The Truth about Hell - Matthew 25:41 - Skip Heitzig
There is no God. I mean, look at what's going on.
I am my own God.
God, Allah, Buddha, whatever.
He's just waiting to destroy us all.
There's like hundreds of gods. It's just like that bumper sticker says.
I am God.
Dog is my copilot.
There is no God.
There is one true God. He's all knowing, all powerful, and he loves you.
Good morning. I'm going to miss hearing that every week, and he loves you. I love that we start every message on this series with that last little bit, and he loves you. And he does. And what a joy this has been for me to go through this series on doctrine, on truth. I love, love, love doing it. Unfortunately, we just barely skim a lot of these topics. Each one of these, you could do a 10-part series in each of these topics. But most people wouldn't want to hear a 10-week sermon or series on hell, which is a topic we're talking about today.
But let's turn in our Bible, shall we, to the book of Matthew chapter 25. Matthew 25. Turn to Matthew 25, but also if you don't mind, place a marker or pre-turn and keep a finger there in Revelation 20 and in Luke chapter 16, while you're at it. So Matthew 25, Revelation 20, and then Luke chapter 16.
I'm going to venture a guess that most of you don't know the name Joe McCarthy, unless you are avid baseball fans. Joe McCarthy was manager for the New York Yankees in the 1930s and 1940s. That's why most people wouldn't really understand who he was unless you were an avid baseball fan because he is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But Joe McCarthy, on one occasion, said that he had a dream that he went to heaven, and in heaven, standing before him were all the players, baseball players, the greats of the past that he would have known, people like Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, all standing before him on a baseball team. He was so ecstatic. It's like the dream team, right?
So here he is in his dream in heaven, seeing this class of greats on a team, and he gets a phone call from hell, from the devil. And it's the devil challenging that team in heaven to a baseball game. And coach Joe said, you haven't got a chance. I've got all the great players. And the devil said, yes, but I have all the umpires.
Let me be honest with you. I have not looked forward to preaching this message. It's not a message I enjoy preaching. It is a message that most people don't like to hear. In fact, of all the sermons we've done in this series and the 2020 series, this is going to be the hardest. It should be the hardest. It should make everyone feel uncomfortable because no one likes to even think of hell.
It is considered an offensive topic. I don't want you to be offended, but you do need to hear the truth. And some of you do need to be warned very, very stringently about it. You know, I've noticed that most people, in general, don't want to talk about eternal things. I mean, you can talk about anything, but if you get to the deep stuff, especially where are you going to spend forever, most people don't want to have that conversation. And if they really do want to have a conversation, it's an indication they're about to be saved. There's a reason they want to go there.
But most people want to avoid, especially the idea of hell, and I've noticed a lot of preachers don't like to talk about it. Now, I say that, but at the same time I've noticed that a lot of people will use the term hell a lot in their daily conversation. They use it sort of as a fill word or an expletive. They'll say things like what in the hell are you doing? And there's no need to put that word in there. You could just say, what are you doing, but it's like a fill word. I'm madder than hell. Or I've heard people say my feet hurt like hell. I seriously doubt that.
Or that scared the hell out of me. Now, that's a good thing. If that happens, I'm glad that happens. I even had a man walk up to me on a Sunday after a sermon, no joke, put his arm on my shoulder. He was so excited about the message. He goes, that was a hell of a sermon, Pastor. I did not know how to respond to him. I didn't know if I should say thank you or just let it go.
Also, one time, I think it was the first time I was in Israel, when I first went there to live. It was the first time I had Turkish coffee. So Turkish coffee is a coffee they have in Israel. They call it [NON-ENGLISH], which means mud, if that gives you an indication of strength. So it's Turkish coffee, very strong. And the guy serving me the coffee said, would you like hell? I said no, I don't want hell. What he was talking about is there is a spice that in Hebrew is hell, and hell is cardamom, and it's really good in Turkish coffee. So coffee with hell is really good in that circumstance. It's probably the only circumstance.
I was thinking of all sorts of titles to call this message, clever titles I thought I'd call it, "What's Down with Hell?" or I thought maybe I'll call it "Highway to Hell," like the AC/DC song, or I even thought I call it "Smoking or Non-Smoking." But the more I thought about the title, I thought this subject is way too serious to just give it a tacky or kitschy or cute little clever title. So I'm just calling this message "The Truth About Hell," because if there's one thing you don't want to get wrong, it's this.
A survey that I came across, a Pew Forum survey indicates 87% of Americans believe in God. Pretty high. It goes down a little bit after that, though. 74% of Americans say they believe in heaven, and only 59% say they believe in hell. Now, why that really interests me is because all of those topics have the same source material. When it comes to God or heaven or hell, it's all come from this book. So you got a lot of people believing in God, a few less believing in heaven, but a whole lot less believing in hell.
Rob Bell, who is a name some of you may be familiar with, he was sort of a rock star in evangelical circles years ago, a young upstart pastor in Michigan, wrote books that got a lot of airplay. Velvet Elvis is one of them, I think his first book. Another book Love Wins. He has since his start taken a very liberal approach to truth, so as to deny even biblical truth. But he was asked in an interview a very simple and forthright question. Is there a hell?
Here's his answer. "I actually think there is a hell because we see hell every day." He described hell as "greed, injustice, rape, abuse. We see hell on earth all around us all the time. We actually see lots of people choosing hell. We see oppression, we see tyranny, we see dictators using their power to eliminate opposition, literally." In other words, Rob Bell is saying, yeah, there's a hell, but not an eternal hell. There's just hell on earth. It's when bad people do bad things to hurt a whole lot of people. That's hell.
What you need to know is the Bible does not describe hell that way but as something far worse than hell on Earth. You also need to know that your savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, absolutely believed in hell, and he spoke on it a lot. And one of the places that he spoke on it is Matthew 25. I'm going to begin reading in verse 31.
"When the Son of Man comes in His glory and all His holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
If you would go down to verse 41, "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels-- for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty, you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger you did not take Me in, naked, you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' Then they will also answer Him saying, 'Lord when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go into everlasting punishment but the righteous into eternal life."
Let me just kind of tell you some preliminary stuff. Some people see what I just read as an event called the judgment of the nations. And eschatologically, they see this as an event taking place in the future where God judges nations after the tribulation period based on how they treated the nation of Israel during the tribulation period to determine their admission into the kingdom age or not. That's one way to interpret it.
Other people see this as a general description of judgment for all saved and all unsaved. I am not here to unravel that. I just really want to focus on this topic. So I just wanted to get that out there. I really want to focus on verse 41, where it says "He will say to those on the left, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'"
Now the illustration that our Lord uses is an illustration they would have understood of a shepherd separating sheep and goats. In the Middle East, even to this very day, you can see this happening. You will see shepherds on hillsides. They have a flock that is mixed, some sheep and some goats, but they're walking together. But then the shepherd will separate the sheep from the goats at two very important times during the day, grazing time and sleeping time.
And that is because sheep and goats have very different temperaments. Sheep are docile, sometimes clueless. They just sort of kind of meander around, wander around. Goats are sort of impervious to things. They're aggressive. They're rambunctious. They'll charge things that sheep would not do that. So when it comes to feeding, it's not good to keep them together when they eat.
It's not good to keep them together when they rest. They don't rest well together. So the shepherd will separate the sheep from the goats. That's the background of this. What I'd like to do is kind of zeroing in on these verses but mostly verse 41. I want to share five facts about hell, and the first is that hell is an actual place. It's an actual place.
You see Jesus in this section is speaking of an actual event that will take place in the future. Verse 31, "When the Son of Man comes in His glory." Now, here's a simple question. Is Jesus going to come? Literally, yes He is. He said that on a number of occasions. So did all the apostles. So we're dealing with a literal event in the future. And then in that same context, He speaks about eternal punishment and eternal kingdom.
Now, if you were to do a quick search of the word hell in an English Bible, like the New King James version that I speak from, you'd find that the word hell in English shows up 32 times in the Bible, 32 times, but all of the references about hell throughout the Bible total 162 times. And sometimes they're just sort of plain, in your face, up front, like Psalm 9:17. "The wicked shall be turned to hell and all the nations that forget God." Pretty straight up.
Or Daniel chapter 12, where Daniel predicts a time that is coming the worst time ever in history, called the tribulation period, and afterwards he writes, "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt."
But by far, the majority of all the biblical teaching we have on hell comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. More than anybody else, Jesus spoke on hell. In fact, Jesus spoke on hell more than Jesus spoke on heaven. It is estimated if you look at Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all the times he refers to it, 70 times. 70 times, Jesus spoke about or referred to hell and in the kind of language that nobody can like yawn at. You can't go, yeah, whatever. It's the kind of language that strikes terror, or it should into very heart.
He spoke about hell as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. He spoke of hell as a place where the fire is not quenched. This is the Lord Jesus Christ. He spoke of hell as a place where the worm never dies. He spoke of it as outer darkness, a place where one is tormented by flames and past memories, and He spoke of it as a place where there's a great gulf that is fixed between hell and paradise.
Jesus in Matthew 10 verse 28 said, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell." This is Jesus, man of love. Now, here's my question. If we cease to exist after we die, that's it, we just live and we die, and we cease to exist, then why did He spend so much time warning people about hell?
And if you think, well, that's not very loving, I contend it's the most loving thing you can do. If you know there's a hell, and you don't warn people of it, that's not loving. If there is a hell, and you warn people of it, that's loving. And He warned people a lot of it.
CS Lewis wrote in his book, The Problem of Pain, these words. "There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of scripture and, specially, of Our Lord's own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason." End quote.
See, if there is no hell, then the Bible is a book of myths. If there is no hell, then Jesus was just a misguided soul. If there is no hell, then the crucifixion was pointless. There's no significance in dying to save us from what? If there's no hell, then you should sin as much as you possibly can because it's not sin. It's just fun, right? It's just all about you getting pleasure in this life, sucking it like an orange dry of every drop of enjoyment you can.
But if there are consequences for deeds and beliefs, then we should receive the warning. Hell as an actual place, and there are several words the New Testament uses to describe it. One is the word Hades. Hades, the Greek word, Hades, is the equivalent of an Old Testament Hebrew word, sheol, which simply means the grave. It is spoken about a couple of different ways. Sometimes it refers to just the grave in the ground where bodies are buried. Sometimes it refers to life after the grave, the soul's existence after death. That's one word, Hades.
Another word is the word Gehenna. It is used 12 times mostly by the Lord Jesus. Did you know that Gehenna originally referred to a valley outside of Jerusalem? The southwest corner of Jerusalem has a valley to this day, a ravine called Gehinnom, the Valley of the Sun of Hinnom. And in ancient days, it was a garbage dump. You threw your garbage-- there was always a fire going on. Bodies of criminals were placed there and burned up there, bodies of animals taken from the city that died, so the city wouldn't be defiled thrown into hell, Gehenna.
In the 8th century BC, it was the place where under King Ahaz and King Manasseh, people offered their children as sacrifices to pagan gods. And because of that detestable, horrible, smelly, burning place, it became a metaphor for an eternal place of punishment, hell.
A third word that is used is the word Tartarus. It's only used once in the New Testament, 2 Peter chapter 2, as a place for bound, fallen angels awaiting final judgment. The fourth term is the lake of fire. It's Revelation 19 and 20. The lake of fire is the name of a place of eternal torment. You might call it the final hell. The Bible calls it the second death. So hell is an actual place.
There's a second fact I want you to notice, and that is hell is an intentional place. What I mean by that is God created hell for a very specific reason. Verse 41, "He will say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire." Here it is, "prepared for the devil and his angels." God did not create hell as a place to punish people originally.
It became that eventually. But it was not created that way originally. And notice the word prepared for the devil and his angels. Compare that with verse 34. "The King will say to those on the right, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.'" That's what God prepared for people, heaven. Jesus said to his disciples, "I am going to prepare a place for you." So heaven is prepared for people. Hell is prepared for the devil and his angels.
However, there's something about God you need to know. God is pro-choice when it comes to salvation. When it comes to salvation, God lets people choose where they want to go. And if they don't want anything to do with God, I want nothing to do with God, God is not going to force you to be in heaven, where He is all the time. He'll let you and respect your choice.
GK Chesterton wrote, "Hell is God's great complement to the reality of human freedom and the dignity of human choice." A person went up to God and said, "God, would you send me to hell and lock me in forever?" And God said, "No, I will not send you there. But if you choose to go there, I could never lock you out." So it is an intentional place, originally created for the devil and his angels, but here, even in our text, there are some people that Jesus, that judgment says you're going there.
So I want you to turn with me to Revelation chapter 20. It's a book we've been looking at the last few weeks, and there's an unmistakable future event that you need to see, a couple of them. Revelation chapter 20 verse 10. Here's a really good part. I love this verse. The devil, verse 10, "The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Can I get a hallelujah on that verse?
It's like, yeah, finally, he gets what's coming to him. So that's what Jesus meant when he said it's prepared for the devil and his angels. That's where they go. No matter what Hollywood says, Satan does not rule hell. That's the idea that they always portray. Here's the devil, and he's like the chief tormentor of hell. No, he is not. He is the chief victim of hell. He gets thrown in there, and he is tormented day and night.
But it doesn't end there unfortunately. Verse 11 continues and says, "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books."
Verse 14. "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." This is called the great white throne judgment. It is the judgment by God of all unbelievers, all unbelievers.
It is a courtroom scene, but it's very different than an earthly court because here in Revelation 20, there's no debate about guilt. There is a prosecution but no defense. There will be a judge but no jury. There will be a sentence but no appeal. And there is a punishment but no parole.
And something you need to know, it will be fair. It will be fair. I know that it will be fair because verse 12 says, "Books were opened." So the idea behind that is a full inventory of a person's life is kept. "Books were opened." Now I don't know exactly what's in the books, perhaps a record of every thought, every word, every deed. Jesus did say, if you remember, that "Every idle word men speak, they will give an account for in the day of judgment."
Another book may be a record of all the times that person had an opportunity to give their life to Christ, every time they heard the gospel but refused. Remember the time your mom told you this. Remember the time you heard that in church. Remember that opportunity. And that all is recorded perhaps.
One thing for sure, there's only one person behind the bench. This is not a committee. He isn't voted in or out. There's only one person who is the judge, one person presiding over this judgment, and it's the only one qualified to preside over this judgment. He is qualified because he alone has certain attributes that nobody else has, attributes we have covered in this series on doctrine. One of the attributes is the attribute of omniscience. God knows everything. That means he knows every thought, every action, every motive of every single person.
Also, he has the attribute of omnipresence. He's everywhere present in the totality of his being, which means God alone is the best eyewitness of every single event in history, so he will be the judge. Buddha will not be the judge. Krishna will not be the judge. Muhammad will not be the judge. God alone is the judge.
So hell is an actual place. It is an intentional place. There's a third fact, and it gets worse before it gets better. Hell is a painful place. Back to our text in Matthew 25, you'll notice in verse 31 the word fire, 41 the word fire, everlasting fire. You'll also notice in verse 46 the word punishment. You have a couple of descriptive words that talk about what that experience will be like. Fire doesn't sound fun. Punishment doesn't sound fun, sounds painful to me.
Do you know that I've had people laugh at me when I bring up the idea of hell? Especially in relationship to them. Hell, I'm looking forward to hell. I've had people tell me that. I'm looking forward to hell. Well, why is that, sir? Because all my friends are going to be in hell. OK, you need new friends, but it's no good reason for you to go.
And they go no, no, all my friends are going to be in hell, and we're going to party. Have you ever heard that? That's where all the fun is, hell. Dumb, bad, bad idea. Scrap that idea. Revelation 14 describes it as "They will drink of the wine of God's fury which has been poured out full strength into the cup of His wrath." And it says, "They will be tormented, and there is no rest day or night." Does that sound like a party to you? Does that sound like a party you want to go to? No.
Did you know that seven times when Jesus Christ spoke of hell, he spoke of it this way, "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth," or sometimes, "There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Anybody ever hit their thumb with a hammer like I have? OK, so really, you guys need to get hammers that and actually use them sometime then.
So I've done that, and when I do that I have a physical reaction. I usually-- I don't cuss, but I will squeeze my eyes shut, and I will gnash with my teeth. My teeth will grind because it's painful. It's my reaction to pain, weeping and gnashing of teeth. There's something about that gnashing of teeth, it could refer to a person's anger. It could even refer to the idea of gnashing of the teeth of a person with a fist up to God still angry at Him. Because in Acts chapter 7 when Stephen shared the truth of the gospel, it says, "And the people that hurt him were cut to the heart and gnashed at him with their teeth." It's like they're so mad at this believer for telling them the truth of the gospel. So it could be in hell the idea of the gnashing of teeth is an anger, a hatred, a refusal to repent forever.
So it's a painful place. Now, I'd like you to turn, I had you mark out Luke chapter 16. I think I told you that. Did I not? OK, good. I get my services mixed up, to be honest with you I don't know if I said Luke 16 this one or last one, but Luke 16. So in Luke chapter 16, Jesus tells a story of the rich man and Lazarus. It is not a parable. Some people call it the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. It's a story, not a parable. And you can usually tell a parable. Here's the telltale sign of a parable.
Jesus spoke a parable unto them and said, so it introduces it by saying it's a parable. Or He will say the kingdom of heaven is like, so He's using that as an analogy. But this is no parable. It's a story. He probably knew about this event. In verse 19, "There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was late at his gate desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torment in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'"
That is not a party I want to be a part of. Among other things, this story shows us that at the moment of death, a person is conscious, is aware, awake, can feel, can somehow communicate, and in this case, have immediate torment. And the pain can't just be confined to physical pain. It has to be also the pain of shame, the pain of failure, the pain of regret, the pain of remorse because there's no second chance.
So hell is an actual place, an intentional place. Hell is a painful place. Keeps getting worse. It'll get better, but it gets worse. Hell is an eternal place. This is where it gets sticky with some people, and I'll share that in a minute. But look at verse 41. It says, "He will say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the--" what's the word? Everlasting fire. And what does everlasting mean? It means it lasts forever. Forever. It is everlasting.
And then verse 46, "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Everlasting means it keeps going and going and going. It's perpetual. Now this is, as I mentioned, the real sticky part about hell because somebody will hear this, and I've heard this many times, people say, well, wait a minute, when is enough enough? When is enough punishment enough? I mean, if sins are committed in a finite realm, how can the punishment be infinite? Keep going and going and going and going.
The only reason we would ask that is because we do not understand how offensive sin is to a perfectly holy God. So we can't figure that out. Why is that? It's not that bad. To you, but to a holy God, that is so utterly offensive. And if you want to know about what sin can do, forget judgment for a minute. Forget hell for a minute. Look at the cross. That's what sin did. That's what God thought about sin. It's so bad that His Son got that kind of punishment on a cross, darkness and pain and being cut off from the Father.
So because it is hard to understand and come to grips with the eternality of hell, people have come up with all sorts of other beliefs to make it better. Let me tell you about a few of them. One is called universalism. Universalism is the belief that nobody goes to hell. Everybody goes to heaven. Doesn't matter who you are, doesn't matter what you do. Doesn't matter what you believe in. Everybody will eventually go to heaven. That's called universalism. Nobody's lost, everybody's saved.
I'd love to believe that, and I would believe that if I didn't have this book that tells me otherwise. But universalism is everybody goes to heaven, nobody goes to hell, and they base that on John chapter 12 verse 32, where Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to Myself." All men, all men, all men, all men and women, everybody. I'll draw men unto myself. If I die on a cross, I'll draw all men to myself.
I have a couple of problems with that. Problem number one is named Adolf Hitler. You mean to tell me that Adolf Hitler gets to go to heaven and I got to look at his mug in heaven and God's sitting there going, yeah, well, you know, everybody makes mistakes, but we're all here? I have a problem with justice not being meted out. I have a problem with Joseph Stalin being in heaven. I have a problem with Pol Pot being in heaven. Now, if they received Christ, that's a different issue. But last time I checked, that didn't happen.
When Jesus said, I'll draw all men to Myself, He is not guaranteeing salvation. He is simply guaranteeing the availability of salvation to all. "I be lifted up, I will draw all men to Myself." God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But guess what, a lot of people perish, and they don't come to repentance. They don't make that choice.
That's one, universalism. Here's another way that people deal with this, and that is called annihilationism. Annihilationism, also called conditional immortality, simply means that only the righteous will be resurrected. The wicked will just be annihilated. They will cease to exist. They won't have eternal consciousness. They'll just be put out as though they never existed in the first place.
Seventh Day Adventists believe in that. Jehovah witnesses believe in that. It is a cultic belief. It is not a New Testament belief. Unfortunately now, some so-called evangelicals say they believe in that, annihilationism. Another way of dealing with this is called purgation, or purgatory. It is a Catholic doctrine that came to the Catholic Church in recent times in the 16th century. In terms of world history, that's still recent. It was at the Council of Trent. It does not come from the Bible. Even Catholic theologians will tell you they can't find this in our Bible, so they resort to a book called 2 Maccabees chapter 12, which they have included in their canon of scripture to-- there's one kind of offside reference that could mean-- anyway, they get purgatory from that.
The idea is that God will forgive confessed sins but unconfessed sins, you've got to burn those off in purgatory, and it could take decades, it could take hundreds of years that you will suffer flame and pain, and then you get purified, and you get your ticket, and you go to heaven.
OK, all that aside, let's just cut to the chase. Verse 46, notice this, "And these will go away into everlasting punishment." The word everlasting is the word in Greek, aionios. Anybody who knows Greek will tell you that means forever and ever and ever, age upon age, perpetual, never stopping, aionios. These will go away into everlasting punishment.
Now, keep reading. But the righteous into what? Eternal life, same exact word, aionios, aionios punishment, aionios life. What that tells us is this. If hell is not eternal, then heaven is not eternal. If heaven is eternal, then hell is also eternal from the same verse. Now one author I read even suggests that unbelievers in hell will perhaps go on sinning perpetually and also receiving punishment for their sin as they do that but never repent, and they take this from Revelation 22:11. "Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; let him who is holy continue to be holy."
I don't know. But I do know hell is an eternal place. But the best news of all is the last fact. Hell is an avoidable place. You don't have to go there. I don't want you to sit here and go, man, hell, I guess that's where I'm going. You don't have to go there. Don't go there. I hope most of you aren't saying that.
It's an avoidable place. The context of chapter 25 is about choices that people make. Here you have a shepherd who is separating sheep from goats based upon choices that the sheep and goats have made. The sheep have chosen to do certain things. The goats have chosen not to do certain things, and it says, I was in prison, I was hungry, and he lists all of these good deeds.
Don't get confused. The good works mentioned here don't save anybody. They just provide evidence that a person has been saved. This is a separation. This is a courtroom. The good works are the proof that salvation has occurred. I want you to really get that drilled down. Look at verse 34.
"The King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father.'" And then what's the next word? Inherit. "Inherit the kingdom prepared for you." Did you know inherit is a family term? And inheritance is a gift. You don't earn it. It's given to you. Your dad or your grandparents give you an inheritance. They pass it on. They've worked for money or land, but they give it to you free to the next generation.
So that's how salvation works. You don't earn eternal life. You inherit eternal life as a family member. You say, well, how do I get into the family? Well. That's the catch. To get into this family, you have to be born into it. Jesus said unless a man is born again, he will never see the kingdom of heaven. He spoke about a second birth.
You were born once, but when you believe in Christ, when you commit your life to Him, when you let Him take your sin for you, and you believe in that as an efficacious event once and for all, you're born again and born into the family of God. Listen, there's only one person that wants you in hell. It's not Jesus. It is Satan, and he's been wanting-- it's been his lifelong goal to put you in hell.
I think you know that, right? That's his goal for every person that has ever lived is to fill up hell as much as possible. It's called collateral damage in a battle, to get as many people to-- misery loves company. Get as many people as he possibly can with him. Jesus said, "The thief does not come except to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly."
I want to conclude with a little excerpt. There is a great book that came out some years ago called Beyond Death's Door, written by a cardiologist. Dr. Maurice Rawlings was a professor of medicine at University of Tennessee, cardiologist, heart surgeon, and an atheist. But he had several encounters with patients who died. He resuscitated them, and some told about heaven. Some told about hell.
You've heard about people who have had near-death experiences, and they've seen the bright light and angels and Jesus, right? You've heard that. Nobody writes about hell. Well, who would buy it? Those books don't sell. But do you know that those experiences actually exist? So Maurice Rawlings, after looking at 300 patients who had this experience, said in his book, "I am thoroughly convinced there is life after death, and there are at least as many people going to hell as going to heaven. I'm convinced there's a hell and that we must conduct ourselves in such a way as to avoid being sent there at all costs." Duh.
Well, here's the turning point for him. He said he was resuscitating a 48-year-old patient in his office who just dropped dead, cardiac arrest. He was a mail carrier, and he said when he came back to life, his patient had the worst expression on his face he had ever seen ever. And the patient said, "I am in hell." He cried out, "I am in hell."
Here's what this good doctor wrote. "Of course, that alone didn't change my thinking, but the fact that this 48-year-old was screaming I am in hell, keep me out of hell each time he responded to resuscitation efforts did caused me some concern." That's called understatement. And so he said, the patient who was being resuscitated asked the doctor, he said, pray for me. Now here's what Dr. Rawlings said. He goes, "Not only am I an atheist. That guy was an atheist." And he said pray for me. So he said he prayed some fake prayer as an atheist to a God he didn't believe existed.
But he said, "After this was all over, I realized what really happened. It was a double conversion. Not only had this make believe prayer converted this atheist mailman. It also converted this atheist doctor that was working on him." Dr. Rawlings became a believer. His son serves as an elder in a church today in Tennessee.
There is a formula I have shared with you over the years. It's good to bring it up right now as we close. Born once die twice. Born twice die once. That's the formula. If you're born once, you will die twice. If you're born twice, you'll only die once. If you're born once physically, you'll die physically and spiritually. But if you're born physically and born spiritually, born again, you'll only die once. And if the Lord comes back, you won't die at all.
But even if you die, like Jesus said, "Whoever believes in me will live." Will live. "I am the Resurrection and the life." Great promise, great promise. Let's bow our head. Father, thank you for being so honest. Thank you for the Lord Jesus' upfront honesty about a place that He created, that He prepared. Just like the kingdom was prepared for us, there was a place prepared for those spirits that rebelled and yet you honor people's choices that we have day after week after month after decade to make.
We all think about heaven and hell, death. All of us all our lives at some point, we think about that. We wonder about that. Most of us just sort of put it off and blow it off. But our Lord Jesus warned us enough that we should think about it very seriously because if there is something we need clarity on, and we need truth about, it's the truth about what happens when we die. Thank you for Him and for your word giving us that clarity.
Lord Jesus, I know you love people. I know that you are eager to forgive. You are not willing that any should perish. So Lord, if there are any here who are in the process of perishing by not believing, by putting you off, by blowing this off, they would stop right now, right here, and say yes to the Savior. And allow them to come home to be part of your family and to be forgiven, to have their name written in the book of life by so doing that, by believing in Jesus.
I would be remiss if I let this moment go by without giving you an opportunity right here right now if you've never done it yet, if you have not personally asked Jesus to be your Savior. If you can't think of a time in your life and pinpoint an exact time when you said yes to Jesus, then do it right now. Say yes to Him right now, right here. And if you would like that, if you are willing to surrender your life to Christ and ask Him to come in and be your Lord and master, our heads are bowed, our eyes are closed, would you just raise your hand up in the air. Just raise it up so I can acknowledge you as we close the service in a moment.
By raising it up, you're just saying, Skip, here's my hand. I'm over here. Pray for me. Pray for me as I pray to receive Christ. Raise that hand up. God bless you and you toward the back. Anyone else?
Father, thank you for these who have made that acknowledgment. And if you raised your hand, would you just ask Jesus right here right now into your life? Would you just say, Lord, here I am. Take me. I'm yours. I give you my life. I admit I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus. I believe He died on the cross for me. I believe He's alive right now, that he rose up in Resurrection. I turn from my sin. I repent of my sin.
I turn to Jesus as Savior and as master. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me. Walk with me. Help me to live a life that pleases you. In Jesus' name, Amen. Amen.
Would you stand please? Let's all stand to our feet. I know that was a very heavy message. If it did indeed scare the hell out of some people, then I'm really grateful for that. And I'll tell you what these matters of eternity should motivate us to share truth with people on an ongoing basis in our community and in our world. Let's close with a song.
We hope you enjoyed this special service from Calvary Church. We'd love to know how this message impacted you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.