Christianity and theology

What Happens at Death?

We are continuing with our study of personal eschatology, and we now come to the question of death. What happens at death? This is a broad question that unfortunately cannot be answered broadly since there are two types of deaths namely that of a believer and an unbeliever. What occurs at the death of these two differs significantly. We will look at believer’s first and later at unbelievers.

First, as a Christian dies, he experiences God’s grace. This might sound obvious since the daily life of a believer is marked by grace. But, I highlight this point because even though death is a defeated foe, it still remains one of great fears of humanity. It is for no reason that we call it the chief of terrors. Many have experienced or witnessed loved ones passing into glory, perhaps more than a dozen times, yet they can’t say that they are used to death. Since no single human being can be used to death, God always grants grace both to the one dying and to his family, more especially, if they are believers. Christ’s grace proves to be more than sufficient and helps everyone through it.

Second, at death a believer attains full sanctification (Heb. 12:23). In this life, by God’s grace, a believer strives to become more like Christ but sin has not yet been fully conquered in his life. However, at death sin is completely eliminated and the Holy Spirit makes his soul perfect in holiness.

Third, a believer’s soul immediately enters into heaven. There are a number of teachings regarding what happens after the soul has been separated from the body in death. Some have taught that the soul sleeps waiting for the final judgment. This teaching is also called the doctrine of soul sleep. Some have said that the soul goes into an intermediate place. In this place, so the say, the souls of believers enjoy a measure of reward but not equal to their final and full reward in heaven. On the other hand, the souls of unbelievers, this teaching states, suffer a degree of punishment but not equal to their future judgment in hell. Some also have taught that there is a place named Purgatory where Christians with some unrepented sins go to be purified before their entry into heaven. However, we cannot find any biblical basis for these teachings. Instead, the Bible clearly teaches us that the moment a believer dies, his soul goes straight to be with the Lord in heaven (2 Cor. 5:1, 6, 8; Phil. 1:23). We shall in the following posts look at how Christian should respond to these erroneous doctrines.

Fourth, a believer’s body returns to earth waiting for the day it will be glorified and reunited to its soul (1 Cor. 15:53-54). I think the fact that one day the dead body will be glorified should be one of the motivating factors for Christians to treat dead bodies with respect. Burial is not just an incidental detail in our lives.

This could spark a debate on whether Christians should bury or cremate. I will weigh in only by making a confession. I have always believed that burial is more ideal. I also believe that I can argue from Scripture that burial is preferable than cremation. I had strong reservations towards cremation until one day when I was talking to a fellow Christian who is from one of the Asian countries. In our conversation we somehow arrived at the topic of cremation and he told me that in his country, more especially in his area, they don’t have enough land for cemeteries so even Christians cremate.

That conversations helped me clear some of the prejudice I had towards Christians who practice cremation. It helped me to understand that not all Christians who practice cremation prefer it to burial rather there are some factors that compel them. So, if there weren’t any valid reasons for cremation, I would have argued that Christians should shun it.



Christianity and theology

Cultivating a Heavenly Outlook

Having seen the importance of being heavenly-minded, we need then to answer the question: how can we develop and cultivate a constant reflection of heaven in our daily lives?

First, we can do that by having regular meditations upon the glories of heaven. Deliberately take time each day to reflect upon the splendors of heaven and remind yourself that nothing you know or have experienced in this life can be compared to the glory of heaven. The beauties of heaven include an everlasting joy (Matt. 25:23). There are so many things that bring joy in our life here on earth yet there also many things that try to deflate this joy. But in heaven we will have eternal joy.

Related to eternal joy, heaven is also a place of no tears and sorrows (Rev. 21:4). Ever since the fall, sorrow and tears have been part and parcel of humanity. Sin has brought so much brokenness in the world that a day can hardly pass by without feeling its ugly effects. We shed tears and sorrows engulf our hearts as we experience the curse of the fall. But in the new heavens and new earth, the curse and its effects will be ultimately removed hence we will have no reason to weep and grieve.

Heaven is also a place of rest (Heb. 4:9; Rev. 14:13). One of the reasons I love the Sabbath or Sunday is that it does not only give me more time to worship the Lord both in public and in private but also time to rest from my labours. The author of Hebrews tells us that our earthly Sabbath is a shadow of the real rest to come. In heaven we will experience true rest and we will worship the Lord unceasingly.

Heaven is also a place where we will see God face to face (Matt. 5:8; Rev. 22:3-4). On this side of heaven, we know that no one can see God and live (Ex. 33:20). Of course, God revealed himself and dwelt among us in Christ and as John writes, “we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the father” (1:14). Yet when Christ came on earth, he did not come in his full glory. He came as a man of sorrows. His appearance was more of a humble servant than the conquering King whom John saw in Revelation 1:12-18. But in heaven we will see God face to face in his full glory. How that will look like is beyond me to speculate, but it is one of the major reasons I long for heaven.

Heaven is also a place where our souls and bodies will be made perfect (Hebrews 12:23; 1 Cor. 15:42-44). Everyday, I feel the heaviness of sin in my life. I know the right things I am supposed to do; however, I don’t always do them. There are times that temptations and sin conquer me. I believe this is also true for many Christians if not all Christians. In addition, our current bodies are also constantly wearing out due to the effects of the fall (2 Cor. 4:16). But in heaven, both our souls and bodies will be made perfect.

Oh, what a sweet place heaven is! So, if we can take time to regularly reflect on these glories, it is impossible that we should not have a heavenly out look.

Second, we can develop a heavenly outlook by making heaven a regular subject of our conversations. Richard Baxter in his book Saints’ Everlasting Rest bemoans the fact that Christians can meet and part without ever talking about heaven. “It is a pity that Christians should ever meet together without some talk of their meeting in heaven, or the way to it, before they part…Get together then fellow Christians, and talk of the affairs of your country and kingdom, and comfort one another with such words.”

Third, always remember that our day of entry into heaven is nearer than we often think. As you hear or see your clock tick, be reminded that every tick is drawing you closer to heaven if you are in Christ. It could be right this minute or second. Christ reminds us: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matt. 25:13). So, fellow Christians, think of heaven regularly and always be ready to enter into the glory of your Master.

Christianity and theology

So Heavenly Minded and No Earthly Good?

Last week we began looking at individual eschatology and some of the reasons why this doctrine is rarely discussed among Christians. Today, we pick up by considering the spiritual benefits that come when we constantly reflect upon the glory to come.

One of the lies that the world wants Christians to believe is that they can be “so heavenly minded that there are of no earthly good.” However, the opposite is true. Christians can never be of earthly good until they are heavenly minded. John Calvin writes, “If that hope (of going to heaven) be deeply seated in our mind, it is impossible that it should not lead us to devote ourselves wholly to God. On the contrary, they who do not cease to live to the world and to the flesh never have actually tasted what is the worth of the promise of eternal life.

A Christian should always live with one leg in this life and another up in the air ready to step into glory. Our prayer should always be like that of Jonathan Edwards, “O God, stamp my eyeballs with eternity.” Indeed, may God stamp eternity not just on our eyeballs but also on our minds, ears, hands, soul, feet, and the whole of our being so that the hope of glory should always before us.

The spiritual benefits that come with constant contemplation of the future glory include: a motivation to pursue holiness in our daily lives. How can a Christian contemplate about the land in which he will sin no more and deliberately live in sin? How can we contemplate the eternity in the presence of our Holy Father and willfully give ourselves to sin? Just as sin will keep us from reflecting on heavenly glory, reflecting on heavenly glory will also keep us from sin. Moreover, the author of Hebrews reminds us that without holiness (in this life), we won’t see God in heaven (Heb. 12:14).

Second, constant reflection of heavenly glory is a sign of true conversion and adds to the assurance of our salvation. This is what Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 1. In the chapter, Paul writes that one of the reasons he is convinced that the Thessalonians are truly saved is that they are constantly living with the hope of glory. “For we know, brothers, loved by God, that he has chosen you because…” He mentions various reasons and at the end of the chapters adds one more reason: “(you) wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1:4, 10).

Third, constant reflection of our blessed hope will make us resist getting comfortable in this world and conforming to its standards. It will enable us to realize that this life is just but a tent. “For we know that if our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).

Fourth, constant reflection of heaven will bring comfort in times of trials and afflictions. When a believer considers what Christ has prepared for him in heaven, the sorrows of this world would seem as a fleeting shadow. The sorrows will be like labour pains, which last for a while and turn into greater joy when a baby is born. Apostle Peter writing to the persecuted Jewish Christians comforts them with the truth of heavenly glory and says, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

Lastly but not least, constant reflection of our eternity in heaven fosters love for our neighbors both believers and unbelievers. Knowing that we will spend eternity with our neighbors who are Christians changes how we treat each other here on earth. It will often, by the grace of God, lead us to love them as we love ourselves. For our unbelieving neighbors, a constant reflection of our future glory motivates us to share the gospel with them because we realize that without faith in Christ they can’t taste this glory but will be subjected to the eternal wrath of God.

But how can we cultivate this constant reflection of heaven in our daily lives? This is what we will look at in the next post, the Lord willing.


Christianity and theology

Let’s Take Time to Talk About Individual Eschatology

In the coming weeks, the Lord willing, I would like us to take time on this blog to study what the Scriptures teach about individual or personal eschatology. Eschatology is a theological term and is derived from two Greek words, eschatos and logos, which when combined basically mean “the study of the last things.”

There are two aspects to the study of last the things. The first aspect is called individual or personal eschatology and the second one is called world or general eschatology. In the coming weeks we will focus on the former. This means that we will concentrate more on death and what happens after a Christian has closed his eyes in this life and opened them in the next.

In my Christian experience, I have noted that personal eschatology is one of the doctrines that are least discussed among Christians. It is also rarely preached in our churches. Yet in many Reformed and Presbyterian congregations, every Lord’s Day we confess our strong belief in this doctrine by reciting the Apostles’ Creed and say, “I believe in…the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”

There could be a number of reasons why we rarely talk of death and the life after. First, I would argue that even for us Christians it is often hard to talk about death, let alone our own death, because it makes us and those we are talking to feel very uncomfortable. Yes, we know that we have been liberated from death’s power (John 11:25). Of course, we fully understand that death is a defeated foe (1 Cor. 15:54-57), but still because death is very unnatural to us (since man was initially created never to die until sin entered the world) we experience a certain type of uneasiness to talk about it. We would rather bury our head in the sand, as it were, and discuss other doctrines.

Second, related to the first reason, we hardly think or talk about personal eschatology because we often view it as distant. Not many Christians, more especially, younger Christians tend to think that today might be our last day on this earth. We often think that God will grant us many years to live in this world before he calls us to glory or the Lord Jesus comes again. But the truth is that none of us knows for certain. The Lord does not guarantee us the next minute (James 4:14b, 15). The Scripture also reminds us again and again about the brevity of life. Just consider some of the words it uses to describe our life: vapor (James 4:15), flower (Psalm 103:15), and handbreadth (Psalm 39:5). Our lives are indeed very short; therefore, we always need to be ready to either die or see our Lord coming in glory soon.

Third, we hardly discuss personal eschatology because sometimes we are so much consumed with the blessings that the Lord has given us here on earth and in the process forget the glories of the life to come. This is truer in places and nations that are very prosperous by our worldly standards. For example, for the four years that I have lived in North America, I have observed how easier and more comfortable life is for many people here than for many in my beloved continent of Africa. Sadly, some Christians are blinded by the plenty and pleasantness of this life hence forget that the glories of heaven can never be compared to anything here on earth. I do not say this to instill an unnecessary sense of guilt for my Western brothers and sisters; however, this is the reality that we all need to face and guard against (1 Tim. 6:6-10).

Fourth, on the other hand, some due to poverty and suffering, they experience in this world, tend to focus more on what the Lord can do to deliver them from these ills and in the process forget the glories of heaven. This is very true in many places like my continent of Africa where the so-called prosperity gospel continues to grow in leaps and bounds. One would think that poverty and suffering would cause people to think of heaven more, but this is not always the case.

Lastly but not least, we don’t discuss personal eschatology as much as we ought to because a good number of Christians are ignorant of what the Scripture has to teach us on this subject. If you are to go out on the streets and ask those who profess to be Christians on what happens during death and after, you will get various responses and some might not even be biblical. For instance, consider how common it is to hear among Evangelical Christians statements like, “The deceased is now looking down from heaven on us with joy” or “Heaven has gained another angel.” These statements reveal our ignorance on the subject.

So, because of these reasons, I strongly believe that we need to take our time and study personal eschatology so that we are not ignorant of God’s design for our future as individuals. Furthermore, if we constantly think of heaven or the Second Coming of Christ, our relationship with Christ here on earth would be enhanced even more. That’s what will look at in the next post, the Lord willing.

Sound Teaching

Meditations Toward Christmas: Genesis 3:15

In a few days’ time, the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas. Christ’s birth is worthy celebrating because it marked God’s coming down to dwell with his people ( as his name, Immanuel, means) and to save them from their sin ( as his name, Jesus, means). Therefore, as we move toward Christmas, God willing, I would like us to reflect and meditate on a number of passages from the Old Testament that point us to the birth of Christ. I pray that these passages will help us celebrate the season meaningfully and with gratitude for God’s indescribable gift to us ( 2 Corinthians 9:15).

The first passage is Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

At the completion of creation in Genesis 1 and 2, God saw that everything was good. Man was also God’s best friend, and he enjoyed uninterrupted communion with his Creator. But in Genesis 3 we see the entry of sin,evil and death in a once good world. Man being deceived by the evil one sinks to his lowest end. He sinks deep in a quagmire of sin, misery, and shame.

Due to sin, man is alienated from God.  Once a friend of God, man now hides himself from his best friend. Man is also alienated even from his fellow man. Adam and Eve no longer enjoy the sweet companionship of husband and wife. Hear the words of Adam describing his wife whom he once called the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh, “The woman whom you gave to be with me…” He doesn’t call her his wife. Sin does not only alienate us from God but also from our fellow man.

God being just and righteous comes in judgment upon man. To Adam he says, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, you shall not eat from it; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19).

To Eve he says, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

But that’s not the end of the story. God also being gracious and merciful announces salvation and redemption for man as he condemns the evil one: “I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The good news or the gospel comes in a form of enmity. It is important that God re-establishes this enmity because before sinning, man was a friend of God and enemy of the evil one. But when he sinned, he became a friend of the evil one and enemy of God. Therefore, God re-establishes this enmity as his gracious means of reconciling man to himself. What a gracious LORD. What an amazing love!

The seed of the woman ultimately refers to Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who crushed the head of the serpent (Romans 16:20; John 12:31, 32; Colossians 2:15) triumphing over him in victory. This victory began with God’s promise coming true on the day of Christ’s birth.

Therefore, Genesis 3:15 forms the backbone of our rejoicing on Christmas. The promised seed is finally here to crush the head of the serpent and give us life. Charles Wesley hit the nail right on the head when he composed:

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us…
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever.

My Sermons

Be of Good Cheer, Christ Has Overcome the World

John 16:25-33: May all God’s people pay attention to His Word:

25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. 28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.

29 His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. 30 Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. 31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? 32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

All men are like grass. The grass withers, the flowers fall but the word of our God shall stand forever. Amen.

I. Introduction:
Dear congregation, the title of our message this afternoon is: “Be of Good Cheer, Christ has Overcome the World.”

One preacher once remarked: “Everywhere you go you in this world, you will find three groups of people. Whether Christian or not, but there are always three groups of people. The first group is of people who are experiencing hardship or trials or suffering in their lives. The second group is of those who are just coming out of hardship, trials or suffering, and the third group is that of those who are just going into hardship, trials, or suffering.”

This is true, is it not? We are all familiar with suffering, hardships or trials. We all experience or have experienced or we will experience hardship in one form or the other and in our text for this afternoon which is John 16:33, Jesus is speaking to us regarding suffering in this world. However, before we look at our text in a more detailed way, I would like to provide some background or context of Jesus’ words in this text.

For us to understand the text better we need to go back chapter 13 of the gospel of John because Jesus’ words here are part of what he has begun speaking in chapter 13. In fact, chapters 13 up to 16 consist of one address or discourse that Jesus makes before he is arrested and crucified. John 16:33 are very the last words of Jesus to his disciples before he prays for them in chapter 17 and later arrested in chapter 18.

Chapter 13 begins with Jesus Christ washing the feet of his disciples during the last supper. Then Jesus begins explaining to his disciples what he has to go through. As Jesus looks ahead to the cross before him, he tries to explain its meaning to his disciples but they are slow to understand. For sure, the disciples understand something about Christ’s imminent death but they still fall short of full comprehension of the cross and its meaning hence they ask questions like “Lord we know not wither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (John 14:1) or “Show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (John 14:8).

Jesus patiently explains the meaning of his death, resurrection and ascension and what these things will accomplish which includes the sending of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the disciples into all truth. Jesus also again and again comforts the sorrowful disciples that although time of sorrow and suffering lies ahead, their hearts should not be troubled. Two times in chapter 14, Jesus comforts his disciples and tells them that their hearts should not be troubled (14:1, 27). He goes on to encourage them to remain in Christ if there are to bear fruits (John 15:4).

Nevertheless, Jesus does not hide the fact that the disciples will face hardship in the world for the sake of his name. In John 15:20 Jesus assures them that just as those who hate the truth persecuted Jesus, the disciples too will also be persecuted. And now in John 16:33, Jesus concludes this discourse with these words which are our text this afternoon, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

As we reflect on this text, I would like us to grasp three important truths that Jesus points out:

1. Suffering is unavoidable in the world
2. Peace is available in Christ
3. Victory is inevitable in Christ

II. Suffering is Unavoidable

First, suffering is unavoidable. Look at verse 33, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Notice the certainty in the words of Jesus. He does not say that “In this world you might have tribulation” or “Perhaps you will have tribulation.” He clearly puts it that in the world, we shall have tribulation. The word translated “you shall have” here in the original language of the Old Testament literary means “you have and will have.” It is a verb which implies a completed action but with continuing results. In other words, Jesus is saying, it is sealed. In this world, suffering, hardships or trials are unavoidable. They will surely come. Primarily, Jesus is refering to persecution of believers here for their faith, but we can also apply the same truth to any suffering we experience in this world.

Dear congregation d, I will not be a faithful preacher of the gospel if I stand here and tell you that if you are in Christ or if you come to Christ everything will go well for you. I will not be a faithful preacher of our Lord Jesus Christ if I tell you that if you are in Christ you will be rich and prosper by worldly standards. This is not what our Lord is telling us and I don’t have any right to tell you a different thing rather than what our Lord says here. “In this world you shall have tribulation.”

One thing that troubles many people and even Christians sometimes is the problem of suffering. Why does God allow suffering in the world? Those who hate God even take advantage of suffering in the world and ask, “If God exists and he is good, why does he allow suffering?” Then they go on to conclude that the fact that there is suffering it means God does not exist or he is not a good God at all. Some also look at suffering in the world and ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” They look man and conclude that man is good and innocent and then wonder why bad things happen to this good man. Dr. R.C. Sproul responds well to this question and he says: “That happened only once, and he volunteered.” In other words, the only time that bad things happened to a good person was when Jesus Christ who knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21) was crucified not because of his sin but because of our sin. But you might still say, “That still does not answer the question. Why is there suffering in the world or why does Jesus in our text says that suffering in unavoidable in the world?

Indeed, Jesus does tell in this text that suffering is unavoidable in this world. Of course, he does not give the reasons in this text; however, the entire Bible which is Jesus’s own word has an answer and we are going to look at three reasons why we experiencing suffering in the world. First, it is because of sin.

A. Suffering is unavoidable in the world because sin’s entry into the world

Let’s go back to Genesis where in chapter 1 and 2 we read that after creating the heavens and the earth, God saw that everything was good. However, when we come to Genesis 3, we find the entry of sin in the world when our first parents Adam and Eve sinned and disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. With that act of disobedience, sin entered the world and with it came suffering. One of the reasons why we have suffering and hardship in this world is because of that sin. When our first parents disobeyed God, they were actually saying we don’t want to be guided and led by God anymore. We want to be independent of God. However, little did they know that divorcing God out of one’s life brings sorrow, pain, and suffering.

Friends, whenever we point our blaming figure at God for suffering in the world, the other four fingers of our hand are already pointing back at us. We need to realize that we brought pain and suffering upon ourselves when in the Garden of Eden through our representative, Adam, we said that we don’t want God to guide and lead us anymore. When we rebelled and refused to submit ourselves to the authority of God and wanted to be like God as the serpent deceived us. Oh, what pain and suffering that sin brought upon us! When God gave the judgment for that sin of rebellion, he declared suffering. To the woman he said: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). To the man he said: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” (Gen. 3:17-19).

So here my friend we see why Christ says that in this world we shall have tribulation. It is because of sin. Sin polluted the world. The world that was once declared to be very good after creation by God is now fallen and infected by sin. This is why Jesus says that in this world you shall have tribulation.

B. Suffering is unavoidable because of enmity between the seed of woman and seed of serpent

Secondly, in this world you shall have tribulation because there is warfare going on between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Genesis 3:15 shades more light on this truth. In the verse, God declares to the serpent that deceived our first parents and says: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel.” Here we have the first proclamation of the gospel. God puts enmity between his children and the children of the serpent. The gospel comes in a form of warfare. There shall be war between the two parties. There shall be war between the Church and the kingdom of darkness, and right away we see it happening in Genesis. The ungodly Cain against the godly Abel. The seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman. Then again later we see it between Jacob and Esau. Then later on between God’s children, Israel and the ungodly children of Pharaoh in Egypt.

The warfare continues into the New Testament and reaches its climax in our Lord Jesus Christ. Satan fights hard against him from birth until on the cross where our Lord and Savior defeated and crushed the head of the serpent when on the third day, he rose again from the dead. And soon Satan will get his final judgment when he and his angels and all those that are not in Christ will be thrown into the eternal lake of fire and condemned for good. If you are not in Christ my friend, flee the coming judgment by running to the rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ.

So beloved in the Lord, we experience suffering because of the warfare that is going on between the seed of the woman and the serpent. This is why Apostle Paul in Ephesian 6:10-18 tells us to put on the full armor of God. He writes: “Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” (11-12). My friend in Christ, you are at war! This is why Jesus says that in this world you shall have tribulation. But the good news is that Christ has already won the battle for us and that is what we shall be looking at later on in the sermon.

C. Suffering is unavoidable because God uses it to sanctify and strengthen the Christian’s faith

Thirdly, we sometimes experience hardship in this world because God uses suffering and hardships to sanctify and strengthen our faith. We see this truth in James 1:2-3 in which we read: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” One Bible commentator, Robert Johnstone commenting on this verse says:

“The heart of man, brethren, ‘is deceitful above all things,’ and even the Christian knows very little of himself. Affliction lets down a blazing torch for him into the depths of his own nature, and he sees many things which he little expected to see. He finds his faith weak where he thought it strong, his views dim where he thought them clear, his pride strong and stubborn where he thought it broken; and he cries to the his Father for a fuller sanctification. Thus afflictions of every kind are ‘trials’ testing and revealing agencies. Through them, the Master, Himself all-knowing, tries (us) as gold and silver are tried by fire.

Here in this verse we see another reason why Jesus says that in this world we shall have tribulation. God uses suffering, hardship or trials to sanctify and strengthen our faith. Friend, sometimes it takes suffering to purify our faith just as it takes fire to purify gold. Apostle Peter also writes in 1 Peter 4:12, 13: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trail which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

So, Jesus assuredly tells us that in this world we shall have tribulation because of these three main reason namely sin, the warfare between the seed of the woman and the serpent and because sometimes God uses suffering to sanctify and strengthen our faith. But notice that this is not the end of the story. In the text, Jesus does not only say that suffering is unavoidable in this world but also goes on to show us that peace is available.

III. Peace is Available

Look again at John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Jesus is saying that for sure suffering is unavoidable but I am your peace. Oh, what a comfort to know that peace is available in Christ. As one hymn writer once put it:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

As Jesus Christ tells us that peace is available, I would like us to notice, first, the source of this peace.
A. The source of peace

Our text shows us that the source of this peace is Jesus himself. “In me ye might have peace.” The world today just as always desperately longs for peace. But sadly, often the world looks for peace in wrong places. Recently, I was talking to a friend in Kenya. One part of Kenya has been affected by terrorist activities from some Moslems in the neighboring, Somalia. Now, when I asked him, how things are, he responded and said, “Things are not fine here. Luck you, you are in America where there is true peace.” Then I responded and said, “Friend, true peace is not found in America. If you don’t have peace there in Africa you will not find it in America. True peace is not in America. It is not in Europe neither Asia nor Australia. True peace is found in Jesus Christ alone.

Jesus Christ speaking earlier in this same discourse in John 14:27 says: “Peace I leave with you, my peace, I give you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” True peace comes from Jesus who is our prince of peace (Is. 9:6). This is why also Apostle Paul writes and says: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1). Oh my friend do you have peace with God? Can you say that Jesus is your peace? If not, Jesus stands at the door and knock. If you open the door, he will come in and give you his peace. Please as you hear his voice today, do not harden your heart. Let him in. Let him in.

B. The nature of the peace

Secondly, notice the nature of this peace. Jesus says we will have tribulation in this world but in the midst of that tribulation, there is peace. It is a very unique peace. This peace of Jesus does not depend on the circumstances in the world. Thomas Boston preaching about this peace says, “This peace is durable. Let men rage and devils too, they may take away outward peace, but this they cannot carry away.”

I remember in high school studying Biology. My teacher taught us that animals are grouped into two: cold blooded and warm blooded. The difference between these two types of animals is that the body temperature of cold blooded animals depends on the weather around them. If they are in a cold place, their body temperature goes down and if they are in a warmer place, their body temperature goes up. However, warm blooded animals always maintain their body temperature whether they are in a cold or warmer place. Those in Christ are like warm blooded animals. Their peace does not depend on the circumstances around them because Jesus Christ who is the source of their peace is always with them even though they are passing through hardships, suffering or trials. This why the hymn writer once observed:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well, it is well with my soul.

My friend, you can only say this if you know Jesus. You can say this only if you know that Jesus Christ the source of true peace is in your life. I pray that you are in Christ because without Christ, I don’t know how you will survive in this world of tribulations. Where is your hope you my friend who is not in Christ? Where do you get your peace in this world of tribulations? How do you respond to the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day Number 1: “What is your only comfort in life and death?” Blessed are those who can confidently answer, “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.” It is only those who have experienced the peace and comfort of Christ that can answer in this way.

From our text, Jesus does not only tell us that suffering is unavoidable and peace is available but also that victory is inevitable.

IV. Victory is Inevitable

Look at the verse again, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus says that he has overcome the world. Notice that he does not say, “I shall overcome the world” but I have overcome the world. The word again here in the original language of the New Testament is a verb which implies a completed action with continued effects or results. Jesus does not wait to go on the cross and die and later rise from the dead in order to declare victory. He declares it right away because in him, the God-Man, victory is guaranteed. Our Lord looks back to the promise made in Eden by his Father in Genesis 3:15, “It (the seed of the woman) shall bruise your head (the head of the serpent).” Jesus then declares and says, now is the time, “I have overcome the world.”
Child of God, Jesus has overcome the world for you and if you are in him, you have also overcome the world. This is why Apostle Paul writes that we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:27), and the Bible shows us three main areas in which Christ has overcome.

A. Victory over sin

First, Christ has overcome sin. The first Adam was overcome by sin but Jesus our second Adam has overcome sin. The first Adam when tempted failed miserably but the Second Adam was tempted in every way but never committed sin. When the first Adam yielded to sin, he plunged the whole human race into sin and misery, but the second Adam has overcome sin so that we should live in his righteousness and joy. Apostle Paul puts this truth in perspective when he writes in 1 Cor. 15:56, 57: “The sting of death is sin…but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ.” What a comfort to know that Jesus has overcome sin!
Therefore we can boldly rejoice with Apostle Paul and say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). My friend, be of good cheer, Christ has overcome the world by overcoming sin. Through Christ, we need no longer to live in sin or according to the standards of the world because our Lord and Savior has overcome sin so that we should live in holiness and truth. Sin shall no longer rule in you my friend because Christ has overcome it.

B. Victory over Satan

Secondly, Christ has overcome Satan the greatest enemy of all God’s children. Remember the enmity that was established in Genesis 3:15? God said the seed of the woman shall crush the seed of the serpent. Indeed, this is what Christ confirms in this text, “I have overcome the world.” Jesus Christ also speaking earlier in John 12:31, 32 says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Friends, Satan is defeated, the chains of his slavery are broken and Christ calls you to freedom. Please do not let Satan hold you captive anymore through sin for Christ has overcome the world. Do not be discouraged my friend in your pursuit for holiness. Do not be discouraged in letting the light of Christ shine through you in the world that is infected with sin and evil. March on in the mighty of Christ for he has overcome the world.
But I know that some look at the world and wonder if Satan is really defeated. Sin seems to be growing and increasing. So much evil in the world. We hear of ISIS persecuting and killing Christians. In Northern Nigeria and Sudan, Christians are being killed almost every day. We hear of corruption in the world. We hear of wars and so many other evil things. “Is Satan really defeated?” They ask. Let me assure you friends that Satan is indeed defeated. Christ has overcome the world. Martin Luther commenting on our text says: “The world is a vanquished enemy; Satan is a humbled foe; and all that believers have to do is to put their trust in the Captain of their salvation, putting on the whole armor of God, assured that the victory is theirs, and that the church shall yet shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun.”

C. Victory over death

Thirdly and finally, Christ has overcome death. When the first Adam sinned, he brought death into the world but now through Christ all who are in him have life. What a precious gift Christ has brought us through his victory over the death. Apostle Paul again writes in Romans 5:17, “For by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” Writing further the apostle also tells us in 1 Cor. 15:21: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

V. Conclusion:

Oh, my friend, have you experienced this victory of Jesus in your life. Can you say that you have life in Christ? If not, Christ is at the door of your heart knocking, please let him in. Why should you remain dead in the first Adam while there is life in the second Adam? For you my friend who is in Christ, may you be comforted with this truth that in Christ you have life. Though you face some trials, hardships or difficulties in this world, be comforted that you have King Jesus who has overcome the world for you. Jesus as your king defends and protects you from sin, Satan, and death as the Westminster Catechism Question and Answer 26 puts it: “How doth Christ execute the office of a king? Answer: Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.” Blessed are those who can confidently say in their hearts that Christ has subdued them to himself and he defends and conquers all their enemies.

So dear congregation, in our text we have seen that Christ encourages us to be of good cheer because although suffering is unavoidable in this world, peace is available in Christ and victory is also inventible in Christ. Thanks be to God for the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ who has overcome the world for us. To Him alone be glory, now and forevermore. Amen!

Christianity and theology

Death and Life in Christ

The fourth trustworthy saying is found in 2 Timothy 2:11 and reads: “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him.”

It is believed that the verse is a part of an early Christian hymn.  The death and life mentioned in the saying should be regarded in two ways. First, it is in reference to physical death. All believers who die in Christ have assurance that after this life, they will live a far much better one with Christ in his glory. This is why physical death should never be a threat to believers since although Christians die, they still live (John 11:25).

Secondly, the life and death in the saying should also be looked at spiritually. Anyone who believes in Christ for salvation dies to his old life and begins to live a new life.  This is why Apostle Paul also said: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” (Galatians 2:20).

Salvation in Christ refers to death to old-self and life in Christ.   Dietrich Bonheoffer was right when he said: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” We die to our old-self so that we can live in and  with him.