Arnold Schwarzenegger says he is angry at death.
In an interview last year he said, “Your whole life you work, you try to improve yourself, save money, invest wisely, and then all of a sudden – poof. It’s over.”
I have some news for Arnold Schwarzenegger: Death makes God angry, too.
Someone might be thinking, Why didn’t God do something about it? He did. He sent his son to die on the cross. And when Christ died on the cross and rose again, he defeated death.
I know that people still die, of course. My mother is in heaven. My father who adopted me is in heaven. My son is in heaven. I have had to face death head-on, so I’m not approaching this subject from an ivory tower of theory. Rather, I’m giving a dispatch from the valley of the shadow of death.
I know what it is like to feel that pain. I also know what it is like to know the hope that Christ can bring, because I know death is not the end. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25 NKJV).
Life goes by so fast. I remember when I was a kid, I would look at older people and think, “Where do these people come from?” Then one day I looked in the mirror and realized that I was one of those older people.
My generation, the generation that launched the youth culture, has turned from sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to nip, tuck and Botox. We have gone from acid rock to acid reflux. The reality is that life will come to an end. We can’t live forever in these bodies of ours.
The good news is the soul lives on. There is an afterlife. We make such a big deal about this life, but we don’t talk enough about the afterlife. This life on earth, the Bible says, “is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (James 4:14 NLT). But the afterlife goes on and on.
We need to think very seriously about this, because once we die and enter the afterlife, we can’t change our destination. You can decide right now where you will spend eternity. But once you die, there are no more chances.
The Bible says, “Each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NLT). We want to be thinking now about where we will spend eternity. We have only two options: heaven or hell – paradise or outer darkness … bliss or misery. Each of us has a choice.
The last thing God wants is to send any person uniquely created in his image to the place called hell. Jesus died on the cross for us so we could be forgiven and not end up there. Hell wasn’t made for people. According to Jesus, hell was created for the devil and his angels.
But if someone is bound and determined to reject the offer of forgiveness from Jesus Christ and ends up in hell one day, it really will be his or her own fault. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.”
We can have the hope of going to heaven one day. That is where the death and resurrection of Christ comes in.
John’s gospel gives us an inviting scene of a breakfast cooked by Jesus, the risen, living Savior. His hands had been pierced for the disciples, yet he took the time to make them a delicious meal. He had risen again in a physical body. He wasn’t a ghost. He wasn’t a phantom. He wasn’t a spirit. He was standing before them alive again.
Just for a moment, go back in your imagination to the first century. Here was Jesus with his great ministry, the people were singing his praises, and things were building to a crescendo. Jesus was headed to the cross. He talked about it all the time. He told his disciples that he would be betrayed, whipped and crucified, that he would rise from the dead three days later. But somehow they missed the memo on that. They were expecting him to establish his kingdom on earth right then and there.
But according to God’s plan, Jesus was betrayed. He was beaten. He was crucified. He was laid in a tomb. And just as he predicted, he rose again from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything.
Because of the resurrection of Jesus, one day we will receive new bodies. And those bodies will no longer age or get sick or break down. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we will have resurrected relationships. One day we will be reunited with our loved ones who have died in faith. We will be reunited with loved ones who have gone on before us.
By the way, these are promises for Christians only. If you are not a Christian, then the only promise you have is that of a certain judgment. The Bible says, “He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31 NKJV). Because Jesus died and rose again, there will be a final judgment.
Good works don’t get you to heaven, however. Even if they did, there is no way, even on your best day, that you would have enough good works to earn the approval of God. The good news is there is nothing we can to do that is bad enough to keep us out of heaven. But the bad news is there nothing we can do that is good enough to get us into heaven.
This is where Jesus comes in. This is why we need Jesus – because we are not good enough. We need help. Jesus, who was God in human form, satisfied the righteous demands of the heavenly Father, whom we have all offended through our sin.
When Jesus died on the cross, he took hold of a holy God with one hand, and with the other hand, he took hold of sinful humanity. He died there in our place. That is why Jesus Christ – and Jesus Christ alone – is our only way to heaven. God has dropped one lifeline from heaven, and it is Christ himself.
God doesn’t grade on the curve; he grades on the cross. Heaven isn’t for good people; heaven is for forgiven people.