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Posts tagged ‘heaven’

Is Heaven Worth It?

SOURCE:  Simon Goulart/Tollelege

“God is the fountain of all good things”

“The eternal and blessed life with God in heaven, accompanied by rest and unspeakable glory, is the goal of the faith of Christians.

This is the harbor of their hope, the refuge of all their desires, the crown of their consolation that they will certainly enjoy, having escaped from the travails of this miserable and fleeting earthly life, indeed, from death itself.

They will receive in heaven glorified bodies, healed of all evils, no longer afflicted by sin, ignorance, errors, illness, sadness, worry, fear, anguish, or enemies.

They will be delivered from all pain and suffering.

They will enjoy fully and completely the Lord their God, the fountain and inexhaustible treasure of all good things, who will pour out on them all His goodness, His infinite joy, with which He will satisfy all their thoughts and desires.

They will see Him and contemplate Him face-to-face, without any clouds to obscure Him.

They will learn of God’s wisdom with regard to the creation and redemption of His elect by means of Jesus Christ, and the reasons for all His all-powerful and wondrous works.

The eternal Father will disclose His burning and unspeakable love for them, which He demonstrated by sending His Son into the world to draw them from death into eternal life.

His children will be moved by His gracious work, filled with wonder, contentment, and ineffable delight, and will love their heavenly Father with a burning love, submitting themselves fully to His wisdom with eager joy.

And they will submit to Him as their only sovereign and greatest good. And they will rejoice with continuous joy in His presence, magnifying His glory, singing of His goodness along with the holy Angels and the entire Church triumphant.

There they will see Jesus Christ, the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Apostles, and all the faithful who have preceded them, including their family members and friends who died in repentance and faith.

This entire company together, with one heart and voice, will recall the goodness and infinite blessings God has shown them, celebrating with songs of thanksgiving the praises of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thus eternal life is the end and fulfillment of all good things for which God has purchased us through His Son.

This is the goal on which our gaze should be fixed throughout our earthly pilgrimage.

This is the treasure that we should unceasingly desire.

This is the hour and the blessing to which all the plans and efforts of our lives should be inclined.

This is our true country, our permanent city, in which our citizenship has been acquired by the merit of the death of Jesus Christ.

This is the home that we long for, amidst the banishments, the weariness, the dangerous fears of this valley of misery and the shadow of death.

This is the safe refuge and the beautiful harbor toward which we sail amidst so many waves and storms that constantly trouble the world.

This is the blessed land where we will dwell by means of death.”

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–Simon Goulart, Christian Discourses XXVIII, 322-327. As quoted in Scott M. Manetsch, Calvin’s Company of Pastors: Pastoral Care and the Emerging Reformed Church, 1536-1609 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 297-298.

“Choose life”

SOURCE:  Jonathan Edwards as posted by Tolle Lege

“What a vast difference is there between the death of a child of the devil and a child of God!

The one leaves all his troubles and afflictions behind him, never to feel them more; the other, he leaves all his pleasures behind him, all the pleasure that ever he will enjoy while God endures.

The one leaves all his temptations forever, but the other instead of that falls into the hands of the tempter, not to be tempted but to be tormented by him.

The one is perfectly delivered from all remainders of corruption; the other, he carries all that vast load of sin, made up of original sin, natural corruption, and actual sins, into hell with him, and there the guilt of them breaks forth in the conscience and burns and scorches him as flames of hell within.

The filthiness of sin will then appear and be laid open before the world to his eternal shame. Death to the true Christian is an entrance into eternal pleasures and unspeakable joys, but the death of a sinner is his entrance into never-ending miseries. This world is all the hell that ever a true Christian is to endure, and it is all the heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy.

‘Tis a heaven in comparison of the misery of the one, and a hell in comparison of the happiness of the other. The sinner, when he dies, he leaves all his riches and possessions: there is no more money for him to have the pleasure of fingering; there is no more gay apparel for him to be arrayed in, nor proud palace to live in. But the Christian, when he dies, he obtains all his riches, even infinite spiritual, heavenly riches.

At death, the sinner leaves all his honor and enters into eternal disgrace; but the Christian is then invested with his. The one leaves all his friends forever more: when he sees them again at the resurrection, it will be either glorifying God in his justice in damning him, or else like furies ready to tear him.

But the other, he goes to his best friends and will again meet his best earthly friends at the resurrection in glory, full of mutual joy and love. The death of a believer is in order to a more glorious resurrection, but the death of a sinner is but only a faint shadow and preludium of the eternal death the body is to die at the great day and forever more.

So great is the difference between the death of the one and the other, ’tis even as the difference between life and death, between death and a resurrection. Wherefore, now you have both before you—the glorious gainfulness of the death of a Christian, and the dreadfulness of the death of a sinner—or rather you have life and death set before you, to make your choice: therefore, choose life.”

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–Jonathan Edwards, “Dying to Gain” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 10: Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723 (The Works of Jonathan Edwards Series) Ed. Wilson H. Kimnach (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 588-589. Edwards was 19 years old when he preached this sermon.

We Are at War

The Counseling Moment Editor’s Notes:  Yes, as the author of the article below states, “We are at war.”  That is a fact of life this side of heaven.  At the same time, we, who have a personal faith in Christ, are aligned with and belong to the One who has overcome Satan, death, sin, and the world and is the Victor in the war (Rev 3:21). 

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Have you ever wondered why Jesus married those two statements? Did you even know he spoke them at the same time? I mean, he says them in one breath. And he has his reasons.

By all means, God intends life for you. But right now that life is opposed. It doesn’t just roll in on a tray. There is a thief. He comes to steal and kill and destroy. Why won’t we face this? I know so few people who will face this. The offer is life, but you’re going to have to fight for it, because there’s an Enemy in your life with a different agenda.

There is something set against us.

We are at war.

I don’t like that fact any more than you do, but the sooner we come to terms with it, the better hope we have of making it through to the life we do want.

This is not Eden.

You probably figured that out.

This is not Mayberry, this is not Seinfeld’s world, this is not Survivor.

The world in which we live is a combat zone, a violent clash of kingdoms, a bitter struggle unto the death.

I am sorry if I’m the one to break this news to you: you were born into a world at war, and you will live all your days in the midst of a great battle, involving all the forces of heaven and hell and played out here on earth.

Where did you think all this opposition was coming from?

(Waking the Dead , 12-13)

How Can I Truly Know God — Now and Forever?

SOURCE:   Blue Letter Bible

Did you know that you were created to have a loving relationship with God?

He is patiently and lovingly waiting for you to respond to His invitation to salvation.

Yes, you can receive forgiveness for your sins and assurance of eternal life through faith in His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). “Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

You may be asking yourself: “How can I know God?” Man is able to know the true and living God through His Word (that is, the Bible). The Bible reveals God’s character and His plan for mankind. It is through reading His Word that we come to a knowledge of the righteousness of God and that which He requires of us.

What is it that prevents us from personally knowing God? Our sin has separated us from God — our corruption is to such a degree that we cannot know Him personally and cannot experience His love. God’s Word says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Man was created to have fellowship with God, but because of his sin (i.e., anything that is against the righteousness revealed in God’s Law) he is prevented from that fellowship. This includes anything less than perfect obedience to God’s commands.

“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). The ultimate result of this death is an eternity in Hell. This spiritual death forces a separation from God. Man is sinful and God is holy. This creates a gulf unbridgeable by man making that intended fellowship impossible. The only solution is a divine bridge — that bridge is Christ.

God created a way by sending His Son to pay the price for our sin. “God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He died in our place; He who knew no sin became sin for us. This removed our burden of sin and allows us to enter into that desired fellowship if we follow His way.

He is the only way. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

It is not just enough that you know these truths. We must individually place our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It is by repenting of our sins and believing on Christ that we can know God personally and experience His love.

“But as many as receive Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

You can receive Jesus Christ right now by faith. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

If you now believe on God and place your faith in His Son, congratulations — and welcome to His family. We, all being His children, share in a heavenly inheritance! We are heirs to heaven and are promised the eternal pleasure of glorifying God. As our life here on earth progresses, God will continue to work in our hearts. We are daily being conformed to the image of Christ, Himself. We will begin to live lives of righteousness. Obedience to God will not be a burden to us, but rather a joy.

You may wonder, now that you are a Christian, “What now?”

Our greatest recommendation for believers, new and old, is fourfold:

1) find a church so you might hear the preaching of the Word and rejoice in the fellowship of other Christians,

2) study the Bible for that is where we learn of God and His plans,

3) pray to Him to strengthen your faith and increase your love toward Him, and

4) enjoy the blessings given by God in the heavenly ordained sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

All of these will work to encourage and build upon your faith.

Heaven: The Great Beyond

Randy Alcorn answers questions about heaven.

SOURCE:  Kyria/Randy Alcorn

1. When a believer dies, when does she go to heaven?

At death, the human spirit goes either to heaven or hell. Christ depicted Lazarus the beggar and the rich man conscious in heaven and hell immediately after they died (Luke 16:22-31). Jesus told the dying thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The apostle Paul said to die is to be with Christ (Philippians 1:23), and to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

These passages clearly invalidate the notion of “soul sleep,” or a long period of unconsciousness between life on earth and life in heaven. Every reference in the Book of Revelation to humans talking and worshiping in heaven prior to the resurrection of the dead demonstrates we’re conscious after death. Our spirit’s departure from the body ends our existence on earth. The physical part of us “sleeps” until we’re resurrected, while the spiritual part immediately relocates to a conscious existence in heaven (Daniel 12:2-3).

2. Will I know my husband and children in heaven? Will they know me? And why can’t we be married in heaven?

Christ’s disciples recognized him countless times after his resurrection: when he cooked breakfast for them on the shore (John 21:1-14); when he revealed himself to a skeptical Thomas (John 20:24-29); and when he appeared to 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6). And at Christ’s transfiguration, his disciples recognized Moses and Elijah, even though they couldn’t have known what the two men looked like (Luke 9:29-33). If we can recognize those we’ve never seen, how much more will we recognize our family and friends?

Many people misunderstand Matthew 22:30: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” The Bible doesn’t teach no marriage in heaven, but onemarriage, between Christ and us, his bride. Our marriage to Christ will satisfy more than even the most wonderful earthly marriage. Once that ultimate marriage begins at the Lamb’s wedding feast, all human marriages will have served their noble purpose of foreshadowing this one great marriage.

The God who said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), is both the giver and the blesser of our earthly relationships. My wife, Nanci, is my best friend and closest sister in Christ. I’m convinced we’ll be closer in heaven, not more distant. Receiving a glorified body doesn’t erase history; it culminates history. According to 1 Thessalonians 4, we’ll be together with the Lord forever, so we’ll doubtless pick right up in heaven with relationships from earth.

3. If we already go to heaven or hell right after death, why does the Bible teach about another judgment?

When we die, we face the judgment of faith to determine whether we go to heaven or hell. When God judges those who’ve accepted Christ’s atoning death, he sees his Son’s sacrifice for us, not our sin.

But this judgment is different from the final judgment. The Bible indicates all believers will have to give an account of their life (Romans 14:10-122 Corinthians 5:10). Our works don’t affect our salvation, but they do affect our reward (2 Timothy 2:12Revelation 3:21).

Unbelievers also face a final judgment. The Bible says it will come at the Great White Throne, at the end of the old earth and before the beginning of the new (Revelation 20:11-13).

4. I lost my son in a horrible auto accident three years ago. What kind of body does he have in heaven?

My friend David O’Brien is a brilliant man trapped in a body that groans for redemption. His cerebral palsy will disappear the moment he leaves this world for heaven. And at his resurrection, he’ll have a new body forever free of disease. I picture David running through fields on the new earth. I look forward to running beside—and probablybehind—him.

I often think how paraplegics, quadriplegics, and victims of constant pain, physical trauma, violence, or catastrophe will walk, run, jump, and laugh in heaven. Believers now blind will gawk at the new earth’s wonders. The only body we’ve known is a weak, diseased remnant of the body God first designed. But free of sin’s curse, our resurrection body will be restored to its original design and purpose, even more glorious than Adam and Eve’s.

5. When a baby dies, does he remain young, grow up, or mature instantly in heaven?

Bible Answer Man Hank Hanegraaff suggests, “Our DNA is programmed in such a way that, at a particular point, we reach optimal development from a functional perspective. For the most part, it appears that we reach this stage somewhere in our 20s and 30s. … If the blueprints for our glorified bodies are in the DNA, then it would stand to reason that our bodies will be resurrected at the optimal stage of development determined by our DNA.”

This hypothesis doesn’t necessarily mean children who die won’t be children in heaven. Isaiah 11:6-9 speaks of a place, presumably the new earth, where “the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. … The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain.” Is it possible that after they’re resurrected, children will be at the same developmental level as when they died?

If so, these children would likely grow up on the new earth. Such a childhood would be enviable! Although I’m speculating, I believe parents whose hearts broke at the death of their children not only might reunite with them, but might also experience the joy of seeing them grow up … in a perfect world.

6. Are our loved ones aware of what’s happening on earth?

The Bible makes evident heaven’s inhabitants see, to some extent, what’s happening on earth. When Babylon is taken down, an angel points to events occurring on earth and says, “Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you” (Revelation 18:20). That the angel specifically addresses people living in heaven indicates they’re aware of earthly happenings.

Hebrews 12:1, in telling us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” creates the mental picture of Greek competitions that attracted throngs of engrossed fans who watched intently high up in stadiums. The “great cloud of witnesses” refers to saints whose previous accomplishments on life’s playing field are now part of our rich history. The imagery suggests those saints, the spiritual “athletes” of old, now watch and cheer us on from the great stadium of heaven that looks down on the field of earth.

“There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Who’s doing this rejoicing in heaven? I believe not only God is rejoicing but also the saints in heaven, who obviously must be aware of what’s happening on earth.

7. Do pets go to heaven?

God created “the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25).

Eden was perfect. But without animals, Eden wouldn’t have been Eden. The new earth is the new Eden—Paradise regained, where the first Adam’s curse is reversed and transformed into the last Adam’s blessing (Romans 5:14-15).

God entrusted animals to us, and our relationship with them is significant. Would God take away from us in heaven what he gave—for delight, companionship, and help—to Adam and Eve in Eden?

Animals aren’t nearly as valuable as people. But God is their maker, and through them he’s touched many people’s lives. On the new earth, he easily could create brand-new animals, re-create old ones, or both. If restoring our pets in the new earth would bring us pleasure, our joy may be all the reason God needs to do so. He’s the giver of all good gifts, not the taker of them.

Christ proclaims from his throne: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5, ESV). He won’t renew just people, but also the earth and “all things” in it. “All things” includes animals. The entire creation will benefit from Christ’s death and resurrection.

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Randy Alcorn is the bestselling author of  Heaven (Tyndale) and founder/director of nonprofit Eternal Perspective Ministries.

God offers: Heaven or Hell; The Choice is Ours

SOURCE:  Max Lucado

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16 NIV

The hero of heaven is God. Angels don’t worship mansions or glittering avenues. Neither gates nor jewels prompt the hosts to sing . . . God does. His majesty stirs the pen of heaven’s poets and the awe of her citizens.

They enjoy an eternity-long answer to David’s prayer: “One thing I ask of the LORD . . . to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD” (Ps. 27:4). What else warrants a look? Inhabitants of heaven forever marvel at the sins God forgives, the promises he keeps, the plan he executes. He’s not the grand marshal of the parade; he is the parade. He’s not the main event; he’s the only event. His Broadway features a single stage and star: himself. He hosts the only production and invites every living soul to attend.

He, at this very moment, issues invitations by the millions. He whispers through the kindness of a grandparent, shouts through the tempest of a tsunami. Through the funeral he cautions, “Life is fragile.” Through a sickness he reminds, “Days are numbered.” God may speak through nature or nurture, majesty or mishap. But through all and to all he invites: “Come, enjoy me forever.”

Yet many people have no desire to do so. They don’t want anything to do with God. He speaks; they cover their ears. He commands; they scoff. They don’t want him telling them how to live. They mock what he says about marriage, money, sex, or the value of human life. They regard his son as a joke and the cross as utter folly.1 They spend their lives telling God to leave them alone. And at the moment of their final breath, he honors their request: “Get away from me, you who do evil. I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23 NCV). This verse escorts us to the most somber of Christian realities: hell.

No topic stirs greater resistance. Who wants to think about eternal punishment? We prefer to casualize the issue, making jokes about its residents or turning the noun into a flippant adjective. “That was a hell of a steak.” Odd that we don’t do the same with lesser tragedies. You never hear “My golf game has gone to prison.” Or “This is an AIDS of a traffic jam.” Seems a conspiracy is afoot to minimize hell.

Some prefer to sanitize the subject, dismissing it as a moral impossibility.

“I do not myself feel that any person,” defied atheist Bertrand Russell, “who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.”2 Or, as is more commonly believed, “A loving God would not send people to hell.” Religious leaders increasingly agree. Martin Marty, a church historian at the University of Chicago Divinity School, canvassed one hundred years of some scholarly journals for entries on hell. He didn’t find one. “Hell,” he observed, “disappeared and no one noticed.”3

Easy to understand why. Hell is a hideous topic. Any person who discusses it glibly or proclaims it gleefully has failed to ponder it deeply. Scripture writers dip pens in gloomy ink to describe its nature. They speak of the “blackest darkness” (Jude 13), “everlasting destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9), “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12).

A glimpse into the pit won’t brighten your day, but it will enlighten your understanding of Jesus. He didn’t avoid the discussion. Quite the contrary. He planted a one-word caution sign between you and hell’s path: perish. “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Jesus spoke of hell often. Thirteen percent of his teachings refer to eternal judgment and hell.4 Two-thirds of his parables relate to resurrection and judgment.5 Jesus wasn’t cruel or capricious, but he was blunt. His candor stuns.

He speaks in tangible terms. “Fear Him,” he warns, “who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28 NKJV). He quotes Hades’s rich man pleading for Lazarus to “dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue” (Luke 16:24 NKJV). Words such as body, finger, and tongue presuppose a physical state in which a throat longs for water and a person begs for relief—physical relief.

The apostles said that Judas Iscariot had gone “to his own place” (Acts 1:25 NASB). The Greek word for place is topos, which means geographical location.6Jesus describes heaven with the same noun: “In My Father’s house are many mansions. . . . I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2 NKJV). Hell, like heaven, is a location, not a state of mind, not a metaphysical dimension of floating spirits, but an actual place populated by physical beings.

Woeful, this thought. God has quarantined a precinct in his vast universe as the depository of the hard-hearted.

Exactly where is hell? Jesus gives one chilling clue: “outside.” “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness” (Matt. 22:13). Outside of what? Outside of the boundaries of heaven, for one thing. Abraham, in paradise, told the rich man, in torment, “Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (Luke 16:26 NKJV). No heaven-to-hell field trips. No hell-to-heaven holiday breaks. Hell is to heaven what the edge of our universe is to earth: outside the range of a commute.

Hell is also outside the realm of conclusion. Oh, that hell’s punishment would end, that God would schedule an execution date. New Testament language leads some godly scholars to believe he will:

Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28 NKJV)

Whoever believes in him shall not perish. (John 3:16)

Destroy. Perish. Don’t such words imply an end to suffering? I wish I could say they do. There is no point on which I’d more gladly be wrong than the eternal duration of hell. If God, on the last day, extinguishes the wicked, I’ll celebrate my misreading of his words. Yet annihilation seems inconsistent with Scripture. God sobers his warnings with eternal language. Consider John’s description of the wicked in Revelation 14:11: “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (ESV). How could the euthanized soul “have no rest, day or night”?

Jesus parallels hell with Gehenna, a rubbish dump outside the southwestern walls of Jerusalem, infamous for its unending smoldering and decay. He employs Gehenna as a word picture of hell, the place where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48 ESV). A deathless worm and quenchless fire—however symbolic these phrases may be—smack of ongoing consumption of something. Jesus speaks of sinners being “thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12). How can a nonexistent person weep or gnash teeth?

Jesus describes the length of heaven and hell with the same adjective: eternal. “They will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46 RSV). Hell lasts as long as heaven. It may have a back door or graduation day, but I haven’t found it.

Much perishes in hell. Hope perishes. Happiness perishes. But the body and soul of the God-deniers continue outside. Outside of heaven, outside of hope, and outside of God’s goodness.

None of us have seen such a blessingless world. Even the vilest precincts of humanity know the grace of God. People who want nothing of God still enjoy his benefits. Adolf Hitler witnessed the wonder of the Alps. Saddam Hussein enjoyed the blushing sunrise of the desert. The dictator, child molester, serial rapist, and drug peddler—all enjoy the common grace of God’s goodness. They hear children laugh, smell dinner cooking, and tap their toes to the rhythm of a good song. They deny God yet enjoy his benevolence.

But these privileges are confiscated at the gateway to hell. Scofflaws will be “shut out from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:9). Hell knows none of heaven’s kindnesses, no overflow of divine perks. The only laughter the unrepentant hear is evil; the only desires they know are selfish. As the Scottish professor James Denney describes it, God-rejecters “pass into a night on which no morning dawns.”7 Hell is society at its worst.

More tragically, hell is individuals at their worst. It surfaces and amplifies the ugliest traits in people. Cravings will go unchecked. Worriers will fret and never find peace. Thieves will steal and never have enough. Drunks always craving, gluttons always demanding. None will be satisfied. Remember: “Their worm does not die” (Mark 9:48 ESV). As one writer put it, “Not only will the unbeliever be in hell, but hell will be in him too.”8

Death freezes the moral compass. People will remain in the fashion they enter. Revelation 22:11 seems to emphasize hell’s unrepentant evil: “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy” (RSV). The God-less remain ungodly.

Hell is not a correctional facility or reform school. Its members hear no admonishing parents, candid sermons, or Spirit of God, no voice of God, no voice of God’s people. Spend a lifetime telling God to be quiet, and he’ll do just that. God honors our request for silence.

Hell is the chosen home of insurrectionists, the Alcatraz of malcontents. Hell is reserved, not for those souls who seek God yet struggle, but for those who defy God and rebel. For those who say about Jesus, “We don’t want this man to be our king” (Luke 19:14). So in history’s highest expression of fairness, God honors their preference. “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live” (Ezek. 33:11). It is not his will that any should perish, but the fact that some do highlights God’s justice. God must punish sin. “Nothing impure will ever enter [heaven], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27). God, inherently holy, must exclude evil from his new universe. God, eternally gracious, never forces his will. He urges mutineers to stay on board but never ties them to the mast. C. S. Lewis wrote, “I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.”9 How could a loving God send sinners to hell? He doesn’t. They volunteer.

Once there, they don’t want to leave. The hearts of damned fools never soften; their minds never change. “Men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory” (Rev. 16:9 NKJV). Contrary to the idea that hell prompts remorse, it doesn’t. It intensifies blasphemy.

Remember the rich man in torment? He could see heaven but didn’t request a transfer. He wanted Lazarus to descend to him. Why not ask if he could join Lazarus? The rich man complained of thirst, not of injustice. He wanted water for the body, not water for the soul. Even the longing for God is a gift from God, and where there is no more of God’s goodness, there is no longing for him. Though every knee shall bow before God and every tongue confess his preeminence (Rom. 14:11), the hard-hearted will do so stubbornly and without worship. There will be no atheists in hell (Phil. 2:10–11), but there will be no God-seekers either.

But still we wonder, is the punishment fair? Such a penalty seems inconsistent with a God of love—overkill. A sinner’s rebellion doesn’t warrant an eternity of suffering, does it? Isn’t God overreacting?

A man once accused me of the same. Some years ago, when my daughters were small, we encountered an impatient shopper at a convenience store. My three girls were selecting pastries from the doughnut shelf. They weren’t moving quickly enough for him, so he leaned over their shoulders and barked, “You kids hurry up. You’re taking too long.” I, an aisle away, overheard the derision and approached him. “Sir, those are my daughters. They didn’t deserve those words. You need to apologize to them.”

He minimized the offense. “I didn’t do anything that bad.”

My response? That verdict was not his to render. Those were my daughters he had hurt. Who was he to challenge my reaction? Who are we to challenge God’s? Only he knows the full story, the number of invitations the stubborn-hearted have refused and the slander they’ve spewed.

Accuse God of unfairness? He has wrapped caution tape on hell’s porch and posted a million and one red flags outside the entrance. To descend its stairs, you’d have to cover your ears, blindfold your eyes, and, most of all, ignore the epic sacrifice of history: Christ, in God’s hell on humanity’s cross, crying out to the blackened sky, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). You’ll more easily capture the Pacific in a jar than describe that sacrifice in words. But a description might read like this: God, who hates sin, unleashed his wrath on his sin-filled son. Christ, who never sinned, endured the awful forsakenness of hell. The supreme surprise of hell is this: Christ went there so you won’t have to. Yet hell could not contain him. He arose, not just from the dead, but from the depths. “Through death He [destroyed] him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14 NKJV).

Christ emerged from Satan’s domain with this declaration: “I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev. 1:18 NKJV). He is the warden of eternity. The door he shuts, no one opens. The door he opens, no one shuts (Rev. 3:7).

Thanks to Christ, this earth can be the nearest you come to hell.

But apart from Christ, this earth is the nearest you’ll come to heaven.

A friend told me about the final hours of her aunt. The woman lived her life with no fear of God or respect for his Word. She was an atheist. Even in her final days, she refused to permit anyone to speak of God or eternity. Only her Maker knows her last thoughts and eternal destiny, but her family heard her final words. Hours from death, scarcely conscious of her surroundings, she opened her eyes. Addressing a face visible only to her, she defied, “You don’t know me? You don’t know me?”

Was she hearing the pronouncement of Christ: “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matt. 7:23 ESV)?

Contrast her words with those of a Christ-follower. The dying man made no secret of his faith or longing for heaven. Two days before he succumbed to cancer, he awoke from a deep sleep and told his wife, “I’m living in two realities. I’m not allowed to tell you. There are others in this room.” And on the day he died, he opened his eyes and asked, “Am I special? Why, that I should be allowed to see all this?”

Facing death with fear or faith, dread or joy. “Whoever believes in him shall not perish . . . ” God makes the offer. We make the choice.


1.  1 Cor. 1:18
2.  Robert Jeffress, Hell? Yes! . . . and Other Outrageous Truths You Can Still Believe (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2004), 71–72.
3.  Martin Marty, Newsweek, March 27, 1989, quoted in John Blanchard,Whatever Happened to Hell? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1995), 15–16.
4.  Jeffress, Hell? Yes! 73.
5.  Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? 105.
6.  W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Original Greek Words with Their Precise Meanings for English Readers (McClean: VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, n.d.), 867.
7.  James Denney, Studies in Theology (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1904), 255, quoted in Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1997), 31.
8.  Thomas Vincent, Christ’s Certain and Sudden Appearance to Judgment,quoted in Eryl Davies, The Wrath of God Evangelical Press of Wales, 50, quoted in Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? 145.
9.  C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: MacMillan, 1962), 127, quoted in Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? 152.

KNOWING GOD PERSONALLY

(Adapted from God Attachment by Tim Clinton/Joshua Straub, pg. 227)

The most important decision of your life stands before you.

The choice is yours.

God loves you and invites you to be in a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

The Bible says:

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

But the good news is:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

It is clear that God loves you and longs for a personal relationship with YOU!  He desires to be in this personal relationship with you now and in heaven with Him for eternity (John 17:24).  Regardless of life’s circumstances, He wants to make it possible for you to live a full and abundant life now based on His love for you (John 10:10).

However, because He loves you, He refuses to control you.  He allows you to make this important decision for yourself.  The choice is yours.

As you would choose to enter into this very personal relationship with God, the following prayer (in your own words) from your heart to God’s heart changes everything and makes this relationship possible:

Almighty God, Everlasting Father, I believe that you love me so much that you gave up your one and only Son to die for my sins.  I believe he died, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day.  I therefore confess my sins and turn my life over to you today.  Come into my heart and save me as you promised.  I choose to surrender my life daily into your hands. In Jesus’ Name—Amen!

As you, by faith, genuinely prayed that prayer—Congratulations!  You made the most important choice that you will ever make.  You now belong to God, are a member of God’s family now and forevermore, and you will one day be with God in heaven for eternity.

As wonderful as this is, it is just the beginning.  Ephesians 1:3 says that you now have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (NKJV).  According to that entire Bible passage, God has granted us His spiritual power for our everyday life.

The next steps are to: (1) join yourself to godly people to help guide you and (2) become part of a Bible-believing, Christ-centered community/church.  The biggest obstacle you will face from here on out will be your human tendency to turn away from God to the things you used to turn to for safety, comfort, and relief.  At any time when you turn to something or someone other than God, this is called sin.  When you turn from God for relief, you act as though you do not trust Him to be there for you.  And it ultimately puts a barrier between you and your relationship with God.  God always wants you to connect to him…to depend on him…to need him…to faithfully trust him in the present to meet any and all personal needs and deal with any and all circumstances.

Even though Jesus paid for (or atoned for) all of your sins—past, present, and future—you still encounter these sins this side of heaven.  Regardless of our past, our limitations, and our present challenges, we are never excused from sinful, selfish behaviors.  Our behaviors are our responsibility.  Our problems in life are not the issue.  It’s what we do with the problems.  We must practice bringing all our problems to Jesus and seek His way of helping us deal with them.  Also, we must practice bringing to Him any and all sins and failures that we still encounter (1 John 1:9 – 2:2).  Because we belong to Him and He loves us so, He will forgive and cleanse us based on the fact that we chose to be in a “forever” personal relationship with Him.

God always calls us to more—to understand and know Him more intimately than you ever thought possible.  Continue to fall deeper in love with Him, know Him better, converse with Him more.  This choice is yours, too.

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