What Will Your End Be?
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, June 7, 2009
Copyright © 2009, P. G. Mathew
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.- Romans 6:23
The end of all things is near, the Bible says (1 Pet. 4:7). This world will pass away, and we also will pass away. All descendants of Adam must die because the wages of sin is death. Ezekiel tells us, "The soul who sins is the one who will die" (Ezek. 18:4). Though Methuselah lived 969 years, he too died (Gen. 5:27). Moses said, "The length of our days is seventy years or eighty, if we have strength. Yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass away and we fly away" (Psalm 90:10).
The last verse of Romans 6 speaks about the two destinies of two peoples: eternal death or eternal life. The purpose of our brief life is not to amass wealth, fame, and power; rather, it is to have eternal life. The vast majority of the people in the world will earn eternal death; only a small remnant will enjoy the gift of eternal life.
Romans 6:23 is a one-verse summary of the gospel in which Paul sets before us death and life. To experience the destiny of eternal death, we need not do anything. Though we are active and move about in this world, as descendants of Adam we are all born dead in our sins. To enjoy the gift of eternal life, we must be united to Jesus Christ, who declares, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall live, even though he dies" (John 11:25). Christ came into this world that we might have abundant life. Eternal life is found in Jesus Christ alone.
We are told in the Bible that the end of all unbelievers is destruction, burning, and death, while the end of all believers is salvation, eternal life. What will your end be? We must all think seriously about it before our own death, which is coming soon. There is a day fixed by God when we will die. It is decreed how many days we will live, and we will not live one more day.
Let us then examine three things from Romans 6:23: two masters, two slaveries, and two destinies.
There are only two masters: the living God and Satan (or sin). All people must serve one of these two masters. There is no independence.
Through Satan, sin entered the world, a situation which God permitted for his own eternal glory. In Genesis 3 we read how the serpent beguiled Eve and how Adam sinned deliberately. In Revelation 12:9 John declares that "the great dragon was hurled down-that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray." Then he says, "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 20:10).
The devil, the god of this world, is the ruler of all who do not believe in Jesus Christ. In other words, the master of every unbeliever is Satan, or sin, because everyone sins through the direction of Satan. The word "sin" (hamartia) appears in the singular twenty-two times in Romans 5:12-6:23. Sin is personified as a great king, who reigns, raining down death (Rom. 5:21).
An unbeliever thinks he is free to serve himself and do his own thing, but this is mere delusion and illusion. It is spiritual deception, for a sinner is always working for his master, Satan. Having been conceived in sin, we are born sinners and practice sin every day of our lives. Satan, sin, and death reign over all unbelievers.
But we who have believed in Jesus Christ no longer serve sin and Satan; we serve the living God! So Paul exhorts, "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness" (Rom. 6:13). We are now God's slaves: "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God" (Rom. 6:22). The triune God is our only master; now we obey from the heart the form of doctrine to which he has entrusted us (Rom. 6:17).
Notice the emphasis on the Lordship of Christ: "But the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord" (v. 23). Paul later says, "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9). Jesus said, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved" (John 10:9). In the introduction to this epistle, Paul calls himself a slave of Jesus Christ, whom he obeyed. Our master also is Jesus Christ who gave himself for our eternal redemption.
All people are slaves. We serve either God or sin in complete obedience. Paul explains, "Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death . . . But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin . . . You have been set free from sin . . . What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death" (Rom. 6:16, 17, 18, 21).
If we are walking in sin, the first thing we lose is our minds: "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done" (Rom. 1:28). As we lose the ability to understand and analyze reality, we misunderstand and misjudge. This losing of the mind precedes many other sins: "They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity . . . full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful" (see Rom. 1:28-32).
Serving sin and Satan is extremely hard work, but many people do it. We read about this slavery throughout the New Testament:
Ephesians 2:1-3: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."
Titus 3:3: "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another."
Galatians 5:19-21: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."
1 Corinthians 6:9-12: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
2 Thessalonians 1:5-10: "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people."
2 Thessalonians 2:10-12: "They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness." He is speaking about everyone who refuses to believe in Jesus Christ. It is hard labor and yet they do it with great delight, deceived by the pleasures of sin for a season.
Ephesians 4:19: "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." They are addicted to sin, with a continuous lust for more sin.
1 Peter 4:1-5: "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do-living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead."
Romans 8:4-14 contrasts those who live according to the flesh with those who live according to the Holy Spirit. Paul writes, "in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not walk [or live] according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (v. 4).
We serve God only and obey his word (Rom. 6:13, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22). We live according to the Spirit "because those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). Led by the Spirit of God, we go where the Spirit of God sends us.
Paul exhorts, "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (Gal. 5:16). That is a guarantee. "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other" (v. 25). When we live by the Spirit, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (v. 22).
Two Destinies: The Wages of Sin
Finally, let us look at the two destinies waiting for all people. "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). The destiny awaiting all who do not believe in Jesus Christ is eternal death. A child of Adam does not need to do anything to attain this destiny of death; it is the natural result of a life of sin. Just be autonomous and do your thing. Do not listen to the voice of the Lord or come to church. Do not listen to your parents or the Bible.
The idea Paul is conveying is of a commander, sin, paying wages for his soldiers. Elsewhere Paul writes, "Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?" (1 Cor. 9:7). The answer is, no one. The soldier of sin is paid daily for his services; his wages consist in death. He receives the first installment while he lives, for we are all dying even as we live. The second installment comes the moment he dies. He will get the third installment when Jesus Christ comes again, raises him up, judges him, and sends him to hell.
The wages of death that sin pays is the wrath of God, which Paul declares is already revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom. 1:18). In the same passage, Paul speaks of the downward spiral of sinners as they continue to reject God and serve sin: "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another" (v. 24). Being given over means such people could only sin. "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts," including lesbianism and homosexuality (v. 26). "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind" so that they could sin all the time (v. 28).
We all have experienced the daily wages of sin. We have received some payment for our sins in this life, if we think back. Some have experienced poverty, disease, fried brain, depraved mind, demon possession, drug addiction, divorce, anxiety, loneliness, fear, prison, and being conformed to the devil himself in our nature. Paul alludes to this in Romans 6:19: "Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and ever-increasing wickedness. . ." This is the downward spiral: filthiness, lawlessness, ever-increasing wickedness, shame, and death. It is like a big truck, loaded with the wages of one's sin, arriving at the house to unload death. The person may protest: "I never ordered this," but he did. If a person serves sin all his life, he must be paid, and he must receive what is due him. (PGM) A sinner will be paid in full.
The rich man of Luke 16 lived a life of sin. He dressed himself in purple and fine linen, lived in luxury, and considered himself blessed. He fully expected to go to Abraham's bosom when he died. But instead he went to hell and found himself in torment, agony, and the fire of divine wrath. Luke says he was thirsty, conscious, and very sober.
Do you say you do not want to believe the gospel? Wait until you die. Then you will become a believer, but it will be too late. The rich man desired to cross over from death to life. He desired that his brothers would consider their end and not go to hell as he did. He prayed for the first time from hell. But no one answered his prayer. And eventually he will be raised to experience the fullness of death, for which he worked while he was living.
The wages of sin is death. John calls it the second death, everlasting death: "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. . . . Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:10-11; 14-15).
Paul writes, "[God] will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power" (2 Thess. 1:8-9). Jude writes, "In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 7).
Sin and Satan promise a happy life but deliver a miserable death. Sin deceives; Satan lies. At the last judgment, all sinners who lived a lawless life will be told by Jesus, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels' . . . Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life" (Matt. 25: 41, 46).
Jesus spoke more about hell and its eternal nature than anyone else in the Bible. In fact, he prepared it for the devil, his angels, and all humans who follow his devilish ways. Some imagine Jesus to be like a teddy bear, nice, lovely, and huggable. We must look at the Bible and discover the real Jesus, who is both Savior and Judge.
In Genesis 3:4 Satan told Eve, "You will not surely die." But she and Adam did die, and in Adam all died. Who can get out from hell? It is an irreversible condition. Physical death seals our destiny and nothing more can be done. The fire of hell is the fire of the wrath of God, for our God is a consuming fire.
Yet no people go to hell unless they choose all their lives to do so. They earned it and receive justice from God. When sinners die, they discover hell is not a joke or swear word. Hell exists, and it is prepared to receive hell-sought sinners.
Two Destinies: The Gift of God
But there is one other destiny: "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). If all in Adam are sinners and all are to die eternal death for their sins (Rom 5:12), then how can anyone be saved from God's wrath and merited hell?
The answer is found in Jesus Christ. The Son of God became sinless man, and this God-man died on the cross in the place of elect sinners. In him we died, were buried, and were raised to live a new life. That is the gospel. The Hebrews writer proclaims, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor, because he suffered death so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (Heb. 2:9). Then he says, "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (Heb. 2:14).
Paul plainly states how Christ accomplished our salvation: "God [the Father] presented [Jesus Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood" (Rom. 3:25). He says later, "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him? For if when we were God's enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved in his life?" (Rom. 5:9-10).
Eternal life is a gift from God, not wages for our obedience. Eternal life is a gratuitous bounty of God. It is a grace-gift (charisma), based on the merit and righteousness of Jesus Christ our Redeemer. It is God's free, unmerited gift. To those who merited death, God gives the gift of life. He welcomes to his glorious heaven of eternal blessings those who merited fiery hell.
We experience this gift of eternal life also in three installments. First, in this life, the moment we trust in Jesus Christ, we receive eternal life: "For if by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness, reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:17). The moment we trust in Jesus Christ, we are given eternal life and we begin to reign with Christ even here in this life.
The second installment of eternal life comes to us the moment we die. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, we see Lazarus in Abraham's bosom. To the thief who believed in Jesus Christ, Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in paradise." John heard the voice from heaven proclaim, "Blessed are those who die in the Lord" (Rev. 14:13). They are blessed because they are with God. Paul calls death gain (Phil. 1:21). Death puts us in God's presence. At death, our spirits are perfected and received into the very presence of God. We read this in Hebrews 12:22-23: "You have come to Mount Zion. . . . You have come to God. . . [You have come] to the spirits of righteous men made perfect."
The third installment of this eternal life comes to us when Jesus comes again, at which time our perfected spirit will be united with a glorious body like unto the body of Christ. In these bodies we will live with God forever in full enjoyment of eternal life.
What is eternal life? Jesus Christ gives us this definition: "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 to know God through Jesus Christ, and to know God is to love him.
Eternal life has its own quality. It is intimate fellowship with God in the new garden of Eden, which is happiness par excellence. It also has quantity. Methuselah lived 969 years, but we will live forever because we are given eternal life. Eternal life is indestructible. Paul says, "[Christ] has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10). Whenever the gospel is preached, we are declaring that in Jesus Christ we can receive immortality-eternal life.
By divine design from all eternity, only a few will enjoy this eternal life. Jesus asserts, "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matt. 7:14). About the twins, Esau and Jacob, God pronounced, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Rom. 9:13). Seeing us all as sinners, God shows mercy to some but not to others. God could have saved all sinners to glorify his mercy, or he could have condemned and sent to hell all sinners to glorify his justice. But he chose to save some and not save others to glorify both his mercy and his justice.
Jesus declared, "Many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt. 22:14, KJV). Yet Jesus gives eternal life to all who come to him in true repentance and faith. And when he comes again, he will say to those who are his: "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness! . . . Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world" (Matt. 25:21, 34).
Eternal life is the most precious gift God bestows upon his elect people. Jesus told his disciples, "Do not rejoice that [demons] submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). If our names are written in the Lamb's book of life, we will dwell with God in the new heaven and new earth. There shall be no more sin, curse, death, tears, pain, mourning, crying, separation, night, sickness, wars, or poverty. The old order of things has passed away and the new order has come (Rev. 21:4). The kingdom of God has truly come, and it is the fullness of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
This gift (charisma) of eternal life leads to chara. In other words, the grace-gift leads to joy. God's purpose is that our joy be full, which will happen in the highest degree when we see God face to face. We shall see him as he is, for we shall be changed and shall shine in glory, and we will dwell in our Father's house forever.
Yes, even now by faith we are already in heaven, seated with Christ in heavenly places. The Hebrews writer declares, "But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel" (Heb. 12:22-24).
How will your life end? I set before you eternal life and eternal death. The vast majority of people have been working all their lives for eternal death, and will receive their just wages in due time. But God is offering us the gift of eternal life is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul says, "Just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:21). We cannot find eternal life outside of Jesus Christ. So the answer to the question of what we must do to be saved is truly, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Repent earnestly and trust savingly in Jesus Christ today, and receive eternal life. The Bible says, "Now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).
We are saved only through Jesus Christ. Paul writes,
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph. 1:17-23)
Jesus Christ is God and Lord. He is not a mere man who dies. Therefore, eternal life is found only in Christ Jesus, not in Moses, Mohammed, or anyone else. "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Paul concludes Romans 6 with this assertion: "But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Let me ask you: Is Jesus your Lord? You cannot have eternal life unless you confess with your mouth Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. I urge all of us to serve the Lord Jesus Christ with fear and rejoice with trembling. "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him" (Psalm 2:12).
Yes, the wages of sin is eternal death, but thank God, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. May we accept God's gracious gift of eternal life through his Son.
Thank you for reading. If you found this content useful or encouraging, let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2009, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™