The Gift of Life

Title: The Gift of Life

Bible Book: Revelation 21 : 4-8

Author: Johnny L. Sanders

Subject: Life, The Gift of; Life, New



Revelation has been called the graduate course in Bile studies. If that is the case, I wonder where you find the kindergarten course. It most assuredly is not the Book of Genesis. I am amazed at the people who claim to understand Revelation, but read Genesis and still embrace some compromise theory which accommodates evolution: the Gap theory or the Day-Age theory. And let’s face it, these are compromise theories which allow one to try to embrace both evolution and a Creator - while rejecting special creation. I was amused when one man told me he did not understand the rest of the Bible, but he could explain Revelation to me. I didn’t ask.

After I graduated from seminary, I had lengthy talks with people like Dr. Wayne Ward of Southern Seminary and Dr. H. Leo Eddleman, who had been president of New Orleans Seminary, about end-time events. The theologians call it Eschatology, the study of last things. I wanted to be sure that I adopted a position from the Word of God, rather than some preacher I respected, like R. G. Lee, whom I heard every Sunday for some time, or from W. A. Criswell, whom I heard from time to time. Dr. Eddleman helped me when he pointed out the nature of Revelation and then stated that while one may not understand all the Scripture has to say about the Second Coming and end-time events, we can all understand what Jesus taught that we should be doing until He returns.

We can understand that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23); and we can all understand that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). We can understand John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8 well enough to know that only the faith God gives us is compatible with the Grace of God. We are saved by grace and not works.

We can understand that once we are saved, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, Who will illuminate our hearts and minds that we may understand the Scripture He has miraculously inspired and preserved. The Holy Spirit will empower us and enable us to understand the Word of God well enough to make a practical application of it in every day life. We understand that we should keep the Lord’s Day holy. We understand that we should worship only the one true God rather that gods who do not exist. We can understand that we must not take the Lord’s name in vain; we must not steal, lie, covet, or commit adultery. We can understand that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as our self. We can understand the Golden Rule. We can understand that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God - or, it is irrelevant.

I have a thought that I would like to share with you. I am convinced that those who are saved, and being sanctified through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, those who are applying all the things which I have just mentioned, are more likely to understand the Revelation than those who neglect them or disregard them. Let me suggest something for you. Read Revelation, and if you do not understand it, don’t worry about it for now. Go back and read the Four Gospels and then read Revelation again. Then read Romans and Ephesians, and come back and read Revelation again. Then read the Epistles of John, and come back to Revelation and read it again. Let God be your Teacher. Let the Holy Spirit be your Instructor. Let Jesus be your focus. It will grow on you!

Right now, I would like to invite you to look with me at a few verses that you will understand. You will have no problem with them. Sometimes we tend to make things more complicated than they really are. For example, some people are so concerned about offended one group or another that we may neglect the common good of all Americans. John Wayne had it right. One of the biggest problems in America is the hyphenated America. We have African-Americans, Native-Americans; Hispanic-Americans; German-Americans; Italian-Americans. What we need is Americans working together for the common good. That is simple enough, isn’t it? Well, these verses are going to be simple enough for us to understand - but, they will mean a whole lot more to us if we commit ourselves to a study of the entire Word of God. Here, we can bring it all together.


“Then the One seated on the throne said, ‘“Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, ‘Write, because these words are faithful and true.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty from the spring of living water as a gift.”

A. God Is on His Throne, 21:5.

1) In chapter four, we see the throne room of heaven and God is on His throne. He is not ascending to a throne, He occupies His throne. It has always been His throne. He is the sovereign God of eternity. No one else has ever occupied His throne. When He speaks from His throne you had better pay attention because you will be held accountable.

2) He demands our attention - “Look!” You may be more familiar with the KJV, “Behold.” God want our undivided attention. By now He should have it!

3) He said, “I am making everything new.” This is in the present tense - He is making everything new. As we have seen in the first four verses, this includes the new heavens and the new earth. New Jerusalem is not being made at this time - it is coming down from heaven.

4) He commands John to write this down. “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” At the risk of sounding ridiculously simple, let me stress that there could be no better reason to write the down. God commands it, and His words are faithful and true. A lot of people write words that are not true, or words that are biased, words that serve the purpose of the author if no one else. In the front of a Bible I love to preach from I wrote down something some conference speaker said a number of years ago: God did not say it because it is true - it is true because God said it. We can say something because it is true, but when God speaks, eternal truth is established.

B. God’s Work Is Done, 21:6.

“And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty from the spring of living water as a gift.”

1) God Himself said, “It is done.” At this point all preparations will have been made for you and me.
Forever! There will be nothing left undone. There will be nothing left for you to do because what must be done only God can do.

2) He declares, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” In the beginning of the Revelation, Jesus declares Himself to be the Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet). He is the beginning of all things and the consummation of all things. He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, He was the Agent of Creation at the beginning of the human race. He is the Redeemer and Sustainer throughout human history. He is the righteous Judge at the end of the world. And our great Three in One God will reign forever.

3) He adds, “I will give to the thirsty from the spring of living water as a gift.” Do you remember Jesus’ words to the woman at the well in Samaria? He promised living water to those who believed.
At the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, Jesus said something that we should recall here:

“On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.’ He said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been received, because Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:37-39).

In the final chapter of Revelation, there is a very special invitation: “Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Anyone who hears should say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift” (Rev 22:17).


“The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev 21:1-8).

A. The Victor Will Inherit all Things, 21:7.

The choice is clear. John Wayne’s comments about the hyphenated American were easy to follow. Here is something that is just as simple, even if many people try to complicate it: There are only two classes of people in the world, saved and lost. Call it an over simplification if you will, but when you reduces it to the lowest common denominator, you are left with the saved and the lost. At this point in the Revelation the lost are all in the lake of fire with the devil who deceived them - and they will be there forever. The redeemed are called here “the victor.” This would be a good time to sing VICTORY IN JESUS!

I would like to share three stories with you right now, and then see if we can draw a reasonable - and simple - conclusion. I have pulled these stories from my commentary on Ephesians in THE BIBLE NOTEBOOK, which is featured on the SermonCity website, created by Dr. Mike Minnix, who recently took early retirement as Vice President over the Department of Evangelism for the Georgia Baptist Convention to devote himself to this special ministry to pastors and other students of the Word.


“How would you meet Kenny Wagner?” Chaplain Roscoe Hicks of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman probably anticipated my interest because all the papers in the region had been carrying the story of his recent surrender to authorities after years of freedom. I was a ministerial student and Mississippi College, taking a course in criminology under Dr. R. R. Pearce. I had stopped by Parchman on my way home to Sledge, Mississippi to interview the chaplain concerning rehabilitation of criminals.

How would I like to meet Kenny Wagner? I had heard stories about Kenny Wagner for as long as I could remember. He was the most notorious criminal is the history of Mississippi. He had killed several people in three or four states, but according to reports he had killed them in “shoot-outs” with law enforcement officers after they opened fire. This was all years before. For years he had trained bloodhounds and used them to run down escapees. His marksmanship was legendary and when a bloodhound trailed an escapee to a house the word was that if the bloodhound touched his nose to a door, Kenny Wagner stuck his foot through it and stepped in with a .38 S&W in his hand, and he always took the man back to Parchman.

The chaplain told me that Kenny Wagner had surrendered because of failing health. He needed medical treatment. He had apparently lived with friends near Corinth, Mississippi for years and even though all the neighbors knew him, no one reported him. Chaplain Hicks drove me to the hospital on the sixteen thousand acre Parchman farm (there was also a six thousand acre farm near Lambert), and when we got out of his car he said “you can go on in and talk with Kenny Wagner. I have someone else I need to see.” By then we were in front of the hospital door and before I could ask how I would know him, the chaplain had veered off in a different direction. There were bars inside the main doors and as I approached there was a very large man standing facing me on the other side of the bars, his face in a space between two bars and either hand holding a bar on either side, even with his shoulder and a little higher.

The door opened and the man stepped back and as I entered he greeted me. I introduced myself and he acknowledged my introduction and immediately began talking without giving me his name. No one had to tell me I was talking with Kenny Wagner. I liked him immediately and understood why almost everyone liked him. There was genuine warmth in his smile and friendliness in his voice. I was all but inundated with mixed emotions - whatever I may have anticipated, I was not prepared such a gracious and open man as he. I had had cons to try to con me before and I would have them try it many times afterwards, but Kenny Wagner showed no interest in trying to con me. He was simply frank and honest.

After visiting for a few minutes standing just inside the door he told me he was weak and needed to lie down, and motioning me to the bed next to his in the prison hospital, he stretched out with his head propped up on pillows. I asked questions I wanted to ask, questions friends in my criminology class might find interesting. He answered my questions and expounded on them. For example, I said, “I recently read that alcohol was involved in 94.6% of the cases in which one is sentenced to prison. Would you agree with that?” He responded, “It’s higher than that. It is involved in almost all of them.” That was before drugs and gambling became major factors.

As we talked I cleared my throat a few times and noticing it, Kenny Wagner reached around and picked up a little plastic tube with some little discs in it and handed it to me. “Take those. They gave them to me for my throat.” As he continued talking about his surrender and comments Governor J. P. Coleman had made him, I sat on the side of the other bed facing him, holding the lozenges. This man has killed several men and he wants me to take these strange looking pills!?!?
“Go ahead and take them,” he commanded. I said, “Yes sir,” and put one in my mouth. While I was still wondering what I had in my mouth, I realized he was still talking about Governor Coleman when I heard him say, “I could put a bomb under him.” He’s killed several men and now he wants to put a bomb under the governor?!?! I’m not sure I should be hearing this.

When I finally found an opening, I asked him if believed in God, and if he believed Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He cut in, “ I don’t have anything against God. A preacher told me one time that if I wasn’t for Him I was against Him. I don’t have anything Him, so I must be for Him.” I never got him back on the subject of his salvation because he began talking about his ethics, standards, and his philosophy of life. He looked me squarely in the eye and declared, “I will never tell you a lie (flashback - a bomb under the governor!), and I would respect your sister just like I respect my sister.” I believed him. How sad that a lot more church members do not live up to Kenny’s Wagner’s standards in these areas. Before leaving, I even realized that he was talking about putting a political bomb under the governor. Whew!

As soon as the chaplain and I left for his office, he asked, “Do you think he will ever be saved?” I answered, “No. He has too much pride.” Chaplain Hicks said, “Another preacher told me the same thing a few days ago.” It was obvious that he had not taken me to see Kenny Wagner to satisfy my curiosity. He was genuinely burdened for his soul. We both grieved eight days later when Kenny Wagner and went to hell by his own choice.


I knew I was going to meet Tommy. I directed the Mississippi College BSU (Baptist Student Union) mission trip to the Hinds County Jail in Jackson every Thursday for about two and a half years. When I picked up the Jackson Clarion Ledger the first of the week and read the headlines, I was as shocked as anyone else in the area. Tommy, a 22 year old carnival worker was in town with the Mississippi State Fair. He has been living in a motel room with a young woman who was seven months pregnant. It was not his baby, but he told her he could live with it. However, in a drunken stupor, he decided that he could not live with it, so he brutally beat and strangled her to death.

When I arrived at the jail, I assigned various friends different cells to visit, reserving maximum security for myself. The heavy steel door was open and I heard loud voices coming from the little area in front of the double set of bars. A local reporter was badgering the prisoner. The jailer said, “Go on in. That reporter has been in there long enough.” I stepped through the door as the reporter challenged, “You must think you’re pretty tough, beating up a woman, don’t you?” Tommy snapped, “You come behind these bars and I’ll show you how tough I am.”

Turning to me, the reporter arrogantly demanded, “Who are you?’”
“I’m Johnny Sanders.”
“Where are you from?”

I looked him in the eye and firmly said, “Home.” We stood facing each other until he finally turned and walked out. I was not going to give him any ammunition to use in an article about Mississippi College or the BSU. The jailer had told me that Tommy had sent for a priest and the priest came in and talked a few minutes and after leaving a tract, said, “I’ll come back in a few days and give you a test on that.” The jailer also told me that Tommy asked him not to let the priest back in because he needed help right then.

Tommy listened respectfully, and by the grace of God I was able to get past the horror of Tommy’s crime and see a desperate young man who knew he had committed a despicable crime. After I left, the other man in maximum security, Bill, advised Tommy, “You should stop talking to reporters. They are going to get you executed! But you need to listen to Johnny Sanders when he comes back.” A few days later I got a letter from Tommy in which he said, “Johnny, I am trying to find God.” I wrote back, “Tommy, before you ever thought about finding God, He was trying to find you. You never would have known you needed God if He had not revealed that to you. He was loving you before you ever thought of Him and He has provided for your forgiveness through Jesus Christ.”

Tommy was saved on my next visit and I visited with him a number of times in the Hinds County Jail. He was sentenced to life for his brutal crime - and rightly so - but by the grace of God, Tommy was forgiven, his sins covered by the blood of the Lamb of God. Tommy is my brother and the two letters I have in my desk drawer are a reminder that God’s grace is sufficient for all who call on Him.
Later I preached in Tommy’s camp at the state penitentiary at Parchman. Tommy assured me that he was reading his Bible and praying and, he added, “When I get out of here, I want to serve God.” I expressed my joy in his testimony and counseled, “Tommy, you don’t have to wait until you get out to serve the Lord. You will never find a place that needs it any more that right here.”


For a little over a year, while I was a student pastor, enroled at Mississippi College and serving as pastor of the Dockery Baptist Church between Cleveland and Ruleville, I preached at 8:00 A. M. every Sunday morning at one of the many camps at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. At first the chaplain assigned me a camp, but after a few months he said, “Anytime you get here before I get to my office you can go on to any camp you want to and tell them I sent you.” Some Sundays and certain camps stand out in my memory above all others. It was a special blessing to visit with prisoners at Parchman I had led to Jesus Christ while they were in the Hinds County Jail in Jackson awaiting trial. Another memory was of a rather special man.

The chaplain told me one Sunday he wanted me to meet “Porkchop.” “You have to hear his testimony.” I do not recall his mentioning any other name. All I ever knew was his nickname. The chaplain explained that Porkchop had been a hardened prisoner, an avowed atheist, who was very hostile toward anyone who talk with him about Jesus Christ. He insisted that he did not believe in anything he could not see, hear, or feel. Every effort on the part of the chaplain had been rebuffed, until the day Chaplain Hicks walked into his office and his assistant, a prison trustee, told him that Porkchop was asking to see him.

The previous day Porkchop was on a work detail when he decided to make a break. They were working alongside a railroad track, under the watchful eye of prison guards, including the one guard whose marksmanship with a 30/30 Winchester was legendary. Prisoners were firmly convinced that he could not miss a running prisoner if he was in range. Porkchop was as convinced of this as any other convict, but when he looked up and saw that they were working near of railroad trestle, the desire for freedom overcame him.

Porkchop watched the guard out of the corner of his eye and measuring the distance to the trestle. Suddenly, when the guard seemed to be looking off, he made his break. He had not reached the bridge when the marksman fired the first time. He had reached the end of it when he fired the second time, and was diving off the trestle into the bayou when he fired the third shot. Porkchop was captured before he could make good his escape good and returned to his camp.

When the chaplain went to seem him, Porkchop said, “I want you to tell me about God.” Chaplain Hicks said, “I thought you didn’t believe in God. Have you changed your mind?” Porkchop looked him in the eye and replied, “Now, I know there is a God. There is no way that guard could have missed his first shot. He could not have missed such an easy shot. Then He missed again as I reached the bridge, and again as I jumped. No power of earth could have saved me with that man shooting at me. Only God could have saved me.” Before the chaplain left that day the God who had saved his physical life had saved him spiritually. Porkchop was saved by the grace of God, through faith which God alone can supply. When I met Porkchop he was a model prisoner, a positive influence and a very convincing witness for Jesus Christ.

There are two basic themes in the New Testament - (1) how to be saved, and (2) how the saved ought to live. To be more specific, the entire New Testament tells the lost person how to be saved, and the saved person how to live. Both themes are applicable indiscriminately to every person - from Kenny Wagner, who rejected God’s grace, to Tommy, and “Porkchop”, who received Jesus. It is also applicable to young child - I am thinking now of Will and Joanna, my brother’s twin son and daughter whom I had the privilege of baptizing when they were seven years old. God saves the young (but hardly innocent) the same way he saves older people (even the grossly guilty) - by grace through faith.

B. Unbelievers Will Spend Eternity in the Lake of Fire.

“But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

1) Cowards are going to hell. There are a lot of people who believe Christians are weak, spineless creatures who must hide religion. In time we are going to understand that many of those who reject Jesus Christ do so, not because they are courageous, but because the lack the courage to stand with Jesus. There are a lot of people who will not stand up for Jesus because they simply do not have the guts to face their peers and confess Jesus.

2) Unbelievers are going to hell. All unbelievers are going to hell - without exception. When you read the first chapter of Romans you find a catalog of sins, all of which condemn the sinner. However, the one sin that condemns one forever is the sin of unbelief - refusing to trust Jesus for His great salvation.

3) Vile people are going to hell. Vile people are those whose hearts and minds are polluted. A. T. Robertson said these are the people whose minds are defiled by emperor worship. Emperor worship is not in vogue today, but people are still being defiled by idolatry and false worship.

4) Murderers are going to hell. We debate the death sentence today, but believe me, the gas chamber is the least of their worries at this point. These people are going to wish hell was the grave.

5) Sexually immoral people are going to hell. There are no if, ands, and buts here. All sexually immoral people are going to hell - whether heterosexually immoral people or homosexuals. This does not mean that an immoral person cannot be forgiven, cleansed, and blessed with a fruitful life in the Holy Spirit. Jesus had followers who had been immoral. Mary of Magdela is a good example.

6) Sorcerers are gong to hell. We are talking about people who are involved in occult practices, all of which are condemned in the Bible.

7) Idolaters are going to hell. God hates idolatry. He hates worship of false gods, and He hates false worship of the true God.

8) All liars are going to hell. One is never behaving more like Satan than when he lies. Satan is the father of liars, a liar from the beginning.

All of these people are going to spend eternity in the lake of fire: “But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Now, let me stress this - the ones who are going to hell are the ones who stand before the judgment bar of God with their sins unforgiven. God will forgive all of these sins - all of these sins - if the guilty person confesses his sin, repents, embracing Jesus by faith. I have seen immoral people repent, and while the world may still see them as immoral, the blood of Christ washes them white as snow. I have seen murderers, like Tommy and Porkchop, receive Jesus as Savior. They will not stand before the judgment bar of God to be condemned as a murderer.

William Wetzel received a life sentence for murder. Another prisoner crossed him and he killed him at Parchman, and this time received the death sentence. Wetzel, according to the chaplain, had the highest IQ of anyone who had ever set foot on the grounds at Parchman - it didn’t seem to embarrass Chaplain Hicks in the least that I was often on the grounds at Parchman! William Wetzel repented and asked the Lord to forgive him and save him. After he was saved he began reading the Bible and because of the change in the man, the chaplain and others asked to have the sentenced commuted to life without parole so that he could witness to other prisoners. The Lt. Governor of Mississippi let the petition die on his desk and William Wetzel died in the electric chair. The chaplain told me that there was not a dry eye among the witnesses. A friend told me he had witnessed a lot of executions, but after Wetzel he would never witness another one. The executioner had tears in his eyes. Without exception, the witnesses were convinced that Wetzel should have been permitted to live and to minister to other prisoners.

When a Kenny Wagner stands before the great white throne, the judgment bar of God, he will be sentenced to the lake of fire forever. When a William Wetzel died he heard the words of our Savior, “Come you blessed of my father.” A man named Taylor married a woman, took out a life insurance policy on her and murdered her two weeks later. I saw that man call on the Lord to save him in the Hinds County Jail in Jackson, MS. Months later, after I had preached in camp 4 at Parchman, he came up to me and showed me the New Testament I had given him in the Hinds County Jail. This man was in prison, but there was joy in his heart. He will never be condemned to the lake of fire because he was washed in the blood of the Lamb of God.


The unforgiven are going to spend their eternity in the lake of fire. The forgiven are going to spend eternity with our heavenly Father. There are two classes of people - the saved and the lost, the forgiven and the unforgiven. I copied a powerful poem from the wall at camp 4 at Parchman in 1959. Let me share it with you:


You’ve time to build houses and in them dwell,
And time to do business - to buy and to sell,
But none for repentance, for deep earnest prayer,
To seek your salvation you’ve no time to spare.

You’ve time for earth’s pleasures, for frolic and fun,
For her glittering treasures how quickly you run,
But care not to seek the fair mansions above,
The favor of God, or the gift of His love.

You’ve time to take voyages over the deep sea,
And take in the gay world’s jubilee;
But soon our hopes will be lost in the gloom
Of the cold, dark river of death and the tomb.

You’ve time to resort to woods, mountains, and glen,
And time to gain knowledge from the books of men,
Yet no time to search for the wisdom of God;
but what of your soul when you are under the sod?

For time will not linger when helpless you lie;
Staring death in the face, you will take time to die!
Then, what of the judgment? Paul, think, I implore!
For time will be lost on eternity’s shore.

“Come, let us discuss this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Posted in


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top