What is the significance of Christ dying on the cross?
The cross has always signified death. In ancient times, the cross was used as a means of execution for criminals. It was a way of torturing a person, by inflicting the severest pain and causing them to feel the deepest shame. The convicted person was first physically punished by being beaten and whipped. He was then crucified on a cross, where he was left to die a slow and painful death, usually from suffocation. That is why Jesus dying on the cross for our sins is so amazing. He offered Himself to be crucified for the sins of the whole world. He died on the cross so we would not have to. Being born into sin, already guilty, it should have been us up there on the cross. It was an unworthy exchange: our guilty lives, for His guiltless one, yet God did it because He loves us. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). And so, now we are made free from spiritual death having “…no condemnation in Christ” (Romans 8:1).
Why should I be baptized?
As Christians, we are commanded to be baptized as a response to our faith in Christ. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). And He [Jesus] said to them, “ ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned’’ ” (Mark 16:15, 16).
The word, baptize, literally means “to dip or immerse.” The act of going under water during baptism, symbolizes being buried in death. It is a symbol of our dying to our old life and resurrecting in our new life (Romans 6:1-4). It demonstrates an outward sign of an inward change. We see baptism as a public testimony of our faith in Christ. Some say water baptism is necessary for salvation: that is not really true. In Scripture, we only see those who were already believers being baptized. It is important to remember that salvation is based upon what Christ has done, not on what we can earn (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since it is only for believers who profess faith in Christ, it would exclude infants, since they cannot make their own profession.
What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is our Helper. There are three ways in which we experience Him in our lives. The first is called the “with” experience. This speaks of the Holy Spirit coming along side of us to convict us of our sin and to help us come to the LORD. The second is the “in” experience, which refers to the Holy Spirit dwelling in a believer when he accepts Jesus as his Lord and Savior. These first two experiences are mentioned in John 14:16-17. The third aspect is the “upon” experience which signifies the empowering of the believer for Christian service. In doing so, the power of God’s Spirit will flow through us and touch the lives of those around us. Jesus describes this outpouring of the Holy Spirit in John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” The reference to the “upon” experience is found in Acts 1:8 which says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This act of the Holy Spirit empowering the believer is what is known as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
What about Heaven?
Jesus Himself described heaven as paradise when speaking to the thief on the cross; “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). He also assures us in this verse that upon our death we are immediately in the presence of God. The original word for heaven means “high or lofty”, or “that which is above”, which designates where heaven is located. In heaven, there will be no more pain, suffering or tears for God will make all things new; “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). The Book of Revelation has many descriptions of heaven; including the throne room in Revelation 4, “… and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald” (Revelation 4:2-3); Jesus at the throne in Revelation 5:2-7 and the angels’ worship of God in Revelation 5:8-14. Following the final judgment, the Great White Throne Judgment, there will be a new heaven and new earth, as the current heaven and earth are destroyed by fire (Revelation 21, 2 Peter 3:10-13). Also described is the New Jerusalem, the final dwelling place Christ has prepared for us in which we have personal, intimate fellowship with Him throughout eternity. The main point is that heaven is the place where we will live in the immediate presence of God eternally.
What about Hell?
Although the Bible does not give us a detailed description of hell, the Bible does tell us some truths about it. First, the Bible describes hell as a place that has been prepared for the devil and his angels in the center of the earth. Although hell was prepared for the devil, God has also set hell aside for those who have chosen to reject Christ as their Lord and Savior. Matthew 25:41 says, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ ” Second, Scripture tells us hell is only a temporary dwelling place for the wicked who await the final judgment; a place of torment, “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame’ ” (Luke 16:22-24). After the final judgment, hell will be cast into the Lake of Fire. “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:13-14). Third, those who go there will never die, but live in torment forever and ever, eternally separated from God. The Gospel of Mark says, “where their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched’” (Mark 9:44, 46, 48).