< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Myths and Truths About Heaven and Hell

Monday, June 15, 2009

Myths and Truths About Heaven and Hell

Part 1

I read that in Milan, Italy there is an impressive cathedral that has these words inscribed around its entrance: On the right it says, “All that pleases us in only for a moment.” On the left it says, “All that troubles us is only for a moment.” And over the top it says, “Nothing is important but that which is eternal.”

Our pleasures are brief. The bite of chocolate, the boat ride, the vacation. Likewise, we may believe the pain will never stop; the pressures in our lives will never end. But, they will.

Someone once said, “Live each day as if it’s your last. It may be.” An Air France flight went down in the ocean killing all 280 plus people on board. A woman who was supposed to be on board missed the flight. A week later she was killed in a car accident.

Do you ever wonder when you hear of sudden fatalities, if the victims were prepared for death? With today’s media the way it is, we hear daily of people dying unexpectedly. People who in an instant of time are transferred from this life to the next.

The Bible has much to say about the brevity of life and the necessity of preparing for eternity. Too many Christians avoid thinking about death because somehow they think the subject is unpleasant.

We need to remember that death is not of God. Death is Satan’s weapon. He uses it to bring confusion and fear into the hearts of those facing it. It is part of the curse sin brought on this world. The good news is that for Christians death is not final. It is another phase of life. When a Christian dies, he moves immediately into a glorious eternal life.

Dr. Tony Evans said on his radio program, “Christians shouldn’t fear death…because they won’t die! When a believer closes his eyes on earth, he opens them immediately in God’s presence. Physical death – what we’ve given the name to leaving this world – happens, but spiritual death and eternal death won’t. The soul and the body separate. The soul is immortal.”

J. Oswald Sanders wrote over 40 books. At age 89 he started researching HEAVEN BETTER BY FAR
because he realized Heaven would be his next home and at his age it would be sooner rather than later. He published the book at 90 and died soon after.

He writes, “It is the essential element of personality that will persist after death. The body is destined to return to dust, but the inward man, the spirit, lives on and its identity with the body is not breached.”

1 Corinthians 15: 55-56 says, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin.”

When Jesus arose from the dead, Satan suffered a stupendous defeat from which he will never recover. Since the resurrection of Christ no Christian has any ground to fear death.

1 Corinthians 15:54 says, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

Paul looked forward to Heaven: He wrote in 2 Timothy 4: 6-8 “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

And in Philippians 1: 21-23 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;”

Jesus also talked about heaven: In John 14: 1-3 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” And in Luke 23: 43 “Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Billy Graham wrote, “I believe that if people paid more attention to death, eternity and judgment, there would be more holy living on earth. Surrounded by the violence and devastation of our present age, we see death on every hand, but it never seems real until we stare it in the face ourselves or hold the hand of someone who is slipping into eternity. Those who do not have Jesus Christ in their hearts will spend eternity separated from God. The Bible has a great deal to say about Hell, although until recent times the subject has all but disappeared from our modern pulpits. However, it was reported in a major newsmagazine that Hell is making a major comeback in American thinking.”

Jesus told a very disturbing story about Heaven and Hell:

Luke 16: 19 -31
19"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
25"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
27"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
29"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
30" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
31"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

Max Lucado wrote about this Bible story in his book When Christ Comes
He wrote that after the two men died the rich man who had had everything on earth, but God, now had nothing. The beggar, who had nothing, but God, now had everything.

That’s sobering enough, but then the story shows us Hell and all its horrors. The rich man is in relentless torment. 5 verses refer to his pain. He calls where he is a “place of pain.” And even worse he can see Heaven. And he begs for mercy.
But it’s too late.

And it’s forever. Matthew 25: 46 says, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Saved people will live for eternity and so will unsaved people. They just won’t be in the same place.
Revelation 14:11 says, “The smoke from their burning pain will rise forever and ever. There will be no rest, day or night, for those who worship the beast and his idol or who get the mark of his name.”

People want to believe we’re given some second chance after death. But, scripture doesn’t teach that. People also ask how a loving God can send people to Hell. But, of course the answer to that is – God doesn’t send them. It’s their choice. It’s free will and if they end up in Hell it means they rejected Jesus.

Because of Jesus and His work on the cross we don’t have to go to Hell. We need to share that with unbelievers. In Jesus’ story the people in Hell could look up and see the people in Heaven. Do you want a friend or relative looking up, seeing you and wondering why you never warned them?

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