The fourth broad stroke is that every person will spend eternity in heaven with Christ and fellow believers or in hell, separated from God forever. Now, that sounds very, very harsh except it comes from the lips of the most loving human being because it was a human being fully man and fully God.
Jesus said in Matthew 25:46: 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Those who reject and say, “I don’t want anything to do with You, God”.
John 5:24. 24 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus speaking, “whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has”, present tense, “eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life”.
We only have two camps. Our final destiny is either in heaven with Christ forever, or separated in forever in hell. And then notice, it’s forever and ever. It’s sobering, it’s serious, and it’s final.
Now, it’d be fun and interesting to go around and ask, when’s the last message you heard on heaven and hell? It’d be interesting to ask, just in your private thoughts and what I will share with you is that it’s only a matter of discipline for me because it doesn’t come naturally.
When’s the last time you really thought about the reality of their being a resurrection for every single person you know - every relative, every friend, every neighbor, every co-worker. They’re going to die, right? We’re going to die. The moment they die, they will have a conscious awareness in eternity somewhere.
They will be judged by the judge, Jesus, based on what they did with the Gospel, the Good News. Did they accept or reject the free offer of eternal life that begins the moment you believe? Eternal life, by the way, isn’t heaven.
Eternal life is the moment I believe the life of Christ, I’m taken out of the kingdom of darkness; I’m placed in the kingdom of light. The Spirit of God, literally, comes into my mortal body, I’m sealed by his Spirit, I’m deposited with spiritual gifts, and I have an eternal inheritance.
Now, the Spirit of God lives in me and He’s going to live the life of Christ through me and as an obedience and faith I trust Him. Out of God’s Word, by the Holy Spirit, in the community of God’s people as He conforms me to the image of His Son.
Every single person you know has a destiny. When I begin to ponder that, I get bold. And when I don’t, I get self-focused.
The next question ought to be, maybe by way of motivation and encouragement: what is heaven like? I’m going to give you the real quick overview. Now we know what happens when you die - conscious awareness, extended capacity, judgment, and only two stops – then what’s heaven like and what’s hell like? So let me give you an overview, a preview of heaven.
Well, number one, God is there, which makes it great. Let me read Revelation chapter 21. The first five verses.
It says, 1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.
4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
By chapter 22, in the very last chapter of scripture, 1 “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. 4 They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever”.
It’s hard to get our arms around what that’s like but let me give you some pictures. What it means is, take anything you could ever imagine or you’ve ever experienced and put it on spiritual steroids plus a million and you’re not there but it’ll help you get there.
It’s a place of warmth and light and beauty. It’s a place of wonderful relationships and incredible accommodations. Jesus has been working on them for quite a while. It means there’s a fresh new start. You get a new nature, a new body, a new vocation.
Some of us that have a lot of pains are going to be very excited about what we can do in heaven that we can’t do now. There are going to be various levels of reward. What you do in the body as a follower of Christ will have a direct relationship to the qualitative experience. Not whether you get in or not. But the qualitative experience that you have in heaven.
There’s going to be complete rest, protection, contentment, security, peace, purpose, rest, unbridled joy, celebration, laughter, music. There’s going to be culture.
There’s a very thick book that I’ve not made it all the way through but I’ve listened to the CD’s, by Randy Alcorn, on heaven. It was on my nightstand and he read, in preparation, a hundred and fifty books in the last two hundred years on heaven.
Then read through scripture and then wrote this book on heaven. And what I think he does and some would criticize him for maybe doing it too much, but what I think he does is he takes this ethereal concept of most Christians that have never studied heaven and gets it to a concrete reality of, it’s a real place with real people that the present heaven and the present earth go away and there’s a new heaven and there are actually time and space and reality and bodies and culture and music and jobs…and I think full court basketball. I’m just thinking, you know? And fun. And that anything we’ve ever tasted that we go, oh wow, this is awesome. That heaven’s a real, concrete place where things that you wish you would have done, you get to do. Things you wish you could have learned.
And you learn continually. God is infinite. See, our God is so small and we’ve got these phony little pictures of God and angels and there’s always smoke around and they’re on clouds. That’s not it.
The new heaven is going to be a very, very real place. It is a return back to God’s original plan for Adam and Eve except better. With bodies that are like a resurrected Christ the way Jesus had, and connections and depth and intimacy and purpose.
The only way I can get my mind around it is with metaphors. It’s where there’s community. Some of you have had some of those little windows, if you’re married or with a really, really best friend where you share at such a deep level and there’s such a connection in your soul that even when you’ve messed up, you’re super accepted and loved by them.
Those times as a family when maybe something happens - often it’s in a tragedy or something really great. And there’s this deep, deep connection where no one cares about how you’re coming off and the real you shows up. You meet real needs for the right reason.
For some of us who have been on a team where you worked all year for something and you lay everything aside and there was this window, this moment, this season of everyone doing their part and it was like, whoa!
The metaphors are it’s a banquet. It’s a marriage. It’s a honeymoon. It’s a celebration. It’s a party. It’s like a best family reunion. It’s like an adventure. It’s discovering. It’s purpose. It’s fulfillment. It’s the long awaited end to the journey. That is heaven. And it’s a gift.
God wants it for every single person. It is not his desire that any should perish but that all would come to a knowledge of the truth. But they need to hear the message. And maybe more, they need to see the message from people like us.
Well, that’s an overview of what heaven’s like and I don’t know about you but it’s exciting. And I will tell you, most of my Christian life, I wasn’t excited about going to heaven because I never studied it. If you wondered in these notes why I have verse after verse after verse after verse after verse after verse is, I would like you to do a Bible study.
You hearing me talk about what I think heaven’s like, from scripture, is like a little drop. You looking up those verses and the Spirit of God taking those verses and making them alive in your spirit will be like a drink of water.
And you know what? The early Church and some people in Third World countries - they hung on in suffering and difficulty and pain and injustice and persecution and for some of us, through cancer and being walked out on. And they hung on because of the hope and the hope in scripture, the eternal hope is heaven.
It’s the anchor of your soul. No person, no relationship, no success, no money, no fame, nothing anywhere can hold you up inside when everything gets removed and God says, I’ve given you an eternal anchor to your soul called heaven and it’s real. Think about it. Ponder it. Believe it.
Hell, what’s it like? Well, God is not there. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 says, 9 “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might
It’s a place of punishment and torment, of varying degrees of punishment. It’s described as outer darkness, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth and it’s forever. It’s a place of isolation.
If you’re ever in prison and we had a young man here that was & he was just delightful. He has completed four years of his six year prison term and he gets now a six hour pass per month. He came last night and he got to come to the morning session, and he told me what his life was like as a heroin addict and everything that the world could offer, with tears coming down his face. He said, “You know, coming here and being around Christians and being on this campus and hearing God’s Word and what God has done to change my life”, he said, “these one or two hours is better than the last twelve years”.
See, those who have suffered much love much because they realize where they’ve been. It’s not God’s will that we would have to suffer but we ought to learn from that from other people.
But solitary confinement is just the most hellish experience I think you could have on this earth. And they do it in prisons and they do it in war and they do it as punishment because it’s dark, it’s isolated, it’s alone.
The metaphors for hell are: a great divorce, a separation, a loss. The idea of burning flames has to do with pain that continues and utter darkness. There are no friends. There’s no encouragement. There are no good ol’ boys. There’s sorrow and weeping. There’s loss.
There’s wailing and gnashing of teeth. You’ve all gnashed teeth at least once. Some of these phrases you think, what’s this really mean? There’s gnashing of teeth. Everyone’s been in school right? At least high school, somewhere? Here’s gnashing of teeth. It’s a bad illustration but you’ll get what gnashing of teeth means. You really, really, really studied. I mean, you have got to do good on this one test, right? For some of us, we wanted to keep playing sports or some of you wanted to make the honor roll or whatever but you really had to get it. And it was a really hard class. So you studied and studied and studied and studied and studied and studied. Then you’re there and taking the test - and, oh, I know this one. I know this one. And then, it’s A, B, or C. It’s either A or C. It’s A or C. It’s A or C. Hmm. Hmmm. A or C. A or C. A or C. I think it’s A. Maybe C. A. Okay, it’s A.
Then you walk out. And what do you do? You go to your locker, you go to your desk. You pull it out, you open it up. It’s C! Right? That’s the gnashing of teeth.
The gnashing of teeth is - I had a chance to go with the group, I told them I wasn’t going to go and then I decided I was going to go and I got there forty-five seconds late and the train is pulling out and there are all my friends and I’m sitting here alone. I’m gnashing teeth.
I wanted this relationship and I heard about Christ and I knew about his love and I kept saying maybe later, maybe later, maybe later. And it’s, you know what? It’s every, the bus is toward heaven. And you’re not on it. It’s gnashing of teeth.
And they’ll be fully aware. No one will ever be in hell and claim that God was unfair. Part of the judgment, everyone will see, God is just. Justice means you get recompensed -justly and rightly for what you have done both good and evil.
People, there’ll be no more denial, no more accusing, no more blaming. We will be stripped naked, soul, body, everything and we will see ourselves for who we are.
We’ll see the extreme selfishness and self-focus and motives that we even thought were pretty good. They’ll be stripped away and we will realize the greatness of the mercy and the grace of God as we enter the portals of heaven.
Those who’ve stiff-armed God and He says, I so honor your decision to reject me that I will give you now the extended capacity to stay away from me forever in a place. Hell is created because God so values the choices He allows us to make.
There can be no legitimate love unless a person can make a choice. As C.S. Lewis says, if you don’t have the opportunity to say yes or no, the choice wasn’t valid. How could a loving God ever cast people into this fiery hell? That is a complete misconception. It is God’s heart’s desire, creation screams of the mercy and the eternality and the love of God. God is wooing our conscience. Romans chapter 2 is telling all of us all the time when we’re moving in ways that are in a wrong direction.
God says, anytime people would pursue Him, seek Me, you’ll always find Me. Hell is a place of gnashing of teeth, where you miss the last train, you took the wrong turn, you made the big decision and you knew it was wrong, and then you beat yourself up forever and ever and ever.
I remember talking with one guy and he was being macho and callous he goes, I don’t know, I’ve been living like hell anyway I might as well go there. You know? I said, bud, you need to understand, you can’t drink Coors Light and put your feet up and watch football and slap each other on the back in hell.
There’s no Coors Light. There’s no football. And there’s no TV. Okay? You need to get real with what it means to be isolated and separated from all goodness and all light forever and ever. And what I need to do is come to grips with how real that is. Over and against how cowardly I often am at crossing a social barrier to make someone feel a little uncomfortable to ask them about their genuine spiritual state.
How many people know us and have no idea of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is because we’ve never told them? If hell’s real, we better wake up. And if heaven’s real, how could we keep it from the people that we care about?
Finally, I’d like to build on the case rather than avoid it but there must be a hell and why God created it. First, it’s man’s dignity and freedom that demands a hell. I just alluded to it. Long time agnostic, C.S. Lewis builds his case that unless you can make the decision there is no dignity and there is no freedom.
The second reason there needs to be a hell is God’s holiness and justice demand a hell. We all say, oh that’s so unfair. Well, let me play it out this way. Imagine, this is a little grotesque ladies, but I want you to imagine - please come to your mind the top two people or three that you love the most on all the earth. Quickly in your mind.
Could be a brother or sister, mom, dad, wife, husband. Okay, you got it? The top three people, we’re going to put them here. One, two, three. They’re standing up, right there. Okay?
We’re just in this room, we’re talking about God, we’re talking about why we believe, then BANG! The door opens, a guy runs in, he’s got a .45. Boom! Boom! Boom! Those three people are done. There’s blood all over the floor.
Guy goes to court. Trial begins. He said, you know something? I feel really fulfilled when I kill people and who’s to tell me what to do? He says, by the way, I really had a bad day. I got up that morning, my coffee was cold, my wife had a bad attitude, my car wouldn’t start and I just had to get it out somewhere.
The judge says, who am I? Who am I to put you down after having such a rough day? Tell you what - try not to do it again. You’re dismissed.
How many of you are happy with that judge? You can’t live with that, can you? You got those graphic pictures of the people that you love that are gone in pools of blood and this stage. And you demand, there’s got to be justice. That’s not fair! There has to be a place for unrepentant Hitler’s and Stalin’s and Idi Amin’s, and child molesters.
There has to be a place for arrogant, religious, self-righteous phonies who have stiff-armed God and ruined people’s lives and taken their money in the name of Christ. See, God’s holiness and justice demand a hell.
Sin’s seriousness demands a hell. I don’t know, and please forgive me, but in my earlier days prior to coming to Christ, I really liked to gamble. Okay? At about seventeen or eighteen, maybe sixteen, I went to my first horse race and I bet on a quinella and I put three dollars down and came home with a hundred and eight and I thought…this is really fun.
So, then I ended up playing poker on Friday nights, and went to the horse races on Tuesday and Friday and anyway, a long story short, I learned, even before I became a Christian when three very large football players that I owed money to were chasing me and I was hiding in bathrooms not to get beat up, that gambling is not for me.
I probably don’t have a good personality. But, I like to play cards and so, what I want you to know is, from experience, having done this with my family. There were times where we went up to a cabin, we got a big bag of M&Ms with peanuts, and we played poker.
You know, the red one’s here and the yellow one’s here and the blue one’s there and they don’t taste all that good when all your kids have had them in your hands but it’s still fun. I want you to know how you play your cards when they’re for M&Ms and how you play your cards when it’s for real money is a really different game.
And see, sin is very serious and if it’s not, then we whitewash it and, oh, we’re sorry. Everything will be okay - someday, someway. But God says that He is absolutely holy and sin violates what He’s created.
That’s why when the planet gets abused, when a child gets abused, when people treat one another unjustly, when people treat people on the basis of how they look or their race or their background or their socioeconomic status and he sees people used and abused, it violates the perfection and the goodness and the love and that sin is serious. It’s real serious.
Finally, evil’s defeat demands a hell. There is a Lucifer, a Satan, a Liar, a blasphemer, a Beelzebub, lots of names. Who rebelled and took a third of the angels and there is a place for him to be separated in judgment forever.
So, what have we said? We said, there are seven evidences that make a pretty good case that after you die something’s going to happen.
We’ve said four summary statements that when you die, what happens? Well, you immediately have conscious reality of wherever you are. We said that everyone is going to be resurrected. So everyone’s going to live forever. We said, everyone, depending on what they choose to trust or reject, the offer of Christ will have an extended capacity to enjoy their deepest yearning and longings forever and ever and ever. And the judge will be Jesus.
We said that everyone has one of two destinations. - Heaven or hell. And then we said that heaven’s a pretty wonderful place and hell’s a terrifying place. Let me ask you. Are you absolutely certain as you sit in your chair right now that if you had a massive heart attack as you stood up to leave and your heart stop and your brainwaves stopped, that you would immediately, consciously, enter into the presence of Christ?
If so, I would just thank God today for how wonderful that is. And if not, right in your chair, right now, I would say, dear God, I’ve never seen it quite this clearly before. I want to admit to You that I’ve been grading on the curve. I’ve compared myself to others that aren’t near as good as me.
But if one hundred points is what it takes to have a relationship with a holy God, I need help. I’ve missed the mark. I’ve sinned. And so right now, on this day, here’s what you could pray. Jesus, will You forgive me for my sin. I want You to know, I’m trusting in Your death on the cross for me and Your resurrection to pay for my sin right now. Will You come into my life?
If you sincerely pray that to the God of heaven based on the work of his son Jesus, He will forgive you of all your sins. He will make you his son or daughter, His Spirit will take up residence in your body and you will begin eternal life today.