What happens after we die should be a question we all want answered. After all, one in one of us dies..... do we go to Heaven, Hades, oblivion or have a "soul sleep" under that nice churchyard tree?The place to look for answers is The Bible and here is an outline of a sermon I preached at Tongham Christian Fellowship. I did not give it as written - these were just guidelines.
This is a true story. Two believers we knew did door to door evangelism. One day they knocked at the home of an old lady. She came out angrily and told them to go away. The Christians told us later: “We got this impression from the Lord: that was her last call.”
Her time was up. She chose to spend eternity separated from the Lord. She is now dead and knows her mistake. It’s too late. Our time is short. My grandma died in 1977, when even then the world was fast getting darker. If things were bad she would look at the news and say “ain’t it awful?” She died unsaved, as did all my family. It’s more awful for them now.
Pat recently witnessed to a man who runs a shop. This was a man who had once taught Sunday school. He knew enough to know better than the answer he gave to Pat when she urged him to repent and be saved. He said: “I’ve still got some sinning to do.” Yet that man could step out of his shop today and be run over by a bus! We never know.
People often say things like this: “Well, I want to be saved and go to Heaven, but I want to wait until next week to say that prayer, because this week there are some things I plan to do that God wouldn’t like.” One young man actually said that. He made an extremely foolish decision. He was going to wait one week and commit some more sins in the meantime. God is not mocked, folks. That young man never saw ‘next week’. He was killed in an accident before he had another chance to accept the gospel and put his faith in the Lord Jesus.
Famous evangelist and prophecy teacher Barry Smith once preached a salvation sermon in New Zealand – today is the day of your salvation. A woman went forward and accepted the Lord into her heart. About half an hour later, driving home, she was killed in a road accident. These are true stories, by the way.
There will be preachers among the unsaved: “I never knew you.” These terrible words of the Lord Jesus will ring out as some famous preachers are cast into hell. 'Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? 'And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.' Matthew 6:21-23.
Who are these people? Jesus told us the ones to watch out for. What do they do? 'Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord”…' They speak as if they know the Lord personally. But He does not know them. They act like they belong to Him, but they do not. They use the right words, the right jargon, they know our language, they talk Bible talk. They talk the talk, but they cannot walk the walk because they are not really Christians at all. They have never been born again (born spiritually by trusting in Jesus).
The Who rock group used to sing: I hope I die before I get old.” Their drummer, Keith Moon, died at 32 He became addicted to alcohol and acquired a reputation for decadence and dark humour; his nickname was "Moon the Loon." Like me he was born in 1946: he died in 1978 from an overdose of a drug intended to treat symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. He got his wish to die young. He regrets it.
One of John Lennon’s famous songs was Imagine, of which Lennon stated: "'Imagine', which says: 'Imagine that there was no more religion, no more country, no more politics,' is virtually the Communist manifesto…” One world, world peace, the ideas of someone who thought men working together could make the world a perfect place. He described the song's meaning as "Anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic, but because it is sugarcoated it is accepted ... Now I understand what you have to do. Put your political message across with a little honey."
Man’s sin nature ensures that we will never improve the world if we cut out the Lord. Lennon knows better now but too late: he was shot in 1980, aged 40. Three fans then committed suicide.
Those who are pushing for - and will get – permission to give people “assisted suicides to ease their suffering” have no concept or belief in the division on death.
So who's going to Heaven? It’s a real place, you know, a wonderful place, but modern ‘thinkers’ rubbish this and would have you believe that there is no such place. No God, no Heaven, no Hades, no Lake of Fire. How convenient for them, as they can then do anything they like.
The Bible has some very bad news for them. There is a God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit; there is a place called Heaven; and, worst of all for them, there is most definitely a place called Gehenna. How do we know? Because God has not left us ignorant. He has revealed all this to us in His book, the Bible, which is really a divine library of 66 books written by 40 authors over 1500 years.
The Bible puts it this way: ‘There is none righteous, no not one.’ And what happens to sinners when they die? Jesus made it abundantly clear that they will end up in the lake of fire, a real place of torment for all eternity. But this is not fair, you might cry. We can’t help being what we are, fallible, sinful people; we want to be good, but we just can’t manage it all the time! What must we do to be saved? How do we escape the sinners’ fate? For it is worse than we can imagine…..
Sheol (Hebrew) and Hades (Greek) are the temporary place of torment for the souls of the wicked dead. Prior to Christ's resurrection, saints were kept and comforted in the now vacant half of Hades, known as Abraham's Bosom.
Gehenna (Greek, but from a Hebrew name) is the Lake of Fire for the permanent place of torment of the souls of the wicked dead in their resurrected bodies. We should more truthfully and forcefully explain to people what they are being saved “from.”
Our Lord recounted this story in Luke 16:20-28 (NASB)
20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23
In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25
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. 26 And [a]besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
Should the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 should viewed as a literal account or as a parable?
Many orthodox writers treat Luke 16 as a literal account.27 They deny that it is a parable on the grounds that (1) the beggar must have been a real historical character because his name was given; (2) Abraham was a real historical character; and (3) in parables names are not given. Thus many orthodox writers say the story of the rich man and Lazarus is a literal account.
Those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life should have no fear of this terrible fate. By faith in Christ and His blood shed on the cross for our sins, we are destined to live eternally in the presence of God.
Before Christ’s ascension, believers as well as unbelievers were said to enter Sheol or Hades. After Christ’s resurrection, the New Testament pictures believers after death as entering heaven to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23), which is far better than Hades. They are present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6-8), worshipping with the angelic hosts of heaven (Heb. 12:22, 23) at the altar of God (Rev. 6:9-11). Thus believers do not now enter Hades but ascend immediately to the throne of God.
Pope Francis has said that Atheists are saved. This was the headline in The Huffington Post: Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics
The story continued: Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds today when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists, who could be saved by doing good works because Jesus died for everyone.
The Pope’s amazing assertion was, of course, thoroughly unbiblical. It violated two fundamental biblical principles.
The first is the Bible's clear statement that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-10). The second is that salvation is dependent on faith in Jesus as one's Lord and Savior. Jesus Himself said, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3).
So, it is impossible to be saved by good works, and it is equally impossible to be saved apart from faith in Jesus. In fact, Jesus declared, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).
If Atheists can be saved by doing good works, what is the purpose of the Church? And why did Jesus bother to come to this earth and experience the horror of the Cross? All false faiths are works based.
Those who do read the Word of God know there is a sharp division on death, when believers are once and for all separated from non-believers – Christ rejecters.
"When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more, And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair; When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore, And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.’
Those words, the first verse of the famous hymn ‘When the Roll is Called Up Yonder’ were written by James Black, a Sunday School teacher in Pennsylvania, in 1893. One Sunday he called the roll and one girl was absent.
She was the daughter of a drunkard. He was disappointed at her failure to appear and commented: ‘Well, I trust that when the roll is called up yonder, she’ll be there.’ Later that day, his heart was filled with sadness at the thought of the girl and when he sat down at the piano, the words and tune of the hymn just came to him. He did not change a single note or word.
If you are a child of God, your spirit is immediately ushered into the bosom of Jesus by His angels. Your spirit remains in Heaven, in the presence of God, until the time of the Rapture.
When Jesus comes for His Church, He brings your spirit with Him, resurrects and glorifies your body, making it eternal in nature (1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4). When Jesus returns to earth WITH HIS CHURCH we reign with Christ for a thousand years and then live eternally with Him on the new earth (Revelation 20-22).
To repeat: Spirits of those who rejected Jesus go to Hades at death. This is a place of torments where each spirit is held until the resurrection of the unrighteous which takes place at the end of the millennial reign of Jesus. At that resurrection they are taken before the Great White Throne of God where they are judged by your works and then condemned to the "second death," which is in the "lake of fire".(Revelation20:11-15)
Some of the greatest confusion about life after death relates to the intermediate state between death and eternity. Some people like Adventists and JWs advocate a concept called "soul sleep." They argue that both the saved and unsaved are unconscious after death until the return of Jesus.
Here are what some false faiths claim:
- Catholics: When you die you go to purgatory to burn for your sins. Jesus’ sacrifice was not enough. You have to pay for your own sins
- Islam – People in Hell will be mainly women- read from Cults and Isms
- Mormon heaven- men will have wives. Women will be eternally pregnant.
- JWs -144,000 in heaven
- Soul sleep –also Adventists
But the Bible says our spirit does not lose its consciousness at death. The only thing that "falls asleep" is our body — in a symbolic sense. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that he would prefer to be "absent from the body and at home with the Lord." In Philippians 1:21 he observes, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." He then adds in verse 23 that his desire is "to depart and be with Christ." Paul certainly did not expect to be in a coma after he died!
The spirits of the righteous dead could not go directly to Heaven before the Cross because their sins were not forgiven. Instead, their sins were merely covered by their faith. The forgiveness of their sins had to await the shedding of the blood of Christ (Leviticus 17:11; Romans 5:8-9; Hebrews 9:22).
Many people’s idea of Heaven is of a spirit world where the saved spend eternity as disembodied spirits, floating around on clouds, playing harps.
A Mistaken View
That sounds tedious. Yet everything the Creator does is fresh and original and infinitely varied. The choice for true believers couldn’t be laying unconscious in the grave for eons of time or the prospect of being a disembodied spirit with no particular identity or personality
These thoughts about life after death are contradicted in the Bible. Spiritists – “life goes on” think they can find out about the afterlife by contacting demons. The way to really do so is via Bible prophecy, making it all the most astonishing that most churches don’t study it.
When you search out the truth it is utterly different and exciting.
We, the promoted saints, have a close up view as the Lord returns at the Second Advent – we are witnesses of His glory
We will next witness the Great White Throne Judgment when the unrighteous are resurrected to stand before God. We will see perfect holiness and justice in action as God pronounces His terrible judgment upon this congregation of the damned who have rejected His gift of love and mercy in Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:11-13).
Jesus will be fully vindicated as every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Then the unrighteous will receive their just reward as they are cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:14-15).
The Bible says that ultimately the saints will spend eternity in glorified bodies on a New Earth (Revelation 21:1-7). Such a concept was anathema to the Greek mind of Augustine. If the material world is evil, then he reasoned that the material world must cease to exist when the Lord returns. Augustine solved the problem by spiritualizing what the Bible said. He did this by arguing that the "new earth" of Revelation 21 is just symbolic language for Heaven.
Augustine's views are held by most professing Christians today, both Catholic and Protestant. That means that most of Christianity today teaches Greek philosophy rather than the Word of God when it comes to the realm of end time prophecy and life after death.
Preparing for Eternity
One thing is certain: "Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that 'Jesus is Lord!'" (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11). Your eternal destiny will be determined by when you make this confession.
If it is made before you die, then you will spend eternity with God. If not, then you will make the confession at the Great White Throne judgment before you are cast into Hades. To spend eternity with God, your confession of Jesus as Lord must be made now.
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