The book of Revelation predicts that just before the end of the world, everyone will receive a mark. For some it will guarantee their destruction, but for others it will guarantee their deliverance. Then it will be clear to everyone just which mark he or she has.
God has just one simple test that will divide the whole world into two classes. On the very night that He was betrayed, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15.
Referring to Jesus, Paul says, “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Hebrews 5:8, 9.
This one simple test decides the mark by which God will know who has accepted Jesus as their Saviour and has become His child through obedience. Do we love and trust Him enough to obey Him and to do what He says? Do we love, keep and respect His law? The apostle Paul spoke about it this way: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slave whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” Romans 6:16.
Jesus predicted that there will be many Christians who will come right up to the end of the world and tragically find out that while still claiming their Christianity they are lost. He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ ” Matthew 7:21–23.
Somehow, these Christians believed that they could make their own decisions in life as to how they would be saved. They thought that even though they were practicing lawlessness and violating God’s law, they were regular church attendees each week and doing wonderful things. But Jesus says, “You didn’t obey Me. You thought you could earn your way to heaven by your own works, but because you did not obey Me, you are a disloyal subject and your religion is not worth anything. My will has been made clear and not open to your own interpretation. Depart from Me, I never knew you!”
Some people think that, because of their sincerity, God will accept them no matter what they do. But, the fact of the matter is that all who are really sincere will inquire of God’s will and apply it to their lives. That is the sign by which the whole universe will know of their sincerity. We are not left to guess God’s will and how we are to demonstrate sincerity. The apostle John writes about this so plainly: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” 1 John 2:3–5.
These are strong words that say those who do not keep His commandments are liars. John continues to say, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:2, 3.
Today, many voices are heard giving excuses as to why they either cannot or do not have to obey God’s law.
People say, “The Christian church today is not under the law but under grace.” Let’s take a closer look at Romans 6:14. It says, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
Before we go further we should be sure that we understand what sin actually is. “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Sin is breaking God’s law. Paul says that sin, or breaking God’s law, will not have dominion over you for you are not under the law but under grace. But then he goes on to say, in the very next verse, “What then? Shall we sin [break God’s law] because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” Romans 6:15.
Paul makes it very clear he is not teaching that because you are no longer under the law but under grace you can break the law. In fact, the only people who are not under the law are those who are keeping it. The people who continue to break God’s law are actually under the law. The Bible says, “We know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Romans 3:19.
This makes everybody in the world under the law of God and because of that, all are condemned to death. But the gospel makes a way possible so that all who believe can be delivered from the penalty of the law—being condemned to death. Deliverance is available through the grace of Jesus Christ, but that grace does not give permission to continue living a life of sin and disobedience. Paul makes this very clear as he begins this discussion in Romans 6:1, 2. He says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin [break God’s law] that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin [stopped breaking God’s law] live any longer in it?” Clearly, the apostle Paul was not teaching that because you are not under the law, but under grace, you are free to go and break God’s law. Only those people who keep the law are not under it, but under grace. Those who continue to break the law remain under it, as we read in Romans 3:19.
People say, “I don’t need to keep the law anymore because Jesus fulfilled the law, thereby doing away with it.”
Jesus said, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.” Luke 16:17.
A tittle is the smallest stroke, just part of a letter. Jesus said it would be easier for the whole universe, heaven and earth to pass away than for a part of a letter of the law to fail. This is very, very strong language when you understand Who is talking, because Jesus Christ was the one Who made the heavens and the earth and everything in it (John 1:3; Hebrews 1:1; Colossians 1:15).
John says that Jesus made everything that was made and without Him nothing was made. And when He came to dwell in this world in human flesh, it would be easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for a part of a letter of the law to fail. The only way of escape from death was for somebody Who was above the law to pay the penalty for us. Jesus did not come to pay the penalty for our sins so that we could continue sinning. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:2–4.
People say, “Well, it is impossible to keep the law.” The accusation here is that God made a law that nobody can keep.
It is true that the unconverted person cannot keep the law of God. Paul says, “The carnal mind [the unconverted mind; the fleshly mind] is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Romans 8:7. This describes the unconverted person, but when you come to Jesus and accept Him as the Lord of your life and as your personal Saviour from sin, so that you receive the Holy Spirit into your life, it is now possible for you to keep the law.
John says, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” 1 John 3:4–9.
This passage of Scripture is unpopular with many people; however, it cannot be denied that it is still in the Bible. Notice what John continues to say in 1 John 5:18, “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.”
The Bible is very clear. It says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. But the very fact that we have sinned proves that the law of God is still in existence, because sin is the transgression of the law as we have just seen in 1 John 3:4. “Sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Romans 5:13. For example, you cannot be given a ticket for breaking a speed limit if there is no speed limit!
People say, “I understand from the Bible that I am now under the new covenant of grace and not under the old covenant of works, so I am no longer under an obligation to keep the law.” The Bible also answers this objection.
Paul, in the book of Hebrews, says something very interesting about the new covenant. “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.” Hebrews 10:16.
If you are under the new covenant, God’s law is written in your heart. It is written on your mind. The new covenant cannot be separated from God’s law. No one who refuses to keep the law of God is, in fact, under the new covenant. Many people who think that they are under the new covenant today are merely under the condemnation of sin.
Some say, “The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit gives life. Therefore, the law is not applicable to us who have the Spirit.” This quote is taken from 11 Corinthians 3:6, but what is this talking about when it says, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”? Look at what Paul says, “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” Romans 7:9. Then, in Romans 8:7 and 8, he says, “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
The reason the law kills is because all have sinned. All have broken the law and the wages of sin is death. The reason the Spirit gives life is that the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to keep God’s law, as can be understood clearly by reading Romans 8:1–14.
Jesus forgives past sins when you come to Him with repentance, but the Holy Spirit gives the power to keep God’s law. Receiving the power to keep God’s law is evidence of true conversion. Read the following carefully:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Romans 8:1–14.
Some say, “All you need to keep is Jesus’ law, not God’s law.” This is a very interesting objection to having to keep the law. Notice what the New Testament says about it:
“There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.” James 4:12. There is only one Lawgiver—not two laws, one from Jesus and one from the Father. James says that this one Lawgiver is able to save—Jesus Christ is the Saviour. He is also the only One able to destroy. Jesus described His relationship to His Father, saying, “I and My Father are one.” John 10:30. When He said that, the Jews were incensed at His so-called blasphemy and wanted to stone Him.
Jesus said, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” John 14:10.
Now we come to what some people think is the perfect excuse or the perfect reason why they do not need to keep the law.
They say, “The New Testament teaches that the law was nailed to the cross.”
Before looking specifically at that objection, we should read a couple of Bible verses. As stated earlier, Jesus said it would be easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for even a part of a letter of the law to fail (Luke 16:17). And concerning whether or not the Lord was going to change any part of His law, it says in the Old Testament, “My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.” Psalm 89:34. If you look up the context of that verse, the covenant this refers to is the Ten Commandments. “So He declared to you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tables of stone.” Deuteronomy 4:13.
That was the law that was spoken by God Himself on Mount Sinai. In fact, that is all that was spoken. He spoke the Ten Commandments, and He spoke no more. And the Lord says, “My covenant I will not break, and the words that have gone out of My lips, I will not change.” With this in mind, then what was the law that was nailed to the cross? It was not the moral law. It is just as wrong today to steal as it was 5,000 years ago (eighth commandment). It is just as wrong today to lie as it was 5,000 years ago (ninth commandment). It is just as wrong today to murder as it was 5,000 years ago (sixth commandment). And it is just as wrong today to worship idols, or to swear, or to worship images as it was 5,000 years ago (second and third commandments).
The law that was nailed to the cross, Paul says, was the law of ordinances (Ephesians 2:15). And it is for that reason we no longer offer animal sacrifices or go to an earthly sanctuary. There is no more need to go to a human high priest or observe the ceremonial feast days or the ceremonial law. These ordinances were nailed to the cross, but the moral law continues forever as stated in both the Old and New Testaments.
Unfortunately, after answering all these objections from Scripture, somebody will still say, “Well, I don’t think it is important.” This is an interesting objection, but notice what Jesus said about it: “He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” ’ ” Matthew 4:4.
He also said, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” Matthew 15:3.
Those who deliberately break the law of God cannot be under the new covenant and will not have God’s mark of deliverance in the last days. Only those who have the seal of God (Revelation 7) will be protected from the desolations that are coming upon our world, especially on the cities in the last days. The big test is about to be made, and only those who obey all of God’s commandments, including the fourth, will be protected from the great destruction and disasters that are coming upon the earth. Then, the words of Psalm 91 will be fulfilled to them.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. Because he has set his love upon Me therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.”
Whether or not you will be among that number depends on whether you love God enough to keep His commandments. Remember, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Those will be the ones who will have the right to enter the new city Jerusalem and to the tree of life.
(Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Free Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.