VIDEO I Am the Resurrection and the Life, Part 2

John MacArthur Sep 21, 2014

Open your Bible to John chapter 11.  When Lazarus died, he was in the grave for four days.  But in this sermon series, he’s been there 21, and we need to get him out.  We’ve got to get him moving, actually, so he’s exhibited immense patience. 

But as we come to the text for today in John 11, verses 37 to 44, we’re going to be looking at it.  So let me read it to you: verse 37, “Some of them said, ‘Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?’

“So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb.  Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.  Jesus said, ‘Remove the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ So they removed the stone.  Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.’ When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’”

Throughout the text of John’s gospel, we repeatedly discover that the intention of everything that he records is to demonstrate the deity of Jesus Christ.  And pointing to His works are the proof.  In chapter 5, you’ll remember some familiar words.  Chapter 5 and verse 36.  Our Lord says, “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John the Baptist; for the works, the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish – the very works that I do – testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.”  The very works that He did had no other explanation than that He was divine, and had indeed come from heaven, as He claimed.  In chapter 10 verse 25, “Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.’” Verse 37.  “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”

We will find this same emphasis in the 14th chapter of the gospel of John.  Verse 10.  “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?  The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.  Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.” 

John the Baptist’s disciples had some questions about whether Jesus actually was the Messiah, because things weren’t going the way they expected them to go.  John was imprisoned and Jesus wasn’t setting up the kingdom, and so they came to Jesus in Luke chapter 7 and they asked Him, “Are You the expected one, or do we look for someone else?  Are You the Messiah, or have we to wait for someone else?”  Jesus said this: “Go and tell John this: ‘The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.’” You go tell John about the works, the miracles. 

In the gospel of John, there are seven major miracles that John lays out, out of three years of massive miracles in the thousands, certainly.  In fact, at the end of the gospel of John, we’re told the books of the world couldn’t contain everything that Jesus did.  But John picked seven that are unmistakable, eyewitness accounts of the deity of Christ as demonstrated in His miracles.  None is more powerful, compelling, and memorable than this raising of a man named Lazarus.  What you see here is divine power on display, creative power, supernatural power, cosmic power, power that belongs only to God.  God is the creator.  Christ is the creator.  God creates, in Genesis 1.  The Lord Jesus creates in John 1.  He is the one who made everything that has been made.  John says about Him, “In Him was life.”  About Himself, He says, “I am the life.” 

That is on display here in a way that is really beyond any of the other miracles that John knows.  But all of the miracles of Jesus and all the ones that John chronicles are for the purpose that you might believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you might have eternal life in His name.

Now, if you go down to verse 25, you have the declaration from the lips of Jesus.  “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Not that I give resurrection or do resurrection.  Not that I give life.  I am the resurrection.  I am the life.  He who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.  Do you believe this?  And Martha said, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

What led her to believe that?  The words of Jesus supported by the works of Jesus.  He claimed to be the Messiah, the Christ.  He claimed to be the Son of God, deity in human form.  He claimed to be the one who came down from heaven and supported it with powerful, miraculous works, impossible for humans to do.  In fact, the works that Jesus did were unique to Him, and He empowered His disciples for a short period of time, the apostles, to do those same works, giving testimony to the fact that they were the true apostles of the Savior Himself. 

In the issue of John 11, the raising of Lazarus, divine power is don display.  Remarkable divine power.  The kind of divine power that stops the progress of decay.  Divine power that reverses rigor mortis.  Divine power that pours new life into rotted organs, starts a bloodless decomposing heart, beating and pumping fresh new blood to every organ and every limb.  The kind of power that creates a brand new body, that creates blood out of nothing and makes it flow fast and fresh.  The kind of power that takes sightless, decomposed eyes and gives new tissue, new nerve, and new vision.  The kind of power that takes a non-functioning, decomposed mass of brain tissue and recreates it so it can think, and feel, and move, and speak.  It’s a staggering of power, of a man four days dead.  And as I’ve told you before, there is the record in the gospels of two other resurrections: one of Jairus’ daughter, who had just died; and one of the sons of the Widow of Nain who was on his way to the funeral, which would happen immediately after his death.

So, somebody might say: well, they maybe weren’t dead.  This was so close to the fact that they had been ill.  Maybe they weren’t really dead.  But in the case of Lazarus, he was four days dead.  Four days, and is noted by this time, there is a stench coming from his decomposing flesh. 

Jesus steps into that situation and raises that man from the dead.  Only God has the power to give life.  It is ludicrous to imagine that people have that power.  There are some bizarre, self-proclaimed healers who want you to believe  that they can raise the dead.  That has never, ever even been close to being verified.  Why does He raise this man from the dead?  Why does He do that?  To strengthen the faith of His disciples in Him, and they were always struggling with their weaknesses to produce faith in unbelievers who could have no other explanation and would come to the conclusion, hopefully, that Martha came to, that based upon what He did, you have to believe He’s Christ, the Son of God, the one who came down from heaven.

He also did the raising of Lazarus to give a preview of His own resurrection, which would come only in a few days.  We can assume, probably, that Lazarus may well have been raised, at least in one timeline, on the Wednesday before Passion Week.  So it would’ve been a week and a half before He had raised Himself from the dead.  He also did the resurrection of Lazarus to demonstrate a promise He made in John 5:28 and 29 that He had the power of life and one day would raise all the dead in all the graves of the globe; all the people who’ve ever lived will be raised, some under the resurrection of life, some under the resurrection of condemnation or damnation.  He is displaying divine power for all those reasons.  And by the way, this is in some ways, a demonstration of the power that He will use to raise your body and mine, which will be, if He doesn’t come soon, if He doesn’t come in years and years, worse shape than Lazarus’.  Whatever is left, and even if nothing is left, He can create, and does create, ex nihilo, out of nothing. 

Now, we’ve noticed that John takes a great amount of detail to tell the story, running all the way from verse 1 to verse 57.  That’s the aftermath, which we’ll look at next week.  We’ve already seen the preparation for the miracle in the opening 16 verses, which of course was the story of Lazarus and his sisters living in the town of Bethany two miles east of Jerusalem, around the Mount of Olives, village, really Bethany means house of the poor.  Kind of a non-descript little place, but they must’ve been a prominent family there because so many people showed up for the prolonged funeral. 

So we saw the opening of his illness and death, and then from verses 17 on down to about verse 36, where we ended last time, we finally saw the arrival of Jesus.  Now remember, when Mary and Martha sent messengers, the one whom you love, the one who’s your friend, you have such great affection for, is sick unto death, Jesus delayed long enough for him to be dead and buried.  By the time He took a day’s journey back to be in the grave four days, and He did it, He tells us why He did it in verse 4.  “This sickness is not to end in death.”  That’s not the end.  “But for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified in it.”  He wants Lazarus good and dead and everybody to know he’s good and dead so that when He raises him from the dead, it’ll bring glory to Himself as well as to the Father.  Mutually.

Well, we finally come to verse 37.  And here, in this very brief account, we see the resurrection itself.  There are no pathological descriptions.  There is no attempt to describe any of the phenomenon going on in Lazarus’ body or inside the tomb.  In fact, everything about this is a very kind of human thing except for one element.  There’s a lot of people there.  Jesus asks them to roll the stone away.  When Lazarus comes out of the grave, He asks them to unwrap him.  And as you go through this story, it has to strike you that the Lord has always done that.  He’s always used people to do what people can do.  They can’t raise him from the dead, but they can unwrap him.  They can’t steal him out of the clutches of the king of terrors, death, but they can roll the stone away, and that’s how the kingdom of God works in the world.  God does what only God can do, but what you can do and what I can do, He always enlists us to be involved in, and that’s how we work in the kingdom, and we see that here. 

There’s something very, in a sense, normal about it.  There’s something very natural about it.  There’s something very human about it, as caring people do what caring people can do.  But only God can do what God can do.  You can see in this, kind of an analogy of salvation.  Somebody can, I suppose to say, analogically roll the stone away and let the light of the truth in.  Somebody else can kind of unwrap the person who’s newly given life, but only Christ can give life.  He does the same thing in salvation that you see Him doing here.  Maybe that’s an analogy that helps enrich it a little bit. 

So we come to verses 37 to 44.  And again, like so many of these massive, just staggering, stunning miracles, it is understated.  There isn’t any fanfare here.  No angels show up.  No trumpet blows.  There’s not an orchestra.  It’s not drawn out.  Basically, Jesus says two words: the name of the man, and a verb.  And it’s a command.  That’s it.  And that, that very statement, two words, a name and a verb, literally unleashes the same power that created the universe. 

Now, the whole miracle, again, is to confirm the statement of Jesus in verse 25.  “I am the resurrection.  I am the life.”  Again, to affirm what He said in chapter 5.  “God has given to Me the power of judgment and the power of resurrection, and I will raise all the dead of all the ages to the final judgment.”  Jesus makes statements of spiritual reality, and then illustrates them in a physical way.  “I am the resurrection.  Here’s a resurrection to prove it.”  On another occasion in the gospel of John, He said, “I am the bread of life,” and then created a meal to prove it.  On another occasion, He said, “I am the light of the world,” and then healed blind eyes to prove it.  Here, He is the resurrection and the life, and He proves it by putting His resurrection power on display. 

So let’s look at this miracle.  It’s pretty straightforward and simple, and as you pick up the story, and you remember that when Jesus arrived, verse 17, He found that Lazarus has already been in the tomb for four days.  And Mary and Martha were there.  They were brokenhearted and they were sad, and they loved their brother, and it was a terrible loss.  Martha, when she hears Jesus is coming, runs out to meet Him.  Mary, who is the melancholy one, stays home, and all these people are surrounding her, consoling her, and Jesus has a little conversation with Martha in which He declares to be the resurrection and the life, and you remember all of that.  And then He asks for Mary.  And so Martha goes back to the house, verse 28.  “The Teacher is here and He is calling for you.”  And she heard it, and she got up quickly and was coming to Him. 

She didn’t come alone.  All the people who were with her in the house consoling her, verse 31, got up, thinking she was going to the tomb so she could weep there.  When she arrived, of course, she runs into Jesus.  They haven’t quite come to the tomb yet.  Jesus sees her weeping, sees the Jews who were with her weeping, and I told you funerals lasted seven days, and people came over and cried.  There were professional weepers, and then there were people who cared, and they would weep.  There were professional mourners and wailers and all of that.  Then there were the people who really cared.  I pointed out: there’s something beautiful about, not the professional side of it, but the caring side of it lasting as long as it did.  And actually, it went on for 30 days after the initial 7 days. 

But Jesus sees all this weeping, and He tells us in verse 33, is deeply moved.  Deeply moved in His spirit and troubled.  And the language is extremely strong.  He is profoundly agonizing because He’s lost His friend, yeah.  There’s the reality of that.  He has lost His friend.  Someone for whom He had affection.  Phile, back in verse 3.  But He sees far more than that.  He sees sin, death.  He sees the reality that everybody’s going to die.  Every family’s going to have a loss.  Every relationship is going to be broken up.  This is what sin has done not just to this family, not just to this city, not just to this time, but throughout all of human history.  The powerful weight of sin.  And you’re surrounded by people who have rejected Him and do not believe in Him.  Not Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, but the rest of the crowd, surely.  He sees the impact of sin, and it’s really overwhelming.  I would say that this is the closest to His experience in the garden of Gethsemane of anything in the Bible, anything in the gospels.  ‘Cause He feels the power of sin on display in this devastated family, and the extent of the realities of death.  And He knows that surrounded by unbelieving people, all are going to die, all are going to suffer the loss of people they care about and they love, and most of them are going to be catapulted into eternal hell.  This is a massive burden for Him to bear, and that is why the language is so graphic, as we pointed out last time.  He’s deeply moved, and He is seriously troubled.  So much so that He bursts forth into tears that He can’t restrain in verse 35. 

So that people say, “See how He loved him!” They can only read it as: this is a profound love for this man.  This is an outburst of weeping, and sadness, and sorrow that is cosmic.  This is not just limited to the loss of a friend.  We understand that.  We see that all the time.  But this is something way beyond that, and they’re trying to figure out what this is.  So, they say, “See how He loved him!” A kind of love that they’re not used to seeing, perhaps.  Not understanding the full reasons for His agony.

Now that gets us to verse 37, and let’s look at the perplexity.  We’ll give you a few P’s as we go through here for a few minutes.  The perplexity.  So, if this is the case, if He is so shattered and so devastated and so broken that He’s in the condition that He is in, and it is a serious condition, couldn’t He, He who opened the eyes of the blind men have kept this man also from dying?  I guess the word has circulated by now.  Certainly, these are people who have been there for four days, that they sent a messenger to Jesus at the very time Lazarus was sick, and He didn’t come, and He waited two days, and then there’s a day back, so a day for the messenger, two days waiting, a day back.  That’s four days.  If He really loved as much as it looks like He loved, and if He has the power that He displayed in chapter 9, the healing of the man who’s in his 40’s who had been blind and sitting at the beautiful gate.  Everybody knew him, and He gave him sight, and he was a stranger.  If He could give sight to a stranger that He didn’t know, He had the power to do that, couldn’t He have healed whatever this illness was, and if He loved him as much as He loved him, then why didn’t He do that?  Why didn’t He come? 

There’s a perplexity here, and it’s an understandable perplexity, given what they have seen.  Of course, from Jesus’ viewpoint, He operates within the Father’s purpose, doesn’t He?  He knows exactly what’s going on.  The timing is absolutely perfect.  As Ephesians 1 says, you know, God essentially does all things after the counsel of His own will.  And in Job 33:13, we read, He gives no account to any of His matters.  He doesn’t have to tell us the plan.  He doesn’t have to tell us the duration.  In John 13:7 on another occasion with the disciples, Jesus said, “What I do now you do not realize, but you will.” 

They lived in that but-you-will world.  They couldn’t figure out almost all of what Jesus was doing, at least in His unwillingness to take over and set up the kingdom.  But the time would come when they would understand, when He instructed them after His resurrection.

So it’s a matter of divine timing.  He knows that.  He already knows that this is for the glory of God, verse 4.  God’s going to be glorified.  He’s going to be glorified, so He knows a resurrection is going to happen.  The Father has disclosed that to Him.  He knows that is the plan.  They don’t, and they are naturally perplexed.

Well that then leads to, I guess what you’d call a problem.  There is a problem.  Verse 38.  So Jesus, again being deeply moved within.  I just need to stop again and say: here’s a different word than the deeply moved in verse 33.  And troubled.  This is a different word.  This is a very odd word to use here, ‘cause it means to snort like a horse.  You have all seen that or experienced when a horse raises up under some agitation and lets out a fierce snort.  What a strange word to use.  Sometimes it’s translated “shuddered.”  It’s some kind of total shaking.  Shattering emotion has gripped Him, an indignation over death and sin, and its sorrows, and its realities, which are both temporal and eternal.  He stands there in the presence of this reality of death, stands there coming to the tomb in verse 38.  And He just shudders, just lets off some kind of snort, some kind of gasp, releasing the agony that He feels. 

This is an insight, folks, into the true heart of God toward unbelief and judgment.  Verse 38 again.  He came to the tomb.  It was a cave, as it often was in that part of the world.  You go there even today.  You will go to a cave that is identified as Lazarus’ tomb.  When traditional places go back far enough, we say they’re probably accurate ‘cause somebody actually knew where he was buried and told the next generation, and they told the next, and if it goes back far enough, it’s a pretty good idea.  If the Orthodox Church or the Catholic Church invented in the 13th century, it’s probably not.  But if it goes back far enough, I have no idea about this in particular, but it seems to have been a pretty legitimate place.  If you go there today, you’ll be introduced to this place.  You can go down deep into this cave.  And typically in those caves, they would put slits in the wall, soft enough of stone there that they can carve flat places where they can lay bodies, and that would be a typical way to do it.  No door, so a stone is lying against it.  They would have a groove, and they would have a circular stone that could be rolled over, much as we’re familiar with in the tomb of our Lord.

So that’s what He found.  Verse 39.  Here comes the problem.  Jesus had removed the stone.  Now, the stone served a purpose.  It served a purpose to keep out animals and people who might, I don’t know, be grave robbers and plunder whatever might’ve been in there.  But it also kept the stink in, because the Jews did not embalm, as we have told you.  You could compare it, for example, to the Egyptians.  The Egyptians literally sucked all the internal organs and tissue out of a body and then soaked it in some kind of liquid combination, and then wrapped it, and that’s what we call mummification, which made the body last longer than any other process.  But the Jews did nothing at all like that.  They just wrapped the body, wrapped the hands, wrapped the feet, wrapped the head in a cloth, and sprinkled spices on it, got it in the grave.  And decomposition, as I pointed out last week, happened very, very rapidly, and within four days, it would’ve been serious, and it would’ve been oozing green liquid, and the stench would’ve been nauseating.  This is a problem.  This is a problem. 

By the way, this would’ve been outside the village some distance for the simple reason, if nothing else, that in Numbers 19:16, it says that if you touch a dead body, you’re unclean ceremony, unclean for seven days, and so the Jews didn’t want to get anywhere near a dead body.  That’s another reason there was a stone over the front, and it would’ve been placed somewhere outside the village. 

She’s not eager to have that stone rolled away.  So Martha, the sister of the deceased says, “By this time, there will be a stench for he’s been dead four days.”  She is naturally doubting.  He told her, “Your brother will rise again,” back in verse 23.  She said to Him, “If you’d have been here, he wouldn’t have died.”  Mary said, “If you’d have been here, he wouldn’t have died.”  They both gave the same speech ‘cause they’ve been talking about it.  He said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  She said, “I know he’ll rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Her eschatology was correct.  There is a future resurrection.  I know that.  He says, “I’m not talking about that.  I’m not talking about that.  Your brother will rise again now, is what I’m talking about.”  Verse 40.  “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  This isn’t something future.  You’re going to see it, if you’ll just believe.  You said you were a believer.  You believed in Me. 

But listen, this is a leap, wouldn’t you say?  You’d like to say: I know You’re the resurrection.  I know You’re the life.  I know You’re the Son of God.  You’re the Messiah.  You’re the one who came down from heaven.  But it’s a big jump from that to seeing this corpse walk out of that grave.  We can understand that.  We would like to think that if we were there, we might’ve risen to great heights of faith and never had a question about it.  But her problem is: she’s got her thoughts on the corpse, rather than the Christ, I guess you could say.  So that’s the problem, and she just doesn’t want any unnecessary desecration to take place of his dead body, and certainly nobody to touch it in that condition.

But Jesus says, “Have you forgotten what I promised you?”  That’s the promise.  So you see the perplexity in verse 37, the problem, he’s so far gone.  The promise, verse 40, I said to you, did I not, that if you believe, you’ll see the glory of God?  I told you that.  You will see a revelation of God’s excellencies.  What does it mean you’ll see the glory of God?  You’ll see the manifest nature of God.  How did you see the glory of God in the garden?  Shekhinah glory.  How did you see the glory of God in the wilderness of Israel in a pillar of fire and cloud?  God manifested His glory.  God’s glory came down and the tabernacle entered into the holy of holies.  God’s glory came down to the temple.  God’s glory was manifest in a number of ways throughout the history of the Old Testament.  And then in the New Testament, the glory of God came in a body, the person of Jesus Christ.  And on the Mount of Transfiguration, He was transfigured, and they saw the glory of God shining through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the ineffable reality of His excellence reduced to light. 

Well, God is going to put His glory on display here, only this is going to be by miracle power.  You’re going to see His glory not as a shining light; you’re going to see His glory as life itself.  The excellencies, the visible display of His invisible perfections, the visible display of His invisible powers.  The fullness of His attributes are going to be put on display.  Moses says in Exodus 33:18, “Show me Your glory.”  What did God show him?  Showed him Shekhinah blazing light veiled behind a rock.  Here, He’s going to show His glory not in light, but in life, in life.  I’ll show you the glory.

You say you believe.  If you believe, you’re going to see the glory.  Get your eyes off the corpse and on the Christ.  Set your heart on the Lord.  Wait to see the glory revealed.  We need to  live in that kind of expectancy.  We’re not looking for miracles, but I will tell you this, folks.  When you really believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you see Him display His glory throughout all of your life.  I tell people all the time: I live in the middle of a glory display all the time.  I’ve never seen a miracle, but I live in the middle of a glory display by the amazing, astounding, incomprehensible providence of God by which He orders every circumstance, every day of my life to reveal His purposes and His will.  The complexity of it is more staggering than if He interrupted natural law and did a single miracle.  How many miracles does it take to create a complex reality out of all kinds of contingencies of the non-miraculous?  It’s what He does every day. 

My whole life is a glory display.  I just go from one day to the next, to the next, to the next.  And if you’re looking and believing, you will see the same thing.  You will see God in your life.  You will see God in circumstances.  You will see God working His purposes.  That’s what He called upon her to look for.

Well, perplexity, then a problem.  Then He reiterates a promise, and then there’s prayer, verse 41.  So they remove the stone.  Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.”  Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  He didn’t have to say that to the Father.  The Father knew His relationship with the Son.  He’s not asking the Father to do anything.  There’s no petition there.  Some people miss that and they say, well, He asked the Father to give Him the power to, no He didn’t.  He didn’t ask for anything.  I thank You that You have heard Me, that You have heard Me.  About what?  Letting My glory be put on display.  I knew that You always hear Me, just in Romans 8, as the Holy Spirit always prays according to the will of God, so the Son always prays according to the will of God.  He knows what the Father will do.  He knows it’s for His glory.  Not because of You.  I’m not saying this for Your sake, O God.  I’m not saying it for Your sake.  I’m saying it that You and I are in agreement on this display of heavenly glory.  I’m saying this for the people around, that they may believe that You sent Me.  Again, the whole point, as always in the gospel of John, is that we understand by these works that Christ has come as God incarnate. 

And it’s loud.  It is loud.  He speaks loudly so that everyone can hear.  He identifies God as He always does, as His Father.  The only time He didn’t do that in talking to God was on the cross when He was alienated and sin-bearing and said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  I knew that, You always hear Me.  But for the peoples’ sake standing around, I said that we are in agreement on this display of power and glory, that they may believe that You sent Me.  The people all know only God can create.  There are no evolutionists in first century Israel.  No atheists.  They all believe in God.  They believe in the true God.  They believe in the Creator God.  They know that He made everything.  The fact that Jesus can give life is clear evidence that He is, in fact, God. 

So, He’s praying, in a sense, publically for the benefit of the people, not for the benefit of God, who is already in perfect agreement about what is going to happen.  If He hadn’t said these words so everybody could hear, the crowd would not have been able to give God and Christ the appropriate glory for this event.  They weren’t going to be able to attribute this to any other power. 

That leads us to the power at the final two verses.  “When He had said these things, He cried out.”  This is a very strong statement.  “He cried out with a loud voice.”  If you were reading this in the original language, it would read like this: “He yelled in a loud voice with a loud voice.”  Why the double statement?  He is literally at the pinnacle of His voice, and He had a powerful voice, you can be certain.  He was a teacher.  He taught every day.  He taught in the open air, no amplification, except that which was natural.  He could speak to crowds of 20,000 people and be heard.  A powerful voice.  I’m convinced that probably was the most melodious voice ever created.  How could it be anything less than that.  And with that loud, commanding voice, maybe like the voice of many waters in the imagery of Revelation chapter 1, He yells at the top of His voice without distorting His words and says, “Lazarus, come forth.” 

There’s no possibility of attaching this miracle to anything other than His words, right?  No possibility of attaching this miracle to anything other than His will, than the Father’s will, than the perfect agreement.  Nobody can create.  They’re creating, in unison.  This resurrection comes as an immediate response to His words.  He says two words: Lazarus, and come out, and the miracle happens. 

Now listen, He had power.  He had so much power He could, He will raise all the dead of all the ages.  So if He had just said, “Come forth,” that might’ve been the final resurrection.  So He had to put a limit on it.  “Lazarus.  The rest of you, stay where you are.” 

“Lazarus, you come out.”  Can you imagine the pounding hearts?  Trying to look in the darkness of the tomb?  Verse 44.  “The man who had died came out.”  Talk about an understatement.  Man, that just needs some fanfare or something.  “The man who had died came out.”  That’s so matter-of-fact.  That’s so simple and straightforward.  But this is God, and for Him, a resurrection is easy.  The man came out.  It wasn’t easy for him to come out.  When he was hit with life, and created, the power of that creation surged in his body.  He was like an athlete who is just catapulted.  Because it tells us, he was bound hand and foot with wrappings.  Now, how do you come out if you’re bound hand and foot with wrappings and your face is wrapped with a cloth?  What do you do?  Was he hopping?  How did he get out of there?  He had the power to be where he needed to be.  He came out.  The grave had been plundered.  The king of terrors had yielded up his lawful captive.  The insatiable grave had given up its prey. 

We could say with the apostle Paul, “O grave, where is your victory?  Grave, where is your sting?”  Captivity was led captive.  Christ stood as the conqueror of sin, death, and Satan.  He, Revelation 1:18 says, has the keys to death and Hades.  And He unlocked it for this man, and He will one day unlock it for every man, every woman. 

As I said, they were wrapped, and so there he comes out, perhaps each leg was wrapped separate so that he could move.  And there standing there stunned out of their minds, as this package stands in the door.  And He says, “Untie him, and let him go.  Loose him.  Let him go.” 

There’s no explanation of anything there didn’t need to be.  It would’ve been kind of interesting to volunteer for that assignment, just starting to see what’s under there, maybe.  And again, He used the people to do what people can do after He’s done what only He can do.  You remember, He created food, but the disciples passed it out.  Here, He creates life, but the people do what they can do.  He alone can save sinners.  But we can roll away the stones to let the truth in.  We can unwrap the new believer.  No higher privilege this side of heaven than to be used to roll away gravestones and unwrap grave clothes when He gives resurrection life.  Incredible privilege for us. 

So there He stands.  There He stands.  Verse 45 says, “Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.”  Good, huh?  Wonderful.  How could you not?  They believed.  That’s the whole point of this. 

Ah, some of them, though, “went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.”  They reported a resurrection to the Pharisees.  Amazing.  Let’s bow together in prayer.

Father, as we think about this, we’re just in awe of the realities that fall upon our minds, that one day we will inherit eternal life in a resurrected, physical, bodily form.  Lord, how wonderful to think about that, that You put on display here what You will do for each of us who love You and know You.  You will give us new life.  And all of this is because You died.  How amazing it must’ve been for You, our Lord Jesus, there, at the tomb of Lazarus, with Your glory on display, in stunning form.  Very soon, to be nailed to a cross, humiliated, rejected, murdered like a common criminal, and even abandoned by Your Father.  But You did that so that You could die in our place and rise in our place, to die our death and provide our resurrection.  We’re so thankful that You have loved us like You loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and You have made us Your family, and You have given us life, and one day, a full resurrection.  And all of this is only possible because our sins have been paid for in full by Your death.  That is why we remember the cross.  It is there that forgiveness was made.  Keep us pure.  Use us for the events of the gospel.  For Your glory we pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Narrow Road is Also Curvy

Posted on  by Joe Rodriguez

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Matthew 7:13,14

Pictured above is the Cies Lighthouse. It was built between 1851 and 1853 on The Cies, an archipelago consisting of three islands (Monteagudo, do Faro, and San Martiños), which are located off the coast of Pontevedra in Galicia, Spain. The long zigzag road that leads to the tower is rough (unpaved) and subject to strong winds, rain, electrical storms and rapid weather changes. Only hikers and 4×4 vehicles are allowed on it. High winds blow here all year long! 

Contrary to what many believe, including some professed “Christians,” there are not many paths to God. The Bible teaches that there are only two roads in life. One leads to eternal damnation (separation from God), the other to eternal life with Him. The latter is only accessible through Jesus, the Son of God.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” –Acts 4:12 CEV

“I [Jesus] am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” –John 14:6 NIV

When Jesus referred to himself as “the way” He used the definite article to distinguish Himself as “the only way.” At one point the disciples had expressed their confusion about where He was going and how they could get there (John 14). He was obviously not referring to a physical route. So, as He had told them from the beginning, He was once again telling them that “the way” simply meant –following Him (His teachings, His example). It is biblically clear that there is no other path to salvation and no other way to becoming a child of God other than through faith in Jesus Christ.

He [Jesus] came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of blood, nor of the desire or will of man, but born of God.” –John 1:11-13 NIV

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Jesus is not a way, as in one of many; He is the way, as in the one and only.  Such an exclusive statement may confuse, surprise, or even offend some people, but it is true nonetheless. Those who do not know Jesus as personal Lord and Savior are aimlessly traveling through life trying to fill a void that only He can. Even pious men and women who rely on religious beliefs and traditions rather than the grace of God, are unknowingly and sadly headed in the wrong direction.

Warning Signs on the Wrong Road
"So where do you come into it all? Well, you were dead because of your offences and sins! That was the road you used to travel, keeping in step with this world’s ‘present age’; in step, too, with the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is, even now, at work among people whose whole lives consist of disobeying God. Actually, that’s how all of us used to behave, conditioned by physical desires. We used to do what our flesh and our minds were urging us to do. What was the result? We too were subject to wrath in our natural state, just like everyone else. But when it comes to mercy, God is rich! He had such great love for us that he took us at the very point where we were dead through our offences, and made us alive together with the king (yes, you are saved by sheer grace!). He raised us up with him, and made us sit with him – in the heavenly places, in King Jesus! This was so that in the ages to come he could show just how unbelievably rich his grace is, the kindness he has shown us in King Jesus. How has this all come about? You have been saved by grace, through faith! This doesn’t happen on your own initiative; it’s God’s gift. It isn’t on the basis of works, so no one is able to boast. This is the explanation: God has made us what we are. God has created us in King Jesus for the good works that he prepared, ahead of time, as the road we must travel." - Ephesians 2:1-10 NTE

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it is the road to death." - Proverbs 14:12 EHV 

Like the road that leads to the Cies Lighthouse, the narrow path to God has many curves and is subject to the strong winds and storms (trials and adversities) of life .

Every true follower of Jesus that has been traveling the narrow path can attest that it indeed has its challenging moments. The curves, zigzags, rough patches, and even the detours we may be forced to take at times are not indicative of us veering off track. These obstacles are inevitable. Jesus himself said we would experience them while in this world (John 16:33). The good news is that they also serve to help us grow spiritually, maintain our dependence on God, strengthen our faith, and better appreciate it when we finally get to the top! And, the best news is that Jesus himself has promised to go alongside us in this journey until the very end.

"We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader [author] of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete [perfect]. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne. Think about Jesus. He patiently endured the angry insults that sinful people were shouting at him. Think about him so that you won’t get discouraged and stop trying." - Hebrews 12:2-4 ERV

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me.” Psalm 138:7 NIV

"You can be sure that I [Jesus] will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of time.” - Matthew 28:20 ERV

The reward for venturing the long and curvy road leading to the Cies Lighthouse is a spectacular and breathtaking view of the entire archipelago and the vast North Atlantic Ocean. But you don’t have to wait till you reach to the top to enjoy the scenery. Even though you may have to stop a few times to catch your breath (if hiking) or move closer to the inner walls to better balance yourself when wind gusts arrive, the arduous journey recompenses you with a bird observatory and views of majestic waves and the entire Vigo estuary along the way. Yes, visiting the Cies Lighthouse has been added to my Bucket List!

Our spiritual journey through this life cannot be represented by a smooth ascending line. It will inevitably appear with many zigzags (challenges) indicating our falling and rising again. But while on it, we can definitely enjoy the faithfulness, blessings, and merciful providence of the God who has promised us an indescribable final destination. And as we get closer to it, we can look forward to the day when we’ll be able to echo the words of the Apostle Paul.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as I travel the narrow path to eternal life with you, remind me that I am not alone, especially when the curves, rough patches, and storms appear. Thank you for the promise that you will be with me every step of the way. Help me to stay focused and remain stedfast so that I can also encourage those who are traveling this road with me. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen!

A very good imagery of what the Christian can expect while traveling the narrow and curvy path can be found in the 1678 Christian allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, written by John Bunyan.

The Narrow Road is Also Curvy

The Decline of Fundamentalism

The Decline of Fundamentalism

by John MacArthur Friday, November 6, 2015

We owe a massive debt of gratitude to the pioneers of the fundamentalist movement. Sadly, few Christians understand the necessity of the war they fought in the last century. If not for their bold stand, the vast majority of American churches probably would have capitulated to the influence of theological liberalism—a juggernaut that spiritually devastated Europe, the heartland of the Reformation.

The original fundamentalists were American theologians and pastors who understood that some biblical doctrines are too precious to take lightly. They resolutely defended foundational Christian truths like biblical inerrancy, the exclusivity of Christ, His resurrection, the realities of eternal life and eternal damnation, and human depravity. Those first fundamentalists prevailed through their unwavering commitment to God’s Word and refusal to negotiate on its truth. They are the reason why liberalism never overran the American church landscape, and why we can still find churches today where Scripture is supreme and the gospel is faithfully preached.

Sadly, however, the fundamentalist movement began to unravel almost as soon as it had experienced its initial successes. One wing of fundamentalism, desperate for academic respectability, could not resist the pluralism of the modern age. Schools that had been founded to counter theological liberalism were overexposed to liberal theology and began to compromise on the issue of biblical inerrancy, capitulating at the very point where early fundamentalism had taken its strongest stand. Incredibly, some fundamentalist schools and churches abandoned their commitment to biblical inerrancy within one generation of their founding! Most of these institutions and the people associated with them quickly repudiated the designation fundamentalist.

Another wing of fundamentalism moved the opposite direction. They were keenly aware that an obsession with academic respectability had led their brethren to abandon the fundamentals. For that reason they distrusted scholarship or spurned it altogether. This right wing of the fundamentalist movement was relentlessly fragmented by militant separatism. Legalism led to an extreme emphasis on external issues. Petty concerns often replaced serious doctrine as the matter for discussion and debate. This branch of the movement quickly reached the point where some of its adherents spent more time arguing about men’s hair length and women’s clothing than they spent defending the real fundamentals of the faith.

All the squabbling and extreme legalism eventually sullied the term fundamentalism. Intellectually and temperamentally, these fundamentalists utterly abandoned the high ground that the fathers of the movement had held so tenaciously. As a consequence the movement succumbed to a subtle depreciation of doctrine. The published material from this side of fundamentalism is notable for its total lack of any significant works with real doctrinal or biblical depth. The term fundamentalist became exclusively linked with this militant group.

In recent years, the term fundamentalist has been hijacked by the secular media, who apply it to every conceivable kind of religious fanatic.

Widening the Gate

The polemical, theological spirit of early fundamentalism is all but dead. Modern evangelicals are too willing to downplay doctrine. Unlike our fundamentalist forebears, many today are perfectly agreeable to the suggestion that true Christianity ought to be broad enough to accommodate widely differing—even contradictory—belief systems. Many evangelicals are seeking to forge spiritual alliances with Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, charismatic extremists, and even rank liberals—without regard to the fundamental doctrinal differences.

Historically, evangelicals and fundamentalists almost universally have rejected the ecumenical movement. The primary force in ecumenism has been the World Council of Churches, an organization that never really cared for biblical Christianity, preferring to recruit its membership primarily from among ultra-liberal denominations. Consequently, ecumenism has had little or no influence among evangelicals.

Even during the ecumenical movement’s most prosperous era, the 1960s, evangelical churches experienced dramatic growth while ecumenical churches quickly waned. A decade ago the World Council of Churches appeared to be a monument to a lost cause.

But now the picture is changing. Incredibly, today’s most powerful ecumenical forces are all under the banner of a foundering evangelicalism: the charismatic movement, Catholic-evangelical accords, cooperative mass evangelism, and a host of voices in the Christian media.

Lowering the Bar

An aggressive effort is being made to divest “the fundamentals” of key evangelical distinctives. Influential voices within evangelicalism are urging us to pare back the essentials to the barest possible statement of faith, and these voices can be heard across the spectrum of evangelicalism. Appeals for broader tolerance and more inclusivism have come from charismatics, dispensationalists, Calvinists and Arminians, Reformed and Lutheran leaders—so-called evangelicals of almost every stripe.

Paul Crouch, for example, president of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (until his death in 2013), wrote, “As I have said so often, one theologian’s heresy is another theologian’s orthodoxy.” Crouch nevertheless acknowledged that Jude chapter 3 commands us to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. “So what is ‘the faith’?”

Crouch, as one voice in an ever-growing chorus, argued that the Apostles’ Creed should be the dividing line between who is in “the faith” and who is not. But does that creed offer us a definitive set of non-negotiable fundamentals for the Christian faith? And how can we be confidant in it as authoritative on these matters? We’ll examine that next time.

(Adapted from Reckless Faith.)

The Door to Heaven is Narrow (Luke 13:22-30)

Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr. Book of Luke

This is a message that will tell you how you can go to heaven when you die.

There are two doors after death: destruction or delight, and we choose which door we will pass through while we are alive; either the narrow door to heaven or the wide door to hell. Many of you are already believers and know you are going to heaven, so you may wonder why I’m speaking on this topic. The Bible makes it clear that many people think they are going to heaven, but they are mistaken. So it’s good to occasionally clear our minds of all of our preconceived notions and consider how a person can go to heaven. Heaven can only be entered through a narrow door. Have you found heaven’s narrow door? Let’s read about it in Luke 13:22-30.

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as He made His way to Jerusalem. Someone asked Him, “Lord are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But He will answer, “I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the Kingdom of God. Indeed, there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

If we want to enter heaven, there are four important truths we need to understand:

1. There is Only One Door to Heaven and it is Narrow

These words of Jesus are not politically correct in our age of religious pluralism. If Jesus came to America preaching this message today, He would be labeled a radical and would probably be arrested. In fact, that’s exactly why the Jews arrested Him and executed Him 2,000 years ago.

To say there is only one way to heaven is an unpopular stance today. Most people think there are many ways to get to heaven. They think it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are “sincere.” Well, those Palestinian suicide bombers are sincere in their beliefs, and they are wrong. You can be sincere – and be sincerely wrong.

A man told me he thought getting to heaven was like flying in an airplane. I could fly American Airlines, he could fly Delta, and somebody else could fly Northwest airlines, but we’d all get to the same destination. “Doesn’t that sound logical?” he asked.

I told him it sounded logical, but when you get on an airliner, you could never be 100% certain it would arrive at the intended destination; it could be diverted by weather, hijacked, have mechanical problems, or even crash. I told him I am booked to fly on Jesus Airlines and it’s the only one in the universe with a 100% on time arrival record! For Jesus (or any of us) to insist there is just one way to heaven seems too narrow-minded in this age of enlightenment. But look at His words again in verse 24: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Jesus didn’t speak of different doors or different airliners. He didn’t say “enter through one of the narrow doors.” He spoke of the narrow door.

Other Scriptures confirm there is only one way to heaven. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Now, let me misquote this verse the way most folks believe. They think Jesus said, “I am one of the ways, part of the truth, and one kind of life. No one comes to the Father unless they are religious, good, kind, and sincere in whatever it is they believe.” But Jesus didn’t say He was one of the ways or even the best way; He said He is the only way.

For five decades, Billy Graham had been filling stadiums around the world preaching Jesus is the only way to heaven. He always had a banner with John 14:6 placed in a prominent place. Many people thought his position was too narrow-minded. Several years ago, after he conducted a crusade in Australia, a woman wrote a letter of complaint to the newspaper. Her words are typical of many who do not appreciate our insistence that Jesus is the only way to heaven. She wrote, “After hearing Billy Graham on the air and viewing him on television, I am heartily sick of the type of religion that insists my soul (and everyone else’s) needs saving–whatever that means. I have never felt that I was lost. Nor do I feel that I wallow in the mire of sin, although his preaching insists I do. Give me practical religion that teaches gentleness and kindness and acknowledges no barriers of color or creed, that remembers the aged and teaches children about goodness and not about sin. If, in order to save my soul, I must accept such a philosophy as I have recently heard preached, I prefer to remain forever damned.”

Sadly, Jesus confirmed that millions of people share her attitude. He pointed out that only a small percentage of the entire population are going to be saved and He was dogmatic about it!

What’s wrong with being dogmatic about some things? If you go in for surgery, you wouldn’t want your surgeon to say to you the night before the surgery, “I don’t want to be dogmatic about the way to do this surgery. I think I’ll try a different approach this time. I may try going in from the other side for a change. After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” You’d say, “But I’m not a cat and I don’t want to be skinned! Do the surgery the way you were taught to do it!” How far do you think the surgeon would get if he did it the wrong way?

We can’t bend God’s rules either. The people in this passage were at the door; they were even knocking on the door. But almost getting into the door won’t get us into heaven. When it comes to our eternal salvation there is only one door. What is it?

2. Heaven’s Door is Knowing God by Knowing Jesus

A few years ago, I conducted a survey. One of the questions on the survey was: “In your personal opinion, what do you understand it takes for a person to go to heaven?” As you can imagine, I got a variety of interesting answers. Everybody has an opinion. The most common incorrect answer to the question of how to get into heaven was: “Do good or be good.” Wrong. Access to eternal life in heaven can only be gained when we have a personal relationship with God.

In verse 25, Jesus describes people who will be pounding on heaven’s door after it is shut. They will be hollering, “Let me in! Open the door! I went to church; I even went to Sunday School! I gave my money to the church. I even worked for You! Hey, let me in!” Notice the reply of the Master of the house. He says, “I don’t know you.” It’s all about knowing God. Do you know Jesus Christ? Does He know you? He said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice; I know them and they follow Me.” Do you recognize God’s voice when you hear it? Do you know Jesus and does He know you?

All of us in this room know about President Obama. Maybe you’ve met him or shaken his hand, but do you really know him? Have you visited with him enough that you are known by him? The same can be said about Jesus. Everyone here knows about Jesus, but some of you might have had casual contact with Him. Others of us have met Him and we know Him intimately because we talk with Him regularly (by the way, it’s easier to gain access to Jesus than it is to President Obama, so feel free to get to know Him).

Eternal life is knowing Jesus. Let me call your attention to the verse that best defines what eternal life is: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent” (John 17:3). Eternal life is knowing God. That’s the door to heaven and it is the only way to get into heaven.

I love to read fables because they are like the parables of Jesus. Many of them teach practical lessons that can be applied to spiritual truth. There’s an old Russian fable about a cat and a fox. The fox bragged to the cat about how clever he was. He claimed he had hundreds of ways of escaping from the hunters who chased him. He could hide in a hole, or backtrack in a creek, or lie flat in tall grass. He was proud of his big bag of tricks. The cat replied she only had one way of escape, but that seemed to work.

At that moment, they heard the sounds of the hounds coming toward them. The cat scampered up the tree and hid herself among the leaves. She said to the fox, “This is my plan. What are you going to do?” The fox first thought of one plan, then of another. While he was debating the best plan the hounds came closer. At last, in his confusion, the fox was caught by the hounds and soon killed by the hunters. The cat witnessed the whole scene and provides the moral of the story: “Better to have one safe way than a hundred by which you cannot be sure.”

God is Spirit and no man can see Him without dying. That’s why Jesus came to this planet. God took on human flesh and became one of us, so we can relate to Him. Jesus said, “I am the door; whoever enters through Me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9). The narrow door into heaven is Jesus Himself. There is no other way to get to heaven than by trusting in Jesus as your Savior and Lord.

Maybe you have heard of the name, “Ivan the Terrible.” He was crowned the first Czar or Caesar of Russia in 1547. He was cruel and ruthless. He gouged out the eyes of the architects who built the beautiful St. Basil’s Cathedral, so they would never be able to build anything more beautiful. He had seven wives and abused them all. He even killed his own son in a fit of anger. There were many reasons why people called him “terrible.”

When he died in 1584 the leaders of the church followed his strange instructions. They shaved his head and dressed him in a Monk’s robe. Ivan the Terrible knew he was such a wicked man that he was hoping God would mistake him for a monk and let him into heaven. But you can’t get into heaven by disguising yourself as someone and hoping God will mistake you for him or her. There is only one door and that door is Jesus.

3. There are Only Two Doors Leading to Eternity – Choose Your Door

Each of us faces these doors. Behind one is eternal life and delight. Behind the other is death and destruction. There is no mystery involved in these doors. The doors are clearly marked and Jesus tells us what is behind each door. Beginning in verse 28, Jesus describes the fate of those who don’t enter through the narrow door. He says there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” That means there will be hopeless sorrow and unending pain. It makes me shiver in revulsion just thinking about it. Jesus said these people will “see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets.” One of the worst parts of hell is the ability to realize others are in heaven and you aren’t. What a terrible place hell will be. In his epic, Inferno, Dante described hell as having different levels and circles of torment. He created minute details you never find in Scripture, but he got it right in one respect. He inscribed over the gate to hell these words: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Then Jesus contrasts that awful scene with the delightful glories of heaven. People from all four points of the compass, from all over the planet will gather for a feast! The Kingdom of God is like a feast, not a funeral. So, how do you get to enjoy the party and miss the pain? Choose the right door. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lets us know there are actually two doors that lead to two totally different destinies. He said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Consider the two doors. The one leading to destruction and hell is wide, and easy to find. Jesus said most of the world is on the pathway that leads to that door. But the door that leads to the delight of eternal life is narrow and only a few find it. God loves us so much He has made a way for us to know Him and to spend eternity with Him. But He also loves us so much that He has honored us by giving us the capacity to choose.

4. Heaven’s Door is Open Now, But Someday it Will be Shut

I can tell you on this very day, God’s door of grace is still wide open. But in verse 25, Jesus says one day the Master of the house will get up and close the door: “Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.” The door could close for you today. You could die today and that would close the door. Or, Jesus could return today and that would close the door of grace as well. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know things are heating up to a new level in Israel. All of that is a clear indication we are in the season of the return of Christ. So, if you haven’t trusted Jesus yet, do it today. Christian, if there is someone you know and love who hasn’t walked through God’s narrow door yet, don’t let another day pass by without lovingly urging them to trust Jesus alone for their salvation.

You can choose to enter heaven’s door today. Jesus said it’s a narrow door. Think about that for a minute. It’s so narrow only one person can walk through it at one time. In other words, you can’t walk through heaven’s door holding someone else’s hand. I thank God my parents raised me in church and sent me to Christian school, but when it came time for me to give my life to Jesus, I walked through that door all by myself. Some of you think because your grandfather was a preacher or your mother was a godly saint that you can walk through the door with them, but you can’t. The narrow door to heaven says, “One person at a time.”

Do you know what else it means because it’s a narrow door? It’s so narrow you can’t bring a bunch of excess baggage with you. In fact, you’ve got to unload all your “stuff” before you walk through it. I read once about a hiker who got trapped in a cave. He found a small opening to escape, but he couldn’t squeeze through with his backpack. So, he removed his backpack, and then his canteen, and then his jacket before he could slip through the opening. When you walk through the narrow door of heaven, you’ve got to leave your backpack of sinful habits and sinful attitudes behind. As the old song says, “Nothing in my hand I bring, Only to your cross I cling.”

Have you discovered heaven’s narrow door? Jesus is inviting you to come to Him today. Is there a need in your life? Does there seem to be an unquenchable thirst in your soul you haven’t been able to satisfy by anything this world offers? On the last page of the Bible, God extends an invitation to all of us. He says, “Is anyone thirsty? Come! All who will, come and drink. Drink freely of the Water of Life!” (Revelation 22:17).

The Bible speaks about another kind of door: it’s the door to your heart. And the way you walk through heaven’s door is by asking Jesus to come into the door of your heart. The most famous painting of the 19th century is by English artist Holman Hunt and is called “The Light of the World.” It’s a dark picture because it is night, symbolizing that the night has come and the day of salvation is almost over. Jesus is wearing a crown of thorns and standing at a door with a lantern in His hand. He is knocking on the door and His message is hard to miss. Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me” (Revelation 3:20). Art critics looked at the painting and pointed out that Holman Hunt made a mistake–there was no latch on the door. His reply silenced the critics. He said the door of our heart only has a doorknob on the inside. We are the only ones who can open our hearts to Jesus.

Right now, Jesus is standing at the door of your heart. He’s knocking. Do you hear His voice? Will you open your heart to Him? When you do that, you will have found Heaven’s narrow door.