I’ve been pondering a message that I listened to by Ed Stetzer that he preached while the interim pastor of The First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, TN. It was a message from the “Lies We Believe That Hinder The Work of God” series. The lie that we as Christians believe is: Hell is a real place, but only a few people actually go there.
The answer to this lie is: The reality of hell should cause us to live with eternity in mind. Our eternity, and the eternal destination of those around us.
Here is the deal, no matter what, everyone of us, every single human being who has been in the past, those of us alive right now, and those who will be born in the future will spend eternity somewhere. Now, some would have you believe that where you spend eternity really doesn’t matter. But I’m not convinced that that is the case.
Heaven or Hell. That’s it, there are only two places for those of us to spend eternity. Heaven is described as a wonderful place where there will be no weeping, sadness, lonliness, fear or a whole host of other terrible things that we experience here in this life. Why is that? Why will we be able to experience all of these wonderful things? Because we will be in the presence of the Lord. We will be continually with the One who saved us.
Hell on the other hand, won’t be so pleasant. All of the things I mentioned above will be magnified unimaginably. Why? Because the presence of God will not be there. Hell at it’s worst is total separation from God, and at it’s best, it is still total separation from God! God will not be there. His grace will not be evident. After living a life trying to push God away, God will allow those who do that to have what they wanted. Eternity without Him.
Here in this life, all of us, those who believe in Christ and those who don’t, are blessed in that we experience God’s common grace. Matthew 5:45 says, “… For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God is sharing His grace with all of us, that grace is the way He reaches out and draws us to Himself. When we accept that grace, it becomes our salvation and we enter into a relationship and fellowship with God.
Today, for the first time that I can ever remember, I was talking to someone and actually looked at them with eternity in mind. I looked at this young co-worker and wondered if he had a clue about what his eternity was going to be like. From all indications, he does not know Christ, or even have a desire to know him, yet Christ knows him and loves him so much that he gave up his life for this young man.
This set my mind to thinking about how the Church as a whole looks at themselves or those far from Christ. Do we even begin to realize the harsh reality of hell? That is a hard question for us to answer because we can not even begin to understand separation from God. How can we because we have never experienced it! The first time any of us will ever start to know separation from God is if we die without knowing Christ as our personal Savior. If that happens, then it will be too late to change our fate. It is a one way trip with no way to change the outcome.
Do we as a church even care? I’ve heard it said, “If you say you care, yet do nothing, your actions prove that you don’t care.” That seems to be what the Church as a whole is telling those around us who are far from Christ. We are so caught up in our “Churchy” programs that we don’t reach out to those around us. I honestly fear what the Lord will say to the people in the Church who call on His name. But, what scares me even more is what Christ will say to the shepherds.
Something that has always bothered me is that it seems like everyone who dies “goes to a better place.” Who in their right mind dreamed that up? I’m not thinking that dying without Christ in ones life lets them slip into an eternity that is a better place. One thing I do know, for those who die without trusting Christ, this is the only heaven that they will ever know. And you talk about a rip off. At most, they might have got to experience this cheap heaven of life on earth for a little over 100 years, but they get to spend the rest of eternity (that is time that never ends) in hell.
I think about my Grandpa. I was 17 when he died and didn’t know Christ at that point in my life. I know the life he lived. No, he wasn’t a mass murderer and he didn’t go around selling drugs, although he did make his own beer and wine. Buy the worlds standards he wasn’t a “bad” person. But, as far as I know, he did not know Jesus Christ as his Savior. He has been dead now for almost 30 years. For me, that has been a long period of time, but from an eternal perspective, that isn’t even a dot above the first lowercase “i” in the phrase, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Matter of fact, 30 years doesn’t even show up as anything because eternity has no end.
Are you beginning to see the picture I am trying to get at. Eternity will be spent with God or without God. There is no middle ground. Have you ever thought about this? Does it make any difference to you. It does to God! He sent His son, “…that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son (John 3:16-18) NLT.
The Cross is a stumbling block for many, but it shouldn’t be. Jesus gave up His life so that no one would ever have to endure eternity apart from God. Matter of fact, Jesus talked more about hell, what it is like, and how to avoid it, than anyone else in the Scriptures. Could it be that He understood how horrific hell is going to be and wanted us to be able to avoid it? He gave his life so that we don’t have to experience eternity separated from Him. Will you accept him and the eternity that he offers?