Marilyn Monroe had her silver screen
Martin Luther King had a dream
John and Bobby and Ghandi and their band
They’ve all gone to some other land -
You just can’t get them back.
Howard Hughes bought a lot of things,
John Lennon had a song to sing,
Elvis, Natalie, and Princess Grace
They’ve all gone to some far off place.
You just can’t get them back.
Like a fish caught in a net, like a bird trapped in a snare, death suddenly falls upon the living. Regardless of how bright the flame burned, regardless of fame, fortune, or influence, in one brief moment, man’s life is snuffed out forever. And while man goes to his eternal home, some mourners go about the streets, while others continue their pursuits and their business as if there will never be an end.
Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived, once wrote, “It is better to spend your time at funerals than at festivals. For you are going to die and it is a good thing to think about it while there is still time. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. Yes, a wise man thinks much of death, while the fool thinks only of having a good time now” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4).
Man expires, but does he cease to exist? If not, where is he? What wonderful or forboding experiences does eternity hold for him? Is there really a heaven or a hell? Will his eternal state be one of ecstasy and wonder? Will glorious rejoicing await him as he is reunited with friends and loved ones who have gone on before? Or, will he find himself in a place of cruel torment, of weeping, black darkness and vehement flames?
There is no book that answers questions about eternity as well as the Bible. There is no teacher or prophet who has ever stressed the reality of man’s final destination and eternal fate as much as Jesus Christ. To emphasize this reality of life after death Jesus told the following story:
“Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.
“Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in the water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’
“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’
“And he said, ‘Then Father, I beg you, that you send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment’” (Luke 16:20-28).
Hell – Is there really such a place?
Jesus taught that heaven and hell were literal places to be the homes of the righteous and the wicked after they die. The Bible speaks more about hell than it does about heaven. Why? Is God sadistic? If He were He would not mention hell at all because He would delight in seeing men suffer. However, it is because He loves mankind that He continually warns against the awful punishment that awaits the wicked. He wants to encourage them to repent of their sins and be saved from hell. The Bible states emphatically that God does not have pleasure in the death of the wicked, but desires that they would rather turn to Him with their whole heart.
Speaking of man’s eternal destination, Jesus taught: “Heaven can be entered only through the narrow gate! The highway to hell is broad and its gate is wide enough for all the multitudes who choose its easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.”
Jesus taught; “Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to Me as Lord but still won’t get to heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey My Father in heaven. At the Judgement many will tell Me, ‘Lord, Lord, we told others about You and used Your name to cast out demons and to do many other great miracles.’ But I will reply, ‘You have never been Mine. Go away for your deeds are evil” (Matt. 7:13-14, 21-23, Living Bible).
Jesus continually spoke of the wicked being “cast into the place of outer darkness where there will be weeping, torment, and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30). While men are upon this earth God causes His blessings to fall upon the just as well as the unjust. But, when wicked men and women die, and go to their eternal dwelling place, they will be totally separated from the God who was the source of all the light, love, comfort, and goodness that ever came to them. With the light of God totally withdrawn from them, they find that the darkness is blacker than that of the darkest cave.
The wicked, now existing as disembodied spirits, are totally possessed by their passion, hate, and evil desire. Seeing nothing but total blackness, they hear only the rantings and ravings of other condemned souls cursing and swearing at one another, as a restless, raging sea. They are full of lust which will never be satisfied.1 It is in this place of outermost darkness where demons and wicked men and women are imprisoned and reserved for the day of judgment.
The Bible emphatically teaches that this life is a preparatory state for eternity where man’s life will never end. As saints grow and mature and ripen for the duties and joys of heaven that await them, so sinners are ripening themselves for hell. As sinners continue in their sinful practices, they are preparing themselves for the degree of torment that they will receive in the world below.
The unrepentant sinner spends all of his time on earth gathering fuel for his own fire in hell, for every sin adds to the degree of burning of hell’s fire. The longer sinners live the more wrath they accumulate, causing their punishment to be continually more terrible.
The Bible warns the unrepentant: “You are saving up terrible punishment for yourselves because of your stubbornness in refusing to turn from your sin: for there is going to come a day of wrath when God will be the just Judge of all the world. He will give to each one whatever his deeds deserve.
“He will give eternal life to those who patiently do the will of God, seeking for the unseen glory and honor and eternal life that He offers. But He will terribly punish those who fight against the truth of God and walk in evil ways – God’s anger will be poured out upon them. There will be sorrow and suffering for Jews and Gentiles alike who keep on sinning. But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who obey Him, whether they are Jews or Gentiles, for God treats everyone the same.
“He will punish sin wherever it is found. He will punish the heathen when they sin, even though they never had God’s written laws, because down in their hearts they know right from wrong. God’s laws are written within them; their own conscience accuses them, or sometimes excuses them. And God will punish the Jews for sinning because they have His written laws but don’t obey them. They know what is right but they don’t do it. The day will surely come when at God’s command Jesus Christ will judge the secret lives of everyone, their inmost thoughts and motives” (Rom. 2:5-16).
The Lake of Fire
The book of Revelation describes this great Judgment Day: “And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from Whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
“And I saw the dead, the great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which was the Book of Life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hell gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, everyone of them according to the deeds. And death and hell were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death – the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20: 11-15).
Does the Bible reveal who the wicked are whom God finds worthy of the lake of fire and the second death? Yes, in no uncertain terms the Bible plainly declares who the wicked will be: “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers (those who practice magic arts); and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
In the above list of those who are candidates for the lake of fire, the Bible mentions liars. The Bible is very explicit about just who God considers liars to be. John, one of Jesus disciples explains, “The one who says I am a Christian; I am on my way to heaven; I belong to Christ, but doesn’t do what Christ tells him to do, he is a liar … And who is the greatest liar? The one who says that Jesus is not the Messiah. Such a person is anti-Christ, for he does not believe in God the Father and in His Son” (1 John 2:4-22).
“If anyone says, ‘I love God’, but keeps on hating his brother, he is a liar; for if he doesn’t love his brother who is right there in front of him, how can he love God whom he has never seen: And God Himself has said that one must love not only God, but his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21, Living Bible).
The Bible continues to list those God considers wicked, who will partake of the lake of fire and will not be found worthy of the kingdom of God.
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident which are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envyings, drunkenness, carousings, and things like these of which I forewarn you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5: 19-21).
The Bible emphatically states: “Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived.” The Bible then lists particular sins which men and women practice that will make them candidates for hell if they do not repent. some of these sins are called in modern terms “alternate life styles”:
1. fornicators (this includes any type of sexual activity before marriage)
2. idolaters (those who are devoted first to anything or anyone other than God)
Sexual Immorality and Drunkenness
The Bible gives the following description of one type of person who is headed for hell so that there will be no mistake – “For at the window of my house, I looked out through my lattice and I saw among the naive, I discerned among the youths, a young man lacking sense. And behold a woman comes to meet him dressed as a harlot and cunning of heart. She seizes him and kisses him. With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him.
“Suddenly he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, so he does not know that it will cost him his life. Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths, for many are the victims she has cast down and many are her slain. Her house is the way to hell descending to the chambers of death. For the harlot calls out to those who pass by, but he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell” (Portions of Proverbs 7 and 9).
Isaiah the prophet exhorts those who are enslaved to alcohol: “Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink; who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them! But they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, nor do they consider the work of His hands. Therefore hell has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure. Hell from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come. It arouses for you the spirits of the dead, and all the leaders of the earth. They will all respond and say to you, even you have been made weak as we, you have become like us. Your pomp and the music of your harps have been brought down to hell. Maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you and worms are your covering” (Portions of Isaiah 5 and 14).
Many think of the right to abortion as simply a woman’s choice without any eternal consequences, yet God admonished those who practiced sexual immorality and abortion thousands of years ago and that admonition hasn’t changed: “But come here you offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute, who inflame yourselves under every tree, who slaughter the children in the ravines and under the clefts of the crags. Against whom do you jest? Against whom do you open wide your mouth and stick out your tongue? Are you not children of rebellion? Of whom were your worried and fearful when you lied, and did not remember Me, nor give Me a thought? Was I not silent even for a long time so you do not fear Me?” (Portions of Isaiah 57).
“Don’t you realize how patient God has been with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see that He has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4, Living Bible).
Yes, Jesus taught, “And I say to you My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear God, who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5).
Certainly the Bible is clear in its definition of whom God considers wicked and without excuse before Him. It leaves no questions unanswered, as the Scriptures say: “No one is good – no one in all the world is innocent. No one has ever really followed God’s paths, or even truly wanted to. Everyone has turned away; all have gone wrong. No one anywhere has kept on doing what is right; not one.
“Their talk is foul and filthy like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are loaded with lies. Everything they say has in it the sting and poison of a deadly snake. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. They are quick to kill, hating anyone who disagrees with them. Wherever they go they leave misery and trouble behind them, and they have never known what it is to feel secure or enjoy God’s blessing.
“They care nothing about God nor what He thinks of them. So the judgment of God lies very heavily upon them; not one of them has any excuse; in fact, all the world stands hushed and guilty before Almighty God” (Rom. 3:10-19, Living Bible).
What must I do to be saved?
What then can a man or woman do to be saved? The Bible too has this answer; the following prayer of a sinner shows the kindness of God. “The sorrows of hell surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me … In my distress, I called upon the Lord, yes, I cried to my God; and from His temple He heard my voice and my cry for help came into His ears. the cords of death encompassed me and the terror of hell came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. then I called upon the name of the Lord, ‘O Lord, I beseech Thee, save my life!’ Gracious is the Lord and righteous; yes, our God is compassionate. I was brought low , and He saved me. For Thou hast rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling” (Ps. 116:3-8).
Because of God’s eternal love for His lost children, God Himself came down to earth to die on the cross for you and for me. Speaking of His sacrificial death the Bible declares: “Surely our griefs He himself bore, and our sorrows He carried … He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him , and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Portions of Isaiah 53).
When Jesus appeared before John His beloved disciple on the Isle of Patmos many years after His resurrection, in all His glory and radiant splendor, John fell at His feet as a dead man. But He said to John, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of hell” (Rev. 1:17-18).
Jesus said to Mary, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies!” (John 11:25).
There is nothing men and women can do to save themselves. The Bible says “Your deeds will not allow you to return to God because a spirit of harlotry is with you.” (Hos. 5:4) So unless God gives you the ability to believe in the sacrifice that He made for you by dying on the cross and shedding His blood for the forgiveness of sins, you will remain unbelieving. There is nothing you can do to receive eternal life and escape the judgment of hell. The gift is only God’s to bestow. Only He can give you the new birth and make it possible for you to become God’s child.
Yet, if you feel extremely convicted and troubled right now it is evidence that the spirit of God is calling you to repentance. You must cry out to God for salvation. You must earnestly desire to turn from your sins and wicked ways. God in His mercy will hear your cry for help; He will stretch out His arm and jerk you out of the pit and the miry clay. Then God will receive you and become a Father to you. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed. For the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10-13).
Almost 2000 years ago as a crowd of Jews heard the Apostle Peter preaching they were deeply convicted and cut to the heart and they said unto Peter, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you and to your children and to as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:27-28).
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there may I though vile as he, wash all my sins away.
Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never loose its power
‘Til all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more.
- William Cowper, 1771
1 Jonathan Edwards, On Heaven and Hell, (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan).
Copyright © Bob and Rose Weiner 2007, All Rights Reserved