Reasons to Believe in Heaven & Hell

  • I don't know if you've ever found yourself casually talking about your own death
  • yesterday some of us got talking about funeral homes and I mentioned, "Boy, when I die, I've got one picked out for me"
  • it wasn't very long before everyone was completely disgusted with me for even thinking about my own death

  • but we all realize we have a date with death
  • there is a one-to-one ratio in history of people being born to people dying
  • I wonder how your readiness factor reads this morning
  • many in this world, when they are confronted with death, say, "I have some thinking to do"
  • is there an afterlife?
  • is all this talk about heaven just pie in the sky?
  • are we reincarnated like the Hindus and New Agers say?

  • this is what this final installment in this series is about
  • reasons why we should believe in the reality of heaven and hell

  • I want to begin by listing seven reasons for believing in life after the grave
  • I know full well that many people believe that life does not extend beyond the grave
  • but I want to list seven reasons for believing otherwise
  • these reasons are not conclusive in and of themselves, but if you take them together, there seems to be a cumulative effect

  • FIRST, LOOK AT NATURE
  • for centuries, men and women have observed nature and noticed that in the natural realm, death gives way to a new kind of life
  • seeds die to give birth to plants
  • acorns shrivel and give birth to oak trees
  • caterpillars create a tomb around themselves that later explodes with the beauty of a butterfly
  • dark nights and cold winters pass into glorious mornings and blossoming springs
  • the pattern is everywhere - death leading to life
  • the great philosopher Plato looked at the death leading to life patterns in nature and concluded that maybe they provided a clue of what lies beyond the grave for humans
  • in his mind, nature points to an afterlife of some kind for human beings

  • SECOND, LOOK AT THE LAWS OF PHYSICS
  • Einstein and later others argued that matter may change states, but probably will not be created or destroyed
  • many people have studied the first law of thermodynamics and have seen it to be analogous to what happens to human beings at death
  • humans might change states, as it were, but not destroyed altogether
  • if they were destroyed, they would be among the only things in this universe to be ultimately destroyed
  • so some people look at this and say maybe there is some reason there to look at life beyond the grave

  • THIRD, LOOK AT PHILOSOPHY
  • Emmanuel Kant, certainly no lightweight thinker, observed that all people on the planet earth seem to have a concern for ethics
  • through a long, involved philosophical process, Kant argues that the only explanation for this inherent sense of ethics is this thing he calls justice
  • he argues that because justice is not applied fully in this world, it must be applied in the afterlife by a judge who finally settles human accounts
  • so Emmanuel Kant held a belief in the afterlife if for no other reason than justice for once and for all to be served

  • FOURTH, LOOK AT THE ETERNAL LONGINGS OF THE HUMAN HEART
  • anthropologists have concluded long ago that virtually every people, every cultural group, every tribe on earth has a well-developed sense of the afterlife
  • from the happy hunting ground concept of the native to the sensual pleasure concept of the Muslims, humans seem incapable of believing that death extinguishes their existence
  • from the pyramids of evil to the reincarnation of New Age thinking, people everywhere believe that the human soul survives death
  • how do you account for this universal sense?
  • there must be life after the grave

  • Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, "He has also set eternity in the hearts of men"
  • some think that what Solomon was saying is that there is an inescapable longing for something that this world cannot satisfy
  • Solomon tried to fill this inner void with work, alcohol, laughter, philosophy, music, and sexual relations
  • but his disillusionment grew
  • only when he turned to thoughts of a final judgment and afterlife could he find something big enough to satisfy his longings
  • (Ecclesiastes 12:14) For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

  • FIFTH, LOOK AT NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES
  • you've all heard of these
  • these are incredibly subjective and arguable, and yet they happen
  • almost eight million people in the States alone claim to have come so close to death that they at least got a glimpse of what lies on the other side
  • Bruce Gyerson, a professor at the University of Connecticut, who specializes in studying near-death experiences, says that these experiences have had a profound affect on those who have experienced them
  • and often the experience motivate them to change their lives
  • often, they become less materialistic and more involved in worthwhile causes
  • whatever it is that they saw
  • they've had a profound experience that has changed their life, and there's no doubt in their mind anymore about the afterlife
  • taken as a whole, they point to the fact that as people approach death, they sense they are not coming to the end of an existence but the beginning of another journey

  • SIXTH, LOOK AT THE INJUSTICES OF LIFE
  • it would be very difficult to believe that life is good if we knew there was nothing beyond the grave to compensate for all the inequality and unfairness present in this world
  • some in this world are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, while others are born into terrible relationships and circumstances
  • Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes:
  • (Ecclesiastes 4:1) Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed-- and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors-- and they have no comforter.
  • (Ecclesiastes 4:2) And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive.
  • (Ecclesiastes 4:3) But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.

  • (Job 3:1) After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.
  • (Job 3:2) He said:
  • (Job 3:3) "May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, 'A boy is born!'

  • when you hear about children being killed by their parents, when you think about a little child being abused by an adult, when you think of the hatred and murders and even petty crimes that go unpunished, one reason to believe in the afterlife is the necessity of the record being set straight
  • the sense of justice
  • in one of the very honest psalms, Psalm 73, a man named Asaph describes how he almost lost his faith in God when he considered how evil people prosper and the godly suffer
  • until he realizes that eternity will fix the imbalances of life

  • SEVENTH, LOOK AT THE BIBLE
  • the Bible speaks so clearly about life beyond the grave that you can't read the Bible honestly and without confronting the teaching on the afterlife
  • in Genesis, straight off, the Scriptures tell us that God created us in his likeness, and God is an eternal God
  • Daniel 12:1-3 speaks of a day when those who sleep in the dust of the earth will be resurrected, some to life and some to everlasting shame
  • in Matthew 10:28, Jesus warned, "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."
  • Jesus promised Paradise to the repentant thief who was dying at his side, but he also used the Valley of Hinnom - a foul garbage dump outside of Jerusalem - as a symbol of what awaits those who insist on risking the judgment of God
  • Jesus even said, (Matthew 16:26) What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
  • the Biblical teaching on heaven and hell is significant and compelling

  • what I want to do with the remaining minutes is to look at what happens when we die
  • and the source of the information I'll be sharing is the Bible, which we have found to be reliable and trustworthy

  • THE FIRST EVENT THAT IS INESCAPABLE IS OUR DEATH
  • people often joke that there are only two things in life that are certain: death and taxes
  • that is only partially true, because some have been known to cheat the tax collector and avoid payment
  • death, however, cannot be cheated
  • (Hebrews 9:27) Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment
  • do you ever hear the saying, "So and so's death was a surprise"
  • friends, somebody's death is never a surprise
  • maybe the timing of their death was a surprise, but none of us should be surprised that we are going to die
  • it could be today, it could be years from now, it could be when we're young or when we're old, but we're all destined for death
  • the only two people who were spared death in the Bible were Enoch and Elijah, and those who are alive at the second coming of Christ will also not experience death
  • but the rest of us have an inescapable appointment with death

  • THE SECOND EVENT THAT IS INESCAPABLE IS THE RESURRECTION
  • the Bible teaches at death, the soul of a believer goes to be immediately with the Lord
  • (2 Corinthians 5:8) We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

  • but one day, both believer and unbeliever will have their body resurrected, but not at the same time
  • the first resurrection will be of believers
  • (1 Corinthians 15:51) Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed--
  • (1 Corinthians 15:52) in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
  • (1 Thessalonians 4:16) For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
  • (1 Thessalonians 4:17) After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
  • after a period of time called the millennium, according to Revelation 20:4, unbelievers as well will be resurrected
  • the souls of unbelievers will come from Hades and will be given bodies in which they will face the next inescapable appointment

  • the bodies we will receive, by the way, will be similar in many ways to the ones we have now, but also different
  • they will be flesh and bone, but dramatically changed (Luke 24:39; 1 Corinthians 15:50)
  • they will be incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:49), awe inspiring (1 Corinthians 15:43), and they will have new abilities (1 Corinthians 15:43)

  • THE THIRD EVENT THAT IS INESCAPABLE IS THE JUDGMENT
  • (Revelation 20:11) Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
  • (Revelation 20:12) And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.
  • (Revelation 20:13) The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.
  • (Revelation 20:14) Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
  • (Revelation 20:15) If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
  • many other passages speak of this final judgment
  • (Acts 17:30) In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
  • (Acts 17:31) For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
  • 2 Timothy 4:1 tells us that Jesus Christ will be the judge
  • unbelievers will stand before Christ for judgment and receive various degrees of punishment
  • the secrets of people's hearts will be revealed
  • (Luke 12:2) There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
  • (Luke 12:3) What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

  • believers as well will be judged
  • (Romans 14:10) You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.
  • (Romans 14:12) So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
  • this will not be to determine our eternal destiny, since all believers will enter into God's kingdom, but rather the various degrees of reward
  • we all have an inescapable date to stand before the judgment seat of Christ

  • THE FINAL EVENT THAT IS INESCAPABLE IS OUR ENTRANCE INTO EITHER HEAVEN OR HELL
  • these are not mythical places or figments of our imagination
  • one man writes of heaven, "It's better than a mouse getting locked in a cheese processing plant. It's better than a beggar inheriting a million dollars. It's better than a lazy person finding a job as a mattress tester. It's better than winning the Nobel Prize. We are talking about heaven, and it is far better than any earthly joy we can imagine"
  • what is most notable about heaven is what will be absent from it as well as what will be present in it
  • things that will be absent in it include tears, sorrow, death, pain, darkness, ungodly people, sin, temples, the sun or moon, and the curse from Adam's sin
  • what will be present in heaven includes the saints, the river and the water of life, healing fruit, the Lamb of God, worship, the wedding feast of the Lamb and His bride, the unveiled face of God, and the Sun of Righteousness
  • Jonathan Edwards wrote that the saints will:
    • swim in the ocean of love, and be eternally swallowed up in the infinitely bright, and infinitely mild and sweet beams of divine love; eternally receiving the light, eternally full of it, and eternally compassed round with it, and everlastingly reflecting it back to its fountain
  • we will not sit around all day playing harps and twiddling our thumbs

  • but the Bible tells us that unbelievers have an appointment with Hell
  • (Hebrews 10:31) It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
  • hell is not just reserved for the Hitlers and Jeffrey Dahmers, it is reserved for all who fail to put their trust in Christ
  • Jesus spoke more of hell than he did about heaven, describing it as a place of fire (Matthew 5:22), bodily torment (Matthew 5:29-30), darkness (Matthew 8:12; 22:13), weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42, 50), and a place of varying degrees of punishment (Mark 12:40)
  • (2 Thessalonians 1:6) God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you
  • (2 Thessalonians 1:7) and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
  • (2 Thessalonians 1:8) He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
  • (2 Thessalonians 1:9) They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power
  • R.C. Sproul summarizes: "Hell...is an eternity before the righteous, burning wrath of God, a suffering torment from which there is no escape and no relief"
  • it is important to realize that there will be severe judgment but no cruelty in hell
  • all punishments received will be punishments earned

  • the good thing this morning is that your appointment with hell is not a sure thing
  • there is a way of escape
  • but we can't straddle the fence, and we can't wait to make a decision until after we have passed through death's door
  • there are only two options
  • imagine standing at the door of an open elevator
  • how do you decide whether or not to get on?
  • your choice is influenced by two factors: the elevator's direction, and where you want to go
  • now imagine yourself standing at the door of eternity
  • where will you go? Heaven or hell?
  • the decision you make now, before you die, will determine whether you are headed for the resurrection of the righteous or the resurrection of the condemned, whether your judgment will be joyful or miserable, and whether you spend eternity with God or eternity experiencing his wrath
  • the choice is yours
  • there are only two options
  • you can seek God's forgiveness through Christ

  • Christ wept over the lost condition of mankind
  • he gave his life for sinners
  • his love and compassion were obvious to all who came in contact with him
  • and he's calling out to you this morning
  • how will you respond?