Gospel Insights

by Michael Smith

 

Chapter Ten

THE FOUR LAST THINGS

 

The four last things are Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell.  They are of the utmost importance as they deal with our ultimate destination.  An important point to remember is that the kind of life we live here on earth has eternal consequences, because the choices we make daily for good or ill contribute to make us the person we become by the time we die.  It is also important to realise that God is all-seeing and all-knowing, and even if people may seem to 'get away' with things here, come the day of the Final Judgement all those things will be stacked up ready to be dealt with in every last detail by Almighty God.  At that judgement, no-one will 'get away' with anything bad or evil they have done however clever they may think they have been.

But we don't have to fear that judgement!  No-one has to come to the final judgement loaded down with unbearable burdens of sin because God has given us all the gift of free will so that we can choose to accept His salvation, have our sins washed away by the precious shed blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and stand before Him cleansed and clothed in His righteousness.

The four last things should hold no fear or dread then for the faithful Christian, as they must for any who resist God's call to salvation and who live in rebellion against Him.  Jesus spoke very clearly concerning the terrible consequences for those who choose not to believe, and we will look at that towards the end of this chapter.

Some don't believe that a loving God would send anyone to hell, preferring to believe instead that all will be saved.  But the fact is God has already done all that can be done to give us eternal life, and if we choose not to avail ourselves of His free gift, then it is not God Who is sending us to hell, but we ourselves.  Remember Jacob Marley in Charles Dickens' book A Christmas Carol...   God, in His perfect way, constantly tries to reach out in love to us while we live so that none need perish, and in these days of modern technology and mass media, everyone in the UK will hear the gospel at least once during their life.  In the end, no-one will be able to accuse God of being unfair in the judgement He gives to each person.


Death

Although we may have a natural apprehension about dying, the Christian need have no fear about death itself, because we know we are going to a much better place beyond the grave.  We have the Lord's assurance that we will be with Him in Paradise, where pain, tragedy, suffering, disease, and sorrow are past [1].  We will also be reunited with our Christian loved ones who have died before us.  We have the confidence that even now God is preparing a wonderful place for us where we can be with Him and enjoy Him for ever [2].

Judgement

Hebrews 9:27 tells us that it is appointed for all to die once, and after this the Judgement.  Those who during their lifetime have rejected Christ as their Saviour will have to face Him as their all-powerful Judge, but those who believe on Jesus and accept what He did for them on the cross have already passed from death to eternal life and will not face that same judgement.  2 Corinthians 5:10 says that the Christian will instead stand before the 'Bema seat' of Christ when we die where our lives will be reviewed and all fleshly deeds will be destroyed by fire while all deeds done in line with God's will are rewarded.  If we have built up our treasure in heaven instead of on this earth as the Lord commands us to do [3], and have done the work during our time here that He has wanted us to do, then we can look forward to receiving from Him a rich and lasting reward in eternity [4].

Hell

A warning from Jesus: "Enter ye in  at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13-14) [5].

Sadly, those who ignore the Lord Jesus Christ, and who deliberately keep Him out of their lives, eventually become the sort of person who wouldn't feel at ease in the presence of the Lord anyway, thus they condemn themselves to an eternity without hope and full of regret.  Many folk describe their awful experiences in this life as 'going through hell', or think of hell as a state of mind, but hell cannot be compared to anything we may experience on earth; no matter how unbelievably horrible.  Jesus spoke of hell as a real place to be avoided at all costs - in fact, at the priceless cost of the very sacrifice of Himself at Calvary.

Cut off from God and loved ones for ever, hell is the place in which unrepentant sinners abide without hope of release or escape because they have steadfastly refused, of their own free will, every opportunity of receiving God's redemption in this life [6].  At the last, after the Great Judgement Day is completed, all whose names are not found written in the Lamb's (Jesus') book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire [7].

Heaven

"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).

In the description of heaven given in Revelation chapters 21 and 22, God is at the centre of everything.  In heaven it is God's will that is done and it is where He is worshipped continuously.  In the time God gives us here on earth, it is up to us to prepare ourselves, and help others to be ready, to be with God in eternity.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has set eternity in the heart of man.  And we find that in nearly every religion there is the belief that this life is incomplete and that there is some kind of afterlife.  We see evidence for these beliefs in most of the ancient religions, in the pyramids, in the artefacts buried in ancient graves with their owners, in ancestor worship, etc., etc.

Death is not natural; every person knows it is an 'enemy'.  Death came upon mankind as a result of sin, but Jesus conquered death when He rose from the grave to live for ever more [8].

Life here can be very hard, but the resurrection of Jesus gives the Christian a hope and a meaning and a purpose which is denied to the unbeliever [9].  Life here can also be very short, but God gives the Christian work to do to help build His Kingdom, which brings glory to Him and blesses others.  At the end of his life here on earth, the Christian goes home to be with the Lord; to the place which God made for all men if only they will turn to Him [10].

In every way, heaven is far better than this life (even at its very best), and those who love the Lord and serve Him here on earth will want to go to be with Him for eternity.  Having fixed our hearts on going to be with the Lord we will have learnt to sit lightly on the things of earth, such as wealth and possessions, worldly pleasures, reputation, and power over others, because there are better and eternally lasting riches and pleasures awaiting us in heaven [11].

In heaven we shall serve God and do His will more perfectly than we can ever do on earth.  We shall see Jesus face to face, and we shall rejoin our loved ones already gone before us.  Some who have been found faithful will be chosen to judge angels - an astounding thought!  In heaven there will be much praise and worship, and all glory will be given to God for all He has done, especially in the saving work of Jesus on the cross.

Finally, when the Lord Jesus has put all enemies under His feet (the last enemy being death itself), then He will present all these things to God the Father, Who will "be all in all" as He originally intended [12].

Much of the teaching in the New Testament is about eternity, and how to prepare ourselves for life with Jesus in heaven.  Hence the importance on this earth of time spent in prayer, regular Bible reading, Christian fellowship, worship of God, and sharing the Christian faith with others.  Our prayers should be for all our loved ones who don't yet know the Lord; that they may open their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ, and so be safely with Him in heaven for ever more.


Nine Reasons Why Christians Believe in Life After Death

(1)   This planet is a very beautiful place, and when all is going well, life - in the West at least - can often seem very good.  Yet for much of the world's population life mostly consists of the horrors of war and violence, of persecution, of poverty, of loss, grief, sadness, and hurt, and it would be difficult to believe that God exists and that life is a good thing if there was nothing beyond the grave to compensate for all the problems, evils, injustices, and inequality suffered by so many.

(2)   Some folks as they are dying sense they are not coming to the end of their existence, but to the beginning of another kind of 'living'.  My own grandmother knew she was dying four days before she did so, and was quite clear about it being the beginning of something else.

(3)   Every human heart hungers for more than this life can ever offer or really satisfy.  Some people try to satisfy their longings with work, music, alcohol or drugs, sport, wealth or power, or other worldly pleasures, but all find that nothing really fills that 'inner void' for very long.

(4)   Belief in immortality is a timeless phenomenon.  From the Egyptian Pharaohs who built vast pyramids to house them in eternity, through the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation, or the Native Indian's Great Spirit, to the Biblical belief in heaven and hell, there is no civilisation in human history that hasn't held some sort of belief in an afterlife.

(5)   The Bible names God as the only source of immortality [13].  It describes His nature as eternal, and tells us that He created man in His likeness, with the intention of welcoming His children eventually into His eternal home called Heaven, to ever be with Him.

(6)   In the Old Testament, the prophet Daniel spoke of the day when every person who has ever lived will be resurrected; some to eternal life and some to eternal shame [14].  Job also speaks of that day [15], as does the Psalmist [16].

(7)   In the New Testament, Jesus wasn't vague in His teachings about life after physical death [17].  He promised paradise to the repentant thief dying on the cross beside Him [18].  According to Jesus, facing the reality of life after death is the most significant issue of life for all to consider; a great deal of His teaching was about the reality of heaven and hell [19].

(8)   The greatest evidence for life after death is the resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself, witnessed by hundreds of His followers who fellowshipped with Him in the days afterward, not to mention millions of Christians throughout the last two thousand years who can all testify to the reality of the risen Lord Jesus in their lives.

(9)   Nothing offers more incentive for us to use our lives here on earth to prepare for eternity, than the sure confidence that there is indeed a better and more perfect life after death to be spent with God Himself.

"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26)

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose" (Jim Elliot, missionary to the Auca Indians in South America, by whom he was killed in 1956).

 

Footnotes

[1]  Luke 23:42-43;  2 Corinthians 5:8;  Philippians 1:21.          [2]  John 14:2-3.          [3]  Matthew 6:19-21.          [4]  1 Corinthians 3:8-14.          [5]  See also John 3:16-21 and Galatians 5:19-24.          [6]  Luke 16:19-31;  Matthew 10:28.          [7]  Revelation 20:11-15.  See also Isaiah 66:24.          [8]  1 Corinthians 15:3-6;  2 Corinthians 5:1;  John 11:25.          [9]  1 Peter 3:15b.          [10]  1 Peter 1:3-4;  2 Corinthians 4:16-18.          [11]  1 Corinthians 2:9.          [12]  1 Corinthians 15:24-28.          [13]  1 John 5:11-13.          [14]  Daniel 12:2.          [15]  Job 19:25-27.          [16]  Psalm 73:24.          [17]  Matthew 10:28.          [18]  Luke 23:39-43.          [19]  Please see Mark 9:47 for example, or Luke 16:19-31.

 

 

 

Chapter Nine   |   Chapter Eleven   |   Back to Contents

 

 

Michael Smith 2013