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Bible Insights

Can an Actionless Faith Save You?

Can an Actionless Faith Save You?

There are some people who try to earn their way into heaven. They do good and obey God’s commands—at least most of them anyway. They work hard their entire life to get God’s attention. Surely when their time comes, God will throw open the doors to heaven.

With a wide smile and a gracious gesture he will say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” But he could say, “Go away, I don’t know you.” They’re really not sure. They hope they’ve been good enough, but doubt lingers.

Others laugh at this approach. They say you can’t earn your way into heaven. Eternal life is a gift, given in grace and received by faith. They say a little prayer and figure it’s all good. They have their get-out-of-hell card.

Since heaven is a present, they continue living a life unchanged. They set God aside and live for themselves.

Is faith alone enough to save them? Maybe it is and maybe it’s not. James writes that it’s through our actions—that is, our good deeds—that we confirm our faith.

We are saved by God’s grace through faith, andthen we prove it by showing his love to others. Click To Tweet

Yes, we are saved by God’s grace through our faith, but then we prove it by showing his love to others through our actions. We need to have faith and then we need to do good deeds. Both are required.

[Matthew 25:19-23, Matthew 25:12, Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:1-2, James 2:14-17]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What is the Second Death?

The curious phrase the “second death” only occurs in John’s prophetic vision as recorded in the book of Revelation, with just four verses that mention it. But what is the second death?

  • Regarding the church in Smyrna, John writes that those who persevere in persecution, who are victorious, will avoid harm by the second death.
  • Later, John notes that martyrs will be resurrected and reign with Jesus for a thousand years. They, too, will escape the power of the second death.
  • A few verses later, John says that the lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name isn’t recorded in the “book of life” will be tossed into the lake of fire, that is, they will encounter the second death.
  • Last, John lists some people who will experience the second death: cowards, unbelievers, vile people, murderers, sexually immoral persons, practitioners of magic arts, idol worshipers, and all liars. That’s a sweeping list and a cause for trepidation, if not for the prior section that says those listed in the book of life will escape the second death. Perhaps this implies that when we follow Jesus and have our names recorded, that the power of these other traits is diminished.

None of these, however, explains what the second death is. What we can learn is that it’s something that can occur after physical death (the first death), and it may be a synonym of hell or a reference to eternal suffering or punishment.

What’s important to realize is that martyrs and those who withstand persecution will sidestep the second death, as well as all those who follow Jesus. And if we know how to avoid the second death, understanding what it means isn’t important.

[Revelation 2:8-11, Revelation 20:4-6, Revelation 20:14-15, Revelation 21:8]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Movie Review: Escape From Hell

Reviewed by Peter DeHaan

Escape from Hell is an evangelistic drama in which a skeptical doctor is determined to disprove the existence of the afterlife.

Driven to desperation through a series of events, the intellectual healer plans to conduct a test: self-inducing a near-death experience, complete with a plan that trusted colleagues will arrive in time to resuscitate him, rescuing him from the brink of death.

What he ultimately discovers is not just a glimpse of heaven, but also the despair of hell, where he is ultimately sent.

The premise of this movie—a near-death trip to hell—is both intriguing and compelling. The storyline is cleverly interwoven, moving easily between the present and the past, with the scene of hell providing a gripping understanding of what the netherworld might be like.

Despite these many positives, elements of this movie’s production are a bit lacking by current standards. Therefore, the critical viewer should seek to enjoy this movie for its message, not for its making.

[Read more reviews by Peter DeHaan of other faith-friendly videos and movies.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

What I Learned From The Great Divorce

Many years ago I read C. S. Lewis’s book The Great Divorce. It’s an allegory about heaven and hell, the connection between the two, and the perspective of their residents. The imagery intrigued me, providing much to contemplate, yet I was mostly confused.

Yesterday, I attended a theatrical production of The Great Divorce. Being able to see and hear Lewis’s words helped me better understand, yet again, full clarity eluded me.

However, they offered an after-show Q & A with the director and one of the cast members who had studied Lewis. About a quarter of the crowd stayed and several cast members joined us.

A dialogue took place, a fuller understanding emerged. One person would share a line or passage they liked, and as more joined the conversation, greater insight resulted. Some admitted to not understanding certain parts, but as others shared their perspective, the scene came into better focus.

One person asked a question and I thought, “He doesn’t get it at all.” But the discussion revealed that I was the one who didn’t get it.

The same applies to faith.

If we make the journey on our own—just like reading a book by ourselves—we may be intrigued, but confusion abounds. The result is more questions than answers.

If we add more senses and tap other ways of learning—just like watching a play—greater understanding can result, though clarity is still lacking.

However, when we experience faith in community, having a safe place to ask questions and engage in dialogue—just like our Q & A session—that’s when a deeper meaning and fuller comprehension unfolds. The result is added depth and increased appreciation.

Faith isn’t supposed to be a solitary journey but a shared experience—anything less is a mere shortcut that serves to shortchange.

What helps you in your faith journey? What do you think about The Great Divorce?

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What is Eternal Death?

Since eternal life is the result of following Jesus, what’s the alternative? Might “eternal death” be the opposite?

If eternal life starts immediately when we begin our journey with Jesus, does eternal death start as soon as someone rejects him?

If eternal life results in heaven, don’t eternal death result in hell?

Some opine that eternal death is merely physical death; when the bodies dies, that person is forever gone; their spirit does not live on; it dies too. Death is the end.

If eternal life starts immediately when we begin our journey with Jesus. Click To Tweet

However, that’s not my understanding. You can’t have the promise of heaven without the possibility of hell.

For those who follow Jesus, eternal life begins here and now when they align with him. When their body dies, their spirit continues on, enjoying eternal life in heaven.

For those who don’t follow Jesus, eternal death begins here and now when they disregard him. When their body dies, their spirit continues on, suffering eternal death in hell.

[See verses about eternal death in the Amplified Bible, the Message, and the New Living Bible]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Life’s Not Fair

What Are You Going to do About It?

How often have you heard someone exclaim, “It’s not fair!”?

This lament seems especially prevalent among children and teens. When this complaint is voiced to their parents, the typical response—be it sage or sadistic—is “Life’s not fair.”

It’s true; life’s not fair—and I, for one, am glad.

If life were fair, then we would all go to hell. As less than perfect beings, we all do wrong things upon occasion, some more frequently than others. As a result, we deserve punishment from a holy and just God; we all deserve to go to hell. Justice demands punishment.

Fortunately, life is not fair. The God of the Bible offers mercy to those who follow him. Though fairness demands hell, an eternal death, those who follow Jesus receive something else: heaven, an eternal life.

Thank you God for not being fair, for offering us mercy and grace instead.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.