Beyond the Door of Death: The Bible on Heaven and Hell – Hell pt 1

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Beyond The Door of Death: The Bible on Hell

If you have your Bibles, please turn in them to the gospel of Luke this morning, and Luke chapter number 16—Luke 16.

About ten years ago, when financier Donald Trump was at one of his financial high points, a writer tracked him down—one time when he was going to dinner—and asked him the inevitable question about what horizons he felt were left to conquer in his life.  And this is what he said: “Right now, I’m genuinely enjoying myself.  I work, and I don’t worry.”  And then, this writer asked another very interesting question of him.  The writer said, “Well, what about death?  Don’t you worry about dying?”   And then, Trump shot back his stock answer that he had given many other times in interviews.  He said, “No.  I’m fatalistic, and I protect myself as well as anybody can.  I prepare for things.”  And then, he started to walk up the stairs to go have dinner with his family, and he hesitated for a moment.  And he said, “I don’t believe in reincarnation, heaven, or hell.  But we go someplace.”  And then, he paused more and he said, “But, you know, I cannot for the life of me figure out where.”

Isn’t that an interesting perspective?  Where one goes after they walk through the door of death, has got to be one of the most significant issues that someone has to deal with.  See, the ultimate issue for every one of us that are here, today; the ultimate issue is not whether we’re going to experience physical death.  That’s going to happen.  It’s not whether we’re going to enter into eternity or not, because every man, woman, and young person is going to do that.  The ultimate issue for everyone is, where are we going to spend eternity?

A number of weeks ago, we began a series of messages that I had entitled “Beyond The Door of Death: The Bible on Heaven And Hell.”  And we started out by looking at some things, way back then a number of weeks ago, I want to remind you of.  And that was that heaven and hell are viewed by most in our culture to be fanciful, old-fashioned notions that are largely inappropriate for today’s sophisticated society.  Way back at the beginning of our study we cited Gordon Kaufman, who is a Harvard Divinity School theologian, who studied the history of heaven and hell over four centuries.  And he said, “What we have left, today, is mostly intellectually empty baggage.”  And in a recent Newsweek article, he said this: “Today, hell is theology’s ‘H’ word, a subject too trite for serious scholarship.”  And he said, “I don’t think there can be any future for heaven and hell.”

Where does such an attitude come from?  Well, we live in a self-absorbed, feel good world; and a world where religion and truth are just viewed to be private hobbies that we are to have.  Hell, in our culture especially, is in…disrepute…it’s just in disrepute.  And I believe that more than any other doctrine of the Bible, hell may be most out of step with our times.  And yet, this has been true for a while.  Charles Spurgeon, over a hundred years ago, said this: “It is shocking to note that a change in the weather has more effect on some men’s lives than the dread alternative of heaven or hell.”  Isn’t it true?

But the interesting thing is that no matter how old-fashioned it may be, no matter how culturally insensitive it may be, or unacceptable it may be, no matter how inappropriate it may be viewed, no matter how inconsequential people think hell may be; it really makes no difference what I think about hell, and it really makes no difference what you think about hell.  And it really makes no difference what Donald Trump thinks about hell.  What matters is what God has to say about hell.  And because of that, the Bible is going to be our guidebook.

And so, we want to continue our study of behind the door of death by looking at the Bible on hell.  And I just want you to understand, before we get started, today is just not one of those days where we’re going to have a lot of sunshine and lollypops.  It’s just not going to be like that.  It’s going to be very much like sitting down with a physician and having to hear about cancer.  But the key, when you hear that news, is the solution, and the treatment, and the cure behind it.  So, we got to keep that in mind, as we move through our study of hell.

Today, what we want to look at are the basics about hell…the Bible basics about hell.  And then, Lord willing, next week we’re going to look at some objections to hell and some of the attempts that have been done over the years to try to soften the concept of hell as the Bible actually presents it.  And so, what we’re going to do is we’re going to use Luke, chapter 16 as our base text—beginning with Luke 16 with verse 19 on down through the end of the chapter.  We’re going to be traveling around a lot of different places, but this is going to be our base.

And what’s interesting about Luke 16 is, as far as I know, it is the only time in the Scripture we have a direct description of someone who is in hell.  And, interestingly enough, this description comes out of the mouth of Jesus Himself.  And so, He tells this story, and I believe it is more than a parable—Jesus often told parables, where He said certain things happened to certain kinds of people—but in this story, He actually names individuals.  We have Abraham being named, and we have a man called Lazarus who is named.  And that’s different from the normal parable format.  And I believe it points to the fact that what we have in Luke 16 is a true, historical account.

And what I want to do is read these verses; invite you to follow along as we read through them.  So, Luke, chapter 16, verse 19.  Jesus speaking, and says, “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; besides, 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 Hades [the rich man] lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and [he] 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 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…’ ”—this is just showing that what goes on in our life isn’t necessarily what’s going to go on in the afterlife—“ ‘…and likewise Lazarus bad things, but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.  And besides all this, between us and 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, [well] ‘Then I beg you, father, 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.’  But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets…’ ”—they have the Scriptures—“ ‘…let them hear them.’  But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham…if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’  But he said to [them], ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

Now, we want to look at the basics of hell, and we’re going to look at six basic points.  The first one is this: hell is a place.  Just like heaven is a place, hell is a place.  And there are four common terms that are used, in Scripture, that describe this place called hell.  And I’d like to give them to you, and if you’d like, jot them down.

The first term that is used to describe the place of hell is the term ‘Sheol.’  That’s S-H-E-O-L.  It is a Hebrew word out of the Old Testament—Sheol.  And what is really interesting is—if you look in the King James Version of the Bible—most frequently the word ‘Sheol’ is translated either ‘grave’ or with the word ‘hell.’  What is interesting—in the New American Standard Bible—even though the word ‘Sheol’ occurs in the Old Testament some sixty-five times, the New American Standard actually never translates it.  It just has the word ‘Sheol’ in the New American Standard—never translates it.  And so, if you look up, in a New American Standard concordance, the word ‘Sheol,’ it will define the word ‘Sheol’ as the ‘underworld,’ or the place where you go at death.  So, that’s the first word that’s used to describe the place of hell.

The second word that is used to describe the place of hell is a Greek word in the New Testament, and that is the word ‘Hades’—H-A-D-E-S—Hades.  In fact, when the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which is the Septuagint, was done, they had to translate the word ‘Sheol’ out of the Old Testament; the word that they always used to translate  ‘Sheol’ was the word ‘Hades.’  We get the word ‘Hades’ from the Greek god Hades who, in the Greek system, was to be the god of the netherworld who ruled over the dead.  And this word ‘Hades’ is actually used here, in Luke, chapter 16 and verse 23: “…and in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment…”.

Now, there’s a third word that is used in the Bible to describe this place called hell.  It is also a Greek word out of the New Testament, and it is the word ‘Gehenna.’  That’s G-E-H-E-N-N-A—Gehenna.  And Gehenna occurs twelve times in the Bible; interestingly enough, eleven of them by the Lord Jesus Himself.  In fact, we’re going to see that if you want to know something about hell, the person that you go to in the Bible is Jesus Christ.  He talked a whole lot more about hell than He ever did about heaven.  And one of the words that’s used to describe hell is the word ‘Gehenna.’  It’s a Greek word that was really developed from the Valley of Hinnom, which has a whole biblical history to it. 

The Valley of Hinnom is…is very, very, very despicable in Israel’s history; because in the Valley of Hinnom in the Old Testament, great evil was practiced there, great witchcraft was practiced in the Valley of Hinnom, which is right at Jerusalem.  In fact, do you know what they did in the Valley of Hinnom in the Old Testament—the people of Israel?  They actually burned their own children in sacrifice to the god Moloch.  If you’d like some references for that, and look it up later, 2 Chronicles 33:6 talks about that—33:6; and Jeremiah 32, verse 35—chapter 32, verse 35.  This occurred in the Valley of Hinnom, and because of that disreputable history it became a despised place.  And, later on it became the rubbish dump of Jerusalem.  And they would burn their garbage in the Valley of Hinnom—or it became known as Gehenna, and they would toss animal carcasses into it.  In Jesus’ day the area of Gehenna was always burning, always smoldering.

Now, turn with me to…to Matthew, chapter 10.  We’ll see one example of where this word ‘Gehenna’ is used to describe the place of hell—Matthew, chapter 10 and verse 28.  By the way, Gehenna was a very apt picture of hell because of this burning and smoldering that was going on there.  Chapter 20…chapter 10, verse 28.  Jesus says, “…do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell,” it says in the New American Standard.  But this is the word ‘Gehenna.’  We need to be concerned about hell.  We need to be concerned about Gehenna.

There is a fourth term that is used in the Bible to describe the place of hell and that is the term ‘the lake of fire.’  Turn with me in the book of the Revelation—the very last book of the Bible—to Revelation, chapter 19, where we see the phrase ‘the lake of fire’ used.  The lake of fire describes the permanent hell, or the hell of eternity future.  Notice Revelation, chapter 19, verse 20.  The beast—the antichrist—“…was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he had deceived those who had

received the mark of the beast and those who’d worshiped his image; and

these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.”  And, we’re going to see later on in our study, that in chapter 20, several times, the lake of fire is mentioned.

But when we’re looking at the basics about hell, the first thing we need to understand is that hell is a place.  The second thing we need to understand is that it is a place of judgment…it is a place of judgment.  Paul, in Ephesians 5:6, talks about how there’s a time coming in which the wrath of God is going to come upon the sons of disobedience.  In Romans, chapter 2 and verse 5, he says to those individuals, “…because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and [the] revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”  There is a time of judgment and a place of judgment that is coming.

Turn with me to the book of 2 Thessalonians in the New Testament.  It’s right behind 1 Thessalonians; it’s right ahead of 1 Timothy…2 Thessalonians, chapter 1.  In verse 7 it talks about how the Lord Jesus is going to be revealed from heaven.  He’s coming back with His mighty angels in flaming fire—2 Thess. 1:8—and He’ll be “dealing out…”—notice this—“…retribution…”.  To whom?  “…to those who do not know God…to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”—verse 9—“And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…”.  You see, hell is a place of judgment.  Those in hell are going to be recipients of the wrath of God.

So, we’re just trying to understand the basics about hell.  First of all, it is a place; second of all, it is a place of judgment.  Thirdly, it is a place of torment.  Hell is a place of torment.  And we saw that very clearly in the account in Luke, chapter 16.  If you go back there, in verse 23 you have the rich man who is in Hades.  He lifts up his eyes, it says, “…being in torment.”  Notice verse 28.  He says, “I’ve got five brothers.  I want to warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.”

This word that’s translated ‘torment,’ both the verb and the nouns that are related to it, basically mean either to suffer or to experience torment.  And hell is a place of torment.  A different word is used in verse 24, when he says, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me…send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.”  It’s a place of torment.

There’s two things I want you to notice about that.  First, it’s conscious torment…it’s conscious torment.  We’re able to see very clearly, here in Luke 16; here we have an individual who is in hell and he’s experiencing conscious torment.  He is able to see; he is able to think; he is able to speak; he is able to feel agony.  It’s conscious torment.

In Matthew, chapter 13, verse 41 and 42, it says, “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all [the] stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire;

and in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  If you end up in a place and there’s the response of weeping and gnashing of teeth, you’re experiencing conscious torment.  It is a place of torment—conscious torment. 

And, secondly, I want you to notice that it is a place of eternal torment.  Turn back with me to the book of the Revelation, again, and chapter number 14.  You know, all we can say, when we begin to study the basics about hell is, “This is difficult subject…this is a difficult subject.”  It is a place; it’s a place of judgment; it’s a place of torment—conscious torment—and eternal torment.  Look at chapter 14 and verse 9.  It says, “If anyone worships the beast…”—the antichrist—“…and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he [will also] drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will…”—notice, these phrases keep repeating themselves—“…he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”  Verse 11, “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever…they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”  You see, it is eternal torment.

Look at chapter 20 of this book and verse 10—chapter 20, verse 10.  “…the devil who…deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and…”—notice what it says—“…they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

You notice how different this is from the popular notion about hell that people often have?  You know, people often say, “Well, you know what?  I don’t really know anybody that’s going to heaven.  I’d like to hang out with all of my friends who are headed for hell.  And we’re going to go down there, and we’re going to have a party down there.  We’re going to have a great time; we’re going to just hang out, we’re going to get involved in all kinds of naughty fun down here.  I want to be with my friends in hell.”  Listen, this is a whole lot different from that…a whole lot different from that.  This is a place of torment; conscious torment and eternal torment. 

It’s kind of interesting, when we have this picture in Luke 16 of someone who is actually in hell, there’s no friends that appear to be there.  I mean, he seems to be in some kind of an isolation situation.  And he’s certainly not hanging out with all the old chums, having a bunch of naughty fun.  No, it’s a place of torment; conscious torment and eternal torment. 

It is a place, a place of judgment, a place of torment (both conscious and eternal).  The fourth thing I want us to notice about the basics regarding hell, is that it is a place of degrees of punishment…degrees of punishment.  Most of us know that all of us are sinners and all of us have done wrong.  But, you know, we also know that God is a God of justice.  And it’s almost as if we intuitively know, inside of ourselves, that if there’s going to be justice then…well, when you take someone like Hitler, or you take someone like Stalin, or you take someone like Saddam Hussein, or you take someone who is like a serial child rapist.  We just almost know inside of us—intuitively know—that if there’s really going to be justice, there has to be a different punishment for someone like that than maybe someone who was a good person, but simply chose to ignore God.  And the Bible tells us that hell is going to be a place of degrees of punishment.  It will not be the same intensity for all people.

Now, let me give you three indicators of that.  First of all, in hell the judgment will be according to works…according to works.  Turn to Revelation, chapter 20 again.  We need to go back there.  We’re going to see that the judgment in hell is according to works.  In other words, it’s according to what you were doing in your life.  Notice in Revelation, chapter 20, verse 11.  John says, “…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.”  This is a judgment where you have all the unbelieving; all the unsaved of all of all of history, here.  And, verse 12, “…I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and…”—notice this—“…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 Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.  And death and Hades 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.”  Two times, here…two times it says, “they were judged according to their deeds.”  There are going to be degrees of punishment in hell.

Second indicator of that is that hypocrites receive a greater condemnation…hypocrites receive a greater condemnation.  Turn again to one of the gospels; this time, the gospel of Mark—Mark, chapter 12.  And it’s interesting to me how much we learn about hell from the mouth of Jesus.  He’s the One who does most of the teaching on this.  And He points out that hypocrites receive a greater condemnation.  Mark, chapter 12 and verse 38…Mark 12:38.  Jesus was teaching, and he was saying, “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places…the chief seats in the synagogues, and the places of honor at banquets…”.  These are the guys who went around purporting to be so righteous; they were acting so high and so holy.  They had this public religious façade.  But, in reality, they really weren’t like that.  In private they were very selfish and self-serving.  And notice, He goes on to say these religious hypocrites are the ones who, in reality—verse 40—are devouring widows’ houses.  They were stealing money from widows.  “…and for appearance’s sake they

offer long prayers…”.  But notice what He concludes in verse 40.  He says, “…these [are going to]…receive greater condemnation.”  Jesus says that hypocrites are going to have a greater condemnation.  And that only seems fair.  You know, it’s amazing how much hypocrites have turned off people to true spirituality.  And God knows that, and He says hypocrites—people who just pretend to be one thing, but they’re exactly one hundred and eighty degrees the opposite—are going to receive a greater condemnation in hell.

Now, a third indicator of the degrees of punishment in hell is this principle: that is the more light someone receives about God, the more severe the punishment is going to be.  Turn to the gospel of Matthew, this time, chapter number 11.  And you can almost guess who the speaker is going to be, as we get insight into hell.  It’s Jesus, again.  And the principle is—and this one’s pretty startling to think about—the more light, the more severe the punishment is going to be in hell.  Matthew, chapter 11 and verse 20, Jesus “…began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.”  In other words, Jesus said more evidence was given to you; more information about sin and righteousness and judgment and salvation was given to you than was given to other situations.  And notice, He says, in verse 21, “Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon…”—in the Old Testament—“…which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”  In other words, those cities did not repent, in the Old Testament, but they didn’t get as much light as you got.  If they had gotten the light that you had gotten, they would have repented.  “Nevertheless,” He says—verse 22—“I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.”  You got more light; you’re going to get more severe punishment because you didn’t repent.  And then, notice He goes on to say—verse 23—“And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you?  You shall descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which [had] occurred in you…”—and Sodom is probably the most evil, vile city of all of Old Testament history—“…if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which [had] occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.  Nevertheless, I say to you…it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”  The more light, the more severe punishment.

Now, this has a lot of ramifications, because we have people, you see, who maybe have grown up in a family where from a younger age they have been told about Jesus Christ.  They’ve been told about the issues of sin, they’ve been told about the issues of judgment, they’ve been told about the person of Christ, but they have never repented; they’ve never embraced who Christ is and trusted in Him.  And you know what?  That means more severe punishment.  We have individuals, often times, who can come to church and they’ve maybe been here many times.  And they’ve…they’ve heard all of these issues laid out for them.  And we’ve opened up the word of God, and we’ve explained that there are two destinies.  We’ve explained the issue of sin; that you cannot pay for your own sin.  Only Christ can do it.  And you’ve heard about the gospel time and time again.  You just need to understand—and my responsibility is to let you know—the more light, without your repenting and trusting in Christ, the more severe punishment that’s going to come in hell.  Some of us have witnessed—who have not yet trusted in Christ—lives around us that have been changed.  That’s part of the light of God flashing forth.  And if we don’t repent, it means more severe punishment.

Hell is a place; it’s a place of judgment, it’s a place of torment, it’s a place of degrees of punishment.  Fifth, I want us to understand that hell is a place of regret…it’s a place of regret.  It’s interesting that Abraham says to this rich man, while he is in Hades; he says remember…you need to remember.  There’s going to be a regret, I believe, for those in hell; a regret about the missed opportunities they had to heed the call of God.  There’s going to be the agony of concern over loved ones that are still on the earth.  We saw that in Luke 16, verse 28.  He doesn’t need any convincing; he knows where he is.  And he says I’ve got five brothers I don’t want to end up here.  It’s going to be a lot of regret there.  It’s—when we’re in hell—we’re going to realize the utter holiness and righteousness of God.  One would know then, fully, the repulsiveness of sin and rebellion against God.  There’s going to be regret.  Those in hell are going to lament that their destiny is irrevocably fixed.  There’s really no way out.

As M. R. DeHaan put it; he said, “Once we’ve passed through the door of death, we cannot pick up our suitcase and move out because we don’t like the accommodations.”  It’s not going to be able to happen.  Those in hell are going to have regret because they’re caught in the web of an unchangeable eternal destiny.  Those in hell are going to bemoan the willful independence and the stubborn selfishness that brought them there, because they’re in a place that God did all that was necessary to deliver them from going there.”  And there’s going to be regret; it’ll be a place of regret.

G. K. Chesterton, who is a great thinker, once said this; listen to this one.  He said, “Hell is God’s great compliment to the reality of human freedom and the dignity of human personality.”  And you go, “Wait a minute!  Everything you’ve been telling us about hell and it’s God’s great compliment?”  Well it’s His compliment to the reality of human freedom and the dignity of human personality.  Because really what God is saying to individuals is, “You are significant.  I take you seriously.  Choose to ignore Me, choose to reject Me, choose hell if you will.  I will let you go.”  But it is a place of regret.

The sixth and final thing we want to look at, and this is maybe the most important one of all regarding the basics of hell, is that hell is avoidable…hell is avoidable.  All of us—every man, woman, and child—is lost.  We are all sinful.  In fact, we were conceived in sin; we’re born in sin. All of us fit that bill.  And, you know, God would be perfectly just and fair if He condemned all of us—every one of us—to an eternity separated from Him.  He would be just and fair if He did that.  But He made a way of escape.  The way of rescue was paved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Our escape from hell was earned by His death for our sins; not earned by us, but earned by Him.  And it is a gift of His grace and mercy that is offered to us, if we will yet embrace it and accept it.  See, the ultimate issue for everyone is not, are we going to experience physical death?  The ultimate issue is not, are we going to enter into eternity?…because every one of us will do that.  The ultimate issue is, where are we going to spend eternity?  Where are you going to spend eternity?

Now, having looked at the basics of hell, I want to talk about some life consideration for two groups of individuals, because there’s only two types on the planet.  The first would be for those who are believers.  Having looked at this, what life consideration can we have coming out of this?  And, secondly, I want to look at those who are unbelievers—who haven’t repented, who haven’t trusted in Christ.  I want to talk about that—what life consideration there may be from our study, today, for them.

But, first of all, let’s look at those who are believers; those who know Christ personally. I believe, in terms of life consideration—having looked at this kind of material today—there ought to be both an appreciative response from us and a motivational response from us.  An appreciative response, having looked at the basics of hell; what should it be?  I can’t think of better words than, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”  I mean, doesn’t that just want to flow out of your being—that appreciative response—“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift to deliver us from this place!”  It ought to make a difference how we live, as we have an appreciative response.  You know, in 1 Peter 4, Peter writes, and he says as Christ has suffered in the flesh—that is, He died—we ought to live the rest of our time in the flesh—in this body—no longer living for the lusts of men but for the will of God.  You know, when we look at the basics of hell, it ought to breed an appreciative response in us; we want to…we ought to want to live our life as a thank-you card to Jesus Christ.  There ought to be an appreciative response, I think. 

But not only that, I think some life consideration ought to be a motivational response, when you look at the basics of hell.  Missionary Hudson Taylor said, “I would have never thought of going to China had I not believed that the Chinese were lost and they needed Christ.”  Craig Combs is in North Carolina, working with Chinese students, because he has the same belief.  American evangelist D. L. Moody once told an audience, when he was in London, “If I believed there was no hell, I’m sure I would be out of here and off tomorrow for America.”  He said, “I would not be going from town to town spending day and night urging men to escape the damnation of hell, if it wasn’t true.”

There ought to be a motivational response, you see, for a believer, when we look at the basics of hell.  J. I. Packer said, “When the badness of the bad news about hell is unmuffled…”—when it’s uncovered—“…the goodness of the good news about Christ and eternal life shines brighter.”  And that’s part of the role we are to play while we’re on the planet.  We’re going to be talking about…more about this in the weeks and months to come.  We’re to be shining as light in our homes, and in our community, and in our world.  And there ought to be a motivational response for us.  Listen, please, believer in Jesus Christ. Don’t be afraid to broach the subject of life and death with people.  Don’t be afraid to broach the subject of heaven and hell.  Don’t be afraid to ask the question of someone: where do you think you’re going to go, after you die and why?

Now, sometimes we get so worried we cannot answer all the questions and all the issues, but it’s a good thing to talk about.  And we ought to be motivated to do that.  And you might want to consider—even with just one person this week—asking them the question: where do you think you’re going to go, after you die and why?  And let God take it some place.

So, we should, as a believer—I believe—have both an appreciative response and a motivational response.

Now, life consideration for someone who doesn’t know Christ, for someone who is an unbeliever.  I want you to know that as we have laid out for you the basics about hell, it is not so much to inform you as it is to warn you. 

In 1984, there was a crash of an Avianca plane in Spain.  And as they do these days, they went to the crash site and they retrieved the black box—you know, the one that has a record of some of the instrument recordings and also has a playback of what was going on in the cockpit.  And as they played back the black box, they found that before the crash, all the instrument readings were just fine.  But this plane had been equipped with something new; a very special trouble indicator.  And, it had a computerized voice that came on in English, and the black box said this voice came on.  And the computerized voice said in English, over and over again, “Pull up!  Pull up!  Pull up!  Pull up!”  Well, the Spanish pilot kept looking at his instruments and all of his instruments were fine; and this English voice kept going, “Pull up!  Pull up!  Pull up!”  He became highly irritated, and the very last words the pilot said were, “Shut up, Gringo!”  And the plane plowed directly into a mountain.

Now, what is interesting is that God, through His word, has been warning everyone in every generation that there is trouble and tragedy ahead; and it’s a place called hell.  And the message of God, over and over again, is “Look up!  Look up!  Look up!”  Because it’s from there that Jesus Christ came.  It’s from there that salvation for individuals was won, if a person will repent and turn and trust in Christ.

You know, many, many times in the Bible it says, “Today is the day of salvation.”  Centuries and centuries ago, Isaiah wrote, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.”  The emphasis of all of that is opportunity…opportunity to trust in Christ can be over in a heartbeat.  And once our destiny is set, there is no hope for it to be reversed.  And if you don’t know Christ; if you’ve never repented, if you’ve never turned to Him, if you’ve never trusted in Him, please follow the prescription in John 5:24 where Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes in Him who sent Me, has eternal life…[and he’s] passed out of death into life.”

Let’s pray together.  Father, we thank You, again, for Your book, and we thank You that it is real.  This place called hell is very real.  And, Father, for those of us who know You, we want to just cry out, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”  And, Father, what a motivation to want to talk to people we know about the issues of  life and death.  But, Father, if we have anybody that’s been playing a game, sort of, with You—who’ve been around the message of salvation, around the gospel of Jesus Christ—may they realize that You are sending to them a warning message about what is ahead.  And what they need to do is to look up to find salvation in the person of Jesus Christ.  We pray that they would do that this very day…this very day.  And we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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