Thursday, April 23, 2009

What's better than life? More life!

Hebrews 11 is called the great "faith" chapter. It is filled with examples of those who looked forward to something better than what they had on this earth. For example, it is said of Moses, "He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward" (Hebrews 11:25-26).

When we read Hebrews 11, our attention is often drawn to the "headliners" ... men like Noah, Abraham, or Moses. But no verse helps us understand more clearly the point the author is making than Hebrews 11:35, "Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection."

Stop and think about that. We have two very unique situations. In the first, we have a scenario of which many dream. Consider the woman who has lost a husband or a child. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have them back again? The Lord did indeed raise some from the dead while He was on this earth. Remember Mary and Martha's sorrow at the death of their brother Lazarus? Imagine their joy at receiving the brother back again alive!

But as wonderful as it might be to have a few more years with your loved ones, there is something even greater than that waiting, which is the point of the text. Hebrews 11:40 - the last verse of the chapter - says, "God had planned something better for us ..." What's better than life? More life! More years on this earth is as nothing compared to an eternity in heaven.

Now let's consider the second scenario. "Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection." Again, imagine yourself in a position where you are being literally tortured for being a Christian. To escape the pain and the punishment, all you have to do is renounce your Christianity. Just deny your belief in Jesus as the Christ and you will live to see another day. What a real temptation!

But these unnamed martyrs knew well the lesson of v. 40 ... "God had planned something better for us." Did they want to die a painful death? Absolutely not! Did they want to die at all? Of course not. If we had our preferences, we would probably all prefer dying in our sleep at a ripe old age. But they had been put in a very specific situation ... your faith or your life! Some would just tell the torturers what they wanted to hear, rationalizing that there would be plenty of time left for them to apologize to the Lord.

Not these Christians! They understood that there is no excuse for denying the Christ. We're either with Him or against Him (Matthew 12:30). So what's your choice ... more time on this earth, or "a better resurrection"? Perhaps - like these Christians of former days - we should keep in mind that God has something better planned for us than life on this earth.

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