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IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS!
This is my last message in this series on vision. Today’s VISION is the most important one of all! Today you MUST catch a VISION of Heaven and Hell! Why? Because your ETERNITY lies in the balance!
Many Americans do not believe in God. Others SAY they believe but have no room for God in their lives. Many say the Bible has errors; or Jesus was only a good man; or there is no Hell. Many professing “believers” only attend church when it’s convenient, on Holidays, or when there’s nothing else to do. I’ve heard them called “Chreasters” (C&E Xians). It’s all a trend in our post Christian increasingly godless society.
Presidential candidate Cory Booker recently mocked Christianity, saying “thoughts and prayers” for people after violence is (bad word DELETED). It saddens me and breaks my heart that entertainers, athletes, and politicians make light of God and Christianity. They have no idea how Glorious Heaven will be or how Gory Hell will be! As believers we are at war, fighting for the soul of our nation, and I’ve got news for you today. America’s hope lies NOT in politics; it lies in JESUS. The ANSWER for America’s future can be found in JESUS CHRIST and no one else!
Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus can help us better understand our options for eternity.
Many people try to make their beliefs about God fit their lifestyle. Our “gotta feel good” society has created a new syndrome. I’ve named this weird new “syndrome” the “needy infant world view.” Let me explain. When an infant is born they think the entire world revolves around them. Everyone within earshot is expected to attend to this baby who is totally dependent on others. Baby is the center of the universe and the whole world revolves around them and their needs, wants, and desires. As long you cater to them, “It’s all good!” If you refuse, that small human will do everything in their limited power to completely destroy your life, or at least destroy your mental and emotional well-being! And frankly, in a baby’s world, that’s how we expect it to be. But here’s the RUB. We expect adults to meet their own needs and not depend on others. The problem is our world is full of people who still believe they are the center of the universe, and the entire world revolves around their wants, needs, and desires. They believe they have the right and the power to make the rules for everyone else, including God! Their “needy infant world view,” makes them believe God HAS to love them and give them everything they want, including eternity in Heaven.
This parable proves them dead wrong. God’s Word is Truth. Absolute Truth, without any mixture of error. God’s truth can be very comforting and uplifting; but it can also be very scary and painful.
Jesus uses the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to give us a brief VISION into Heaven and Hell. As image bearers of God we have two parts; a physical body and a spiritual soul. Because of original sin we all die physically. Our body goes into the ground but our spiritual soul continues to live beyond death. The modern concept of “Soul sleep” is not biblical! Scripture says for the believer, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8). We die physically but we continue to live spiritually. When Jesus teaches about heaven and hell, he speaks as God; he teaches as the only one who has conquered death and risen from the dead. Jesus alone can give us a VISION of what awaits us on the other side.
In Luke 16:19–31 Jesus tells a parable, a story. It’s the story of the life, death, and eternity of two men. This parable is very unusual because the people in Jesus’ parables are usually not named. This story is about a man named Lazarus. He was crippled and his body was covered with open sores. His life is pictured as bleak, stark, and impoverished. But he believed in God. The religious leaders of his day believed if you loved God and God loved you, you would be blessed with health and wealth. Lazarus was neither healthy nor wealthy, so he must be cursed by God. Their MISTAKE? They suffered from “needy infant world view.”
Lazarus would lay outside the estate of a rich man. The rich man was healthy, ate gourmet meals, and lived in luxury. He wore very expensive purple linen clothing. When I studied in Israel in 1985, I learned that people living around Tyre made purple dye by crushing up murex mollusks. It took 10,000 shellfish to make a single gram of dye! It was a lengthy, complicated, difficult process. So purple became the color of wealth and royalty. If you wore purple, you were considered wealthy and blessed by God.
Why did Lazarus lay outside this rich man’s gate? Because he was starving to death! He hoped the rich man’s servants would have some leftover scraps from his feasting, and would bring them out to him instead of feeding them to the dogs. Can you see it? The rich man’s Dogs ate better than Lazarus! Every time the rich man left his home he walked right past poor crippled Lazarus, perhaps even stepping over the beggar in disgust and displeasure.
Here’s a word of encouragement. In the nearly 17 years we’ve been at HBC, you have ministered well to the poor and less fortunate. I know many of you sacrifice from your personal resources to help others. Our men’s group uses our benevolent funds well. Our Renew Krew keeps vehicles running so single parents can keep working. They’ve kept folks from choosing between medicine, groceries or transportation. You’ve also shared your wealth with the poor worldwide through missions. I commend you for your generosity.
Now let’s throw some grease on the fire. Both men died. But here’s the difference. Lazarus was dumped in a peasant’s grave. No funeral, no grave marker, no mourners. He was ignored and abandoned. However, when Lazarus’ crippled, sore-covered, starved body went into the ground, his believing, healthy soul went to Heaven to be with the Lord. His body is in the ground. His soul is in Heaven. He’s at the bosom of Abraham. No longer sick and suffering, he’s healthy. No longer hungry, he’s full. No longer cursed, he’s blessed. No longer hated, he’s loved. No longer sad, he’s happy. No longer a beggar, He’s a child of the King!
The rich man died thinking he was chosen, blessed, and favored by God because he was healthy and wealthy. When he died, there was a large funeral with lots of paid mourners. He had an auspicious grave site and a large headstone. His OBIT was in all the papers. “He is surely in the presence of God,” they read. In reality, the rich man died and went to hell where he cries out in anguish. He’s tortured and tormented. Last week I saw a minivan beside the road on James River Freeway. It was burned up and looked horrific! The windows had all blown out; the paint was burned off; the tires were melted and the interior was burned to a crisp. I prayed, “O, Lord, I pray no one was caught in that awful fire.” But Hell is worse! Hell is like sitting in the front seat of that van while it burns non-stop, and you don’t die, you just continue to suffer the torture and torment of those flames forever! Jesus is describing hell in the gentlest terms possible. “Needy infant world view” people say, “The God of the Bible is loving and kind. Hell is not loving or kind, therefore God would never send anyone there.” That’s partly true. God doesn’t SEND anyone to Hell! But He ALLOWS you to ENJOY Heaven or SUFFER Hell based on YOUR personal choice. Jesus told this story Himself. And Jesus IS God! The tormented rich man in Hell sees Lazarus in Heaven with Abraham. Heaven and Hell are REAL!
Family, “death is the fate of every man and woman on earth.” Nobody gets out of this life alive! Death comes to every one of us, and we will spend ETERNITY in Heaven or hell. Those are the options. Those are the ONLY options. My job is to tell you the Truth. Your job is to take that Truth and make a decision about your eternity.
Even in Hell, we see the rich man’s “needy infant world view.” He has the “Hoodspa” to ask God for a gift. “The rich man SHOUTED, ‘Father Abraham, have some PITY! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.”
Have you ever been thirsty? I mean REALLY thirsty? I can remember numerous times I was so thirsty my tongue literally stuck to the roof of my mouth and I had to pry it loose with my finger! I’ll never forget my last day in Airborne School at Ft. Benning GA. That morning the entire Battalion gathered for a unit run that was supposed to be 5 miles at 8 minutes per mile. Timekeepers were posted every mile along the route. The Commandant was so inspired that day, we ran 7 miles in 48:50! It was the only time in my life I ran that far that fast. But anyone who dropped out of THIS run did NOT graduate Airborne School even after four weeks training! I made it, but my body completely dehydrated. When the unit formed up for dismissal, I was dizzy, disoriented, and was about to pass out. I reached out and grabbed the belt of the soldier in front of me to steady myself, and a DOGGONE Drill SGT was standing at the end of the row right behind me. He grabbed my arm and said “Chaplain, fall out!” I thought I was D-U-N Done! In slurred speech I said “Good to go DSGT!” Luckily, DSGT’s are trained in first aid and he knew the signs, so he took me to the water table to hydrate, telling me to drink at least a quart. NO PROBLEM! But - what if that DSGT had said, “C’mon Chaplain. You’re totally dehydrated, so I’m going to dip my finger in the water bucket and touch your tongue! That’ll fix you right up!” WAIT! WHAT?! How much good would THAT do? BUPKUS! NADA! WELL, imagine the TORTUROUS, INSANE DESPERATION that caused this man to believe a damp finger would bring him significant relief! The crowd understood life in the desert, and they understood extreme THIRST. Jesus was explaining Hell as gently as He could, but these people KNEW the significance of His words! HELL is a HORRIBLE, TORTUROUS, REAL place!
Abraham tells the desperate man “This chasm is an eternal separation between you and us and there is no exception.” Safe in heaven or stuck in hell. Your eternal destiny is sealed forever the instant you die. Your only opportunity to come to Jesus and experience Heaven is during this life. There are no DO-OVERS! No more second chances! No MERCY! You justly receive the eternity you CHOOSE before you die.
LISTEN: You’re gonna die. I’m gonna die. He’s gonna die. She’s gonna die. “All God’s children gonna die!” Many people ask “what then? What’s waiting on the other side? What happens when we die?”
I don’t presume to know all the answers about Heaven or Hell. I’ve never been to either place. But I take my ministry very seriously. Because I love you, I want you to know God’s Word. I want you to be sure you’ve made the appropriate decision about your eternity. As a pastor I’ve been at the bedside of people who were dying. People who knew Jesus and people who didn’t. Once you take your last breath in this life, your very next breath will be in Heaven or Hell, and that’s where you will spend eternity! If you don’t have a personal, life changing relationship with Jesus Christ, don’t put it off. I told you about that truck that nearly hit me a couple weeks ago. In 1.5 seconds I could have been dead, and if I hadn’t known Jesus, I would be in HELL right now! Just that quick it would have been too late! You say, “That’s not fair, preacher.” SURE IT IS! Every time the Holy Spirit pricks your heart and asks you to repent and come to Jesus and you don’t say YES – you’ve said NO! We ALL DESERVE Hell! Heaven is a gift from Jesus! I KNOW I will spend eternity in Heaven because I’ve accepted His gift! Do you KNOW where you will spend your eternity?
When it comes to life, death, and eternity, I trust the Word of God and the Words of Jesus. However, not everyone believes the way I do. There are other views out there. Here’s what some of those unredeemed “needy infant world view” folks believe about eternity. LOOK AT ME: These are ALL LIES straight from the pit of HELL! They are NOT scriptural; none are TRUE! But the unredeemed believe the lies of Satan!
A. The naturalists believe you don’t have a soul. You’re just a body and when you die, you cease to exist.
B. The universalist’s teach that everyone goes to heaven. Hell will only contain Satan and his demons. They say all religions lead to Heaven. That’s SUPREME MOOSE NUGGETS. In John 14:6 Jesus says “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Acts 4:12 says “Only JESUS has the power to save! His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone.” (CEV).
C. The reincarnationist’s say we have multiple, successive lives. You will die and return, die and return, and die and return because you have to pay off your karmic debt to the gods of the universe. Utter Stupidity!
D. The Annihilationist’s say eternal suffering is incomprehensible. Therefore, wicked people are simply destroyed at death and cease to exist.
E. The Catholics believe sinners go to purgatory to suffer while they somehow finish their works of salvation so they can eventually go to heaven. That doctrine is NOT found in scripture. So let’s get to the Hog Killin.’ What does the Bible say? What are the words of Jesus? What’s in the BOOK?
WATCH THIS: Jesus tells us more about hell than anyone else in the entire Bible. Jesus speaks of hell 13 percent of the time in His teachings. Roughly half of Jesus’ parables are related to punishment, hell, and judgment. I’ve heard people say “Jesus is so loving and kind He can’t believe in hell.” BELOVED – Jesus not only believes in hell, He clearly, emphatically and repeatedly teaches about it, meaning - our sin is more horrible, more terrible, more repugnant to God than we could ever fathom! Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary so YOU could go to Heaven instead of Hell! Jesus desperately wants YOU to spend eternity with Him! Jesus’ teachings about HELL are intended to convince you to CHOOSE Heaven! SO,
Why don’t we RUN to Jesus? I guess there are as many excuses as there are people. So let me break this down for you. If you don’t open your heart to Jesus for redemption, you will spend eternity tortured and tormented in the never ending flames of Hell. If you give your heart to Jesus and make Him Lord of your life, you will spend eternity blessed in the Glorious presence of God the Father and His beloved Son Jesus Christ. The point is this: when you die, your soul will spend eternity in one of two places. You spend eternity basking in the Glory of Heaven if you’re born again and committed to following Jesus. You spend eternity separated from God, suffering in the Gory flames of Hell if you do NOT turn from your sin and trust Jesus.
NOW WATCH THIS: the wrath of God is in the Bible more than six hundred times. God’s WRATH is His divine punishment for sin, because God is holy. He will not look on the face of sin. If you do not repent, you DESERVE God’s wrath. But here’s the GOOD NEWS! God loves you so he sent Jesus as the substitute for your sin. Jesus went to the cross in your place. Jesus died your death, to pay for your sins. That means if you do not trust in Jesus; if you do not repent and come to Him by faith; if you do not believe in and belong to Jesus; you DESERVE God’s WRATH, which culminates in conscious, eternal torture, anguish, and torment in the never ending flames of hell, which Jesus says Himself.
Most scholars believe this parable was about actual men, since Lazarus is named. Which means - for the rich man, this life was as close as he ever got to Heaven, and he’s still in hell today! For Lazarus, this life was as close as he ever got to hell and he is still in Heaven today.
I will always tell you the Truth from God’s Word, even when it’s hard; even when it hurts. That’s what God called me to do. I will ALSO be sure you know what God wants you to do with His word each time you hear it proclaimed. How God wants you to apply His Word to your life TODAY. I’ve often said “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” So what’s the main thing today?
In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 Paul emphatically says “I’m passing on to you THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!” Danny’s WOW Epistle says “Here’s the MAIN thing!” “Christ died for our sins, just as the scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the scriptures said.” John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that EVERYONE who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:18 “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 3:35-6 “The Father loves His Son and has put everything into His hands. And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t OBEY the Son will NEVER experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment (or wrath).” 1 John 5:11-13 “And this is what God has testified; He has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does NOT have God’s Son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may KNOW [that you KNOW that you KNOW that you KNOW] you HAVE eternal life.”
WATCH THIS NOW: God WANTS you to spend eternity in Heaven with Him! Jesus wants YOU to spend eternity in Heaven with Him! And I want YOU to spend ETERNITY in Heaven with ME and Jesus!
LISTEN TO ME: Heaven and hell are not the ULTIMATE issue today. The DECISIONS you make about your relationship with JESUS CHRIST right now are the ULTIMATE issue! Heaven or hell will be the END RESULT of those DECISIONS!
Bottom Line – VISION MUST include an understanding of Heaven and Hell. Without that, our MISSION has no purpose beyond the present. So in a nutshell; The BAD NEWS is this: you are a sinner, destined to spend eternity separated from God, tormented in the eternal flames of Hell! The GOOD NEWS is this; God loves you so much He sent His Son Jesus to redeem you from your sin by making the sacrifice you could not make for yourself. BLUF - If you repent of your sin right now, turn to God by faith, believe and trust in Jesus, you will have eternal life. Unless you place your trust in Jesus and follow Him, you will NEVER experience eternal life. I can’t make the truth any plainer than that today.
QUESTION? Will you leave here today KNOWING that you KNOW that you KNOW that you KNOW Jesus Christ as your personal redeemer? If that truck hits you head on and you die today, are you absolutely certain you will spend eternity in Heaven with God? Are you obeying and following Jesus and His Word? If not, let’s fix whatever needs fixing today.
Heaven or Hell! Where will you spend your eternity? I’m spending mine in Heaven with Jesus! If there is even a smidgeon of doubt in your heart today, come talk with me and let’s settle the issue once and for all. HEAVEN or HELL! Which will it be? Make your choice right now!