name ‘Youngman’ spread across his broad chest. Blond hair, blue eyes, and a perfect smile highlighted his handsome features.
“Uh, thanks,” Maney stammered. “Am I in the wrong place?”
Youngman stood staring, the smile frozen. “No.”
Maney tried again. “It’s kind of dark here tonight. Overcast. Are you expecting rain?”
Youngman stifled a laugh, and said, “Not rain. It’s always this way. No stars, no moon, no sun. Just…grayness.”
Maney snorted. “Right. Nothing would grow without the sun. What about all the parks and trees?” Grinning and making quotation marks in the air, he said, “The little ponds with ducks?”
“Nothing grows here,” Youngman said. “Only God can create the sun, the grass, the trees…everything. God isn’t here, at least not in the way we're used to.” With a mocking pout, he added, “Sorry about your ducks.”
“So, what do you eat?” Maney laughed.
Laughing along, Youngman said, “There’s no food.” Then, leaning close, he looked into Maney’s eyes and said, barely above a whisper, “And no water.”
Not missing a beat, Youngman hopped off the platform and gestured grandly, “This way please!” He walked away with a slight limp.
Maney shook his head in bewilderment. Turning to find other help, he was shocked to see that no one was there. All the other passengers were gone. “Terrific,” he thought, and with no other options, he ran after Youngman.
“Wait! Wait a minute. Where are all the hotels, and the restaurants, and the swim…?”
Youngman stopped and spun toward Maney. Grabbing the front of his jacket in both fists, he shook Maney and screamed, “Tell me about them!” Then, letting go, he stepped back, gesturing helplessly. “Sorry. Sorry. I’m sorry. It’s just that, well,” he laughed, “I’m starting to forget things. Please, tell me what you remember. Please.”
“No problem,” Maney said irritably, brushing himself off. There was a bad smell to this place, a clinging stench, and Youngman had it all over him. “I’ll tell you, but can you at least take me someplace?”
Youngman nodded. “I was sent to get you,” he looked around quickly, “but, tell me first.”
Heaving a sigh of frustration, Maney told Youngman everything he could remember about the advertisements. Every detail of the beauty, the luxury, and the promises of unending pleasure. Youngman breathed in Maney’s words like fresh air, and when Maney finally ran out of things to say, Youngman closed his eyes and sighed out a soft “Thanks.”
As they started walking again, Youngman’s limp was worse. He said, “Alright, now listen. It’s true you can have everything you’ve ever dreamed of, but only in your dreams. We all come here expecting freedom and luxury. We all end up with just self. Self without God. Everyone here blames Him, hates Him, but I don’t hate God. I hate weakness. And one other problem, you forget things here. I mean, you forget what you want to remember,” he glanced at Maney, “but you keep remembering what you want to forget.”
“Okay wait. Wait!” Maney stopped again, suddenly furious. “Are you saying this is a rip-off? We left our jobs, our homes, our families, everything, for a stinking con man's rip-off?”
Youngman laughed. “Are you asking if you were deceived ? Yes! Come on.”
“Why? Where?” Maney demanded. “There’s nothing here!”
"Why? Because the Devil's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. And where?" Youngman pointed. “See that fence? Not a fence, exactly, but that barrier?”
Maney strained to see through the dark. “Do you mean where all those people are?”
“Yeah. And don’t ask. You’ll see when we get there.”
As Youngman started on again, he nearly fell. The limp was becoming critical, but he said not a word about it. Back straight, head up, he kept going.
“Slow down,” Maney finally said. “C’mon, you’re hurt. Sit down a minute, and let me look at that for you.”
“No. I’m okay,” Youngman laughed. “I haven’t been here that long.”
Exasperated, Maney said, “What is that supposed to mean?”
Youngman stopped then, grimacing in pain. “Only God can heal. God is life.” Leveling his eyes at Maney, his voice took on an edge. “God—is—not—here! Do you get it that God is not here?”
Nodding carefully, Maney said, “I think it’s starting to sink in.”
“Good! I’m so glad we got that cleared up!” Youngman started again, this time giving Maney a shove. “By the way, you’ll be sent to meet the next train. No choice.”
Nearing the barrier at last, they came into a crowd of thousands. There were people from every walk of life, every race, and every age group from pre-teens to the very elderly. Among them grotesque creatures wandered aimlessly, clawed, slavering, glaring with cruel eyes. Youngman continued forward, pushing and shoving their way through. Maney was horrified to see the people were in all different stages of decomposition and brokenness. Filthy, ragged, and emaciated, all were staring toward the barrier. They were strangely silent, except for occasional moaning and weeping, and sometimes a distant scream.
“How can they live like this?” Maney cried.
Youngman grabbed him by the neck and hissed, “You can’t help them! It's too late! They never rest, they never die; they have no choices left!”
For hours, he kept pushing on, limping horribly now, and all but dragging Maney by the neck. Five feet from the barrier, Youngman finally stopped, wheezing and pasty. By then, Maney was gagging, and sweating profusely in his jacket. Youngman looked at him and tried to laugh, but it was hollow. All along his laughter had only been a stubborn denial, defense for a pride that now lay crushed and broken beneath the weight of agony, and the greater weight of fear.
His eyes filled with tears, and he shook Maney hard. “Why am I here?” he cried. “Why didn’t I listen to the truth?” Then, his anguished eyes piercing Maney’s heart, Youngman began to sob, exhausted and without hope.
Maney watched helplessly, his neck held in a vise-like grip, as the big man’s sanity slowly began to crumble and slide like broken earth on the edge of a cliff.
And watching, Maney remembered his father's gentle hands on his shoulders, and his father's deep, quiet voice telling him, “‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’” John 3:16. Son, you need to believe this." Maney had brushed him off, saying he needed a loan, not a sermon. “Why didn’t I listen?” he wondered now. “Why didn’t I believe?”
Finally, Youngman drew a long, ragged breath. “This city has another name,” he rasped, and fierce in his madness, he flung Maney toward the barrier. “They call it Hades!”
Maney crashed against heavy black bars, like prison bars, and fell stumbling to his knees. Before him, beyond the barrier, yawned a monstrous abyss, miles long, where deep below an inferno raged and boiled, belching gusts of heat and putrid fumes that smothered the city with a sticky defilement. Somehow, Maney knew that abyss would be their final, future destination.
Terrified and hurting, Maney struggled to his feet, desperate to run from this place, to escape this nightmare. But, before he could even turn, Youngman was there, pinning Maney against the bars.
“Look!” Youngman screamed, pointing. “Look! There's Heaven!”
Then Maney saw it. On the far side of that dreadful chasm there was an endless reach of soft baby blue. Beneath it, a multitude of vibrant, lush greens flourished — a rolling velvet lawn and herbs and bushes and trees all wonderfully arrayed — and sprinkled here and there were delicate bouquets of every color. And there were falls and fountains, fountains of pure, cool water, glistening in the light. This was more than earthly beauty; this was an achingly precious splendor. Then, almost beyond perception, Maney heard the sweetest, most beautiful sound he had ever heard, or imagined. It was coming from there, from Heaven. It was the sound of his own little son...singing.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.
What are the characteristics of eternal life?
BIBLE READING: Isaiah 32:1-20
KEY BIBLE VERSE: And this righteousness will bring peace. Quietness and confidence will fill the land forever. (Isaiah 32:17)
Eternal life is complete peace. God acts from above to change man's condition here on earth. Only when God's Spirit is among us can we achieve true peace and fruitfulness (Ezekiel 36:22-38; Galatians 5:22-23). The settings described here will happen in full only in the end times. But we can have God's Spirit with us now, for he is available to all believers through Christ (John 15:26). The outpouring mentioned here happens when the worldwide kingdom of God is established for all eternity (see Joel 2:28-29).
BIBLE READING: John 3:1-21
KEY BIBLE VERSE: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Eternal life will be radically different from this life. Some people are repulsed by the idea of eternal life because their lives are miserable. But eternal life is not an extension of a person's miserable, mortal life; eternal life is God's life embodied in Christ given to all believers now as a guarantee that they will live forever. In eternal life there is no death, sickness, enemy, evil, or sin. When we don't know Christ, we make choices as though this life is all we have. In reality, this life is just the introduction to eternity. Receive this new life by faith and begin to evaluate all that happens from an eternal perspective.
BIBLE READING: 2 Cor. 5:1-10
KEY BIBLE VERSE: For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down—when we die and leave these bodies—we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. (2 Cor. 5:1)
Eternal life begins in this life. Paul contrasts our earthly bodies ("earthly tent") and our future resurrection bodies ("an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands"). Paul clearly states that our present bodies make us groan, but when we die we will not be spirits without bodies. We will have new bodies that will be perfect for our everlasting life.
Paul wrote as he did because the church at Corinth was in the heart of Greek culture, and many believers had difficulty with the concept of bodily resurrection. Greeks did not believe in a bodily resurrection. Most held that the real person was the soul, imprisoned in a physical body and that the afterlife was something that happened only to the soul. They believed that at death the soul is released—there is no immortality for the body, and the soul enters an eternal state. But the Bible teaches that the body and soul are inseparable.
The Holy Spirit within us is our guarantee that God will give us everlasting bodies at the Resurrection (2 Cor. 1:22). We have eternity in us now! This truth should give us great courage and patience to endure anything we might experience.
How can someone know he or she has eternal life?
BIBLE READING: John 17:1-26
KEY BIBLE VERSE: And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. (John 17:3)
Eternal life is ours when we know God. How do we get eternal life? Jesus tells us clearly here—by knowing God the Father himself through his Son, Jesus Christ. Eternal life requires entering into a personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. When we admit our sin and turn away from it, Christ's love lives in us by the Holy Spirit.
BIBLE READING: John 6:60-71
KEY BIBLE VERSE: Simon Peter replied, "Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life. We believe them, and we know you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:68-69)
Eternal life is ours through Jesus Christ. After many of Jesus' followers had deserted him, he asked the twelve disciples if they were also going to leave. Peter replied, "To whom would we go?" In his straightforward way, Peter answered for all of us—there is no other way. Though there are many philosophies and self-styled authorities, Jesus alone has the words of eternal life. People look everywhere for eternal life and miss Christ, the only source. Stay with him, especially when you are confused or feel alone.
BIBLE READING: Luke 18:18-30
KEY BIBLE VERSE: Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: "Good teacher, what should I do to get eternal life?" (Luke 18:18)
Eternal life is not something we earn. This ruler sought reassurance, some way of knowing for sure that he had eternal life. He wanted Jesus to measure and grade his qualifications, or to give him some task he could do to assure his own immortality. So Jesus gave him a task—the one thing the rich ruler knew he could not do. "Then who in the world can be saved?" the bystanders asked. No one can, by his or her own achievements, Jesus' answer implied. "What is impossible with men is possible with God." Salvation cannot be earned—it is God's gift (see Ephes. 2:8-10).
BIBLE READING: 1 John 5:1-12
KEY BIBLE VERSE: And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. So whoever has God's Son has life; whoever does not have his Son does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)
Eternal life belongs to those who trust in Jesus. Whoever believes in God's Son has eternal life. He is all you need. You don't need to wait for eternal life because it begins the moment you believe. You don't need to work for it because it is already yours. You don't need to worry about it because you have been given eternal life by God himself—and it is guaranteed.
Some people hope that they will receive eternal life. John says we can know we have it. Our certainty is based on God's promise that he has given us eternal life through his Son. This is true whether you feel close to God or distant from him. Eternal life is not based on feelings, but on facts. You can know that you have eternal life if you believe God's truth. If you aren't sure that you are a Christian, ask yourself: Have I honestly committed my life to him as my Savior and Lord? If so, you know by faith that you are indeed a child of God.
(Handbook of Bible Application)
Posts: 6755 | From: Colorado | Registered: Dec 2007
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Found in Him
Member # 7596
Jesus made the plan of salvation so simple...yet He makes us so complete within. This love is beyond comprehension!
Who could resist such love?
This is what we will do...spend all of eternity praising Him for all He has done and for all of who He is
~To Him That is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy...to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.~ Jude 24
Posts: 1503 | Registered: Jan 2009
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