Reposted from our FAQ evangelism page.
When many people think of God they wonder about His relevance, or desire more than a get out of hell free card (in that case, “I’ll just wait until closer to death before pursuing Him,” they think, which itself is dangerous, c.f. Isa 55:6, “seek the LORD while He may be found.”]).
I’m reminded of Jesus’ comment in Mk 12:27, that “He [God] is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” In the context of the Resurrection this means He’s the God of those who are spiritually alive, both those in Heaven along with followers of Jesus today. More broadly spun you could say God is not just a God for the afterlife but for life today.
Christianity is a religion for today and not simply the afterlife. Here are some examples as to why:
1. Peace with God
The heart of the Bible’s message is that humanity has fallen from its original state of friendship with God and now in sinful rebellion is under just condemnation. We are God’s enemy. Having an enemy such as this along with the eternal guilt that accompanies it bears heavily upon one’s body, soul and spirit. Suppressing the truth of our condemnation, we seek to evade the thought of this rebellion with still more rebellion. We try to substitute being made for God with other things (e.g. money, sex, power, etc). While some of these things may satisfy for a time they do not do so completely. As such we’re left with anxiety and depression. The only solution that can bring us peace is to become at peace with God through repentance and faith in Jesus. The moment we believe, we enjoy this peace; peace from the penalty of sin, friendship with God. Ro 5:1 says, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Life to the Full
Many people think they are living a full life; however, our fullness can only extend as far as our sin inhibits—not far at all. We’re not living life fully because we’re not living as we were design to live. We’re not living for God and His glory; we’re living for self and today. As a result of not being at peace with God we’re actually spiritually dead. We may think we’re alive but it isn’t even a shadow of what we were created for. Jesus came not only to give us eternal life (Jn 3:16) but abundant life today. “I came that you may have life,” He said, “and life to the full.” (Jn 10:10). This life comes through His Spirit that He gives every believer; the purpose He enables them to fulfil.
Not only does the believer gain peace and life but also wisdom. The Holy Spirit is called the “teacher.” He, through Scripture, teaches us in the way of God. When we do what pleases God, we not only honour Him, but life generally goes better for us. Proverbs 3:8 says, “[Wisdom] will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Walking in the Lord’s wisdom brings the steadfastness of truth to our lives that we don’t naturally have in this world tossed to and fro by changing ideas and thought patterns.
4. Strength For Today
Life can be difficult, even for Christians. God never promised that it wouldn’t. Believers have been freed from the penalty of sin (through the Cross), are being set free from the power of sin (by the Spirit) and will be freed from the presence of sin when Jesus returns. Yet in the meantime Jesus promised to comfort us through His Spirit’s presence. Christ “dwelling in our hearts by faith” (Eph 3:17) and such promises as “I am with you always, to the end of the age” Mt 28) mean that even in the valley of deep darkness the believer can be assured of the Lord’s presence, comfort, help and strength. All of this increases our relational knowledge of God and produces character. This is an assurance and experience a believer does not enjoy.
5. Bright Hope for Tomorrow
Yet not only “Strength for today” but “bright hope for tomorrow” as the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness reminds us. Yes, but I thought we were talking about the here and now, not the future. Indeed, but the future impacts how we live today. The assurance of eternal life means that the believer has hope amidst of the hopelessness of today. One’s belief about tomorrow does shape how we live today after all.
So don’t just think of God when you think about tomorrow, know He is immensely relevant for today too. Would you “call upon Him while He while He is near” today through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ?
If salvation is only found in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12), what about all of those people who lived before Him? That is a good question.
In Mk 12:26 Jesus spoke about the subject of a future Resurrection. He referred to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whom the LORD said to Moses that He was the God of. Jesus said, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (v. 27). The patriarchs, who lived long before Christ, are alive in Him. How is this possible?
Faith in the Lord and His promises and covenants, which since the Fall (Gen 3:15) have always pointed to Jesus, is how those of long ago could be saved long before Christ came. All of the OT was pointing to Jesus (Lk 24:44b). By virtue of these forward looking promises the people of old who trusted them were saved (That is what Ro 3:25b is speaking of).
Specifically, to reverse the curse of the Fall God chose (when He didn’t need to choose any) to do so through one man’s family, Abram (Gen 12). God would bring about a blessing to the nations through Abram’s offspring, Jesus (Mt 1). From this time, specifically, God’s Covenant promises of salvation became caught up with this people, the Jews, until Christ came when it was opened more fully to the Gentiles. This didn’t mean all Jews were saved, only those who had faith in the promises (Gal 3:7). This also didn’t mean that non-Jews, or Gentiles, couldn’t be saved either. The OT has a number of examples of Gentiles who came to fear God and join this Covenant community. People like Rahab and Ruth and the Queen of Sheba. God has been saving a people unto Himself ever since the Fall.
Just as salvation is exclusive to those who trust in Christ since the coming of Christ, the same was true before Christ came, but it was by faith in the promises of Christ that they too were saved.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.