Saturday, January 1, 2022

Guest Post: "The Chosen" Fiction


At a conference not too long ago, I was asked to give a review of The Chosen TV Series. I did so, but before I began my critique, I informed the audience that I hadn’t watched even one frame of the series, and my guess was that that revelation would make more than a few people upset with my criticisms. The immediate response by those enamored with the series about the life of Christ was to scorn everything I said, saying, “He’s like those who criticize books, even the Bible, without having read them!” I can relate to that. I’ve had many discussions with some who tell me what the Bible says without having read it themselves, so I can see why my initial review and its approach would put some people off.

Since my first critique I have viewed a couple of the programs, parts of which I’ll address. However, I want to explain why I believe watching the series is not necessary for rejecting it. In doing so, my explanations will appeal to Scripture and reason in light of Isaiah’s words, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD” (Isaiah:1:18).

Why isn’t it necessary to watch The Chosen in order to criticize it, and how would that be any different than critiquing a novel without having read it? First of all, a novel is defined generally as “a fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism.” In other words, it’s a made-up story. Yet it must be read in order to be evaluated.

Not so with The Chosen. It professes to be true to the Bible’s teachings, as well as a faithful representation of the Bible’s stories and characters. The Bible, however, declares itself to be inerrant and infallible in all that it teaches, as well as God’s authority in all that it commands. It’s God’s Word. If it condemns any attempt to visually represent the content and characters of the Bible (which it does) then one has no need to watch The Chosen because it claims to visually represent it—in direct disobedience to the Scriptures.

All biblical movies are visual translations and interpretations of the words and narrative presented in the Bible. If a Christian was aware that the Bible condemns visual translations and interpretations of the Scriptures, there would be no need to evaluate a movie or video series based upon the Bible before rejecting them. But does the Bible denounce any such attempts to translate/interpret it through a visual medium?

It does. And it does so in many indisputable ways. But before I point out the scriptures related to the Bible’s denunciation of such productions, I need to present some of the components that are involved in the production of making a movie that must be considered when determining whether or not “biblical movies” can be truly biblical. These are things I know and have experienced while studying filmmaking in graduate school and having worked for 20th Century Fox studios for a number of years. I then moved on to a career as a screenwriter in Hollywood before being saved and spending four decades in Christian ministry with Dave Hunt.

This is how the process works. A movie begins with a screenplay. It’s either an original story or a screen adaptation from someone else’s work (such as the Bible). The screenplay or movie script, in addition to presenting the storyline or plot, the characters, and the dialogue, consists of visual descriptions of what is taking place in the movie story. For example, if a scene calls for a vehicle, a description is needed for the art director or prop man to find the right kind of car for a particular scene or purpose. If the script calls for the car to be crashed, that needs to be described in detail if the crash is going to be unique and significant to the storyline. This is just one example of the creative input that is necessary for the filmmaking process.

Although the screenwriter is the initial composer of the movie script, changes to the script always take place during filming. Such changes are usually made by the movie’s director. Reasons for the changes from the original script are seemingly endless: actors’ egos, budget cuts, weather problems, location problems, the executive producer’s ego, the cameraman’s “inspirational idea” for filming a scene, union problems, stunt failures, the director’s ego, etc. The author of the motion picture, for the most part, is the screenwriter, even though contributions of interpretation also come from the director, the actors, and a host of others creatively involved in the filming process.

All of that and much more are involved in every attempt to translate the Bible itself into a theatrical motion picture for the silver screen and/or television. The question therefore, for every Bible-believing Christian, is this: Can the Bible be presented through the filmmaking process and stay true to what God’s Word says about His Word?

Well, what does it say? Proverbs:30:5-6:“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (italics added). God’s words are His words, written down by men, His prophets (2 Peter:1:20-21). “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device” (Acts:17:29, emphasis added).

 “I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation:22:18-19).

The Bible is God’s revelation to all humanity, and His alone. “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians:1:11-12).

What then of a “biblical” movie? As with other theatrical endeavors, such a production comes about primarily through the screenwriter’s interpretation of what has been written in Scripture. Add to that the movie-making necessities and changes, things such as a storyline and dialogue related to the plot that are obviously lacking in the Bible, they therefore must be supplemented by the screenwriter in order to create a theatrical production.

Character descriptions are limited, at best, and must be added in order for a casting director to select the actors. Along that line, how does one cast the sinless God/Man, Jesus Christ? The perfect attributes and righteous characteristics of the Son of God could never be displayed by an actor on the screen. When such an idea is incorporated into the script, the end result is a counterfeit Christ at best. In fact, such an attempt fits the very definition of blasphemy as one strives to apply human characteristics to Jesus that undermine His divine character.

I hope you’re getting the picture here (pun intended) that any effort to translate the Bible into a visual medium must result in a veritable distortion of God’s Word which is why such attempts are condemned.

For anyone who doesn’t understand what I mean by calling such efforts “distortion” resulting from man’s input, it begs this question: “What do you really believe about the Bible?”

Do you understand it to be God’s direct communication to mankind? Do you realize that the Bible is totally of Him and from Him? Do you get the fact that without His divine revelation about Himself and His created beings, finite and fallen humanity is left with only opinions, guesses, speculations, and the like about Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation? Those so-called contributions by humans have led to the multitude of man-fashioned religions that purport to give insights regarding God.

Do you believe that God’s Word is “given by inspiration of God” (i.e., God-breathed—2 Timothy:3:15-17)? Do you believe the Apostle Paul’s Holy Spirit-inspired exhortation to the Thessalonians: “…when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians:2:13)? What do you think about Luke:4:4: “It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (emphasis added)?

The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, did not mince words: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians:1:6-9, emphasis added).

Every believer in Jesus Christ must come to a true biblical belief in His Word. If what a person is taught about Jesus is not true to the Person revealed in the Scriptures, that character is “another Jesus,” a “false Christ,” no matter how endearing and engaging the actor may be (2 Corinthians:11:4Matthew:24:24). The same is true regarding all the actors representing biblical characters.

Movies are perhaps the most seductive of all media the world over. I learned as a screenwriter that manipulating an audience’s emotions was the key to a box-office success: make them laugh, make them weep, frighten them, make them cheer, arouse their passions, their lusts. In other words, control their emotions. That power of persuasion through the film medium seduces believers who normally would recognize that they are being snared by a fictional screen character. The comment most often given by those who enjoy the TV series is “I really like a lot of the human qualities displayed by The Chosen’s Jesus. It’s so easy to relate to him.” Others have said similar things about their favorite “disciples.”

Remember, what is presented in the Bible is wholly of the Holy Spirit. It is exactly what God wants us to know and believe. That’s what sets believers apart from the so-called spiritual insights of humanity: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John:17:17). Anything that “adds” to that truth, no matter how emotionally and “spiritually” moving, is condemned as having corrupted God’s truth.

I’ve been told that my writing about and speaking out against “biblical” movies (Showtime for the Sheep;andThe Bible According to Hollywood”) have come at a time in which the movie industry is finally “supporting Christianity,” and therefore I am “speaking out against the cause of Christ.”

Although that may seem to be a reasonable objection to many, it’s actually a rationalization that dismisses what inevitably takes place in the movie-making process of translating the Bible visually. It also demonstrates an ignorance of the culture of Hollywood, which is no friend of biblical Christianity. Tinsel Town’s only motivation is box-office—in other words (in the King James version), “filthy lucre.” And as we know from Scripture, “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy:6:10).

Even so, The Chosen series is condemned by the Bible first and foremost because it adds man’s ideas (his beliefs, concepts, viewpoints, conceptions, images, perceptions, his religions, and especially his feelings, etc.) to what God alone has communicated. It makes no difference how far afield the additions are—even the smallest contribution would not be of God, but of man.

For those who are still not seeing the problem with this, let’s consider a program that makes the highly publicized claim that it’s helping people get to know Jesus better and to recognize similarities with the “Jesus of different faiths.” What if the Jesus we are being introduced to is not the biblical Jesus, but rather a spirit that was produced in heaven? Suppose he was the spirit brother of Lucifer, and his earthly birth was not by a virgin but came about through sexual intercourse with Mary by his father god who resides on a planet near a star called Kolob? What if this “Jesus” worked toward becoming a god by taking Mary, her sister Martha, and Mary Magdalene as wives, and thereby producing children necessary for him to become a god? And the godhood that this Jesus achieved enabled him to become the god of this world, taking his place among the multitude of gods ruling over numerous other worlds?

Hopefully you’re thinking, “That’s not the Jesus I know from God’s Word!” However, it is the “Jesus” that the executive producer of The Chosen, Derral Eves, believes in, as do most of the other series’ producers such as Ricky Ray Butler and Jeffrey and Neil Harmon. Neil Harmon, as co-founder with his brother Jeffrey of VidAngel (now ironically titled Angel Studios—see Galatians:1:8), the Utah-based distributor of The Chosen, declared that he and his brother Jeffrey are “faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We love Jesus and we love our faith in Christ.”

If that were the Jesus that The Chosen series is introducing us to, would that be a concern? As some may have surmised, the Jesus described above is not the biblical Jesus but rather the Jesus of Mormonism, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the faith to which many of the series producers belong. But is that the Jesus of The Chosen? Thus far in the series the fundamental doctrines of Mormonism have not been plainly presented. Could they be? Yes—but perhaps not yet.

Yes, because The Chosen’s audience has been conditioned to accept whatever the screenwriter, director, and other creative personnel contribute, with no apparent concern for biblical accuracy. The program that launched the series, for example, was the background story of Mary Magdalene that included the death of her father when she was young, her being raped by a Roman soldier, and the failure of Nicodemus as he attempted to exorcise demons from her. Those details came not from Scripture but from the imagination of those who contributed to the script. Yet for the greater number of viewers, few of whom have read the Bible, the images they watched were received as though they are actually in the Bible.

I’ve been told biblical movies are great motivators for people to check the Bible out. Really? What happens when they can’t find the movie scenes such as the gritty backstory of Mary Magdalene? Furthermore, most people would rather watch a highly dramatized Bible story with little concern that it’s fiction than read the actual words of Scripture. “Based on a true story” is good enough, even though the “based” part is a movie fabrication.

I have interviewed numerous believers who viewed so-called biblical movies, and although most of these Christians knew the Bible pretty well, I was dismayed to find that they actually believed that many of the unbiblical scenes in those productions were found in the Bible! Difficulty in distinguishing between what one may have read in the Bible and what one saw on screen in an alleged biblical movie is one of the damaging effects of presenting biblical content visually. That notwithstanding, why would a believer in God’s Word fill his or her head with things that are made to appear biblical by a film company—but are not?

My “perhaps not yet” comment has to do with Mormonism’s continual attempt to promote itself as basically Christian in its theology. For years the organization has strived to be accepted as just another Christian denomination. The only way that can happen is if the LDS Church initially conceals its fundamental beliefs and packs its promotional productions with all sorts of unbiblical scenes and characters. The more that such corruptions are accepted, the wider the door opens for any-and-all beliefs to be introduced, including the bizarre doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It also helps to have a professing evangelical writer/director (Dallas Jenkins) working on The Chosen. His promotional interview with a Mormon apologist is a classic example of obfuscatory ecumenism, meaning he does his best to muddy the waters between foundational biblical Christianity (which he claims to believe) and the cultic teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. His ecumenism is made clear in his own words: “I said that many LDS folks and I love the same Jesus. I still believe that. It’s gotten me in a lot of trouble but I still believe that.”

When Jesus was asked by His disciples about the days just prior to His return, He said, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew:24:4). That’s a penetrating description of the days in which we are living, a time in which “sound doctrine” has all but vanished throughout Christendom (2 Timothy:4:3). Sound doctrine is the full and absolute counsel of what God has communicated in His Word. Anything added to that by man in his attempt to visually portray God’s word is a counterfeit—a fictitious deception.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there is no need to watch any episodes of The Chosen in order to decide whether or not they are supported by God’s Word. All a Bible-believing Christian has to hear is that the television series attempts to represent the stories and characters found in the Scriptures; that inevitably results in adding all kinds of content to the Bible, the action of which is clearly condemned.

For those who nevertheless are enamored with The Chosen yet claim they know and love the Scriptures, The Chosen television series begins with background information about Mary Magdalene nowhere found in the Bible, as noted, but is produced out of the imagination of all the creative movie people, from the screenwriters to the director, and on down the production line. What then of additions to the final episode of season two (although examples are found throughout the entire series)? We’re shown that the disciples are in charge of producing the speaking events of Jesus (e.g., crowd control, distributing flyers for his events, setting up a stage complete with curtains for his presentation of the Sermon on the Mount). Do the Scriptures tell us that the wardrobe of Jesus for his stage appearance was decided upon by four women? Did Jesus, along with his mother, pine for his stepfather Joseph before his preaching on the Mount…or anywhere else in Scripture? Was Matthew, as seen throughout the series, the continual script advisor regarding the content of the sermons and teachings of Jesus? Did Jesus anxiously have to rehearse his preaching before delivering his teachings to the crowd? All those things are found in The Chosen. They are not only missing from God’s Word, their inclusion amounts to blasphemy—that is, a blatant mischaracterization of God manifested in the flesh.

Those who are drawn to the Jesus of The Chosen have been seduced into believing in a character who is not the perfect God/Man presented in God’s Word, but rather a man-made counterfeit Christ whose ministry had to be enabled through the input of his disciples. That’s not the Jesus Christ of God’s inerrant, infallible, and all-sufficient God-breathed Word.

Those who claim to believe the Scriptures but are drawn to The Chosen need to heed the Bible’s far-reaching warning: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before” (Matthew:24:24-25).

(For further insights into the problems with visually translating the Bible, we recommend Showtime for the Sheep and “The Bible According to Hollywood.” For materials related to the cult of Mormonism we recommend The God Makers and “Mormon Fiction” [see TBC article August 2003]. More importantly, we highly recommend reading Psalm:119:1-176.)

December 1, 2021 
T. A. McMahon

Friday, December 10, 2021

Guest Post: Could Anyone Be Messiah?


Tom: Well, here we go again, Dave. We’re dealing with salvation. Seems we never run out of things to discuss with regard to the gospel and salvation. I hope the people who are listening are edified by this—encouraged. I know it’s a blessing to me!

Dave: It’s a very important topic, and it’s the difference between heaven and hell!

Tom: Yeah. Now, one of the things that we’ve been talking about, or, sort of the line we’re going down, is Jesus, the Savior. And we’ve been talking about the qualifications that the Savior of humanity has to fulfill. And one of the ways we’re encouraged about God’s Word is because much of it is prophecy, and much of it has already been fulfilled to the letter!

Dave: Right.

Tom: If there was a prophecy that wasn’t fulfilled, we’d throw the book out!

Dave: Absolutely!

Tom: That’s how important prophecy is, and what an encouragement it is to us who believe God’s Word. It gives us confidence in what He’s saying.

Dave: Well, it’s the foundation, it is the basis of the gospel we preach. And Paul, in Romans 1, said he was an apostle “separated unto the gospel of God.” This is God’s gospel. This is not the gospel of some church. After all, the problem is between God and man, and it’s up to God to tell us how to be reconciled with Him. You don’t negotiate!

So, the gospel was foretold in the past! And if Jesus Christ…you know, who the Messiah would be; when He would come, where He would be born, what would happen to Him? That He would be crucified—even before crucifixion was even known, that prophecy was there…

Tom: Dave, we’re going to cover some of this.

Dave: …all the details! Now, if Jesus Christ did not fulfill what the prophets said, he’s not the Messiah! And, as you mentioned, this is the great proof! Why do I have such confidence that Jesus is the Savior of sinners, the only hope of this world. Well, you could say, “Well, I opened my heart to Him, He came in.…” I mean, I can remember…60 years ago, Tom, I can remember it like it was today! A fantastic transformation in my life! I literally felt Christ come into my heart, into my life, and change me! I’m not saying that anybody else has to have that experience. We don’t go by feelings….

Tom: We go by faith…right.

Dave: …but nevertheless, that’s not what I base it on. Somebody says, “Well, one of the favorite songs we love to sing: “He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives in me. Ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” Well, I can tell you, I know that! His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we’re the children of God. We have that with us in the Holy Spirit. But we also have the proof—prophecy…

Tom: You had a subjective experience, now you’re talking about something objective here.

Dave: …absolute proof, Tom! I can prove that Jesus Christ is the Savior of sinners, who He claims to be, because of the prophecies that were laid out thousands of years ago. You can’t tamper with them! Not just one. Jesus said it Himself, Matthew 24: “All things that were written in the prophets, the psalms, concerning Me must be fulfilled.” And they were!

Tom: Now, Dave, we went over some of the qualifications. I’m not going to…I’m just going to go down a line without going to the scriptures, but then I want to pick up where we left off. But we said the Messiah, the Savior, the Christ, has to be God, has to be a perfect human, physically and morally. He has to be sinless. He has to be both God and man in order to pay the full penalty for our sins.

Dave: Now, that’s even…logic would tell you that.

Tom: Right.

Dave: But the scripture also says it.

Tom: Mm-hmm, and as we’ve been saying, He has to fulfill all the biblical prophecies with regard to the Savior of humanity. Now, one of those prophecies has to do with the virgin birth, which is kind of being pushed around today. People are saying, “Well, that’s not important. But let me read from Isaiah:7:14
: “Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Emmanuel.”

Now, some people are saying, “Well, you know, it’s not really important that Jesus was born of a virgin, you know. What’s the big deal?”

Dave: Well, they will say, of course, that the—the Hebrew word there is “alma.” It doesn’t mean “virgin,” it means “young woman,” a young unmarried woman. Well, if you were a young unmarried woman in Israel, and you were not a virgin, you would be stoned. It’s that simple.

But the New Testament, of course, makes it very clear: Matthew chapter one quotes that. And the word there, in the Greek, is “virgin.” So, this is what the Bible said. Now, again…

Tom: Well, let me add to that. We have Luke:1:34-35
: “Then said Mary unto the angel, ‘How shall this be, seeing I know not a man.’” She’s not just talking about being a young woman here!

Dave: Right. She’s claiming to be a virgin, and she herself is puzzled. How am I going to have a child?

Tom: And the angel responds! Gives us the answer here: “And the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’” This is virgin birth.

Dave: Well, it had to be.

Tom: But why is that important?

Dave: Well, if it was not a virgin birth, then Jesus would be just an ordinary human being. Being an ordinary human being, He would be a sinner. That’s true of all of us! The scripture says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” There is no human being—ordinary human being—who is not a sinner. So, he would have to die for his own sins. He couldn’t die for the sins of the world. Furthermore, to pay the penalty for mankind, for all of the human race—and this is an infinite penalty—we would be separated from God forever, for eternity! God is infinite. His justice is infinite. We’re finite beings. We couldn’t possibly. So, no finite human being, even if he were sinless, which is impossible—but even if he were, a human being could not pay the infinite penalty for the sins of the world!

Only God could do that. It wouldn’t be just for God to do that, because He’s not one of us. So, God became a man through the virgin birth. He didn’t cease to be God, He’ll never cease to be man, He’s the one-and-only God-man. That’s why He’s called “the only-begotten of the Father.” Jesus Christ is absolutely unique.

And so, because of who He is, He was able to pay the penalty. And, Tom, we’ve gone over this before, but it bears going over it again. You know, God himself couldn’t just make a bookkeeping entry in heaven. This is a matter of justice. I use the illustration…well, let’s try to use a little different variety here…that…whatever it is—I got a ticket, whether it’s a parking…let’s take even just a parking ticket. The ticket has been written out. It has to be paid. Or, I get a speeding ticket. It has to be paid. And to suggest that… “Well, the court can just…the judge can just make some kind of an allowance for me.” That’s not justice. Or, “I know the judge’s mother, and she’ll get me off.” That’s not justice. Or, “I promised the judge that if he will let me off this time, I’ll never, ever break the law again. That’s not justice! Because I can’t make up for having broken the law in the past by keeping the law in the future. So, only God himself, as a man…

Tom: The perfect, sinless…

Dave: …perfect, sinless man…

Tom: Not under any condemnation…

Dave: …representing the entire human race, took the penalty that the entire human race had imposed upon it by God’s infinite justice—and He paid it! And only because that penalty was paid can God forgive us. And once again, it’s powerful scripture when you get to Romans 3. Paul raises the question: “How can God be just, and at the same time justify sinners?” And he lays it out: It’s only because Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins. So this is the requirement!

Tom: So, if Jesus isn’t born of a virgin, He’s not qualified.

You know, earlier we were talking about the…you know, we’ve been talking about the Antichrist. The Antichrist is the one who’s going to deceive the world into believing that he is the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Now, he may have a different rational, or a different understanding or promotion of himself as to who he is, but nevertheless, for a Christian, it would seem you’d just have to check his genealogy. Does he have a father and mother?

Dave: Tom, one of the things that I think is missing—not just from the secular world, but I think from the church, from the professing church, even from people who call themselves evangelicals—I watch some of these people on television, or you go to some church service—I don’t see the fear of God! The…Tom, it just overwhelms me more and more—I have an awesome sense of reverence, and a fear of God, a godly fear. God is the…no beginning! No end! The Creator of the universe! He’s infinite, He is perfect in holiness and purity! And that I would just go on through life and think that somehow, you know, He’s going to accept my good deeds, or whatever—that I can just push aside the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and I can say, “I don’t need that!” And Jesus wept in the Garden, and pleaded, “If there’s any other way, don’t make Me go through this!” That I could brush this aside—or I could excuse myself somehow, when this is offered to me as a free gift, and I reject that gift. And, by the way, if I try to pay for a gift, I am rejecting the gift! I think there’s a sense of the awesomeness of God that is missing today, in the church and in the world, and we need to get back to that. And, Tom, there’s only one way, and this is the gospel of God. This is what He says, and we’d better accept it.

Tom: Yeah. See, it’s a matter of getting to know—as you’ve mentioned time and time again on this program—getting to know Him! That’s why we’re going over all of these qualifications, criteria, whatever you want to call it. To know Him is to be in awe of who He is and what He’s done!

Dave: And then, how wonderful that He offers salvation as a free gift. Why not accept it? Believe in Him!

Tom: Amen.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Guest Post: Made Perfect Together With Us

The following excerpt is taken from Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible, on Hebrews, Chapter 11.

That they without us should not be made perfect (Hebrews 11:40b) - That is, complete. 

They are like the two parts of a tally. The fathers had one part in the promises, and we the other in the fulfillment, and neither would have been complete without the other. The “better things” then referred to here as possessed by Christians, are the privilege of seeing those promises fulfilled in the Messiah; the blessings resulting from the atonement; the more expanded views which they have under the gospel; the brighter hopes of heaven itself, and the clearer apprehension of what heaven will be, which they are permitted to enjoy. This, therefore, accords entirely with the argument which the apostle is pursuing - which is, to show that the Christians whom he addressed should not apostatize from their religion. The argument is, that in numerous instances, as specified, the saints of ancient times, even under fiery trials, were sustained by faith in God, and that too when they had not seen the fulfillment of the promises, and when they had much more obscure views than we are permitted to enjoy. If they, under the influence of the mere promise of future blessings, were enabled thus to persevere, how much more reason is there for us to persevere who have been permitted, by the coming of the Messiah, to witness the perfection of the system!

There is no part of the New Testament of more value than this chapter; none which deserves to be more patiently studied, or which may be more frequently applied to the circumstances of Christians. These invaluable records are adapted to sustain us in times of trial, temptation, and persecution; to show us what faith has done in days that are past, and what it may do still in similar circumstances. Nothing can better show the value and the power of faith, or of true religion, than the records in this chapter. It has done what nothing else could do. It has enabled people to endure what nothing else would enable them to bear, and it has shown its power in inducing them to give up, at the command of God, what the human heart holds most dear. And among the lessons which we may derive from the study of this portion of divine truth, let us learn from the example of Abel to continue to offer to God the sacrifice of true piety which he requires, though we may be taunted or opposed by our nearest kindred; from that of Enoch to walk with God, though surrounded by a wicked world, and to look to the blessed translation to heaven which awaits all the righteous; from that of Noah to comply with all the directions of God, and to make all needful preparations for the future events which he has predicted, in which we are to be interested - as death, judgment, and eternity - though the events may seem to be remote, and though there may be no visible indications of their coming, and though the world may deride our faith and our fears; from that of Abraham to leave country, and home, and kindred, if God calls us to, and to go just where he commands, through deserts and wilds, and among strange people, and like him also to be ready to give up the dearest objects of our earthly affection, even when attended with all that can try or torture our feelings of affection - feeling that God who gave has a right to require their removal in his own way, and that however much we may fix our hopes on a dear child, he can fulfil all his purposes and promises to us though such a child should be removed by death; from that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to regard ourselves as strangers and pilgrims on earth, having here no permanent home. and seeking a better country; from that of Moses to be willing to leave all the pomp and splendour of the world, all our brilliant prospects and hopes, and to welcome poverty, reproach, and suffering, that we may identify ourselves with the people of God; by the remembrance of the host of worthies who met danger, and encountered mighty foes, and vanquished them, let us learn to go forth in our spiritual conflicts against the enemies of our souls and of the church, assured of victory; and from the example of those who were driven from the abodes of human beings, and exposed to the storms of persecution, let us learn to bear every trial, and to be ready at any moment to lay down our lives in the cause of truth and of God. Of all those holy men who made these sacrifices, which of them ever regretted it, when he came calmly to look over his life, and to review it on the borders of the eternal world?

None. Not one of them ever expressed regret that he had given up the world; or that he had obeyed the Lord too early, too faithfully, or too long. Not Abraham who left his country and kindred; not Moses who abandoned his brilliant prospects in Egypt; not Noah who subjected himself to ridicule and scorn for an hundred and twenty years; and not one of those who were exposed to lions, to fire, to the edge of the sword, or who were driven away from society as outcasts to wander in pathless deserts or to take up their abodes in caverns, ever regretted the course which they had chosen. And who of them all now regrets it? Who, of these worthies, now looks from heaven and feels that he suffered one privation too much, or that he has not had an ample recompense for all the ills he experienced in the cause of religion? So we shall feel when from the bed of death we look over the present life, and look out on eternity.

Whatever our religion may have cost us, we shall not feel that we began to serve God too early, or served him too faithfully. Whatever pleasure, gain, or splendid prospects we gave up in order to become Christians, we shall feel that it was the way of wisdom, and shall rejoice that we were able to do it. Whatever sacrifices, trials, persecution, and pain, we may meet with, we shall feel that there has been more than a compensation in the consolations of religion, and in the hope of heaven, and that by every sacrifice we have been the gainers. When we reach heaven, we shall see that we have not endured one pain too much, and that through whatever trials we may have passed, the result is worth all which it has cost. Strengthened then in our trials by the remembrance of what faith has done in times that are past; recalling the example of those who through faith and patience have inherited the promises, let us go cheerfully on our way. Soon the journey of trials will be ended, and soon what are now objects of faith will become objects of fruition, and in their enjoyment, how trifling and brief will seem all the sorrows of our pilgrimage below!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Eternal Life is a Certainty in Jesus Alone

Throughout the gospels, Jesus taught that you may know for certain that you are going to Heaven when you die. But He said there is only one way to enter Heaven. Do you know of His promise of eternal life for all who trust in Him? Have you believed in Jesus?

Here are just four examples in Jesus’ own words, from the Gospel of John, confirming that a person can only come to God through faith in Jesus. There are plenty of other examples throughout the New Testament, but these four clearly substantiate this truth.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” (John 14:6)

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24)

“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.’” (John 11:25)

Clearly Jesus taught that He is the only way to God and to eternal life in Heaven with Him. Sadly though, many do not know that we can have absolute assurance that we will go to Heaven when we die.

If you believe the gospel (the good news) about Jesus, then you believe that He is the eternal God that came into the world as a man, willingly set aside His eternal glory temporarily, who died for your sin on the cross and then rose again three days later to give all who believe in Him life everlasting. And, according to Jesus, we may know for certain that we who belong to Him are no longer under the judgment of God and have passed from eternal death to eternal life by faith in Him.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24)

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. ... This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:37, 39)

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.” (John 10:27-29)

Once we have put our faith in Jesus we are born from above by the Spirit of God (John 3). This is a supernatural, one-time event that cannot be undone. At that moment we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, kept and guarded by God (1 Peter 1) to be delivered safely to Heaven when our time comes.

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)

There are many more verses throughout the Bible to confirm that a person’s salvation is a gift of God (Ephesians 2) and that nothing and no one can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8) once we’ve been born from above, born again by the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus alone. Think on these things, pray about them, and rest secure only and fully in the finished work of our Savior, our Messiah, Jesus.

“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)

“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1 :24) “who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)

Brian Farrell is a follower of Jesus, saved by God's amazing grace through faith in Christ. Brian is a Bible teacher and the founder of Walking With Jesus Ministries. He lives with his wife Dana in Temecula, California.