WHAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW
Dear Christian friends,
A congregation was about to dedicate its new sanctuary. A reporter from the local newspaper was interviewing the pastor before the big day. The reporter asked, “What do you do here at your church? What are the goals that you have for your church?” I don’t know if the pastor was quoted correctly or not, but the pastor went into a very long dissertation on the social ministry that was going on there. They were involved in all kinds of charities and helping the needy. I don’t want to criticize that at all, but what was not mentioned in the article was what was striking. Maybe it was omitted because the reporter thought it was not that important. Nothing was said like, “Hey, we preach Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
Have you looked at the Constitution of Messiah Lutheran Church lately? I am sure it is at the top of the reading list you have. The objectives and goals of Messiah are the following:
1) To proclaim the law and the gospel, to lead sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for life and salvation;
2) To strengthen believers in faith and sanctification through the means of grace;
3) To equip believers as disciples, stewards and witnesses for sharing the gospel of Jesus with our fellow men.
We do want to make it clear that while we want to love and help people, the best thing we can do is to proclaim Jesus Christ. We can fill people’s stomachs and put clothes on their backs, but full stomachs and being clothed does get anyone into heaven. Only faith in Jesus Christ guarantees that.
As I close my ministry here at Messiah, I am going out with my guns blazing. We are going to talk about what this church and every church needs to be doing above everything else– sharing Jesus. What Does Everyone Need to Know? 1) There is a hell; and 2) There is a heaven
To teach there is a hell is not popular in this days of political correctness. But there is a hell. The teaching of hell is clearly found in the Scriptures. Many people who consider themselves religious try to avoid speaking on the subject. People may claim to be mainline Christians but believe in universalism that says that everyone will be going to heaven if they believe or don’t believe in Jesus. But be clear on this: that is not the teaching of the Bible. That is not the teaching of Jesus Christ.
It is not easy to teach about hell, 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, you call Jesus a liar. If there is no hell then Jesus can’t be the Savior.
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. His love is there.
Yet God is also a God who is perfect in all of his attributes. Love isn’t the only attribute that God has. Holiness and justice are also attributes. Jesus had to live a holy life and die by taking all the sins of the world upon himself because he is perfectly holy and perfectly just. That’s the very reason Jesus had to die. God’s justice was met in him.
I am convinced that people don’t think that through. Maybe it is wishing over knowing what the Bible says, or maybe just not knowing what Jesus said. But people say some really foolish things. I have heard a man once say he wanted to go to hell because that’s where the party is. Fools!
The Savior said that hell is a place reserved for the Devil and his angels and all who 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. Party? Weeping means there will be nothing but despair that will never end. Gnashing of teeth says there will be much pain and raging fury. To worsen it all, is that all will know it could have been different.
The torment will have no relief. A drop of water on the tip of the finger was denied the rich man who died and went to hell. The Bible calls hell a place of unquenchable fires 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. I have seen cancer patients. It is lingers and eats away long enough that loved ones pray that the Lord would end it. In hell there is no ending. People will want to die but can’t. Hey, that’s the party place!
Why did God reveal these things to us? To fascinate us? To satisfy our curiosity? It’s a warning! The great church father, St. Augustine, was once asked the question, “Where is hell?” 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 why do we witness? Because people need to know there is a hell to escape.
The Lord teaches the truth that there is heaven. He also tells us the way there. All kinds of people believe all kinds of things about what is next. The ancient Greeks called what was next the Elysium fields – the abode of the blessed after death. The Teutons of Northern Europe called it Valhalla where the great heroes went who were slain in battle. The Buddhists, after endless reincarnations, call it Nirvana where they say they are free from pain and oblivious to suffering. But not one of them present someone who came from there to live here like Jesus does. “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, the great hero of faith.
When I served on a committee for our church body, there was a pastor whom I got to know. We had the same seats beside each other. Over a period of time I knew him, his wife contracted cancer. She was only in her thirties at the time. Finally she succumbed leaving behind kids who young kids whom humanly speaking needed their mother. Pastor wrote about the moment she died. “Then about 4:10 pm this afternoon I saw a wonderful transformation. As I called all to her bed we saw Kris’s 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 she 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. And 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. The infrastructure is perfect and will remain so. 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 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. What are you going to do about it?