Tag Archives: Heaven

Moving

For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God … But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:10, 16)

My wife, June, and I are in the process of moving exchanging the heat of Texas for the cold of Nebraska. Personally, I do not mind the heat. I am a native Texan, so the heat does not bother me. My wife, on the other hand, is a native Nebraskan and she finds the Texas summers oppressive. Growing up in Texas and living in different parts of this great state, I have experienced the frigid cold winters of the Panhandle to the muggy humidity of San Antonio summers. I have concluded that I prefer the heat to the cold. However, I have survived cold winters – I was much younger then – so I am sure I can acclimate to the Nebraska winters.

We have bought a house where we are moving, but we will not move into it until the spring. I know June is excited about the move. All her family is there and she is looking forward to caring for her aging parents. I am also getting excited about the move to exchange the noise and traffic of the Dallas metroplex for the peace and quiet of a smaller town – with really nice people, I must add.

Our new house is more spacious in square footage, and it comes with a larger yard – more for me to mow – for about the same amount of money that we will get for our current house. An added bonus is the basement that comes with the house that is not included in the total square footage of the house. June says I can have the basement all to myself. There is a lot of space there for books, study, and hobbies.

Even though I have some regret about leaving my beloved State of Texas, I am excited about the move and our new home. Already my mind is whirling with ideas of what we will do to make the new house our home.

As I think on these things, I remember Jesus’ promise of a new home with Him. “In my Father’s [abode] are many [dwelling places]: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine).

As excited as I am about our new home in Nebraska, I look forward to that new heavenly home with greater anticipation. June and I have seen pictures of our new Nebraska house, and we have been told about it by those who have been inside, but is not the same as seeing it for ourselves. If that is true for an earthly house, imagine the much greater anticipation for our heavenly home! What will it be like? Will there be houses there? If so, how will they be furnished? Perhaps, because of the perfect environment, no protective structures will be needed. We have houses here to protect us from the elements and from those who would harm us. We will not need protection from the elements there and there are no thieves to break in and steal.[1] Will we need beds upon which to sleep? Seeing that our glorified bodies will be like the body of Jesus,[2] will we even require sleep?

The Apostle John gave us a glimpse of that heavenly place,[3] but even his words cannot fully express the glory of our eternal home. We have no pictures of our heavenly home, and those who have been privileged to get a sneak peek cannot adequately describe it. Paul experienced the “third heaven” and, speaking of himself in third person, said this: “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4, emphasis mine).

Abraham experienced something similar, but from an earthly perspective. God called him out of a familiar land to a land unknown to him with the promise that He would make him a great nation.[4] Except for the promised heir, Isaac, Abraham never saw the promise of God fulfilled. Yet the Bible says, “And [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and [He] counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Speaking of Abraham, the writer of the book of Hebrews remarks, “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Abraham had no evidence other than the voice of God. God’s Word was not recorded with pen on scroll for him to study and ponder. He did not have the descriptions from those who had been there. Still, he believed, and God “counted it to him for righteousness.”

We have more evidence than Abraham. We have been given glimpses, although dim, of the greater home that awaits us. “But as it is written, 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). June and I will be moving to Nebraska pretty soon, but Jesus may call us to move home with Him before then. I prefer the latter.

If you are unsure of where you will spend eternity, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 6:20

[2]  Philippians 3:21

[3]  Revelation 21-22

[4]  Genesis 12:1-3;3:15-16; 15:4-6, 18

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Hell

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:23)

No one wants to hear about hell, but someone needs to talk about it. Why not me? I do not write this blog to be popular or become famous. If anything, dealing with topics such as this may win my place in infamy. That is okay; I will take my chances.

Most people largely ignore hell. They ask, “How can a loving God send anyone to hell?” Indeed, God sends no one to hell. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). In fact, when God unleashes the full force of His wrath upon the world during the seven-year Tribulation, He provides 144,000 witnesses to preach the Gospel to all nations.[1] He brings two Old Testament prophets from the dead to preach repentance and perform miracles in Jerusalem.[2] If that is not enough, God sends an angel to proclaim the Gospel to all of the world.[3] God does not want to send anyone to hell. He gives mankind every opportunity to avoid that place. (That is the main purpose of this blog.) However, it is up to every individual to make that choice for themselves. God does not force His affection on anyone.

If hell is not real, why would God go to such extremes – like taking on human form[4] to die on a cross for our sins[5] – to keep us out of that place? The Bible speaks more about hell than it speaks about heaven. Yet, some scoffers foolishly mock claiming that they look forward to going to hell so that they can party with all of their friends. Little do they know that they will suffer hell alone. (More on that later.) Still others, while accepting the fact of hell, reject the eternal nature of hell. Obviously, they have misinterpreted the multiple times that Jesus referred to hell as a place of “everlasting fire.”[6] While some may acknowledge that hell is eternal, they believe a sentence to hell is not. They believe that those that go to hell will only spend enough time there to pay for their sins and then cease to exist. However, that amounts to a lot of wishful thinking with no basis in Scripture.

In the Old Testament, “hell” often translates the Hebrew word she’ôl, which is the abode of the dead. Sometimes it is translated as “the grave” or “the pit,” and it is a place of no return. It is not clear to me, but it seems that she’ôl refers to “life after death,” and it could be either bad or good. King David expressed this idea at the death of his son by Bathsheba.[7] When the child was sick, David fasted and prayed unto God for the child’s life, but when the child died, he washed, dressed in his kingly apparel, and ended his fast. When asked about this seemingly odd behavior, David said, “But now he [the child] is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23, emphasis mine). David understood that there was life after death, and his anticipation of that event was not cause for dread; rather, David looked forward to that day.

She’ôl also has a not-so-pleasant side to it. In describing Israel’s reward for idolatry, Moses records God’s plan. “And he [God] said, I will hide my face from them [Israel], I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them” (Deuteronomy 32:20-23, emphasis mine). While the language may be figurative (I take it literally), it describes the extent of God’s wrath against sin, and it is not pretty.

We see, then, that she’ôl, the abode of the dead, has both a good and a bad side. Jesus confirmed this idea when He recounted the death of a rich man and Lazarus.[8] Some assume that this was one of Jesus’ parables, but a close inspection reveals that Jesus relayed this as an actual account. Lazarus died as did the unnamed rich man, but they ended up in two different locations. Lazarus died “and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried” (Luke 16:22). Albert Barnes points out that “Burial was thought to be an honor, and funerals were, as they are now, often expensive, splendid, and ostentatious. This is said of the rich man to show that he had “every” earthly honor, and all that the world calls happy and desirable.”[9]

That the rich man was buried also expresses the finality of, at least, his earthly life. However, that was not his end. “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23, emphasis mine). “Hell” here translates the Greek word hadēs which is equivalent to the Hebrew she’ôl. Two regions of the abode of the dead are expressed here: “Abraham’s bosom” and “torments.”

“Torments” is what we normally understand as “hell.” Notice that the rich man possessed consciousness. He could see Abraham and Lazarus “afar off.” However, Lazarus seems to be unaware of the rich man’s suffering. It appears that part of the torture of those in hell is seeing those who are enjoying heaven. At the same time, those in heaven remain unaware of those suffering in hell. Heaven would not be so heavenly knowing the fate of friends and loved ones suffering in hell.

Jesus described the rich man’s end as a place of fire. “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24, emphasis mine). Some deny the fire of hell, but Jesus never did.[10] Notice that the rich man retains his selfish nature in hell. He dares to ask Abraham to send Lazarus to relieve him of some of his suffering. Later, he asks that Lazarus be sent to preach to his five brothers (vv. 27-28). He does not care about the rest of the lost, only his brothers. Sinners in hell do not change their sinful ways.

Finally, Jesus does not mention others suffering along with the rich man. He appears to be alone and isolated. So much for those who think they will party in hell with their friends. When one rejects God’s free offer of salvation, that one alone bears the responsibility for that choice. It is important to point out that nothing in this account describes the rich man as a particularly wicked or sinful person. Nor does it portray Lazarus as a particularly upright man. However, by implication, the rich man took no thought about God, while Lazarus depended on no one else but God. The rich man counted on his riches and thereby rejected God – not overtly – he probably attended synagogue regularly – but in his attitude of self-sufficiency.

Hell is a real place and the final destination of many. Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait [i.e., “narrow”] 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, emphasis mine). Sadly, Jesus makes it clear that the majority of people will end up in hell.

Many believe that at “judgement day” their good deeds will outweigh the bad and they will gain access into heaven by their good works. They correctly conclude that their deeds will be judged, but the standard to which they will be evaluated is the perfect, sinless life of Jesus Christ, and all will fall short of that standard. Everyone’s life is recorded in the annals of heaven and everyone will give an account. John the Revelator writes, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works … And death and hell [hadēs] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12, 14-15, emphasis mine). “The lake of fire” is the place we understand as “hell,” and it is eternal.

The question remains. Which way do you choose, the broad way or the narrow way? Do you want to follow the majority on the way to hell or choose the narrow way that leads to eternal life? The choice is yours and yours alone. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine). Does that seem narrow? It is! If you are on the broad way with the majority, you can get off of that road to destruction. Please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Revelation 7; 14:1-5

[2]  Revelation 11:1-14

[3]  Revelation 14:6-7

[4]  John 1:14

[5] Philippians 2:5-8

[6]  Matthew 18:8-9; 25:46; Mark 3:29; 9:43-48

[7]  2 Samuel 12:1-25

[8]  Luke 16:19-31

[9]  Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible (Published in 1847-85; public domain.)

[10]  Matthew 3:12; 5:22; 7:19; 13:40, 42, 50; 18:8-9; 25:41, et al

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I’ve Got A Mansion

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2-3)

An old Gospel song that goes by the same title talks about “a mansion just over the hilltop in that bright land where we’ll never grow old.”[1] The singer dreams of having a “gold one that is silver lined.” Does that not seem somewhat esurient to covet the riches of heaven? I admit that the thought did not occur to me until recently.

When I think of a mansion, I imagine the $5 million (or more) homes of the super-rich or the palaces of royalty. Somehow, I do not think that is exactly to what Jesus referred when He spoke the words of our beginning verse above.

Consider this. “Heaven” as described in Revelation 21-22 enjoys a perfect environment much like that of the Garden of Eden[2] that God originally created. So perfect was that environment, that the first couple could run around naked[3] and not worry about getting sunburned, rained on, or frost bitten. Furthermore, all their nutritional needs were provided. It was a perfect place. Their only shelter were the stars above (and oh, how the stars must have sparkled at night in the pollution-free sky!). There was no need for any kind of building for shelter, much less a mansion.

Heaven will be like that, I think. No mansions of gold with silver trim. Before ending His earthly ministry, Jesus promised that in His Father’s house – only ONE house – are many mansions. That word in the Greek is monē, which means “a staying, abiding, dwelling, abode.” If Jesus meant some kind of building, He could have used the word “castle” – Greek parembolē meaning something like a fortress. Or, He could have used the word “palace” – Greek aulē, meaning “a yard (as open to the wind); by implication a mansion: – court, ([sheep-]) fold, hall, palace.”[4] However, Jesus used the word monē promising that we would have a place to stay and He has many places to stay and dwell for those who follow Him.

Sadly, we too often derive our “theology” from the songs we sing rather than from the Word of God. Next time you hear that old Gospel song, put that golden mansion out of your mind and be happy that Jesus has given you a place in His Father’s house.

Reader, if you are unsure of your eternal abode, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.” Jesus has a reservation for you in His Father’s house, but you have to take Him up on His invitation.

Notes:


[1]  “Mansion Over the Hilltop” by Ira Stanphill, 1949.

[2] Genesis 2:5-9

[3]  Genesis 2:25

[4]  Strong’s G833 definition.

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No Fear of Death

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

Fear paralyzes the fearful, rendering them ineffective in that thing which they fear. Dictionary.com defines fear as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined;”[1] (emphasis mine). The fact remains that 10% of most things feared or the things over which we worry never come to pass.

A long list of phobias exists which we could examine: fear of height, fear of flying, fear of germs, fear of needles, etc. However, the most ubiquitous fear held by the majority of people is the fear of dying. One can understand the nature of this fear; it is basically the fear of the unknown. What happens when one dies? Is this life all there is? Is there life after death? Do the dead come back in a different form – reincarnation? Are heaven and hell real? If heaven and hell are real, how does one arrive at one place and not the other? Does dying hurt?

For one who believes the Bible and the God of the Bible, death terminates physical life, but the spiritual essence that energizes the soul (the complete person) transitions on to eternity. The eternal destination depends on the spiritual condition of the soul at the time of death, one is either “saved”[2] or “lost.”[3]

Jesus spoke of two men who met death and ended up in different destinations.[4] Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jews believed that those who died went to the “abode of the dead” known as Sheol. Sheol had two compartments, one for the unrighteous known as “torments” and one for the righteous known as “Abraham’s bosom” or “paradise.” So the two men died, one was rich and the other a beggar. The rich man ended up in the place of torments not because he was rich, but because he was unrighteous, i.e., “lost.” The poor beggar ended up in Abraham’s bosom not because he suffered poverty, but because he was righteous, i.e. “saved.” After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the destination for the “saved” changed to “the presence of the Lord.” The Apostle Paul makes this clear, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8, emphasis mine). The lost still end up in “torments” (“hell”) to await their final destiny in the “lake of fire” that burns forever and ever.[5]

For those who do not have a personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, death is a legitimate fear indeed. Some may salve their fear by ignoring, or by choosing to believe that death is the end, or by hoping in reincarnation, or by imagining that they will somehow meld into the vast universe, i.e., “become one with the universe.” However, all of these notions only produce doubt, and the fear remains.

The Christian, on the other hand, should not harbor the fear of death. Death, as Paul reminded us, means that we are absent from the body, but we are present with the Lord in the same place where He resides. For the Christian, there should be no fear of death. In another place, Paul reminds us that, for Christians, our “citizenship” (“our conversation”) is not in this world, but in heaven. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:20-21, emphasis mine). For the Christian, the “afterlife” promises the possession of a physical body like that of the resurrected Christ in His presence.

I look forward to passing from this rapidly decaying world to be forever in the presence of the One who died in my place to save me from my sin for eternity. I have no fear of death. I realize that while He has me here in this world, I need to serve Him in every task that He lays before me. Then when that day comes, whether by physical death or by translation from this world into His presence in the Rapture, I will enter His courts with joy.

If you fear death or you are insecure about your eternal destiny, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “fear” — https://www.dictionary.com/browse/fear

[2]  Matthew 10:22

[3]  2 Corinthians 4:3

[4]  Luke 16:19-31

[5]  Revelation 20:10, 15

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Don’t Go There!

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:46)

Last week I wrote on the topic of an eternal hell,[1] which was prompted by an article posted on social media by an author who believes that hell is not eternal. The man who wrote the article spent many years researching the topic and has written several books and produced several DVD’s on the matter. He concluded, after years of study, that the Bible does not teach that hell is eternal based on an extensive word study in the original biblical languages that are often translated “forever” or “eternal.” (See last week’s article noted below.)

Hell is not a pleasant topic to discuss. In fact, we probably find it repulsive. However, the Bible does speak of hell as a real place, so it behooves us not to ignore it. In fact, it is said that Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven, so, if we believe the Bible is true then we need to take hell seriously.

The writer, Aloysius or “Al” for short (not his real name), besides pointing out that the Hebrew and Greek words translated as “forever” or “eternal” have different “shades” of meaning so that they can just as easily be translated as “a long time,” based most of his argument on God being so loving that He would not punish sinners for eternity. This concept is known as annihilationism; “the belief that all the wicked will be judged by God and thrown into the lake of fire, where they will cease to exist. Some annihilationists suggest that this will occur instantaneously, while others believe that the unrighteous may experience a brief period of awareness. However, all annihilationists agree that no individual, however wicked, will suffer eternally a conscious existence in hell.”[2]

I was told by one of my readers about a movie on the same topic. The movie is entitled, “Hell and Mr. Fudge,” so I found it on Amazon Prime and watched it. The movie, based on a real character, told about a boy, a preacher’s kid, which grew up to be a preacher himself. As an adolescent, he had a friend who was a “bad boy;” he drank and smoked, rarely went to church, and he was not “saved.” The boy ends up dying in a car accident and the thought of his friend going to hell haunted Fudge for the rest of his life because he could not accept that God would send his friend to hell forever. The story of Fudge’s struggle is very compelling, and I found myself hoping that he would convince me that hell is not eternal. If you have not seen the movie, I would recommend it, but keep up your guard.

Just like Al, Fudge did extensive research in both Old and New Testaments. In one scene, while he was in Bible college, he makes the claim that he was reading Greek since he was six, so he was no slouch as a scholar, but his failure, as I saw it, was that he allowed his emotions to drive his conclusion. In the end, he resolved his dilemma with John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (emphasis mine). “Perish” is the Greek word apollumi meaning “to destroy fully.” “Everlasting life” (life perpetual), zōē aiōnios, employs the word aiōnios, which is applied in the NT to both eternal life and to eternal damnation. However, the confusion results from the frequent use of apollumi to describe the destruction of a soul in hell. That raises the question. What is the need for an eternal (aiōnios) hell, if the destruction (apollumi) of the soul is relatively brief?

Mr. Fudge, for all his scholarship, failed to parse the aorist Greek verb appoletai (perish) and settled for the English future tense. The “aorist tense” of the verb expresses a present action that is continuing. The verb is in the “middle voice” that denotes that the subject is both an agent of an action and somehow concerned with the action. So, whatever is happening to this subject, he is bringing it upon himself. The verb is also in the “subjunctive mood” indicating that the action may or may not occur. In this verse, the person is “perishing” of his own volition, but by believing in the Son, he can obtain eternal life. John 3:16 speaks of eternal life, not the duration of hell. Those who have not believed in the Son are in the process of destroying (perishing) themselves, and unless they change, they will endure hell for eternity.

When I share the Gospel, I do not want to talk about eternal death in hell. I want to invite those who hear to join me in eternal life with Christ. However, just for the sake of argument, let us agree that hell is brief. Let us say that a really bad sinner will be tortured there for just one year and then incinerate and cease to exist. Then let us say that a “good” person, whose only sin was to reject God’s plan of salvation, goes to hell, and his sentence is just one week. Then he is incinerated and ceases to exist. Can anyone seriously say, they would be willing to spend even just one minute in hell just for rejecting Christ? I would not want to, not from how Jesus describes it. Don’t go there!

I really liked Mr. Fudge. He seemed like a really nice and sincere guy. I also have no doubt in my mind that He is a true Christian. His false notion about the temporal duration of hell is not a salvation issue. However, you know people that would rather continue in a sinful lifestyle than to place their life in Jesus’ hands. The notion of a brief stent in hell followed by total annihilation might seem like a good option to someone who enjoys a sinful lifestyle too much. (And who says sinning isn’t fun!) The idea of an eternal existence in that torturous place might be that thing that will change his mind. Mr. Fudge and Al might be really nice guys, excellent scholars, and wonderful Christians, but they are wrong on hell.

Reader, if you are not sure about where you will spend eternity, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Eternal Hell” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2021/04/11/eternal-hell/

[2]  Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki, & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 1999), p. 10.

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