Jump Start # 2282
Matthew 25:46 “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Heaven and hell—real topics and real places in our Lord’s teachings. Many want to move past these. They want all Heaven and no hell. However, the Lord linked the two together in the same sentence. They are both eternal. If there is no hell, then there is no Heaven. If there is a Heaven, then there is a hell. A person can’t have one without the other, even though he may want it that way.
Sunday, I was preaching on “How far is it to Heaven?” The writers of the N.T. didn’t see Heaven as a distant planet that we would travel to some day way out in the future. Heaven was part of their everyday dialogue and Heaven was something that directed their daily choices. They were to seek the things above and set their minds on things above. They wanted to be in Heaven. Heaven was real. Heaven was practical. Heaven was near to them.
I ended that lesson with a contrast. Many had never thought of it that way before. And, this is what I want to share with you today.
First, for many people, this world is as close to Heaven as they will ever get. In other words, this life is as good as things will ever be for them. Sprinkled around us are righteous people who are lights into the world. We see people who are walking by faith and shaping their lives after Jesus. Prayers are offered daily. God’s word is read and followed. That word is preached, loved and listened to. We see goodness and those who have the heart of a servant. That number is few compared to the others, but they are there. They are the bright spots in a dark world. But for those who have no desire to follow Christ, this is as good as it gets. The future isn’t bright. There isn’t hope on the horizon. Things are not going to turn around, not as long as they have closed their hearts to Jesus. What little goodness they see, is all they will get. Things are only going to get worse, much worse.
Second, for the righteous, this world is as much hell as we will ever see. This is as bad as things will get. There is hope and there is a brighter future. There is a promise to be with the Lord. There is an eternal home which is separated from all the wrong that we witness these days. So, this is as bad as it will get. There is bad news, crime, death, prejudice, hatred and sin running wild every day. The nightly news is mostly bad news. We hear things that we shouldn’t. God’s holy name is blasphemed. God’s word is mocked. More don’t care than do care. But, this is as bad as it will get for the people of God. We still can assemble with righteous people, praise God’s name and dive deeply into His word. We can raise our families to honor God and to be a people whose eyes are set on a heavenly home.
This is helpful for us. As tough as things are, this is as bad as it gets. Trouble, pain and suffering won’t follow us into Heaven. All the problems that plague us here will stay on this side of life. This heavenly hope creates within us a dissatisfaction with this world. We sing the song, “This world is not my home,” and, thankfully, it’s not. Peter told his readers that they were strangers and aliens here. We do not fit in here. We do things differently where we are from. We are marching to Zion.
So, as bad as things may be, for the righteous, there is an ending point in sight. Years ago I got on a roller coaster at a theme park. I like the old fashioned, wooden, rough and tumble type of roller coaster. This was one of those smooth, sleek, turn you upside down, and travels as fast as a bullet type. As soon as I was strapped in, it dawned on me, what a mistake this was going to be. Oh, I survived, but my heart was in my throat, my eyes popped out, and I felt like screaming like a little girl the whole time. The thought running through my mind was, “Hang on, this will be over in just a little bit.” And, it was. I got off wobbly, not sure up from down, but within seconds all was fine. And, I believe that’s the way we look at cancer, long term illness, hardships, and trouble from the standpoint of the righteous. Your heart may be in your throat. You may feel like screaming. You hold on so tight that your knuckles turn white. You close your eyes a few times. You get scared. But in your mind you realize that this will all be over in a little while. This ride will end. It will get better, because of the hope that we have in Christ.
Now, understand, Heaven will be so much better that what is portrayed here on earth. And, Hell will be much worse than what we see here on earth. But for some, this is as good as it gets. And, that is a sad picture. But for those walking close to the Lord, this is as bad as it gets. It’s only going to get better for us.
Heaven and hell—images of it right here and right now. Sure gives us much to think about doesn’t it?