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Who Can Make It To Heaven? – By Matthew Miller

I had the opportunity to discuss this question with someone this week whom I had just met. During our conversation the challenge was made that “you believe that you are the only ones going to heaven.” Many who are members of the Lord’s church might have this concept in their minds, and certainly many who we discuss the Bible with can easily walk away from the conversation under this impression. We would do well to be clear on this matter, for the sake of our soul, as well as those who we might visit with.

Attending a church of Christ does not make one automatically marked for Heaven when this life is over. Being a member of a local church of Christ does not mark one automatically for an eternal abode in Heaven. In fact, Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount to, [Mat 7:13-14 NKJV] 13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide [is] the gate and broad [is] the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 “Because narrow [is] the gate and difficult [is] the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Salvation which leads to eternal life and an eternal abode in Heaven, while simple, requires whole-hearted commitment on our part. We must obey the simple message of the Gospel – concerning Jesus, [Act 4: 11-12 NKJV] 11 “This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

This begins by hearing the message of the Gospel (Rom 10:17, Jhn 8:32) We must come to Christ and accept the salvation which God has graciously offered to us by faith that He is the Savior, the Son of God, and that He lives and reigns today. This is our moment of Belief (Heb 11:6; Mk 16:16; Acts 8:37). We must repent of our sins (Lk 13:3,5; Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30-31; 2 Pete 3:9), confess Him before men (Mat 10:32-33; Rom 10:9-10; Acts 8:37), and be buried into baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Pete 3:21; Acts 22:16; Mk 16:16; Gal 3:27) entering into the likeness of His death, burial, and resurrection that we might become a new creature (Rom 6:3-5; 2 Cor 5:17). Then, we must also live faithfully before Him until death (Rev 2:10).

What we have just outlined above is the plan of salvation as it is presented by God in His Word. What we do believe is that every person individually is going to be held accountable by God for how we have lived in this life (Rom 14:10-12; 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Pete 1:17-19; Rev 20:12), and whether or not we have come in obedience to the Gospel call.

We seek to simply be Christians. The kind that are described in the New Testament of our Bibles. We believe that the Bible alone is inspired by God and has been both revealed and preserved for us by the Holy Spirit. It is complete and all sufficient for our spiritual needs (2 Tim 3:16-17).

What we must do to inherit eternal life then is to obey His word and submit to His will.

Because of these truths, we must be constantly examining ourselves (individually) to see if we are adhering to what the Bible has described. We must also seek to join ourselves to a local body of like-minded Christians who will help us to stay on that narrow path that Jesus described in Mat 7:14. That is what the local church is here for; a community of Christians who we can be a part of which is of one accord and seeking Heaven for ourselves and as many as we might have opportunity to influence.

The other part of the conversation which I had with this stranger is this: It is never too late in life to obey the Lord. The alien sinner who has never obeyed, may enter that covenant relationship with Christ and be washed and made free of guilt that very moment. Likewise, the child of God who has drawn themselves away from Him may come home whenever they are ready. The Lord is such a benevolent Father and has provided us refuge and return. It requires our repentance; our confession of sin, and a willingness to restore our lives to serving Him and His righteousness. We may never be so wayward that the door is eternally closed unless we allow that state to remain as we go down to our graves. Consider for the sake of this part of our discussion Acts 8 and the conversion and sin of Simon the Sorcerer. Peter told Simon what to do to make his sin right. [Act 8:22-24 NKJV] 22 “Repent therefore of this your wickedness and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 “For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” 24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.” Jesus described the rejoicing which occurs at such times as he spoke by way of 3 different parables illustrating what is lost and then found in Luke 15.

Finally, we may become right with God while we draw breath on this earth. [2Pe 3:9 NKJV] 9 The Lord is not slack concerning [His] promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” What are you waiting for?

Jews and Baptism in Jesus Day – By Matthew Miller

The ideas of a ceremonial purification involving water were common in the First Century throughout many pagan religions, and certainly cleansing with washings and the use of water is found extensively in the Law of Moses (Lev 14-17).  There were a number of reasons that one would need to be cleansed including skin infections, bodily discharges, contact with corpses, etc.  In addition to this, the priests were to be washed before offering sacrifices.

We know that on at least one occasion, the Jews of Jesus’ day were critical of His disciples for not washing their hands prior to eating (Matt 15:2-9).

In the times of Christ, one became a proselyte (one converted to Judaism rather than being born into it) through submitting to circumcision (if male), being baptized (a ceremonial washing), and offering a sacrifice of atonement (International Bible Encyclopedia). It appears that Jesus may have been referring to the proselyte efforts on the part of His contemporary Pharisees in Matt 23:15.

We see the idea of being cleansed in water from sin begins in prophecy concerning the time of the Messiah.

Isa 1:16 NKJV] “16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil,”

[Zec 13:1 NKJV] “1 “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”

So when we see John the Baptizer appear on the scene, we see him begin to have a message that was new to the Jews. [Mar 1:4-5 NKJV] “4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5 Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”

Prior to this, Jews dealt with sin through animal sacrifices alone.  So when Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again of water and Spirit, he in essence is telling this Pharisee that he must be baptized to see the kingdom of God (Jhn 3:5-7). So it is then that under Christ, all nations were being called to Jerusalem and being consolidated to God entering in through baptism and so the prophesy of the Messiah were confirmed and fulfilled (Isa 66:18, Jer 3:17).

John introduced the idea, Jesus taught on it, and by way of the great commission, instructed the Apostles that those who would come to Him must be likewise born again (Matt 28:19, Mk 16:16).  So it was then on the Day of Pentecost that Peter instructed those who would be saved to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Paul expounds on the connection of baptism to being made new, a regeneration (2 cor 5:14-17, Rom 6:3-9). Peter likens baptism to the salvation from sin that was granted to Noah in the waters of the flood (1 Pete 3:20-21).

The Hebrew writer told the Jews of the First Century that they should be washed from their sins and enter the Holiest as priests because of Jesus the High Priest. [Heb 10:19-22 NKJV] “19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and [having] a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

This is exactly what Paul tells Titus regarding the regeneration of baptism. [Tit 3:4-7 NKJV] “4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

So we see that the Jews in Jesus day were familiar with washings, and the teaching of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the subsequent preaching of the Apostles were bringing Jew and Gentile alike to God via the washing of baptism.  This is the new birth which Jesus taught Nicodemus and it is the birth that we today must go through in order to be granted entry into Christ and into the kingdom of Heaven.