Most people today don’t believe there is a real heaven, let alone a real hell. There are also many who profess faith in Jesus Christ who refuse to believe there is a real hell. For the former they block themselves off to such realities because they reject Christianity and so reject the idea of eternal rewards and eternal punishments. The latter want eternal salvation their way. They are not genuine believers and thereby block any thought of punishment in eternal hell from their minds.
Some go as far as to say that at death, unbelievers will be annihilated, ceasing to exist. This means in their opinion that there will not be a place where rebellious souls suffer because of their defiance against Almighty God.
On the other hand, God in His Word, which alone is Truth, says there is such a place. People might use a razor and cut what they don’t like out of the Bible. Others may reject, burn and destroy Bibles … but whatever people do, the Bible is God’s Word. It is eternal and remains whether people discard Bibles and Biblical teaching.
1) Don’t reject what God says is real. Because we don’t like something in the Bible does not mean we have the right to ignore, reject and block it out of the Truth of Christian Doctrine. The Lord Jesus Christ is God the Son and He says:
Lk 13:28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”
Why would there be weeping and why would there be gnashing of teeth? Because there are two places for departed souls. The one is heaven, explained as “the Kingdom of God”. This is where, as previously said, the fathers of the faith, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob together with all the prophets, the men of God who spoke to the people from God. They are seen to be in that place. The other one is the place is where those who refuse to go through Jesus, who is the narrow gate, find themselves in the agony of punishment. Perhaps the worst aspect of punishment is not the physical and emotional punishment … but that they missed “The Kingdom of God” because they refused Jesus the narrow gate! The picture presented is that they see the comfort and bliss enjoyed by those they ought to have listened to … and missed the open door because of personal rejection of God and His continual call to faith. The “thrown out” is not that they were in God’s Eternal Kingdom but that after all their years in the physical kingdom of the Jews, they believed being part of the physical qualified them for the eternal without exercising faith and obedience and they did not qualify.
2) Priding your birthright does not grant spiritual benefits.
Lk 13:29 “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
The “first” are the Jews. They thought they were a cut above all other peoples’ groups. They looked down upon the nations as “dogs” … dirty, filthy and impure. They saw themselves as pearls compared to pigs. God had chosen Israel to be His voice to the nations. Instead they were selfish and kept the true God and His Word to themselves. Over huge periods of their history they rejected God as God and turned aside to idol gods and their extremely wicked cultures. By the time Jesus walked the pathways of Palestine, most of the Jews were religious … but there was little heart faith. They were the first in the line to enter God’s Kingdom and lost out … they became last because of their defiance of God and His Word. Yet … those who were last in line became first! Why … because they received Jesus as their Lord! They trusted Him, believed in Him, surrendered to Him, followed Him and served Him. Where they were last they became first … and they came from all over the world … People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Jesus is referencing:
Ge 12:2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
Look again at the last few words … “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”. The Messiah came through Israel. His Gospel Invitation is open to all peoples on the earth … all nations. The Gospel is God’s fulfilment to His blessing upon Abraham.
3) Observe the promise of the Lord Jesus. He says … People will come from … will take their places. We might see a reluctance of people today to come into the Church. We might experience people refusing the Gospel in preference to the offerings of the world and even some other religions. We might be despaired because people refuse the free salvation Jesus offers. But … Jesus says “people will come” and “people will take their places”. He further says:
Mt 16:18 I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
This is what we need to understand and trust. Jesus says He will build His Church. He is referring to the “Invisible Church”. We always see the “Visible Church” and tend to forget about the “Invisible Church”.
It is true as I write that COVID has hit the Visible Church hard. She is struggling to recover. There are also other reasons why the Visible Church has lost numbers and finances. This ranges from a lack of expositional preaching, bad management of finances, lack of love, inadequate children and youth facilities … and the list continues. Some of these could be overlooked, but the exposition of the Word and the faithfulness of the clergy and council to provide a loving, warm home for souls is not negotiable.
4) Because there is a real heaven and a real hell, because one cannot depend upon birthrights to enter heaven and because our Lord says He will build His Church, how ought we who are Christians to respond to these realities? Yes, Jesus will build His Church and He uses us as His representatives on earth to build His Church. Remember, His Church is “invisible”. Our task is evangelism:
Mt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The hymn asks God to “rescue the perishing”.
Lord, as those within the Church, help us to make disciples for You. Amen.