Jump Start # 2529
Matthew 25:46 “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
I was reading an old book the other day. It was published in 1840 and my copy was a first edition, 1840. It is about an early New England preacher, Elias Smith. It’s his story written in his own words. He begins with, “How strange is Life! When a man considers his own existence; that he now is, that once he was not; that his existence shall not finally cease, but continue in a world without end.” He was speaking about eternity.
There are Biblical concepts that are hard to understand and harder still to explain. Someone asked me last week to explain the trinity. I tried. I used the illustration of three fingers and one hand. I talked about a pretzel has three circles yet it is made of one long strand of dough. Comparing God to a pretzel didn’t set well with me, but it’s hard to explain that One Father, One Spirit and One Son do not make three Gods, but one.
Eternity is another Biblical concept that is hard to explain. I’ve seen people draw a long line on a chalk board and then place one dot on that line. That dot is the history of mankind. We see that, but we don’t get it. We don’t get it because everything we know ends. Every movie, even the Jaws series, comes to an end. Every book, even God’s book, has a last page. There is a beginning and there is an end, to everything, even our lives here. A baby is born, That baby grows up. In time, that person dies. Death comes. Our lives here end. Everything that we know, ends. Stores close. Icons die. Heroes die. Someday, Jump Starts will end. Everything here ends. We may not like it, but we know that’s the way it is. But, in eternity, things do not end. They never end.
Our verse today shows us a few truths that we must remember:
First, everyone lives on past death. The righteous and the unrighteous. Far too many are accepting the idea of annihilation of the wicked, the idea that only the righteous live on after death. Everyone else just dies and they stay that way. The subject of Hell is rarely preached these days. No one wants to hear it. In the religious community, preachers shockingly admit to not mentioning the word Hell in their sermons. Some proudly state that they haven’t touched the subject of Hell in decades. Congregations would be horrified to hear lessons on Hell.
Our verse today links eternal punishment and eternal life together in the same sentence. If there is one, then there is the other. If one is missing, then both are missing. If there is a Heaven, then there is a Hell. No Hell, then no Heaven. Too many want a Heaven, but they don’t want a Hell. They want Hell to just disappear. It’s not going anywhere. Believe it or, want it or not, there is a punishment beyond death.
Second, the eternal abodes are described as punishment and life. It’s not a playground for the wicked. It’s punishment. It’s forever without God. Life brings the idea of joy, happiness, fellowship, acceptance. Life with God. Life free from disease, death and destruction. Life. Goodness. Hope. Future. Those are good words. Those are wonderful concepts.
Third, these realms of punishment and life, Hell and Heaven, run eternally. They do not end. They never end. There is nothing beyond them. They won’t be outdated. They won’t grow old. They won’t wear out. Even the best times here, have to end. I have been in worship services that were so edifying, rich and wonderful that I didn’t want them to ever end. They did. I’ve had times with my family that we so good and wonderful. But sooner or later, one starts yawning, then another and it’s time to end and get some sleep. But this wonderful, wonderful life that God is offering will not end. It will never end. It is eternal.
People ask, won’t we get tired of singing in Heaven? Won’t I get bored with doing the same things over and over? You are looking at that with earthly eyes. You are looking at things from our perspective. We don’t understand forever. We don’t know “eternal.” The answer is always “No.” No, you won’t get tired. No, you won’t get bored. No, you won’t wish for anything else. Trust God. Believe God. It will be wonderful.
Fourth, our passage is taken from the judgment scene of helping others out. Jesus claimed to be hungry, thirsty, naked and in prison. The faithful of God stepped up. They were there. They got food. They gave water. They clothed. They visited. They made a difference. The unrighteous didn’t do any of those things. They could have given food, but they didn’t. They could have brought water, but they didn’t. No clothes. No visits. From that, the punishment and life were given out eternally. There was no test to see what one knew. There was no memorizing the books of the Bible in order. There was no finding Jerusalem on a map. It was based upon what was done. Our faith is only good if it leads us to doing the right things. To believe but not do anything is wrong. Hearts were opened. Good was done. People were helped. Heaven noticed. Faith led these people to be compassionate and caring like the Lord. Faith changed the circumstances. And, that was what determined the eternal destiny of the people.
Finally, we will spend more time on the other side of life than we will on this side of life. Even if a person lives to be 100, which is rare, that’s nothing to forever on the other side. Even ole’ Methuselah, who was nearly 1,000 years old, is nothing compared to the eternal. Since we will spend longer on the other side than this side, it seems we ought to put more focus on the eternal than the temporary. We ought to give more thought to the spiritual than to the physical. We need to focus upon the other side more than this side.
We need to think about that. Sooner or later, we’ll be there.