FrontLine • March/April 1999.
It seems like everyone loves spring. We can say with the Shulamite in the Song of Solomon, “For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come.” What a blessing is this illustration of the resurrection. Even a relatively mild winter brings its drab lifelessness across the landscape in a soggy, somber season that most enjoy seeing end. Even the unbeliever is uplifted by the hope implied in spring even though he may not know about (or believe if he does) that essential element of the gospel—the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
He may explain that Christianity is just one of the major world religions, appropriate for Christians as Islam is for Arabs. He may be completely satisfied with psychological solutions to his emotional struggles, or comfortable in the warmth of his wealth. But within his unbelieving heart he longs for eternal life. We are warned by worldly wisdom to watch out for wintertime “blues” and the languor that comes with less light. Shorter days see shorter tempers and longer periods of depression. But then the world renews itself. The leaves appear, and the birds return. Indeed, “hope springs eternal.”
But not for the unbeliever in Christ—not ultimately. Will the politically correct pluralism that allows the Christian his Christ, the Moslem his Mohammed, or the Buddhist his Buddha allow the atheist his arrogance? Probably, for to such a mind heaven is not real; it is only a nice possibility. The popular view allows everyone we like to go to heaven, while the truly evil—those who really offend us—to suffer some kind of hell.
Everyone must come to grips with the resurrection. No other religions claim it, nor do they need it, being rooted in the effort of man. Christianity stands alone as the gospel of grace. It is not some sentimental suggestion of better days ahead that is written into the constitution of the Creation, it is “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” Sentiment doesn’t save, and there is no righteousness in religiousness. There may be “many roads to Rome,” but there is only one road to heaven. We still hear, “I believe Jesus was a good man,” or “He certainly was a teacher sent from God.” No. He was who He claimed to be, or He was a liar—and He claimed to be God.
He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Either that is true and He is the only way of salvation, rendering every alternative a deception that damns its followers, or it is a lie. If a lie, then Christianity cannot be accepted as one of many alternatives. It must be opposed or altered. The enemies of Christ realize this. Christianity is becoming increasingly despised because it accepts no alternatives. It is Christ and salvation, or self-help and damnation.
At the heart of toleration is the demand for toleration of ourselves. “I will allow you to believe whatever you choose, but you must allow me the same.” Paul told the Romans that the creation taught them the truth, as it teaches us. If the Lord tarries, there will be a springtime for everyone, but without a submissive faith in the salvation available through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, there will be no resurrection from sin and death.
God established the seasons as both a reminder and a restraint. The rainbow was “a token of a covenant” that He would never destroy the earth by another worldwide flood, and the seasons were a part of that covenant. “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” The cycles are secure, as we are in the sovereignty of God. Though men reject God, they must accept His limitations on their labors “under the sun.” The psalmist sang, “Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.”
As the springtime resurrection gives us hope, the cold reality of winter keeps us honest. Not in futility do we till our gardens, groom our lawns, and lure the hummingbirds to the windows of our homes. These are proper. The summer fruits of seedtime efforts are rightfully enjoyed. But the harvest here is always followed by the hastening of winter. It will be back. In eternity, it won’t be so. As the Shulamite’s springtime reverie was followed by her lover’s invitation, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away,” so will ours some day. When the seasons here are over, there remains for the Christian a day when truly “winter is past.”
John Vaughn is the President of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International.
(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 1999. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)