We prepare for everything, don’t we? Well, successful people prepare. I know a little about preparation. I have the spiritual gift of administration. I am very scheduled and very type A.
We could talk about preparing for school, preparing for a job, or a trade, or a trade school. We could talk about planning as well. For example, suppose that you want to run a 5k, or a 10k, or a marathon, wouldn’t you prepare? I know this personally as I have ran multiple 10k’s and three marathons. It takes hard work. In fact, two years ago I signed up for the Hall of Fame Marathon and I canceled because I started training again and thought I did not want to do the work. I was running 20 miles straight once a week and 40-50 miles a week. It was cold and snowy. I got done with my late night run one February night and it was about midnight. I sat down on the couch and I was trying to drink juice and replenish to keep my legs from cramping. I was shivering because I was exhausted. I thought, “Why am I doing this?” Then I pulled out. It takes preparation and I did not want to do it.
We will all die at some point. This is serious and it is an event which we must be ready for. We must prepare. Some people prepare by planning their funerals. Some prepare by making sure their affairs are in order, but FEW, too FEW, prepare by repenting and turning their life over to Jesus.
For the Christian, death is not to be feared:
Philip Yancey, Where is God When it Hurts:
Reflect a few moments on this poignant analogy between birth and death:
Each of your individual deaths can be seen as a birth. Imagine what it would be like if you had had full consciousness as a fetus and could now remember those sensations.
Your world is dark, safe, secure. You are bathed in warm liquid, cushioned from shock. You do nothing for yourself; you are fed automatically, and a murmuring heartbeat assures you that someone larger than you fills all your needs. Your life consists of simple waiting— you’re not sure what to wait for, but any change seems far away and scary. You meet no sharp objects, no pain, no threatening adventures. A fine existence.
One day you feel a tug. The walls are falling in on you. Those soft cushions are now pulsing and beating against you, crushing you downwards. Your body is bent double, your limbs twisted and wrenched. You’re falling upside down. For the first time in your life, you feel pain. You’re in a sea of roiling matter. There is more pressure, almost too intense to bear. You’re head is squeezed flat, and you’re pushed harder, harder into a dark tunnel. Oh, the pain. Noise. More pressure.
You hurt all over. You hear a groaning sound and an awful sudden fear rushes in on you. It is happening— your world is collapsing. You’re sure it’s the end. You see a piercing, blinding light. Cold, rough hands pull at you. A painful slap. Waaaahhhh!
Congratulations, you have just been born.
Death is like that. On this end of the birth canal, it seems fiercesome, portentous, and full of pain. Death is a scary tunnel and we are being sucked toward it by a powerful force.
We must be ready.
Today, I want to talk about hell and heaven.
Hell is real and so is Heaven and Heaven is free.
My purpose is to explain the reality of Heaven and hell and challenge you to share the Gospel.
As we start this sermon think about our broader series. We have been talking about the Study of God.
Let’s read a passage about Heaven:
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.
18 “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing
And her people for gladness.
- Hell is consistent with our Theology of salvation and Theology Proper, which is Theology of the character of God.
- You cannot take apart the Biblical view of hell without taking apart theology. Period. YOU CANNOT DO THIS.
- Taking apart our view of hell changes:
- The Truth of a Holy and righteous God.
- The Truth of a loving God who hates sin. There is sin because He is Holy and righteous. There is sin because He loves us and sin hurts God and people.
- The Truth about God’s wrath.
- The Truth about humanity needed blood to atone for sin.
- Taking apart our view of hell changes the Biblical view of:
- Atonement: Jesus’ blood repaired our sin problem, Jesus’ blood satisfied God’s wrath. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice.
- Propitiation: Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross appeased God’s wrath and reconciled us to God.
- Redemption: we need a redemption. We needed redeemed, which carries the idea of being bought out of our sin problem.
- Justification: This is a legal term which carries the idea of being declared righteous. God sees Jesus’ righteousness in us. 2 Corinthians 5:21: He made Him who knew no sin to besin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
- Sanctification, that is, when we are saved we are being set apart for God’s glory and we are set apart for God’s glory.
- Sin: The Bible teaches that we sin against God. Psalm 51:4: Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.
- This means that we need atonement, propitiation, redemption, justification, sanctification.
- This means that if we alter the Biblical view of hell we alter the Biblical idea of the Holiness of God.
- Either God is not holy or we are not sinful.
- We are sinful and God is holy; therefore, we need a sacrifice for our sins, or there is hell to be paid.
- So, compromising the Biblical view of hell is illogical. It lacks logic. It lacks reasoning.
- All of these Theological teachings fit logically together.
- Creation: we were created good.
- Fall: we fell from God’s grace through sin.
- Redemption: Jesus is our redeemer.
- Consummation: someday God will make things right.
- Hell exists because we sin against a Holy God. This is consistent with the Bible.
- Hell, let’s talk about this place for another minute.
- The Old Testament doesn’t talk much about hell, at least to the point to develop a pattern of thinking on this topic. Sometimes in the Old Testament you will see the term sheol. This word simply means “the realm of the dead.” Dr. Ben Witherington writes:
- For example, in 1 Samuel 28 we hear about Samuel’s shade or spirit being called up from Sheol to be consulted by the medium of Endor. Samuel is none too pleased about the summons, but he is not depicted as having been in either heaven or hell. He is simply in the land of the dead. This concept of Sheol continued on well into the New Testament era, and may well represent what Paul believes about where people have gone who have died, but who are not in Christ. For Christians, of course, Paul says ‘to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5).” The New Testament idea of hades is comparable to sheol and is the temporary place of the dead.
- The actual idea of hell is not until after the final judgment. (2 Corinthians 5 Bema seat)
- There is a hell written about in the New Testament and Jesus is perhaps the one most clear about this. Jesus calls it Gehenna, and he compares it to a stinky garbage dump in the Hinnom Valley south of the City of David, and like a garbage dump it’s where the worm does not die and the fire never goes out. And there are people expected by Jesus to go there, as the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus shows in Luke 16. Granted, this is a parable, which is an extended metaphor, but it is surely referential, and it indicates the rich man is in an unpleasant place and there is no remedy. There is an unalterable divide between the bosom of Abraham and the place where the rich man currently resides in the afterlife. The parable teaches that how we live in this life has consequences for where we end up in the afterlife, and this must be taken seriously. I encourage you to read that parable from Luke 16 at a later time.
- Gehenna was a place in the Old Testament where people would sacrifice to false gods, even sacrifice children.
- Listen to what one source tells me:
- The worship of Molech in which infants were sacrificed in fire to the god Molech also occurred in the Valley of Hinnom (2 Kings 16:3; 17:7; 21:6). Jeremiah announced the Valley of Hinnom would be the place of God’s judgment (Jer. 7:32; 19:6). The valley also became the place where refuse and dead bodies of animals and criminals were burned. As a result, gehenna became synonymous with eternal punishment, the fire of hell. It describes the punishment connected with the final judgment, a punishment that has eternal duration, not annihilation (Matt. 23:15, 33; 25:41, 46).
- In the New Testament it was a garbage dump and that is the image Jesus gave for hell.
- Within the Bible there are several references about hell which are metaphors. It is really hard to talk about as an actual place. We do know that it is a place of terrible torment and a place of absence from God.
- Absence from God in and of itself will cause hell. Now, God is not literally absent. The Bible teaches that God is everywhere. But with hell, God chooses to keep His presence absent. We have never seen a place without God’s presence. The world is anti-God, but there is still some amount of God’s common grace. God has given even the worst of people some amount of consciousness and goodness. However, in hell, God is absent.
- Hell is a terrible place to think about. It is probably good for us all to think about it occasionally in order to motivate us towards evangelism.
- There are natural consequences for things. If I walk out a fifth story window, what will happen? I will fall and hit the ground. Why is that? This is because of the law of gravity. The Bible talks about God in a way that we give God human attributes. This doesn’t mean that God’s wrath is just like human wrath, not at all. But there are certain natural repercussions for sin. The repercussion is the wrath of God. This repercussion happens just like gravity works.
- Now, let’s talk about Heaven. We can all go to Heaven by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, Jesus took the wrath of God.
- What is Heaven like?
- Heaven is a real place. Too often people think it is only spiritual and so they really do not look forward to it.
- If things in Heaven are only spiritual then why does God use so many material objects to illustrate what we’ll have in Heaven, like “house, dwelling, clothed, rooms (John 14), white robes (Revelation 6:10-11), rivers, gardens, and the tree of life in Heaven. (Revelation 2:7; 22:2) refers to the SAME Tree of Life that was physical in the Garden of Eden in (Genesis 2:9).
- Randy Alcorn writes: Christoplatonism: Plato was “the first Western philosopher to claim that reality is fundamentally something ideal or abstract.” “For Plato . . . the body is a hindrance, as it opposes and even imprisons the soul (Phaedo 65– 68; 91– 94).”
- But according to Scripture, our bodies aren’t just shells for our spirits to inhabit; they’re a good and essential aspect of our being. Likewise, the earth is not a second-rate location from which we must be delivered. Rather, it was handmade by God for us. Earth, not some incorporeal state, is God’s choice as mankind’s original and ultimate dwelling place.
- To distinguish the version of Platonism seen among Christians from secular forms of Platonism, I’ve [Randy Alcorn] coined the term Christoplatonism. This philosophy has blended elements of Platonism with Christianity, and in so doing has poisoned Christianity and blunted its distinct differences from Eastern religions. Because appeals to Christoplatonism appear to take the spiritual high ground, attempts to refute this false philosophy often appear to be materialistic, hedonistic, or worldly.
- But Heaven is a real place. Jesus reminded His disciples to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9).
- Desire Heaven: in 2 Corinthians 12 we see that Paul had been to Heaven and he wanted to go back.
- 2 Corinthians 5:8: we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
- Colossians 3:1-2: Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
As a final application, believe the Gospel and share the Gospel.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation…
1 Corinthians 9:16b:
…for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.
This world is all the hell that a true Christian is to ever endure, and it is all the Heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy! Jonathan Edwards
General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, once told his students, If I had my choice, I wouldn’t send you to school, I’d send you to Hell for five minutes, and you’d come back real soul winners.
Last week we had prayer cards in the bulletin. They are in there today as well. These cards were for you to write names down of unsaved family or friends. We now want you to come to the alters and place those cards in this box. We will collectively pray for all the names in the box. The first step in reaching people with Jesus is to pray for them. We will keep praying for the names in this box. No one will open the box and see the names, but God knows the names. Now, when one of those you listed comes to know Jesus as Lord and Savior we will then open the box and take that card out and we will rejoice.
In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
2 Peter 3:9:
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Do you know Christ?
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)
 Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Pages 144-145. Philip Yancey, Where Is God When Life Hurts
 Enns, P. P. (1997). The Moody handbook of theology (375). Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press.
 Rick Sams’ sermon on Heaven
 Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 8723-8724). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.
 From a sermon by Gerald Flury, What Made John the Baptist Great? 12/12/2009)