End of Days Part 4
Final Destination: Eternity in the
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 22, 2003
Revelation 21:1-8 (NLT)
Have you ever read one
of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? You know, the books where
you’re reading along and you have to make a decision. If in they story
you’re walking down the street and decide to turn left, you go to page
52 and your story continues from there. If you decide to turn to the
right, you turn to page 39 to continue, and you keep making those types
of decisions which eventually determines how the story ends.
Sometimes DVDs are like that. Now with all the extra features,
sometimes you can watch an alternate ending. The studio wanted one
ending, the director wanted another ending, so both of them end up on
the DVD. And you can watch them both and decide which one you prefer.
The Bible is the story of us and our relationship with God. And it has
two possible endings. And which ending becomes reality in your life
depends upon the decisions you make along the way.
Here are the two possible endings, both laid out for us in Revelation
Revelation 21:7-8 (NLT)
All who are victorious will inherit all
these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
But cowards who turn away from me, and unbelievers, and the corrupt,
and murderers, and the immoral, and those who practice witchcraft, and
idol worshipers, and all liars—their doom is in the lake that burns
with fire and sulphur. This is the second death."
There are two possible endings, and it’s up to you to decide. No one
else can choose for you. Your parents can’t choose for you, your
children can’t choose for you, your spouse can’t choose for you, your
friends can’t choose for you. You make your own decision. Your first
option is this: You can decide to accept the life Jesus offers you and
enjoy all the blessings of spending eternity with your Heavenly Father.
This is the path the leads to eternal life in Heaven.
Or your second option is this: you can choose to reject that life, turn
away from Jesus, and spend eternity apart from God. The verses we just
read refer to the second death. You should know that the second death
does not mean that you cease to exist. A lot of people think that
there’s no such thing as eternal punishment in Hell. But the Bible is
quite clear that Hell is a reality, and once you’re there you’re there
for all time. In this case, the word “death” means that you will be
eternally separated from your Creator, and you will never experience
the life you were meant to live. That’s the second death.
And that’s it. There are only two options. Not one, not three, just
two. You, me and everyone else we know will each choose one or the
In the book Alice in Wonderland we read this encounter:
One day Alice came to
a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I
take?” she asked.
“Where do you want to go?” was his response.
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”
It would be wise for us
this morning to know where we want to go, because as Yogi Berra said;
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace
~ Yogi Berra
So let’s take a closer look at the two options.
1. Where You Don’t Want to Go: Hell
Actually, Hell is just
one of the terms we use to describe this final destination for people
who reject God. The terms Sheol in the Old Testament and Hades in the
New Testament can be used interchangeable and literally mean, “the
place of Departed Souls.” Sometimes the terms are simply used in
reference to death or the grave, and in other instances the terms refer
to an actual place, which we usually refer to as Hell.
In the New Testament there’s another term which Jesus used almost
exclusively to refer to Hell. And it’s the word, Gehenna. Now over the
past several weeks in our LIFE Group we’ve been watching a video series
which has taken us through some of the locations where Jesus walked and
where He taught. And one of the big things we’ve noticed is how
relevant and direct Jesus was with His hearers. For example, this past
week we talked about the words He had for the believers in the Church
in Laodicea. Jesus talked about how he wished they were either hot or
cold, but because there were only lukewarm He was about to spit them
out of His mouth. Well, there were two other cities that shared the
same valley as Laodicea. Hieropolis was known for the cold, refreshing
water that flowed to it from the nearby snow covered mountains.
Colossae was know for its hot springs which could soothe and relax and
bring healing. Laodicea was stuck in the middle with lukewarm water
that wasn’t fit for anything. So Jesus used the reality of their
situation to help them understand spiritual truth.
Well, here we have Jesus using the word Gehenna to tell them about
Hell. That Greek word actually referred to a valley southwest of
Jerusalem, known in Hebrew as the Valley of Hinnom. Here’s a picture of
the valley today, as it looks toward Jerusalem. In Old Testament times,
this valley was used by the Canaanites to sacrifice their sons and
daughters to the false god Molech. In 2 Kings 23 we’re told that King
Josiah put a stop to all of that by desecrating or defiling the valley.
I’m not sure how he did that, but whatever he did made the valley unfit
to be used.
By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, the valley had been converted
into a garbage dump. All of the filth and garbage of Jerusalem,
including the dead bodies of animals and criminals would be thrown out
into this dump. There were always fires burning there to consume all of
the waste that was there. And think about the smell. It’s bad enough
for me when I forget to empty the compost… I can’t imagine what that
would have been like.
This is what Jesus was referring to when he said;
Mark 9:43-48 (NLT)
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better to enter heaven with only one hand than to go into the
unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. If your foot causes you to
sin, cut it off. It is better to enter heaven with only one foot than
to be thrown into hell with two feet. And if your eye causes you to
sin, gouge it out. It is better to enter the Kingdom of God half blind
than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, `where the worm never
dies and the fire never goes out.'
What was Jesus saying? He was saying, “If you want to know what Hell is
like, look at Gehenna. The garbage, dead bodies, the fire, the smell…
multiply that by eternity and that’s what the unrighteous have to look
forward to in Hell.”
Who is it that have Hell as their final destination? Well, the verses
we looked at earlier identifies eight different groups of people. I
don’t think this is meant to be an exhaustive list, but it simply
illustrates the type of people who have this to look forward. So let’s
take a look at it again:
Revelation 21:8 (NLT)
But cowards who turn away from me, and
unbelievers, and the corrupt, and murderers, and the immoral, and those
who practice witchcraft, and idol worshipers, and all liars—their doom
is in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This is the second
destined for Hell?
First of all…
a) Cowards who
turn away from Jesus
The implication here is
that these same cowards perhaps followed Jesus at one time. But the
cost got too high, the effort became too much, they were embarrassed or
ashamed be associated with Jesus, and they turned away. Perhaps gaining
friends, power or an economic advantage was more important to them than
being associated with Jesus.
Let me tell you about a man who put his relationship with Jesus above
everything else. His name was Jim Elliot. He was a missionary to
Ecuador a number of years ago, and he knew going in that there was a
pretty good chance that he would be killed. He was going into the
jungle to share about Jesus with a tribe that up to that point had very
little contact with the outside world. It was a violent tribe, with its
own beliefs and with a fear of strangers. And you know what they did?
They killed him.
Listen to some of the words Jim had said earlier:
“A man is no fool who loses that which he cannot keep to gain that
which he cannot lose.”
~ Jim Elliot
And years later, his wife went back to the same tribe and was able to
successfully reach them for Christ.
These are the people who
reject the claims of Jesus. They reject the life He offers. They reject
Him as Lord of their lives. And there are a lot of people in this world
who fall into this category.
c) The corrupt
If something is corrupt,
that means it’s tainted, unusable or distorted. So it’s really a
catchall word for those who reject the values and standards of God in
favour of something less.
Obviously, a murderer is
someone who has taken the life of someone else other than for
self-defence. But you should know that the Bible talks about hatred as
being as bad as murder. Check out Matthew 5:21-22;
Matthew 5:21-22 (NLT)
"You have heard that the law of Moses says,
`Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.' But
I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If
you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before
the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the
fires of hell.
e) The immoral
This is a reference to
sexual impurity, and includes any sex outside of a heterosexual
marriage relationship. Sex is a gift from God, and for our own
protection it is meant to be used within this kind of a relationship.
What happens when we take sex outside of this kind of a relationship?
Well, why don’t you tell me.
What are some of the
consequences of sex outside of the marriage relationship?
(Unwanted pregnancies, AIDS, Sexually transmitted diseases, emotional
f) Those who
This isn’t just a
reference to black capes, pointy hats, and broomsticks. It’s a
reference to any messing around with the occult, séances, astrology,
psychics and trying to tap into supernatural powers we’re not supposed
to be tapping into.
If you worship something
other than God, you are an idol worshipper. It doesn’t have to be a
little stone shrine you bow down to. It can be your career, a hobby,
your family, your money… Anything that takes God out for first place in
your life is an idol.
h) All liars
I have a friend who
thinks he knows where all liars go… Ottawa. Well, the truth is that
liars go to Hell. A liar is a person who deceives. They may do it by
twisting the truth, manipulating it to their own advantage, saying
something that is simply not true, or allowing someone to believe a lie
by remaining silent.
I read a story this week
about when Calvin Coolidge was Vice-President of the United States.
Apparently, he was chairing a congressional meeting when one
Congressman stood up and told another Congressman, “Sir, you can go
straight to Hell.” The victim was taken aback, and looked to the
vice-president for support. “Mr. Coolidge,” he cried, “did you hear
what he told me to do?” “Yes,” replied the vice-president, “But I
checked the rulebook and you don’t have to go.”
We started out by saying we had two options for our final destination.
We’ve looked at the first option where we don’t want to go: Hell. So
that leaves us one more option.
2. Where you want to go: Heaven
Revelation 21:7 (NLT)
All who are victorious will inherit all
these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
The verse makes
reference to blessings. But what blessings? To find out, we’ve got to
go back a bit earlier in the chapter. Let’s jump back to verses 1-4;
Revelation 21:1-4 (NLT)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for
the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also
gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God
out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of God is
now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his
people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their
sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.
For the old world and its evils are gone forever."
Okay, let me highlight five blessing mentioned in these verses;
Blessings of Heaven:
a) And the sea
was also gone
This sounds a little
cryptic. How can this be a good thing? Here we are living in PEI and we
enjoy having the sea. Well, understand what this meant to the original
recipients of these words. 2000 years ago, the sea was a hostile,
uninviting place. Without a compass the only safe way to travel by sea
was to stay within sight of land. And so this blessing was a message
that confusion, turmoil and danger would be gone in heaven.
b) God is now
among His people
If Hell is the absence
of all that is good and all that is pure, the Heaven is the presence of
all that is good and all that is pure. We will be in the presence of
the Almighty God. Our relationship with Him will be completely restored
and unhindered. Just like we were originally intended to live before we
as a race rebelled against God.
c) There will
be no more death
We sang about this
earlier in the service. Never again will we experience the loss of
someone we love. Never again will we have to be separated from them
that way. Never again will we have to wonder how we will die, and what
kind of pain or disease will accompany our death.
d) There will
be no more sorrow
No more regrets, no “if
only’s”, no “what if’s”.We won’t sit around rehashing the mistakes
we’ve made or the things we wish we had done differently. We won’t
spend forever dwelling on missed opportunities. There will be no more
e) There will
be no more pain
That’s one thing we sure
know a lot about in this life. The older I get the more I get
acquainted with pain. And it’s always something… my back hurts, I’ve
got a headache, my feet hurt, I get a toothache… there always seems to
be some kind of pain. It can be physical pain, emotional pain,
spiritual pain… there always seems to be some kind of pain we’re
dealing with. Well, enjoy it while it lasts, because there won’t be any
more pain in Heaven.
Those are just some of
the things that those of us who have a relationship with Jesus have to
look forward to. Heaven will be a wonderful place, more wonderful than
we can expect or comprehend right now. The Bible describes Heaven to
some extent using metaphors, like streets of gold, gates of pearls, and
walls of precious stones. But the glory of Heaven will be greater than
words can describe, and the torture of Hell will be more terrible than
words can describe. Those are the two options. And you get to decide
what your final destination will be. As Yogi Berra said;
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
~ Yogi Berra
There’s one question I
want to address just as we finish up here. A lot of people ask the
question, “How can a loving God send anyone to Hell?” That’s an
interesting question, and it makes the assumption that God is sending
people to Hell. But here’s what I believe: I believe we all start out
in life heading toward Hell because of a decision made way back in the
Garden of Eden. I believe Adam and Eve set the whole human race on a
trajectory toward Gehenna. God’s not sending anyone there. We’re going
there by our own choosing.
But what God has done is this: He has offered a way to enter eternity
with Him in Heaven instead. And that offer is made to everyone. He’s
not sending anyone to Hell; He’s offering the alternative. That’s the
act of a good, loving God.
I know most of you have already made your choice. Most of you have
already established Heaven as your destination by virtue of entering
into a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you haven’t, why not? You can
join with the rest of us and spend eternity in the presence of God in