“There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)
Only a few days ago, four city bus workers in our city were mowed down with a gun containing some forty rounds of ammunition. Apparently, the gun misfired after only several rounds were shot, and that is why more were not killed. Finally, in desperation — and however this worked out, I don’t exactly know — but the man was able to turn the gun on himself and kill himself. The man had been employed by the same organization, and had borne a grudge against some of the people there for having been treated unfairly, in his opinion. He didn’t even kill the people that were on his “hit” list, which was later found at his home. He just shot at random. Now a total of five people are dead, and, on Friday, April 9, 1999, at 2:45 p.m., a moment of silence was issued throughout the city of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Canada’s capital, where the incident occured) on behalf of the four victims. Of course, the incident made headline news – for a moment, only to make a very small dent in the news being reported concerning the ongoing crisis in Kosovo.
I began to wonder while we were all (trying to be) silent for that one minute (as a siren rang in the background which somehow our company felt was necessary to keep going while the moment of silence was being observed), just what exactly we were being “silent” for. Of course, I knew, and so did everyone else. We were being silent as a show of respect for the families of the dead. That is a good thing, and I believe that what we did as a community was good. However, I also wondered, did we all know what exactly the implications of all of this were? In other words, where were these four people now? I know it is popular to believe that “all people go to heaven” when they die, but what about the teaching of the Bible on these matters? I ask you to consider what the Bible has to say about these things.
There was a time when Jesus was speaking to a large group of people (as He often did), and He said the following thought-provoking statement to them. “Do you think that the 18 people on whom the tower of Siloam fell were any worse sinners than the rest of you? But I tell you that, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5, a kind of paraphrase of the above quote). Here Jesus used a natural, and albeit unfortunate, incident, as an example of judgment towards those who were still alive, if they refused to really put their faith in a loving, yet very holy God. By “repent” he did not mean “nothing at all,” but rather the need for each and every one of His hearers to really change their ways and “do differently” than they had done. He did not promise them that they would not die “by accident” or “without difficulty” when He said this. Rather, He was saying, “We all die and death is ultimately the result of the sin which is so prevalent in each and every one of us. We need to change our ways if we are going to “make it” with God. If we don’t change our ways — and I say this with respect for the present day slain — ultimately we will all end up in an eternal, spiritual, sense, like they ended up in the natural sense, without a hope and without a future.
I do not know where those four — no five — individuals now are, whether they had trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins or not prior to their final departure for this world. However, I do know that the Bible is clear as to what it takes to obtain God’s unconditional favor so that we may be assured of a place in heaven when all of us, ultimately, move on to the next life. “Without the shedding of blood, there is not forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22). And, “Neither is there salvation in any other [except the name of Jesus]: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Are you saved? Have you trusted in Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins? As Jesus himself said, “But, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish!” (Luke 13:5)