“Come, NOW is the time to worship.”
I wish this could be more gently expressed, but like a man seeing the house of a friend on fire, I must SHOUT IT. There is too little time to say, “Oh, maybe I will disturb him or interrupt his nice supper; I’ll call him later and tell him his house is on fire.” What kind of friend would I be!? That said, no one can force you out of a burning house if it is your choice to stay there. But still, I have to warn that Jesus made it clear, we must Be Ready or we will perish.
We have examined the evidence of evil. There are people who sell other people into the sex trades or some form of indentured servitude. Just as bad, there are people who buy and use them. There are people who will sell drugs to anyone with money to purchase, no matter how badly addicted their victims are; others who will turn a blind eye to crises because it is politically inconvenient or will cost them their job or make them look foolish to others; even more who simply shrug and say, “Well, I am not doing that. It is not my problem.” The mass of German citizens seemed shocked when they were paraded into POW camps after WW2 and said, “Oh, my, we didn’t know.” But their complicity was in not listening to the warning sirens of Jews being “labeled” and marginalized; ignoring the buildup of power into a select few, all in the name of “purifying the race;” making life better for “all of you.”
We have looked at the Scriptures for what Jesus, the apostles, and Old Testament prophets taught about hell and its misery. Gehenna (translated ‘hell’ or ‘fiery furnace’ or similar analogies) was the garbage dump outside Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” This was His picture of hell; a place not intended for human habitation, but where those who cannot serve their purpose wind up; a place of disposal; strangely, a place “chosen” by those who will reside there because they refuse to trust the Creator and Jesus, in [whom] the whole fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily.
Evil is evident. Hell is authentic. So how can one avoid it? Jesus spent most of his parables telling about the Kingdom of God and how to get into it. He gave several stern warnings, though, against being deceived. In Matthew 24, four times He told His followers to beware. He then conclude this teaching with a blessing and a severe warning (verses 45-51) .
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
He then tells the story of ten women who went out to meet a bridegroom. In that culture, the groom would come to his bride at an unannounced time after meeting with his friends. Five were foolish and five were wise. At the end of the story, this Jesus that everyone thinks would always be so kind and forgiving, excludes the foolish women from the groom’s banquet, and quite harshly!
He then tells a story of a landowner who commits responsibilities to his servants while he is away. The wise servants invest his loans to them, but a foolish one hides the money so he can give back only what he received. He gets a tongue lashing that would make Bear Bryant blush, and the land owner orders the “worthless servant [to be cast] into the outer darkness . . . where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
He concludes a trilogy of parables with a story of sheep and goats being separated. To the “goats on the left” Jesus will tell them, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Note, the eternal fire was never intended for humans.
The fearful thing for most people is that Heaven is not our default destination. In our natural state, the way we are born, we are already condemned to hell! John wrote in his Gospel, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already!” John 3:16-18
That is why Jesus told the Pharisee that he needed to be “born again!” Being born into this life was NOT enough! As lovely or successful or rich or powerful or comfortable as one can be, we are all condemned to hell UNLESS we specifically and personally take a step of faith and “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” to be saved.
It would be “nice” if everyone would get into Heaven, but Jesus clearly teaches that many will NOT! How can I invite you to read the Gospels, the Good News, so that you do not have to go to hell? What can I do to persuade you that you were created for a better life than this? Are there any words I can write that will convince you to trust Jesus for eternal life? What can I show you of how much God, the Father, loves you beyond the fact that Jesus died in your place, in my place?
The promise is completely inclusive: ANYONE can come to Jesus, regardless of past sin, problems, ethnicity, success or failure; NOTHING excludes you!
But the promise is completely exclusive simultaneously: ONLY those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved.
Someday, “at the name of Jesus every knee [WILL] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue [WILL] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” when He is fully revealed at the end of time. But there is a special blessing and fellowship of the Holy Spirit and of other Christ-followers for those who bow their knees now, and confess now that Jesus Christ IS Lord. Do not be deceived.
Please, dear friends reading this blog, you to whom I have emailed this link, those of you just stopping by for a visit:
Pray to Jesus to be born again and to guide you by His Holy Spirit.
Begin reading the Bible, especially starting in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
Find someone near you who knows Jesus and start meeting regularly.
If you do not know of anyone in your hometown or country, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will help you find someone out of our international connections. If you want to Zoom with me, just email me, but I encourage you to find someone locally who speaks your ‘heart language.’ Please, prepare or you will perish.