GOD ANSWERS DOUBTS-"IS THERE REALLY A FINAL JUDGMENT?"
Dear Christian friends,
I met someone for breakfast who wanted to know more about our church. We met at the bagel place down at the end of the street. If you have been there, the seating is an open space with tables next to each other. There are no booths. So conversations can spill over to other tables.
As we were being seated, a man came in probably around fifty wearing a‘t’ shirt. It read on the front: Heaven? Hell? You die and that’s it!” I understand that to be a statement that there is no heaven or hell. You die and that’s all she wrote.
I knew we were going to be talking about Jesus. If this man had been seated first, I would have tried to find a table next to him. It would have been fun to have our Jesus conversation spill over to him. I would have been interested to see how he would have reacted.
Judging from the ‘T’ shirt he was wearing, it would appear that others are interested in wearing the same thing. In other words, there is a market for skeptics and doubters when it comes to the final day of the world.
As we find ourselves in the last days of the church year, our attention on the church calendar focuses on the last times. Today is Last Judgment Sunday. As we are coming to the end of the sermon series of Jesus Answers Doubts, one doubt that people have is “Is There a Final Judgment?” Jesus tells us there is a final judgment and a final destination. Jesus tells us 1) There is a hell; 2) there is a heaven.
To teach there is a hell is not popular or politically correct. But it is the truth. The teaching of hell is clearly found in the Scriptures but many religious leaders try to avoid speaking of the subject. Far too many people are biblically illiterate so they don’t see that it is clearly taught.
Some teach and believe in universalism which does away with hell since universalism teaches that everyone is going to heaven if they believe or if they don’t believe. But be clear on this: that is not the teaching of the Bible; that is not the teaching of Jesus Christ.
Believe me when I say that teaching about hell is not an easy subject for the pastor, but wishing that it doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. A flat tire on a car doesn’t go away just because you wish that it would. Cancer doesn’t go away just because you wish that it would. Wishing hell didn’t exist doesn’t change the truth that it exists. In fact, if you eliminate hell, then you call Jesus a liar and merely a deceiving fanatic.
Jesus says it clearly here in this story that there is a hell, doesn’t he? He says it elsewhere too. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus referenced hell twice, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.” A few verses later he speaks about the eye that loves to see things that God forbids us to see. He says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Again to deny the existence of hell is to call Jesus Christ a liar.
One of the objections raised to the doctrine that God would punish someone eternally in hell seems to be inconsistent with the love of God. How can a loving God condemn someone to unending punishment in hell? What we need to remember is that God is a God of love. He has provided a way out of that eternal punishment in the suffering and death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Yet God is also a God who is perfect in all of his attributes. Holiness and justice are also attributes. Those who reject him and his expression of love in Christ will be punished. That’s God’s perfect justice.
Many thumb their noses at the reality of hell. I heard a man once say he wanted to go to hell because he said that is where the party is. I wonder what kind of party he is expecting!
The Savior has said that hell is a place reserved for the Devil and his angels and all that reject Jesus. He tells us that on the last day he will say to the unbeliever, “Depart from Me you who are cursed into eternal fires prepared for the devil and his angels.” That means a forever banishment from the Lord. Jesus says that hell “is outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Weeping intimates there will be nothing but despair that will never end. Gnashing of teeth means there will be much pain and raging fury. Think about how the hell dweller’s suffering will be intensified by the fact that believers will be in heaven and they will know it. The rich man knew where Lazarus was. Jesus referred to this fact when he was apparently speaking to some unbelievers, “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”
The torment will have no relief. A drop of water was denied the rich man who died and went to hell. The Bible calls hell a place of unquenchable firs and everlasting destruction. Besides all that, there is a passage that helps me understand it some and makes shivers go up and down my spine. Isaiah describes hell as a place where “their worm does not die.” They are despicable like a worm and it cannot die. Cancer lingers and eats away long enough to move people to pray that the person’s life would be taken. In hell people want to die and quit but can’t. Their worm will not die. Hey, that’s the place where there will be a party???
Why did God reveal these things to us? To fascinate us? To satisfy our curiosity? For some I am sure it means exactly that. But God warns us about things like hell so we flee. He warns us because he wants us to see why the escape plan needs to be taken seriously. The late great church father, St. Augustine was once asked the question, “Where is hell?” Because the person who asked the question was quite serious, St. Augustine gave him this reply, “Don’t speculate on what God has not revealed rather consider how you may escape the torments of hell.” A good and wise principle to live by for yourself and others. So is there a final judgment? Yes, the place prepared for the devil and all who thumbed their nose at Jesus Christ.
But God be praised that we have the news of a heaven and the news on how to get there. People from all kinds of nations have always thought there to be a blissful, peaceful place beyond the grave. The ancient Greeks called the Elysium fields – the abode of the blessed after death. The Teutons of northern Europe called it Valhalla where the great heroes who were slain in battle went. The Buddhists after endless reincarnations call it “Nirvana” where they say they are free from pain and oblivious to suffering. But every false and pagan religion does not have a single one who came from their bliss to live here. We do – Jesus the Christ. On the Eve of his death he said to the world, “In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Take a look at Luke 16. We see poor wretched Lazarus but he was blessed in heaven beyond understanding. He was taken to Abraham’s side. He met the great heroes of faith and so will we. I kept an email sent to me by someone years ago. He was a pastor whose wife had passed away far too early in her life. “Then about 4:10 pm this afternoon I saw a wonderful transformation. As I called all to her bed we saw Kris’ face begin to lighten. It was as if it were smoothing out and then her eyes opened wide and her breathing became very calm. And then it was as if we saw the Lord open the door to heaven and say to her, “Enough my child. You have suffered enough. Your journey is over. Look, I am opening the door to heaven. Come on in – here, you are so weak, but let me carry you through the door and look around you. Look at the glory I have prepared for you. Look, here is your room that I have prepared. Over there – do you see them, there is your father Paul, and your sisters, Mary and Jill, there is Norma and Orv and Lois and all the other loved ones. There is Abraham and Moses but most importantly, there is your heavenly Father. Go ahead, he is waiting for you – Go climb up on his lap and let him give you the hug of eternity.”
What will heaven be like specifically? St Paul answers that best when he was taken into the third heaven and given a sneak preview. He said that he saw “inexpressible things that man is not permitted to tell.” No human words can describe heaven.
Heaven will not have certain things and institutions that we have on earth. No one will be married in heaven. There will no longer be any nationalities or races that divide people as they do today. We will be one people. Heaven won’t have any government. No need to pay taxes. In fact, we had better get at mission work her and now because it won’t be needed in heaven. Everyone will know Jesus there. The book of Revelation says that all believers will stand "before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Like a little girl said to her Dad walking under a starry sky, “Daddy, if heaven is so beautiful on the wrong side, think what it must be like on the right side.”
This is why we witness. Every person we could possibly know, every person we can ever meet can get there by knowing that Jesus won the way by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. Jesus himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Peter said, “There’s no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
There are thousands, millions, billions that don’t know this. There are Moms and Dads, there are husbands and wives, sons and daughters; there are plenty of people we know that don’t know that Jesus died for them too. That’s what you must see and why you and I must speak up. There is a heaven and there is a hell. But God gave us Jesus to get to heaven. Share Jesus.